Being Kind to an Alcoholic

What I’m suggesting may seem hard to grasp, but being kind to the person who is the alcoholic in your life is very important. Why would I say that? There are several reasons, but the main one is that it benefits your emotional well-being tremendously. If you follow my advice, you will fell better about yourself.

I am in no way suggesting that by being kind to the alcoholic in your life that this will help to make them quit drinking.I don’t think there is a way to force an alcoholic to quit drinking.

These suggestions have everything to do with you feeling better in the midst of an extremely difficult situation and nothing to do with the problem drinker quitting.

The way this works is that when we are kind to the person who is drinking alcohol, there’s less opportunity for us to experience feelings of guilt and shame. I like to call it keeping my side of the street clean. The dirty things that get on the avenues of our life have no right to be there when we are acting kindly toward the alcoholics in our lives. The less negative behavior we display the cleaner we feel inside and the happier we become.
Keeping My Side Clean
Here are a few ways to be kind to an alcoholic:

Always say good-bye when hanging up the phone, no matter how angry you may feel about what they are doing.

If you are relationally close to the problem drinker, then it’s appropriate to reassure them of your love. Even in the midst of difficult situations and poor behavior on their part, tell them that you love them. Learn to love the person, but hate the disease of alcoholism.

Love By The BayMake sure you tell them good night regardless of how angry they may be about something.

If you have a slip and call them a bad name or throw a temper tantrum, tell them that you are sorry that you did that. They may throw it in your face, but do not respond. Just keep your life clear of the clutter of shame by telling them that you made a mistake. You have no control over how they will react to your amened. You only have control over your own behavior.

Do not interrogate them. They will only lie about what they’ve been doing or where they have been. Alcoholics lie a lot. Just accept that fact. You will have more peace and serenity in your life and you will be much kinder to them by doing this.

HuggingKeep your expectations low when directed towards the alcoholic in your life. The lessor the expectations the less resentment toward them you will have. They cannot disappoint you if you do not set a demand upon their life, this will help you to have less negative emotions directed toward them.

Stop trying to control the alcoholic’s behaviors and just let them live their lives the way they desire to. You cannot stop them from drinking. You have not succeeded up until now and if you continue with the same behaviors you won’t succeed in the future either.

Couple By LakeThese are some good keys to being nice to the alcoholic in your life. Remember, the more poorly you treat them the worse you will feel. That’s just the way this thing works. Be nice to them and you will feel better for doing so.

18 comments to Being Kind to an Alcoholic

  • Jim

    Just wanted to say that I tried two of your suggestions and I do actually feel better about myself. Thanks for the great tips and blog!

  • Jane

    I will work on being more kind to my brother whom I love. I have been very frusterated at his insanity (Alcoholism)The alcohol is his lover, best friend and replacement for any relationship (wife, children, family and friends) or any normalcy in his life. I can’t change him and this is his choice and I will be better about sitting on the side lines while he slowly kills himself in his selfishness of alcoholism. He has 4th stage cirosis….yup…one drink at a time one bottle of Voda a day for years. I’m going to go now to call the funeral home and start making funeral arrangements because there is nothing that I can do to make him stop, I will love him to death…literally! It is just a matter of time and this will all be over.

  • admin

    Jane, thanks for sharing about your delicate situation. My step dad and two of my friends passed away from cirrhosis of the liver. All I can say is that I am glad I quit drinking thirteen years ago.

    Life’s too short to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness. It’s wonderful that you understand that he suffers from something that you could not have cured. When we have such an understanding, it’s easier to be compassionate and kind.

    I’m praying for your situation that your family will be comforted during these difficult moments.

  • Tired of it all

    I don’t see any other way to be happy and sane except to leave him. I’ve read a lot on this site, and on many others. I don’t want to be in a relationship in which my partner’s brain is fried, where he has no respect for me and my needs. I am learning not to be a doormat, learning to love myself, and frankly if he wants to drink himself to death, it’s his business. My only choice is to stay or go. To stay is misery. So that leaves me one option. Go.

