Detaching From An Alcoholic

What are the ways of detaching from someone who drinks too much? Why would we want to detach form an alcoholic? How can I do this in love when I am so angry at them for being this way? Is loving them still possible after all they have done to me?

This particular subject unfolds into many various roads. I will shed some light and share suggestions on how to separate our emotions from being enmeshed with a problem drinker. Separating ourselves from the way they affect us takes time. It is a process of learning how to do things differently. We don’t really realize it at the time, but our entire lives get all interconnected with everything they are doing and it really affects our behaviors in damaging and negative ways.

Don’t Allow Them to Rent Space in Your Head

You may be thinking; “what does HE mean by that?” Obsessing over an alcoholic is our biggest problem in this situation. The constant looming thoughts in our heads are taking up precious space in our minds. With that being said, don’t allow them to rent space in your head. Find things to do which will change your focus. Read books, exercise, go to the movies or talk to a friend on the phone. Find things that will help your mind DETACH from thinking about them.

Learn to Take Care of Yourself

In the midst of your extremely busy life, learn how to take “out time” for yourself. The alcoholic may not like it that you are doing something to make your SELF happy. That’s OK… do it anyway! When they approach you afterward, just say; “I’m sorry you fell that way” and go into another room.

Understand that alcoholics keep us angry and anxious. We must do things for ourselves in the detachment process regardless of what they think about us. If you are a woman, get your hair and nails done. If you are a man go golfing, fishing or go for a walk. Taking time out to get a massage works really well for relieving stress. You can count on meeting resistance from them, but you have to start taking care of yourself regardless of what they think.

Detaching From What They Think

Because an alcoholic uses anger to try and control us, we must not get upset when they voice their disapproval of when we take care of ourselves. If you get involved with alcoholism support group meetings, the alcoholic will try to goof up your plans. They might say something like; “why are you going to those stupid meetings?” It’s possible they will try to create an argument with you just prior to you leaving for a meeting. It doesn’t matter what they say. Take care of yourself and make your support group meetings and recovery literature the most important part of your life.

Detaching From The Phone

You have a choice…you can either answer the phone or not answer it. You also have another choice. You can either listen to a message they have left you or delete it without listening. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LET THEM UPSET YOU ON THE PHONE. If they are getting out of hand, kindly say; “I’m going to hang up now. I’ll talk to you later.” Then gently hang up the phone. If they leave you nasty messages, don’t listen to them. If the start calling you repeatedly, don’t answer the phone. This is how we detach form the negative influences that an alcoholic has on our lives.

In a sense we are protecting our own emotional self.

How to Stop Arguing With an Alcoholic
Detaching from the old behaviors of arguing with them takes a while. You will have to learn how to keep your mouth shut. When you sense an argument is starting, tell them that you love them or really care about them and then say; “I don’t care to discuss this right now.” You can then go into a different room, close the door and read a book or watch TV. It doesn’t matter what you do…just find something to do other than to argue with them. Learning how to not fight with an alcoholic takes time. This is why it’s important to get involved in support-group meetings for friends and family of alcoholics.

Detaching from the way we have been doing things is a huge subject. We must learn how to separate ourselves from feelings of guilt and shame.

How To Enjoy More Peace and Serenity

  • We learn how to avoid getting into arguments.
  •  We stop getting into the car and driving around to try and find them.
  •  We quit snooping around in their stuff trying to find their stash.
  • We stop obsessing over the alcoholic’s behaviors.
  • We learn how to just get in bed and go to sleep when they aren’t home late at night.
  • We detach from confronting the lies.
  • We learn how to let go and let God deal with them.
  • We stop calling them to check up on them.

There are so many things effecting your life right now from the alcoholic’s behaviors that it’s going to take a while to learn how to do things differently. Little by little, “one day at a time” things will get better as you learn more about how to detach from an alcoholic.

When dealing with an alcoholic, learning loving detachment techniques is vitally important. As we grow in knowledge about alcoholism and how to handle dysfunctional situations better, we start understanding that enabling and detaching are very closely related.

As you continue reading you will learn various methods of separating yourself in a loving way from the destructive behaviors of someone else who is close in your life. These lessons can be applied to many different types of relationships.

The more co-dependent we are and enmeshed with someone, the harder it is to distinguish where we begin and they end. When they are happy, we also are happy. When they are angry our emotions are affected in a negative way as well. We can learn how to not flow with the mood swings of an alcoholic. It’s just going to take making a few changes and doing that “one day at a time.” Remember to go easy on yourself. These changes are all about making progress and not necessarily about doing everything perfectly. If you mess up, just start over.

