Three Ways to Never Confront an Alcoholic Again

Tired of being the investigator? Are you always looking for the stashed alcohol so you can confront the alcoholic about their denial? Have you been putting marks on the booze bottles to see if they are drinking? Did they drink the Vodka and fill the container up with water? Did they stay out all night and never call? All of these things get very frustrating to us because we try to have control of someone’s drinking problem. In reality, we have no control over their choices to continue drinking.

A spouse, friend, son or daughter who has a drinking problem will really not stop their search to get a drink until they have one. Once they get a bottle or two, they have a tendency to be really be good at hiding them. So good that when they cannot find the bottle, we may get blamed for taking it away from them, even if we did not.

False Reality

confrontational manSomehow, we think that if we confront them and tell them how awful their behaviors are that this will make a difference. We say things like; “you’re ruining our families lives, can’t we just have a normal life, if you would stop drinking everything will be OK”. Well, those comments don’t make a difference at all. We can threaten, scream, and throw them out of the house and they will still romance the bottle until they hit bottom, and decide to get help for themselves.

Think about it… Has it ever helped in the past to confront your friend or loved one? Did they quit drinking because of your opinions about their drinking habits? Of course not and they never will. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that perhaps, you’ve been wasting a lot of energy trying to get them to stop destroying their life and the family members lives? This is why you need to learn various methods of letting go of an alcoholic.

Here are Three Ways to Quit Confronting an Alcoholic

1) Don’t even look at them when they come into the house to see if they have been drinking. Stop obsessing over the alcoholic’s behavior. Let them go completely and do things that you enjoy rather than trying to always figure out if they have been drinking or not. Read a good book, tend to the plants, cook dinner or go for a walk. It doesn’t matter what you do, just stop the negative behaviors that cause you to stick your nose into their lives all the time. Get a life of your own and leave them alone. You CANNOT make them quit!

2) If you are talking to them on the phone and they sound like they have been drinking, don’t ask if they have. Just finish the conversation in a NICE way and polity hang up the phone. Remember to tell them that you love them too! It’s not necessary to confront them because they are just going to deny that they are drunk anyway. If it irritates you, then call a friend and tell them about it. DO NOT ACCUSE your spouse, friend or relative of drinking.

3) Always have a back-up plan when planning to do something with an alcoholic. They have a tendency to not show up for things that have been on the calendar for months. This way when they fail to appear on time, you can continue on without them and without the need to confront them.

Here’s what happens to us. Over time, when living with an alcoholic, we have a tendency to lose sight of who we are because we are constantly obsessing over the alcoholic. You must break the obsession by doing things with friends, attending support group meetings and planning things to do that you enjoy without them.

What happens when we stop confronting an alcoholic?
First off there will be a lot less arguing because of this there will be more peace in your life and less shame or guilt to deal with. Oftentimes when we confront our spouse, brother, sister, friend or child and they deny they have a drinking problem, we respond as if they are lying. The truth is alcoholics lie a lot.

When we react in negative ways there is a lot of shame we have to deal with because we usually lose our temper and say things we should not have said.

When we stop confronting then there will be less shame because there will be less arguing with the alcoholic going on.

When we stop confronting the alcoholic we will enjoy the benefits of healthier emotions. One thing is for certain, we will have more peace in our lives. It takes two people to argue. When we stop confronting, then that’s one less chance to fight and another opportunity to enjoy a more serene lifestyle.

36 comments to Three Ways to Never Confront an Alcoholic Again

  • jane

    well these tips could have been written by my alcoholic spouse himself.
    just what he would want to enable him to continue with his drinking selfish lifestyle.
    ie the non alcoholic spouse sacrifices her own feelings.
    Life seems to short to me to be a doormat which is what these strategies scream to me.
    He gets peace and quiet and licence to continue drinking.
    I shut up and put up.

  • Heather

    I’m kind of inclined to agree with Jane. My mom has been sitting in a hotel room since Wednesday night on a drinking binge. She is on medications for her heart, blood pressure, and anti-depressants…and we’re just supposed to ignore her behavior? I know they won’t quit unless they want to, this is something that’s been going on with her for 26 years since before I can remember. But some how just ignoring the situation doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.

  • Pamela

    Heather, I didn’t see anywhere in the article that mentions ignoring the situation.