    We are not married, our rental lease is about to expire, we have no children. I have tried so hard and feel so rotten, and have become legally disabled myself from all the stress of dealing with others with these kinds of problems.

    I’m not in a good place towards God these days either. What kind of malicious God would let people hurt themselves and others in these horribly insidious ways, of drinking and substance abuse. Life sucks and then you die. It’s pretty much true.

    I will leave him, and spend the rest of my life living in a defensive state, not one of joy. People are idiots, myself included. I can barely manage my own self, much less an alcoholic boyfriend. I’m tired of trying.

    Good luck to all of you who try to stay and bend yourselves around self-centered addicts who don’t have the capacity to love you back. I’m done with it.

  • Karen

    OUR alcoholic spouses are usually very sensitive people. Things bother them and they will not talk about it. The truth of
    the matter is they drink to cover up those things that trigger an emotional response, With the alcohol controlling their emotions they never learn to deal with their feeling. The hurt, guilt,and suffering they feel is buried in the bottom of a glass, bottle or beer.

    Then the
    body requires the alcohol to function and then dies due to the physical bodys deterioration. (cirrosis, bone disease, cancer in the mouth and destroyed brains.etc.) i AM NOT
    making excuses for them, but learning to be aware of how
    simply this disease gets started and ends. Destroying
    lives, families, in-laws and out laws and themselves. There is no magic answer for each alcoholic is different
    and so are we. Good luck with what ever you feel you must do and may God bless your journey.

  • KT

    Karen you hit the nail on the head! This blog is helping me getting started with trying to be nice to my wife and to not get angry when she drinks. My wife was sober for six months and met another alcoholic in AA, we separated for a year. My wife is drinking again and we are back together. We have a six year old son to think about. I have hit my bottom and am considering an intervention session.

  • C

    What every person says about the relationship with an alcoholic is: They are angry, nothing I do is right, they correct me all the time and hover over me no matter where I am.

    I will never be around another alcoholic. Articles state not to date an alcoholic – it only gets worse.

    Thank heaven I never liked the taste of any alcohol.

  • "Ex" codependent

    Despite posting a good deal of really thoughtful insights and some fine tips on dealing with an alcoholic (if you must or chose to do so), this site offers far too many suggestions that it is up to the codependent to be compromising, knowing, as we do, that those who drink can be completely uncompromising in their actions and behavior. Why would you continue to commit yourself to living codependently with an individual who is unwilling to look at their own actions and dependency or alter their own behavior? Why sacrifice out of your love for someone who is unwilling to do the same out of their love for YOU? Why should you be the only one willing to take responsibility and comprimise? Answer: the alcoholic is not the only one consumed by illness, so are you. You are codependent.

    Both my mother and my ex-wife were abusers of alcohol. To call them alcoholics is to assume they could not quit, and perhaps they could, if they chose to. Yet, despite all apparent signs their drinking was detrimental to their family lives and personal relationships, they did not admit to having a problem nor did they ever quit. I realized the severity of my own plight when I discovered my ex had a serious problem dealing with alcohol. I discovered this after we were married and moved in together, along with her then eight year-old daughter. She would lie about how many drinks she had (always one or two), she hid drinks from me, and even if she were stumbling would refuse to admit she had had too much. I’d hear her slurring and rambling over the phone, and she would still deny she had been drinking. She has never admitted to having a problem, even to this day, years after our divorce, despite the fact she still drinks with the same intensity and in the same manner. She does not see her drinking to be a problem, despite my telling her it was for me, her child, and others in her life. I even tried to get her mother to intervene, which caused a scandal and provoked a closing of the ranks within her family. Her father is very likely also an alcohol abuser, and as I write this he is in the stges of a far-gone dementia. The family will tell you he was unlucky, fate has paled him bad cards. My guess is he helped himself where he is through drink. The family is so unwilling to talk about their childhood and any problems that arise, which convinces me they are all used to hiding dirty secrets out of shame.