Let me just trow out a few…

Suggestions That Will Help You Detach from an Alcoholic:

  • Get involved in Al-anon support group meetings. Al-anon is a great organization to try.
  • Read literature on the subject
  • Start developing friendships with people from your support-group meetings
  • Take notes during meetings
  • Start keeping a journal
  • Make this new lifestyle the number one priority in your life

Now here are a few…

Methods of Detaching From A Problem Drinker:

  • Kindly say, ” goodbye” and hang up the phone
  • Refuse to listen to phone messages after you hang up and they frantically call you over and-over again.
  • Quit investigating what they are doing
  • Read books or go visit with friends
  • Shut your mouth when you are angry at them and go into another room
  • Don’t look at them trying to figure out if they’ve been drinking
  • Get your own life by doing things you enjoy doing without them
  • Don’t allow them to rent space in your head,. Stop thinking about them all the time
  • Arguing with an alcoholic accomplishes nothing. Refuse to partake in the chaos
  • Let go of them completely and stop trying to control their behaviors
  • Go for walks
  • Talk on the phone to friends or relatives
  • Take up hobbies again

When We Start Detaching-We Stop Enabling.

This new way of acting will allow the alcoholic to suffer the consequences of their actions and also help them to reach their bottom. In separating ourselves from all of their drama, we in turn,  experience more peace and serenity in our own personal lives. Loving the alcoholic by letting go is the goal of this detachment process that we are learning about.

Separating ourselves as an individual in a co-dependent relationship takes time. As we continue attending alcoholism support group meetings and set goals to better our personal lives, it becomes easier to lovingly remove ourselves from the alcoholic’s behaviors. Being kind to an alcoholic will become easier as we learn how to love them differently. Again, this is not something that will happen overnight.

Avoiding The Sting
As time goes on, we begin to recognize the times in which associating with them would not be a good idea. As we continue to learn detachment methods, the sting of alcoholism occurs less frequently.  This works very much like hanging out around a bee hive. As long as you don’t stick your nose in the hive and keep a safe distance, you won’t get stung.

The hard part of detachment from an alcoholic is breaking habitual patterns that we have been doing for a long time. This “just takes time.”  I’ve heard it said:  “if you walk a hundred miles in the woods,  don’t expect to walk out in an hour.”  The same applies to being obsessed with an alcoholic. It takes time and effort to break free from our destructive behavior patterns that we have become accustomed to.

As we begin to detach more from all of their drama, we quit enabling them to depend upon us. It’s hard to do at first because we are so used to rescuing them from everything. When we quit rescuing them and let them suffer the consequences of their actions, we are less affected by their behaviors.

Detaching from an alcoholic means that we let go of them. It doesn’t mean that we quit loving or caring about them. We just learn how to mind our own business and start living our own lives as they continue to drink. Even though we may still get frustrated with an alcoholic, we will react differently  so that WE will remain more calm and experience greater levels of peace within ourselves.

Consider making a list of things that you enjoy doing and start doing them. This can help tremendously in the process of changing our focus.

The alcoholic may not like our changes in behavior, OH WELL! We have to be strong as we start doing things differently. This is why we need the support  of  support group meetings and of friends who know how to help us change.

Loving detachment from alcoholism means that we don’t make decisions based upon the alcoholic’s opinions, moods  or advice in relation to our life. We eventually begin to be hardly affected by their destructive behaviors, views and attitudes toward us.

Now …I know I’ve shared a lot in this session, but just remember to do the best that you can “one day at a time.”

Written By: JC



543 comments to Detaching From An Alcoholic

  • Julie

    Kerry, I understand your plight. I am going thru the same thing right now with my husband. i have filed for divorce and after losing myself in our marriage because of dealing with his alcoholism, I started to try the detach method. But his emotional and physical abuse led me to get out. Now he is constantly texting and calling with promises of change and pronouncements of love. Thing is I have listened to these promises several times before and the changes never come. Now I need to get out of the abusive relationship and work on myself and help my children who have witnessed and then eventually experienced his abuse. As much as the pretty picture he paints and the wonderful promises he makes sounds like we can make this work, I know in my heart that we cannot. He is still drinking and is trying to tell me it is ok because he has cut back. What he does not realize is he is trying to fix our relationship and get back into the home. He is not trying to fix himself first. Cannot take two broken people and have a relationship that is fixed. We need to fix ourselves separately then maybe in the future we can fix our broken relationship. He does not understand that. And first and foremost, he is still drinking and refuses to admit he needs to quit. Cannot fix himself if he is still relying on alcohol to fix things for him. So I guess my advice is to stay away and try to listen to your head more than your heart. Because your heart will not look at the reality of the situation but will confuse your mind and reach for hope of fixing things. But your friend needs to seek the help she needs and you do not have any responsibility to make that happen. In fact you cannot. She needs to do this for herself.