    What I did see were ideas for doing things differently. If you think about how frustrated you have become trying to force some sort of solution, and failed, perhaps you can see the authors point.

    It’s about changing the way we have been reacting to the irrational alcoholic behaviors in order for us to have more peace in our lives. We shouldn’t tolerate unacceptable behavior form an alcoholic that is directed specifically toward us. No one should be a door mat for anyone to walk on.

    If this has been going on for 26 years that should be enough for you to recognize that you have no control over her behaviors.

    There are many things that we can do. Some of them include learning about treatment centers so that when they do hit bottom, we are ready with a plan..

    We can also learn how to love an alcoholic without conditions.

    Getting educated in how to set boundaries with an alcoholic is a good idea too.

    You can choose to confront the alcoholic in your life if you want to. I just know that all of the begging, arguing, fighting and demanding never produced any positive results with all of the many relationships I’ve had with alcoholics.

  • lambsicle

    I have to agree with the first comments. My alcoholic wife would wholeheartedly embrace the idea of me trying those strategies.

  • Sandy

    Would be great if I could keep my mouth shut, but I feel the same way, then the abuser thinks they are doing no wrong. But worth trying because obviously reminding, pleading, nagging, not doing any good. Oh how I hate that I’ve become a nagging wife.

  • I want to thank everyone that is involved in this program. I have been married for 25 years with 4
    children. I have been living with my husband who is an alcoholic. I am going to try these lessons
    Every night he comes home and has already been drinking. I continuously look for the empty bottles
    of Vodka in his truck. He is a professional alcoholic. I wish he would get pulled over by the police but
    it has never happened. I wish this constantly. However this would put another financial hardship on
    me!! We have four children, my son out of all the kids gets most of the abuse. He always tries to put
    me down first. But if I’m not home he starts up with my 17 year old son. My heart bleeds for him! This past week it got physical!!
    I am so tired of this merry go round. I want off so bad , but don’t know how to do it. Thanks again for the
    advise. I am going to try and use some of it!!!

  • Doriana

    I sometimes have confronted my husband when he was drunk . No luck though;-) I have learned to wait till the next day when he gets up and than calmly talk about how i felt the day before about things.It does really help me if i wait till he is sober because than i know ,that he cant say later that he was drunk when we talked which he used to use as an excuse if he would say hurtful words. So for me waiting until he is sober is the best way to talk. I find it saves me a lot of effort and even i calm down myself and don’t say things that i would regret afterwards .Because if you think about it,it is like telling a child to stop eat candies while them chewing on a candy.;-) It hurts to watch them behave like they aren’t grown ups while being drunk, but i believe that we are hurting ourselves if we ignore the fact that they are drunk and incapable of controlling their emotions!Because if we go and touch a bunch of bees sitting on some honey we will get bitten .That’s what happens with our partners if we confront them while drunk they feel attacked and they will defend what seems right to them! I am married 13 years and husband has been drinking 11 years! So these are just things i do to make life easier.

  • C

    I agree with Jane and a few others. Over the years, I have tried all the suggestions above – nothing, absolutely nothing works! I go out with friends for lunch and feel wonderful only to return home and find the A asleep or drinking! Letting him drink until he goes to sleep is his dream of a great life apparently.

    His son has revealed what has been going on since he was very young. It really took all the anxiety and anger from me – I am not to blame for the drinking – it started years and years ago. He just hid it from everyone except his kids. I now feel a peace of mind that has renewed my interest in being with friends and being active in the community. The A can do what he wants!

  • Bill

    I find it interesting that the article doesn’t say the alcoholic will quit drinking when I change my behavior.

    What it does say is that I have to change my behavior because the alcoholic has a proven history that no matter how I react to their drinking, they still drink.

    I get it. Why waste energy getting all worked up and upset if nothing is going to be accomplished through doing that.

    I read what Jane said. I don’t agree with her statement that implies that if I don’t confront the alcoholic I am a doormat. The way I avoid being a doormat is through setting healthy boundaries with the alcoholic. Setting boundaries is completely different than not confronting the alcoholic. I know there are plenty of articles on this site about setting boundaries and reinforcing boundaries.