    I will not go into a long screed. Suffice it to say, after a roller-coaster ride that left me feeling beaten, belittled and scapegoated, I finally chose to leave – I had to leave, in order to survive. I call myself an “ex” codependent, because anyone familiar with codependency knows it is something you must continuously and vigilantly be aware of in your own relationships. I find myself wanting to help those who need it, yet will not accept it, and in the end, I am the person who suffers for this. My advice to anyone at their wits end is this: tell them you love them, but they must give up the bottle or you are history. You must get out and save yourself, if you ever hope to live in balance. What’s more, read about codependency. Look into your past. Do you have a parent, sibling or significant adult in your life who suffered alcohol abuse? Most likely you do. You have learned to deal with this form of behavior and are still playing out that role in your adult relationships, walking on eggshells, trying to appease, remain the responsible party and be held accountable for others poor behavior. You cannot “save” someone who will not save themselves. And if you are trying to, you might ask why you are not committed to saving yourself.

    @Karen. I agree, an alcohol abuser can be trying to cope with their issues this way. They may well be sensitive souls incapable of dealing more constructively with their emotional baggage. My mother and ex-wife fit that bill, as well. Still, I attempted to get my wife to go into therapy, look seriously at her alcohol consumption to consider if it were not unhealthy, and she laughed time and again in my face. Finally, I broke, and it was me who appeared to have a problem, which she was quick to focus upon. She made sure everyone who knew of our problems was aware of my breakdown. Never once did she take any responsibility for our problems that led to a divorce. She may be suffering on the inside, but her behavior is callous. She claims to this day it is my own personality issues that caused the riff, and that she was no longer willing to deal with it. Denial, projection and misdirection. Does that ring a bell?

    I hope anyone living in a situation they feel is impossible will seriously consider focusing on WHY they choose to stay. Shift your focus from the drunk and their crazy-making; why are you willing to put up with it, when they are not in the least willing to change?

  • "Ex" codependent

    This page offers a good list of things to consider. And remember, substance abusers themselves often fall into the category of codependency.

  • Sally

    I hope “Tired of it all” returns to this site for help in getting herself to a better place. I just wanted to tell her that her view of God is skewed, just as the attitudes of drunks are twisted. Tired, don’t blame God for not taking control, for “letting” people make bad choices that have the potential to destroy the gift of life He gave them. God gave us all free will so that we can choose our path in life just as we choose how to act toward each other and we choose how to react to the things that happen to us. When we make bad choices, like choosing to become involved with drunks, we must face the consequences of our choices. This website is all about the price we pay for allowing drunks into our lives. Each story is different, but they all have the same underlying theme – we have chosen to be involved with drunks, allowed them to spread their sickness into our lives and we all pay the price in myriad ways, but the price is the same – pain, unless and until we choose otherwise. God is with us, Tired, but He won’t do the hard work we have to do for ourselves. God never promised us that we won’t face hard times and heartbreak. What He did promise is that He is with us always, and He will help us find the strength within ourselves to do what is right, if only we ask Him to help us. Tired, God won’t do for you what you can and should do for yourself. I hope you have moved on with your life, and that you have rediscovered the joy that is real life. Living with a drunk isn’t real life – it’s a life that revolves around and stars the drunk, and life with a drunk sucks the joy out of everything, because the drunk doesn’t experience joy, only anger, fear and despair. God bless you, Tired. You’re in my prayers.

  • joni

    First time reader, suffering emotionally as well. Love my husband of 30 yrs. Want him back so bad.

  • me

    Joni, I am married 28 years to my AH. One of the most difficult
    things for me to accept is knowing no matter what I do or say
    the alcohol is the third party in our relationship. I have
    wasted a lot of years trying to work things out and now he is
    sick and I feel so guilty for wanting to leave him. So I stay
    and try not to suffer so deeply. He has destroyed my love for
    him and all that I can do is be kind through these final years
    of suffering. He brought it on his self, long time relationships
    are even harder to walk away from. I miss what we had before
    the alcohol took over. That is forever gone, the alcohol controls
    him, by destroying the good of his brain. Love, being the
    deeper part of the inner sole can be destroyed. Being responsible
    to the marriage contract. That’s another issue. Only you know
    what you can live with or with out is up to you. If you stay
    think about what you need to do to keep yourself mentally and
    physically healthy. Abide by those rules for your self. It is
    your boundaries you set for you and are absolutely necessaey
    to survive in the debilitating enviroment. Good Luck, I know
    what you are going through. Things can and do get better and sometimes worse.