  • Kerry

    Thank u so much for your message, I will try to follow my head & not my heart! I may even tell my friend to get back in touch when she is not touching a drop of alcohol! & not before!
    Now is too soon & I’m sure nothing has changed! I just hoped it had in my heart!
    I wish you all the best in your situation.
    I guess time will tell but for now I will work &look after the only thing I can .. ME!
    Thanks again for your support x

  • Julie

    You’re welcome Kerry. I know this site and the people’s advice here has helped me a lot. Like you, my alcholic needs to stop drinking before fixing things with me. Take care and God Bless. I wish you the best.

  • Kerry

    I got another text today …. Just useless gossip! I chose not to reply! My health can not handle this friendship right now!
    I just need strength to stay on the right track!

  • Julie

    Great job in not responding that is the best probably right now. Stay strong.

  • sahrah

    Thanks JC for your useful and practical tips on not taking on an alcoholics “precieved problems”. What a Blessing to find you website in-time to save my sanity!

  • Sheila

    Does anyone have experience dealing with an alcoholic ex-husband?
    We separated 6 months ago, and now the divorce will be final in a few weeks.
    Since we have a 10yr old child, co-parenting issues and having to interact with each other will always be there. Any advice?
    Plus, I especially welcome ideas for mnizing the effects of his aloholism on my daughter.


  • Kerry

    Thank you Julie, I have managed to stay strong & to keep a distance, I really appreciate the support of this site!
    I got a new message this week, apparently my friend is getting a book published about alcohol & how it affects the alcoholic & friends & family etc. the book is written to help people!
    I’m thinking this probably isn’t true!
    Being honest it makes me angry … How can you write to help people if you haven’t sorted yourself & your own relationships?!?!?

  • Julie

    Kerry, they lie so much for attention or whatever they need that you never know when they are telling the truth or how much is truth. My husband just did that to me this weekend. I have been refusing to talk to him as he drags me into arguments and whines how lonely he is and doesn’t deserve this. But this weekend when i would not respond to his calls or texts he started texted me that he needed rides to the hospital and sent several messages that contradicted eachother before finally texted that i should never mind. He went from a big emergency to nevermind in a matter of thirty minutes using about ten text messages. I never replied to one. There never was an emergency he just had used that as a tactic to try and get me to answer him. But it was so difficult for me and I actually felt so much better not responding to his drama and lies.

  • karens

    Kerry, JC pointed this out and it helped me and added
    a bit of humor instead of drama.

    Not gramatically or perfectly quoted.

    How do you tell when an alcoholic is lieing? Answer***

    When his lips are moving!!!!!!

    I found this to be so funny but so overwhelmingly
    true. It has helped me detatch when I know he is lieing,
    Now, inside of my breath I say to myself. Yea, he is lieing, yup his lips are moving.

  • Kerry

    Yes you hit the nail on the head with that, that’s what gets to me the most …..The not knowing what is true & what isn’t !

  • Kerry

    Just wanted to say how grateful I am for this site, for both information & support! When I feel a bit weak I read the above again!
    I do have a question if anyone has an opinion, if an alcoholic owes you money should you ask for it back (whether you ever get it or not) or just write it off & forget it?

  • C

    I received a 4 page typed letter from the ex-gf of the guy I was dating. She stated that she never knew the truth the whole time they were together, that he lied constantly. She also mentioned that he was never true to anyone he dated!

    I met him outside in front of mutual friends’ home – all of us went out to dinner a few days later and I was unaware there would be a problem with an ex.

    A few days later my phone rang and it was “unavailable”. She had gotten my number from the female friend who went to dinner with us. I confronted my neighbor and she claimed the ex-gf got my number from his phone when he was in another room – not true.

    The neighbor continued to report what we were doing for over 3 years! I finally exploded in front of a lot of our mutual neighbors and haven’t had a problem since. Dating an alcoholic or living with an individual with a drinking problem is a nightmare. I still can’t believe how sneaky he was – how he lied so easily about nothing important!

    Never again! I know how to avoid their drama.

  • Luda

    I have read so much about being married to an alcoholic since last night that my eyes are completely open now.
    I tick all the boxes of an enabler/codependent. The lies, the arguments, the broken promises, the no plans for tomorrow, the “i do not have a problem” , I’ve got it under control….bla,bla, bla, the one that has been killing me for the last 3 year “it is your fault, i drink just to put up with you” it hurts so much.
    Well, after years of begging him to moved out, I moved out to a friends house with my kids few weeks ago, after 3 weeks he agreed to look for a place to himself. I came back home and finally he got a place and is moving in a week. He is so angry about it that he has become nastier towards me, he disregards me in every single way all the time, and blames me for making of him an alcoholic. He points out that i look old and fat – not fat, 39yo- . Heats the fact that i work 3 days and take care of the kids, instead of letting them in day care the whole week.
    Those days where he was nice when sober have gone long time ago, when sober (some mornings till 6pm) he is worst than being drunk.
    I tried to go to Al-anon meeting more than 3 years ago, and he manipulated me to the point that i thought i did not need it. How much pain i would had sparred my kids; myself if i would had gone.
    Starting next week!!!! I know that i am just half way on my journey, i pray; ask for your prayers, i will pray for all of you out there struggling with a love one and his/her diseases. Pray for them as well at this point only God can work in their lives; rescue them from a sure fall.
    We are not alone, as i thought until last night, we are not mentally sick as they want to make us believe. We have to protect ourselves and our children!!!! Love you all; thank you.

