Do you feel out of control?
Is getting a grip on your emotions difficult?
Is the alcoholic in your life on a full blast destructive path?
Coping with a spouse, child, co-worker or friend who is an active alcoholic is tough stuff. We usually find our emotions all over the place and begin to recognize that we are very unhappy as a direct result of our constant interaction with that person who drinks a lot.
You are not alone, my friend. My entire life has been affected by the actions of others who chose to drink. It started with my mother when I was young and continued into a marriage wherein my alcoholic spouse became very abusive toward me. The anxiety associated with living with an alcoholic can be overwhelming at times.
There are a few things I have learned which will help you deal with someone who is on the destructive path of alcoholism.
How to Love Unconditionally
This might sound crazy right now, but it’s very possible to love an alcoholic without having a bunch of conditions. The best place to start is by reassuring them of your love, verbally. When you are parting ways each day, always say “goodbye” and if an “I love you” is appropriate, say it! The same applies when talking on the phone. No matter how frustrated you may be,.. always say “goodbye!”
Understand That Alcoholism is a Disease.
You wouldn’t hate someone if they had cancer would you?
The person struggling with drinking all of the time is very ill…just as the physically ill person is. The only cure that will work for them is for them to make a decision to stop drinking. All of our badgering and manipulation will not cause them to quit. The best thing we can do is to let go of them and to accept that alcoholism is a disease. In so doing, we help ourselves and them at the same time.
Begin to Change Your Focus
Stop analyzing them all of the time and start doing things which make you happy again. This could be as simple as reading a book instead of focusing on their behavior. It can also be as difficult as not getting in the car and driving around looking for them. In essence, STOP reacting to all of their negative behaviors and start living a life of your own. Rather than wasting a ton of energy focusing on their behavior, do things that you enjoy. Go to the movies, take a walk, visit with a friend or get involved doing volunteer work somewhere. Just do anything to take your mind off of the things they are or are not doing. Focusing on an alcoholic all of the time will drive us crazy.
Learn How to Set Boundaries
This is one of the best ways to get a grip on our emotions. When we begin to understand that we do not have to accept unacceptable behavior, then we can start standing up for ourselves. Communication is the key to setting healthy boundaries. You must tell the active drinkers what your limitations are and what is unacceptable to you. “Al-anon” is a great place to learn how to do this. A good rule of thumb is: “Say what you mean-but don’t say it mean.” I was married to an abusive alcoholic spouse. When I learned how to set limitations, then I was better protect from all of the abuse.
Get Control of Your Mouth
If what you have to say to an alcoholic is not kind, necessary or true, don’t say it!
Name-calling, yelling or blaming them for your unhappiness, bickering and arguing will never make them quit drinking or stop their negative behaviors. Save your breath and be kind instead. The more self-controlled you can be in this area, the less guilt and shame you will have to deal with later because you won’t be saying things you really don’t mean. This is why it’s so important to learn how to stop arguing with an alcoholic.
Having an active alcohol-abuser in our lives can wear us down mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. One of the things that really helped me in getting a grip on things was attending support-group meetings designed to help friends and family members of alcoholics. It was in those meetings and through interacting with friends in the program of “Al-anon” that I learned how to handle myself in a much more positive way.
I encourage you to reach out for help. There are literally millions of people dealing with this horrible disease all over the world. You are not alone. Find an organization in your community which can help you get a much better grip on your life.