  • karen

    Hi Joni and me, I have been married to my AH for 13 yrs. In retrospect it was a rebound marriage after my husband of 30 yrs kicked me out and moved his girlfriend in. I have done all of the usual enabler things. We have separated many times. Now we are in our own home and I am retired. He has been retired for some time and has a decent pension. I on the other hand have a very meager pension. He constantly throws it up to me that I have no money and no where to go and so I have to put up with his crap. In one respect he is correct, it would be really difficult to try and make it on my meager pension. I however am starting to take care of myself. I find I still cry a lot but try to read or do something for me. I find I get depressed easily but am making a conscious effort to exercise. I get upset because he never helps around the house and just makes a mess. I am trying to learn that if it is bothering me that I take care of it and not blame him for not helping. I have very few expectations of him now, if any. I rarely plan to go anywhere with him. I get angry with him for attending mass with me because he is intoxicated and I think of what a hipocrit he is coming to church drunk. It is embarrassing. For now I have stopped attending. For now I will stay but am trying to hold on to some sanity. Thank you for listening.

  • Anne

    I just want to say that is part of what is so helpful about this blog, and what I was really looking for and needed, was this whole tornado,& enmesh end, actions, reactions, where your boundaries are always being trespassed upon, until you lose yourself completely, buttons being pushed. It’s SO unhealthy & unnatural state when your boundaries have been broken down & destroyed-all other people see is the wreck you’re left as and your bad reactions. They can even ridicule you, not having the misfortune to have experienced such a thing. It leaves one even more isolated, not trusting of others, or having a good basis to develop other relationships.How to get out of that trap!?!
    You are right. Any little thing can & will be used. (As far as keeping your side of the street clean) To you, it is horrifying about, how horribly you, & the things, & your life, things you value about yourself, trusts, cherished beliefs, hope-even any trust or faith in higher powers gets positioned, twisted, sullied & ruined. But to them it is like a maniaclly happy fun game.
    Sometimes, though a lot of these personality characterics are shared by alcoholics, sometimes I think it is something else also. Like, they just are that way as people, some kind of sociopathy, & almost use the drinking (I’m not myself, it was just the alcohol is the problem, I’d be fine without that problem, oh, I was blacked out) Excuses I hear other people give for this person.
    But deep down, I don’t really think it is true. That without it they would be just as mean, because they really enjoy being that way. Maybe they would even be better at it or do it a different way.
    Does anyone else think that thought at all?

  • bea

    I have been with my boyfriend for about 2 years I love him but I can’t take it anymore.when he drinks he’s so mean he calls me names spits on me tells me I’m worth nothing anything that’s degrading I’ve been thru.I can honestly say to cry myself to sleep every night.I want to leave I just did know how I’m scared of starting over I pray that I wake up one day and be straight and just leave and never look back.

  • Silvia

    I’m positive that each one of us have thought about leaving all the crap behind and start a new life. I would like to see how many people actually done it.
    I need to say this out loud and congratulate this community. Outsiders and AHs may see us as weak and fragile people but man anybody that has chosen to stay and face the sickness and all the pain that comes with it are strong as a rock. Seriously we have shared our deepest fears, hearth aches, shames, tears, stories, and we are mostly judged or treated with pitty but we need to acknowledge our strengths and big hearts. I’m thankful to all of you for sharing and helping each other to overcome hard and impossible times.

  • […] He decided to go to a meeting. When he got back he was picked up by an alcoholic friend to go to an AA meeting who could not believe I was letting him sleep in his truck. I have tried for years to help him. (check out Being Kind To An Alcoholic) […]

  • […] with a loving and gentle attitude towards the person who has the drinking problem in your life. Being kind to an alcoholic may be difficult, but it’s necessary. If it is not possible to detach with love, then […]

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