  • Sheila

    It appears that you are on the right path. I do hope you stay on it regrdless of what he says or does.


  • admin

    Luda, it sounds like you are taking care of yourself and children in the midst of a very difficult situation. Alcoholics Blaming is an article on this site that many people have liked through their Facebook accounts. I think you will learn a few things from reading it. It appears that you are on the right path. Once you learn how to cope with an alcoholic, your life will be filled with a lot more serenity.

    Do all that you MUST to protect you and your children at this point. Al-anon will greatly help you learn how to detach from the alcoholic. I hope you get plugged in there and continue to stay with the program. It has helped me to degrees beyond expression…

  • Margo

    I have an Alcoholic grown Alcoholic son who has two DUI, and will not take responsibility for his won actions. I do not enable, but I am concerned for his well being. Several months ago my husband(his step-father) & I ask him to leave our home when visiting because he was drunk, dis-respectful, nasty trying to cause problems between my spouse and I, and wanting to fight. Since the day we ask him to leave because he was being disruptive he has not spoken to me. I have called a few times he did not answer his phone, texted once maybe twice, and wrote him a brief note. I am assuming his behavior is due to being an alcoholic?!?!? Is it best to leave him alone? I am not sure what to do I do not want to enable him, but I also do not want him to think I don’t care due to past issues we had when he was a teen during that time he was into drug abuse.

  • Sandy

    I am so struggling with this this week, my husband is sober but I don’t feel he is truly committed to recovery; I keep thinking about all the things he could, should, needs to do to get there . . and it’s driving me insane to try to stay somewhat detached and keep my mouth shut – like my 87 yr old mother said to me this morning, “Let it go Sandy, he’ll either sink or swim” . . Gosh what great advise . . if I could only do it . . I just want to grab him and shake him and tell him what he should be doing – I know my codependancy has kicked into high gear . . any thoughts or comments would be truly appreciated . .

  • Laura

    Hi Sandy, We have all been there. There is so much information, understanding, tools, and support at your nearest Al-Anon meeting. I entered those rooms a little over four years ago; so grateful I did and honestly do not know where I would be today if I hadn’t. Please do yourself a favor and check one out … let us know how it goes … Love and Light

  • karen

    co-dependency 🙁 hard one, i am dealing with this one myself, totally hostaged up!!!!

  • Sally

    Oh, my Lord, the memories all your stories bring back for me! Blessedly, when I decided to make a choice of him or me, I chose me. It’s been 7 months now, and I still don’t regret leaving the drunk I once had in my life. The longer I’m away, the more I marvel that I allowed the situation to go on for 5 years. People, I don’t care how much you may love a drunk, there is absolutely NOTHING you can do or will ever be able to do that will change them or your situation until YOU make a choice to live an authentic life for yourself, on your own terms. Nothing a drunk says or does is based on any kind of truth. It’s all about manipulating you and everyone else in their lives to make their perpetual drunkenness easier for them. It can be hard, and it can be damned uncomfortable, but cutting yourself loose from their crazy-making is the only way you will know real life or real peace. I’ve heard every excuse there is for staying, and I can tell you that none of them are worth the oxygen it takes to speak them or the paper they’re written on. The ex- is still a drunk and still living a miserable futile life. I can’t see any sane person choosing to stay in a life that’s so filled with misery not of their own making. There’s not a drunk on the face of this earth that’s worth giving up my life for. So why would anyone else choose to do that? Save yourselves, cut them loose, cut off all contact and be done with it. Yes, it’s hard and harsh and not a lot of fun sometimes, but the idea of wasting another day in the company of a drunk is disgusting beyond the telling of it. I hope you all can find the strength to live for yourselves and not waste another precious second of your lives on those who are not and will never be worth the effort. You’re all in my prayers daily.

  • Kerry

    Thank you for that Sally!
    I have a few moments of weakness where I almost let my friend back into my life, but I haven’t … I stated strong for the last 5-6 months & slowly things are getting better!
    All I wanted to say is your post (above) has encouraged me to stay strong & keep living my life!