    Sometimes I have to not confront the alcoholic and other times I have to set boundaries. It’s all about balance. JC has made it very clear in many of the articles on this website to never let anyone, alcoholic or not, abuse me.

    I believe I have two choices, change my attitude or change my address.

  • Bridget

    Trust me I have tried it all throughout the years; from being supportive, anger, the silent treatment, the ” doing my own thing”. Nothing works and that’s because it’s a terrible disease. I do not buy it for one minute that they have no control over their emotions or the way they act. They chose to be self consumed, purposefully try and hurt and belittle you. I have an AH or I should say soon to be ex AH who is also in the middle, of what I believe to be a mid life crisis. It’s so pathetic and just selfish! Likes to live in his own little world and play with my emotions. Well life is too precious to be treated like that. I am sure there are some spouses out there who aren’t complete idiots as an alcoholic but I would say they are few and far in between. I have three family members that face losing their houses right now due to a fire and do you think he has asked how “our” family is doing?! Because after 20 + years it is our family. No because he’s to busy making plans to take a cross country road trip to find himself. Well I am at the end of my rope. Seripusly when do we say enough is enough. I think my time has come.

  • Rob

    Sorry to hear that Bridget. Sounds like you are close to making up your mind.

    This thread is very helpful to me.

    Confronting my wife isn’t getting me anywhere. I just makes her hide it better. I hate being suspicious all the time. I love her when she’s sober but not when she’s a dopey drunk. So when I confront her it’s like I am trying to figure out what day I am going to have. But some things I need to know: should she be driving, for example.

    I know that I can’t control her and I need to live my life. But it’s tough.

  • Jenny

    I agree with you Rob about needing to know certain things. My husband binge drinks and then refuses to let me pick him up. I have a hard time with not knowing if he’s drinking because he shouldn’t be driving and I feel that it’s my duty to make sure he’s safe. However, like I said, he refuses to ever let me pick him up. When he’s just a couple beers in he always says he will call me to pick him up but then when it comes time for the bar to close, he refuses a ride saying he’s not drunk when he most definitely is.

    Confrontation has gotten me nowhere. I feel like if I don’t say anything though that I’m condoning his behavior. I can’t control the drinking though so it’s quite the pickle. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

  • Gary

    I absolutely understood nothing about alcoholics until I fell in love with a woman and allowed her to live with me. It only took me six months to ask her to leave. She destroyed my home with drunk in rages. She was a living nightmare. I caught her screwing a young guy my son’s age who worked under her. I caught her sleeping with a married man on her business trip and it goes on and on. After reading books and Internet discussions I see absolutely no reason why any human being should put up with any of thier self centered shit for any length of time. My advise is to run and run some more. Think of yourself. Yes love you because focusing on them only feeds the the alcoholics ego. Run as fast as you can! Save yourself and your children. By continuing to live and love the alcoholic who has no intentions of treatment you are enabling them to continue drinking and to continue ripping your life apart. I will go as far as saying they are doing worse to you than if they where to commit suicide. They are committing a living suicide but they are trying to take you and your family with them. That is what I see. Yes you live them. But when that love for them exceeds the love of yourself or your children then something has gone wrong. You are enabling them to destroy you! Run. Plan your escape. And love them from a distance but love yourself and reward yourself with someone who will pay you back with respect and honor and compliments. They will not. And think of this. Even an addict in recovery will and can relapse back into that selfish mode again. It’s just not worth the risk. Run. Save yourself. Give them over to God and their alcohol. You can’t and will never change them. It is a disease of self consumption. There is no love in them nor for you. Run!

  • Dianne

    Im a very gratful member of Al-anon. Confronting an active alcoholic , is like trying to eat jelly with chopsticks. Anyone who knows anything about alcoholisim will know that its an illness, a progressive illness, that effects the whole family.
    Why would you want to confront an alcoholic? Why would you want to stop them from doing what they want to do ? That to me would be manipulative and controlling behaviour.
    my partner is a grown man , i trust him to make his own choices in life, its none of my buisness , all i can do is look after me, make sure that my behaviour is accepetable, show compassion, for someone who suffers daily … Yes ive been the crazy one, shouting, screaming, pleading, crying, trying to get him to see that i knew better, how big was my ego way back then.I now know im powerless over anyone but myself, and i didnt cause it, i cant control it, and i certainly cant cure it. Those of you that believe leaving the alcoholic to their own devices is excatly what they want have you ever heard alcolisim cunning baffling and powerful, this isnt advice, its my own experiance, strength and hope. Look at your part in your life with the alcoholic. And get help for you, you cannot do it for anyone else.