  • Sally

    Kerry, all I can add is this suggestion. Make a list with two columns – one listing all the good times you had with the drunk in your life, and another listing all the bad/horrible/nasty/mean times you had. Any time you feel yourself feeling weak, pull the list out and re-read it. I’ve never known anyone involved with a drunk that didn’t have the most lopsided list imaginable. I made my list before I left the drunk that I foolishly let into my life, and then asked myself if I could picture living my life like that for another year, 2 years or 20 years. The idea literally made me sick. Never, never, never again will I allow anyone to consume my time and attention, my money or my life like that. Drunks keep everything so hectic and focused on themselves that if you’re in their orbit, there’s no time to focus on your own needs or wants. With a drunk, it’s always about what they want, what they need, and who’s to blame that they don’t have it. If you’re in their lives, you’re a convenience item, like a toaster or a vacuum cleaner. You’re never a real person, who deserves the same attention and consideration that a drunk believes is their right simply because they’re breathing. If anyone is going to assume that significance in my life, it’s going to be me. No one will applaud me or you for crawling up on a cross and crucifying ourselves by continuing to live with or be involved with a drunk – especially the drunk. I have a caretaker’s personality, but I’ve made the conscious decision to take care of me. It’s hard to make myself resist the impulse to help people, but I’ve stopped helping in any way except through donations to reputable organizations I know have the resources to actually help others, without becoming absorbed by those they help. I hope that makes sense and you know what I’m trying to say. After much too long hearing myself called a bitch by the drunk in my life, I understand that anyone who calls me a bitch is actually pissed that they’re not getting their way with me. Pity. Never again. Stay strong and hang tough. You’ll come out on the other side knowing the difference between being kind and being a doormat. You’re in my thoughts!

  • Kerry

    So 2 months on & I’m still staying strong, ignored the times when she has tried to get in touch! I can see when she gets in touch she needs something, or has called the police on her alcoholic boyfriend….. The number of times they argue, she calls the police, he gets taken away etc & then she lets him back in is crazy! She try’s to involve everyone & then let’s him back in!
    I’m glad I have stayed away, I went away for a week with friends & managed to not let it enter my head much at all, it would be a lie to say she didn’t enter my head at all!
    What a shame if the alcohol hasn’t have taken over her life she could have been on our girls holiday.
    At times it’s hard & I do wonder how she is, but if I make contact and ask I wouldn’t know if it was the truth or not anyway!
    So I hope that chapter in my life is closed & hope now my life continues to improve.
    I wish everyone the best & I pray I keep strong x

  • J

    I just found this website and I’m so glad I did. I was with my boyfriend for two years and, having never been around an addict before, didn’t realize the severity of his situation. By the time I realized that he had a serious drinking problem, I was pretty attached to him. We talked a zillion times about it, I set boundaries and communicated with him that certain things were not acceptable and never would be, and he always agreed and said that he wanted to make changes. It took two years and being slammed over the head more times than I can count to realize he didn’t really want to stop drinking and no matter how much I loved him and he loved me, that was never going to matter or change that fact. We broke up a year ago and I’m still trying to reconcile it all in my heart and head. This is nothing that any of you don’t already know about I’m sure. I’m still surprised at how deeply this has infiltrated my being, and I was only with him for two years. We only saw each other on the weekends too so it wasn’t like daily interaction… imagine if it had been, I’d be in much bigger trouble. I will say that since we broke up I have regained my peace and can smile a lot more now, not being mad that he disappeared for two days or upset because he flipped out on me or irritated that it’s 4 pm and he’s still in bed, really not thinking much about him at all. Looking at our future together, I knew where it would end up and I wanted no part of it. Although it was hard, I know I made the right decision to leave the relationship. But I think I will always struggle with the feeling that I abandoned him during one of the most difficult times of his life, in the throws of his addiction. If any friend of mine was in this situation and asked my advice, I would tell them to do exactly what I did. But it still sucks. He recently started calling me and begging me to take him back. He sounded awful, crying and just a mess. He lost his job, he has no money, no car and no relationship. I think he is nearing his bottom, if he’s not there already. It’s so hard to tell someone who is begging you to help him and love him, no. Especially when in my heart I know if taking him back would turn him around I would do it. But I know that’s not reality and will not waiver in what I want for my life. It’s a difficult realization that loving him means letting him get to his lowest point so maybe he will get help. It feels so foreign and wrong to me. But staying and battling through it didn’t feel so great either, nor did it get results… not good ones anyway. I know you all have similar stories and I thank you for sharing them, it validates what I’ve gone through which is helpful more than I can say. Take care and God bless you all.

  • M

    This website really helped me. It is my 3 adult children who have the issues…one with a street chemical and the other 2 with alcohol. I am also losing a lady friend of 30 years to end stage alcoholism and my guy friend of 3 years to an escalating drinking problem. My children have banded together and consider me the “enemy.” (I guess the “hero” must be whatever they are addicted to.) My granddaughter is caught up in all this so that I never get to see her. I drank heavily for a couple of years in my younger days. That was 40 years ago. I have had to start attending AA meetings myself because the pain of losing all these wonderful people to their addictions has caused ME to want some type of oblivion. I also attend Al-Anon meetings. One day at a time I intend to move onward with my life and make my life as good as it can be. These people are caught up in an addition. I WILL NOT walk down the path with them!

    I HAD been allowing these people to “rent space” in my mind. This site clued me in!! I am going to reclaim the space in my mind for “me” and move on.

    This morning I decided to frame it all like this: These people have left on a sad and horrible journey. They did not ask my permission and they did not tell me they were leaving. They may or may not return. I miss them. And at the same time, I have chosen NOT to walk down that sick path and I deserve to enjoy MY life!

  • J

    I like the way you framed it M. It explains it perfectly. Love and blessings to you and to them.


  • Kerry

    M you seem so strong, I respect that!
    X x

  • “M,” You inspire me today … 🙂

  • M

    My journey continues. It is encouraging to think that I might have helped someone else who is walking this sad path. And it IS a sad path when we need to detach from people we care about and allow a “higher power” (however we conceive of such a power) to take over.
    I am now working a 12 step program for my self. I am working this program quite seriously because I know that it is all that separates me from behaving myself into the same sick place that my children and my friend have gone. My friend appears to have developed the “wet brain” that comes with end stage alcoholism. She WAS a straight A student, a “health nut” and a person who was a competitive athlete. The key word here is: “was.” “Wet brain” sounds like a slang term but it is actually the medical term for permanent brain damage due to chronic alcohol abuse. I am now working on a personal inventory of my moral shortcomings. This is step four of my 12 step program. I also went to the public library and checked out the Big Book, the Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous. It it are many stories of many alcoholics. They come from all walks of life, both men and women. I found the book fascinating. The stories are well written. And they helped me to understand more about myself about about my friends and family members who have been taken captive by chemical dependency.

  • K

    Thank God for this website. I have been with my alcoholic boyfriend for only 7 months but all of your stories ring true. I have been crying so much recently over this. I am a licensed social worker and am familiar with addiction but have never been involved with someone who is an addict. My boyfriend is a wonderful man, we are in love, and yet his alcoholism is ruining our relationship. I understand now that I enable him, although I knew I was doing so. He is so kind, funny, compassionate, and caring, and then when he drinks he can turn on a dime and be relentless, mean, degrading. He has attempted to strip me of the things I am proud of: my morals, education, family, and lack of drinking…I understand it is his disease, not him, and thus far I have been able to forgive. He says every woman wants to try to change him, but I told him he needs to change himself and want to change or else every relationship will be the same. Last night we were out and I knew he was intoxicated, he drove us home, and I asked several times if he was ok to drive. He said he would not risk my life like that by driving drunk, but I know he did. He is nearly 25 and has been drinking heavily since age 16, it has been a way of life and an identity. He is Irish, and uses this as a cop out for his drinking/behavior. For a few months he was doing wonderful and said he was feeling great, he would only drink on weekends and it would not be so consistent. I have slowly seen him slide back into old habits of day drinking and binge drinking until blacking out. He sleeps alot, I come home and I see the empty bottles bought with money he doesn’t have. He felt badly about our argument last night, he took me to lunch and a nice date and told me he is so sorry and how deeply he loves me. We have discussed marriage. He is the man I want to marry, but it makes me so sad to see him this way and struggling and knowing he will choose alcohol over me. His family has worried about him in the past, and he hides what is truly going on from his brothers and father. Would it be okay of me to contact his brother, or will this just make my boyfriend angry and resentful? His brother has been giving him money for gas, and he is unknowingly enabling him also…I just want him to get better, and I feel so powerless. One of his best friends from childhood hugged me in private and told me how glad he is that I am involved in his(my boyfriend’s) life, that he is doing better because of me, and that I am helping him and am great for him. His friend said he is so thankful for me, and kissed my cheek. It brought me to tears. No matter how much he loves me though, my boyfriend will not change, I know he needs to do this for himself. I just hope and pray for his happiness, I am so saddened and in pain knowing he is so crippled by his disease. I don’t know what to do.

  • mary B

    I am a certified pharmacy technician, so I have some medical background. I have also taken some psychology courses.

    I am still learning about addiction. It behooves me to learn because I will have alcoholics in my life for the rest of my life because mine are MY SONS. They are not speaking to me right now. Who knows if that will change? I certainly don’t!

    I am learning a lot about the disease through Al-Anon. I also read the Big Book of AA and read things actually written by recovered alcoholics.

    I still have this problem in MY life. My guy friend and I are still in email contact. In fact, he just invited me over…but I know he still drinks so I won’t go over there because I know how he is when he drinks.