  • Dee

    Thank you, Gary, for one of the best comments I have read.

    I would like to thank you all for writing your stories. This website has been my moral support for 2 months now. Every time I feel down and week, I come back and read it all over again.

  • Brenda

    Wow! This is a very hard journey and I am grateful that I found this website! My son is 46 and been drinking since he was 15. I want so bad not to enable and hinder Gods work but feel that I do not have the strength and wisdom. Hoping I can get encouragement from you all! He lost his job on July 1 and went to Pa. To work and stayed drunk a lot of the time and was sent back home and he lied saying that he got homesick now not enough money to pay his monthly bills. I asked him what he planned to do and he got mad and said sounds like you have the plan. No just know there needs to be something done hoping he would say I have a problem and need help but no such luck! What to do?

  • Nancy

    I found your article very helpful. I’m a Alnon member so I have to say I have heard the advice before. However it’s worth repeating. I love this forum. I find it very helpful

  • Teresa

    I just found this website. I am hoping it will help me. I can only say that I am a mess. Three years ago my husband got a new job out of town and we were planning our move. Meanwhile my sister was in another town having problems. I suggested she move with us…we could all grow old together. So all three of us moved in together. It wasn’t long before my sister was drunk off her ass and me not really knowing what was going on I confronted her…..that didn’t go well and I kicked her out…..she came back all apologetic of corse…….well this happened a few more times. Her stumbling and falling…off in left field thinking… argumentative…hateful……it dawned on me one day that she had been drinking like this year’s ago ….she’s had 3or 4 dwi’s and is on probation…
    All the confrontations etc….our relationship is forever damaged. I’m not really sure where to go from here. I have stood my ground on where I stand with alcohol…if you are going to drink don’t get shitty with me and don’t drive. She crossed both those lines too many times. My daughter was killed by a drunk driver…my other sister and my brother were both killed because of alcohol…..i used to drink..when I was much younger but I just have zero tolerance for bullshit…..
    I just keep my distance now…she says she’s not drinking…ok….I hope not..but I just think she’s lying again….hmmmm

  • Felicia

    I SO needed to read this as I am always trying to be the investigator at our home and just like the artical says, it does no good. I have completely lost myself and my sense of happiness and well being due to my husband being a weekend alcoholic. We have 4 daughters who see it week after week. We get screamed at and there is always a huge family fight whether we say anything to him or not. I think he is always just on the defense as soon as he pops the bottle bc he knows how much the kids and I hate it. Praying for each of you who live in our same shoes and/or worse.

  • Dee

    I did not know how much this sickening relationship affected me, until he was out. Normally I am an open book, happy, positive, straight forward. Over the years I learned not to talk at all, or simply guess to which personality I am going to approach and then make a move. My words became extremely calculated. I lost my confidence in expressing myself. Not to mention the fact that I did not love or take care of myself. In my case I was dealing not only with an alcoholic but also a personality disorder, more accurately a narcissistic personality disorder, a passive aggressive subtle. The characteristics of this one are, that it starts as a perfect relationship (from ALL points of view) and very slowly “raping me emotionally” (I really mean it). I recommend you all to look into connecting the alcoholism with personality disorders – the alcohol is just a cover up for their deep disturbing selfish disorders. Some of them know it and they hide it by drinking. I consider it another form of abuse. As many of other articles say: run far away. I consider I love myself & my children more than the man who hurts or abuses us. So I am out, recovering, getting my life back, learning to be myself again. Many thanks again to this website, and all of you who take the time to share.

  • mimi

    Thanks Gary,

    Hope it is ok, but I have printed out your comment and have it above my desk here to REMIND me. Of what I am sacrificing the longer I endure all this garbage…for what???? To indulge a lunatic? Provide a lounge chair for him to abuse me from and pass out in night after night? I have been the silliest of sacrificial lambs!