    I think we all have to follow our own consciences when we decide what we will do. I chose to TELL everyone in our family what I had observed in my son when I lived with him. He became furious and told me to quit talking to “his family.” (No duh, he is my SON and we have THE SAME family.) All my kids formed a pack and now will not speak to me at all. I am the enemy. Who is the hero? Their chemical of choice, unfortunately.

    The whole crew is in denial. The only one who agrees with me is my ex husband…the stepdad of my drinking sons.

    I went to an AA meeting this morning for myself so I dont drink to escape my pain. And I went to an Al-Anon meeting at noon to help me cope with all these dear people I love who are having their lives destroyed by chemical dependency.

    I am working the 12 steps myself, one day at a time. I can not change them but I CAN improve ME!

  • Bill

    Mary, it appears that you are getting the full course. As long as God (I refer to as Christ) stays the main thing in our lives we can survive everything.

  • M

    I DO have a very deep spiritual practice. I fit in very well with 12 step groups which are non denominational and INCLUDE whatever higher power each person chooses. One good thing that has come of my experiences is that I left the public library yesterday with a small stack of books relating to my spiritual path. I use meditation as part of my spiritual path. I am going to incorporate more meditation and more positive imagery into my spiritual practice. I entertain the possibility that we reincarnate. I was making the mistake of viewing all this with a very narrow lens. Seem from a wider lens, I remember that everything here is very temporary. It all begins, exists, dissipates and ends, only to begin, exist, dissipate and end again. My Al-Anon meeting today reminded me: One day at a time, and “this too shall pass.”

  • J

    Dear K,

    Your situation echoes my relationship and is so familiar to me. I had the same feelings, I wanted to be with him, we even talked about marriage. He was charming and sweet, funny and loving. My bf was also Irish and would joke about it, and say his family was just brought up that way. I’m Irish too, and I don’t drink. Incidentally, his mom died at a young age because of alcoholism. I realized though that with him came two people, one I loved and one I hated, and they were not divisible. That is a tough realization to come to, but you have to know that if you marry this man, this is what your life will be. You will continue to cry a lot. You will be attaching yourself to misery. You will be constantly trying to make sense of what he says and does, not to mention you’ll be opening yourself up to more and more abuse. It’s very sad to say that but it’s unfortunately true. He may say that he knows he’s wrong or has to change or even wants to change but if there are no actions behind those words then they are just words. I waited two years to see words turn into action and they never did. A year later, it still hasn’t and my ex-bf is lower than before. I actually did contact his brother, who was very open to that and luckily knew about what was going on. I got a voice message the next night from my ex who had somewhat of a chip on his shoulder about me doing that. That was what I expected. It probably won’t come across as you caring so much for him and being concerned, it could be seen by your bf as going behind his back and trying to change him. But this is not your problem and you don’t have to handle it all by yourself. If his family is willing let them get involved. And as you said he’s been drinking for close to ten years. My bf had been drinking close to 20 if not a little longer. This takes a lot of time and energy to change, and if he doesn’t want to do it you’ll be setting yourself up for a lot of heartache. Imagine being in this situation and feeling how you feel right now in five years, ten years, twenty years. That is a real possibility. Even if he does want to change, it’s not going to happen in a month as I’m sure you know, being a social worker. I made the decision to leave, and it was excruciating, but I’m glad every day that I did. It’s so taxing on every other part of your life. I became a hostage to him and his poor choices and behavior. I had to leave to save my sanity. Part of me still wishes there was something I could do and that was probably the hardest part of it all, realizing that there isn’t. For me, the most loving thing I could do for myself and my bf was to remove myself from the relationship, give him over to God, and allow him the chance to hit bottom so he can decide if and how he wants to live. It took me a few months to wrap my mind around doing that. I actually had been slowly detaching for about a year, and each time he was an ass it was like pulling out one more stitch from whatever was binding us together. Now if I get down thinking about him or missing him, I just pull out the incredibly long list in my head of all the crap I went through because of him. We all have that list I’m sure. Please realize that YOU are important and that it’s ok to choose a better path for yourself even if that means you have to leave him behind. Doing that doesn’t mean you don’t love him or that you have no compassion for his situation, it only means that you love you too. I know it’s so not easy, and I feel for you. ((you))

  • m

    I actually wrote something like this in my journal concerning my guy friend that I have demoted to email only status:

    My friend..the most kind, sweet, thoughtful, sensitive, compassionate person I have ever met. He is truly my soul mate.
    Until he drinks. Then he becomes my nightmare. And he stays like this for days afterward. His personality is different when he drinks, even when he has been sober for 5 or 6 days.
    When he is “himself” he is my Heaven. And when he drinks he is my Hell.
    And so the only contact we have is email. And I work my 12 step program and work on myself and plan to move on. I pray for him every day and trust that my Higher Power will watch over him.