    Best wishes, Mimi

  • I am in a relationship with an alcoholic. When we first started, he used to just drink on his days off from work, but now he brings a bottle home every night. When he drinks, he becomes verbally abusive to me. It also seems that he does this right before I am going to sleep. I get so upset, that I am unable to sleep. I love him, but not sure exactly how much more I can put up with. Last holiday, I fixed a nice dinner. We had company over, and he came to the table with his bottle. Does anyone have any ideas on what I can do?

  • P

    I understand/agree with the points made re not confronting/arguing with the Alcoholic/Addict. On the other hand, living with the constant lying of an A/A is like smelling smoke/something burning. It makes you want to find the origin of the smoke to put-out the fire…so your house doesn’t burn down.

  • Sarah Tobias

    Wow all of this is true !!!I enjoy this article this helped me 🙂

  • anna

    If we stop confronting the alcoholic and they still continue what they are doing, how can we help the alcoholic especially when the alcoholic always hurting herself by falling all the time ang having lots of fractures in her body. I am worried about with my friend…

  • Annie

    Why does it seem we as the spouses bear the brunt of the burden? I am frankly over it. I am tired of him not coming home. He has now started mixing prescription meds in with his drinking binges along with strip clubs. At some point in time enough is enough. I have no empathy for him. He has hurt me and his kids more than anyone can. Somehow he claims to be the victim. This is a unique type of exhaustion that I don’t want any longer.

  • […] feeling lonely, frustrated, abandoned, rejected, and in a very confrontational mood. I would then confront the alcoholic and often times we would get in to a big blow-out argument. Afterwards, my mind would just replay […]

  • […] this just normal behavior for them? You cannot make them stop lying. If you confront the alcoholic, they are just going to deny everything anyway. You cannot make them tell you the truth. So, let […]

  • […] being drunk? Has pointing the finger at them made them stop drinking yet? I seriously doubt it. Confronting an alcoholic does little good, possibly more harm than good. Why get all frustrated about something that you […]

  • Jo Swabador

    Yeah, so all you folks here that Don’t think we should confront the poor alcoholic I have something to say :

    Why don’t you tell me what you’re going to do when the poor alcoholic gets behind the wheel of a car and drives drunk and places innocent family and children at risk ??? You folks seem to ignore any risk at all to innocent civilians and other people.

    Is it gonna make him go on his own or stop him ? No maybe not but by the same token when you have family dynamics with the alcoholic where the drinking is just codfled and taken care of and covered for you create , or allowed to exist , a nice soft, comfortable environment where the alcoholic can continue to participate as he is with no real consequences. And then when the alcoholic does kill innocent family does kill a father a mother and children all the people around the alcoholic shrug their shoulders and just go wow!! too bad you didn’t stop drinking !! I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE AT ALL!! IT WAS HIM, THE ALCOHOLIC!! Ridiculous!!

    Then you all go to AA support meetings and sit around and tell each other gosh we can’t do anything will just have to wait for him to come to his own senses . Really ?! You can”t turn on your own relative to the cops for drunk driving?? Sure you can!!! But you can’t muscle up the backbone to do it.

    How about we exert the maximum environment to get the most accountability of the individual even if it doesn’t work every time, it might only take one time one nudge that brain To get the alcohol at the stop and think even for one night and save the life of an innocent person.

  • Jackie

    I love this article. I have discovered that I am more of an “escalator” than an enabler.
    The information in this article ( and any other sources with the same information), allow me somehow to give myself PERMISSION to let go of taking care of my alcoholic. I can let go of the guilt of leaving him behind. Not only leaving him alone at home when I go out for events w friends and family… but leaving him behind in areas of spiritual growth, intellectual pursuits, or even just an evening together enjoying a movie..
    I am learning and remembering not to lose myself in someone else’s stuff. I might or might not be around IF he ever decides to change his life and that’s ok.

  • Norma Lewis

    Confrontation has not worked for me even though I have tried so many times and that is why I subscribed to your website. I have to try something else.

  • JX

    I’m 67 years old and an alcoholic. My mother died of cirrhosis when I was 17. My father was a mean drunk. I have horrible childhood memories that feel like they happened last night, but I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in 31 years. My youngest daughter is an alcoholic and I can’t get through to her. I hate alcohol. Myself, I got sober by way of AA. You see, on one particular, just-another-morning, my wife calmly said to me that I had better do something about my drinking or she would take the kids and leave. The look in her eyes told me that this time she was serious. I was at that crossroad that every alcoholic dreads more than anything – the road ends – it’s either left or right – do I choose a life of drinking or family? If you’re not an alcoholic, you don’t understand the utter terror of facing life without alcohol – it IS life. I got some tough love in AA, and that’s what I needed. The stories I heard in AA made me realize I was no different than these other AA people and that they, like me, were good people, and afflicted with the same incurable problem I had/have. I got addicted to AA meetings. I needed to hear their stories, because it was like looking in the mirror. Anyway, the alcoholic is like a tornado. It sucks in, and destroys everything around it. There comes a time (“to everything there is a season…”) when you come to a crossroad too. So after you’ve tried everything, realize that either you get destroyed by the alcoholic or you save yourself.

  • Iamworthy

    Having an alcoholic in your life is one of the most painful things you can experience. The person you knew before their alcoholism was established, is gone. Even if they quit drinking, they will never return to their old selves. The person they were has died and been replaced. They have been lost to you and that is devastating.

    We have generational alcoholism. It seems to pick and choose. Some members are social drinkers and never become alcoholics, some never drank, others, after their first drink. There have been lost jobs, relationships, but thankfully no one has hurt other people by driving drunk, yet. Many in our family died from their alcoholism, and or destroyed their lives and their families lives. We told our children growing up to never start because of our family history, but most drank anyway. In this generation, we now have alcoholics, some drink and are not alcoholics but the pattern continues.

    I have been in co-dependent groups, and it saved my sanity. It also allowed me to live a full life. The most important thing I learned is that the only person you can control is yourself. A lot of these posts tell me that this lesson has not been shared or learned yet.

    Rule #1 Under no circumstances can you allow abusive behavior. You have control over who you have in your life and how they treat you. Set the boundary, with clear consequences that you will actually follow through on. It is essential for you to not back down, always follow through. Not for your alcoholic, but for you and your family. If you need to leave and leave safely contact organizations that can help you do that. Always get help for your own safety.

    Rule #2 Only the alcoholic is responsible for their drinking and their behavior. They will blame everyone and everything for their drinking. It is not your fault or your responsibility. They alone are responsible for the consequences of their addiction. If their mouth is moving, their lying, it is part of the alcoholism/addiction.

    Rule #3 An abusive alcoholic is not abusive because they drink, alcohol is not an excuse. If they are abusive, they are an abuser. Do what you need to do to stay safe.

    Rule #4 Taking care of yourself, your children, and your family is not selfish. The alcoholic has a new mistress, the bottle or drug. You are no longer their top priority. They will say they are sorry a thousand times, maybe cry. It’s a lie, a trick to keep you. But they rarely change.

    Rule #5 Don’t enable. Don’t call in sick for them or make any excuses for their behavior whatsoever. Let them experience the consequences of their behavior, it theirs. It may be the only way that they have a chance to recover.

    Rule #6 Let it go and create a positive life for yourself, your children, and your family. It’s really hard, but you deserve a peaceful, happy life. Take care of yourself.

    Rule #7 Only you can make these decisions, no matter how much advice others give you. When you are ready, you will make the decisions that take you to a new life. With or without your alcoholic/addict. You are the only one who can decide when enough is enough. You are worthy.

  • Chris Other

    Is this satire? My mother-in-law employed this exact strategy with my wife when she was a teen and it meant years of sexual abuse that ruined her daughter’s mental health and future physical health.
    She tuned out and continues to. She raised a daughter to accept it all and feel like she was helpless in the situation.
    She is definitely healthier and happier than my wife, as is the alcoholic piece of shit husband that raped his daughter. So it worked well for her I guess.
    If you’re serious about this crap you might add a section for morons *with children.* Yes I know this is an old piece but if I found it other wives of rapists might and fuck up their kids and grandkids.
    So mad at this.

  • Other Again

    My adult children are just now dealing with the secret their goddamned in-laws kept for their entire lives. I seriously hope they don’t find this “accept and ignore” shit while they are still processing the life they turned upside down when it came out. It’s been hard enough already, they don’t need to hear that their mother’s mother was right to stick around and suck it up while their mother’s life got shorter and shorter.
    You bet your ass people are this stupid and this selfish, guess how I know. ಠ︵ಠ

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