  • K

    Thank you J…your post brought me to tears, as you can tell I am in the midst of everything. The hardest thing has been seeing him decompensate and know that just a couple months ago he was so high on life and that alcohol was not running it…now it is getting closer to the holidays, his mother passed from cancer on Christmas night last year. He cannot cope. I can’t get past my love and hurt for him to let him go. He credited me those few months for helping him get his life back and to feel better and it is so painful knowing he is slipping away. You are right though if there are no actions there is nothing because words will not change his addiction. I know it is not an overnight change it will be a long process…he needs counseling and he has issues with knowing who he really is. He told me after fighting “I’m scared” I said of what? He said “Of being successful in our relationship, in our life. Alcohol numbs everything and some of my happiest moments are when I don’t feel anything at all. I am going to mess up our relationship because I’m scared of it succeeding.” This makes me angry and sad. If not for alcohol these problems would not be existing. We are the “perfect” pair as seen by all and ourselves but ultimately if his addiction cannot be resolved it will never work. I may contact his brother because they have known of his past and I want them to know his drinking habits and his driving drunk is still occurring. I’m not sure what he could do, but I want him to know even if my boyfriend will resent me for it. Thank you so much again…

  • Sally

    Oh, K, sweetie, you have got to drop the “if only” thinking! “If not for…” “If his addiction …” “…if my boyfriend will resent me…” You can take it as the gospel truth, regardless of what you try to do for him, he’s going to resent you simply because you can get through the hard parts of life, and all of life, without getting drunk and he can’t. Come down from your white charger, put away your sword and learn the first precept of dealing with a drunk – ACCEPT what is. He is a drunk. He will mistreat you. He will lie to you. He will use you. He will cry and say he’s sorry and do whatever he can to pull you down into his hell. Yes, it IS hard to let them go. It hurts and there will always be a part of you that thinks “if only I could have…” You have to face what we all here have faced and accepted. You are not your drunk’s savior and you cannot save him. Ever. You’re making as many excuses for your drunk as he is. It’s the holidays, he’s scared, his mom died… Honey, we’ve all faced these kinds of things and didn’t get knee-walking, walking black-out drunk. Drunks are the biggest cowards on earth.

    You will hurt and you will miss him and you will, if you’re not strong enough, let him suck you back in once you’ve left. The one thing that we get from being with and loving drunks is permission to not try. To not buck up and not be strong and not do the right thing at the right moment, because drunks are right there, telling us it’s alright, nobody should have to…, it’s too hard. Being with a drunk makes a person weak-willed and soft minded. Don’t let this happen to you. You’re much too young to walk into this snake pit willingly. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  • K

    Thanks so much Sally. I know you are right. It is definitely hard for me to accept. I sent a long email to his brother who told me to please email him with details etc. I guess at this point I’m not ready to give up but once I reach my breaking point I will. He sees himself as a functioning alcoholic and in some ways he is, but you are right and I need to stop making excuses. He needs to hit bottom himself and he won’t get help just because I want him to. It is so hard because I am in love with him, and see all the good. I know you all understand that though, I just have not had to experience this for long. I think I will set more boundaries to detach and protect myself. I can still love him, but I have to love myself too and not get lost in his problems.

  • JC

    K, can you see how his problem is already starting to have an effect on you. Getting entangled and enmeshed in an alcoholic’s life is a slow process that happens almost without us even knowing it. Our thoughts gradually start revolving around them and our actions do the same. Before we even realize it, we are consumed with everything they are doing, constantly obsessing over their behaviors and we’ve lost our lives. Please “guard” your heart. Look at the reality of the situation. Live and let live. Detach with love. Let go of the alcoholic. Take care of yourself. Don’t allow him to rent space in your head, if you do he will move in and consume your thoughts and steal your peace and serenity. His alcoholism will get worse before it gets better.

  • I second what JC just shared … K, I have been where you are,(a few times) … Al-Anon, for which I will be forever grateful, helps put the puzzle pieces together correctly; cannot emphasize the value of embracing this program enough …

  • M

    I can strongly suggest you try attending an Al-Anon meeting. I promise you…you will NOT be judged there and no one will tell you what to do. Whatever YOU decide to do, they will honor that. If you choose to stay involved, they will help you to detach from the craziness and move on with your own serenity and life. If you choose to break up, they will be a support for you while you grieve the loss of the relationship and continue to deal with the situation through the 12 steps. If a meeting is not immediately easy to fit into your life, there is Al-Anon literature to read. If you have a spiritual practice, you can incorporate this situation into it. Each day, within my own spiritual practice, I ask my Higher Power for healing, not only for myself, but for the chemically dependent people I know personally as well as for all such suffering people. A study was done in Washington DC where a large group of people meditated upon peaceful thoughts for a certain period of time. The result: the crime rate dropped! I figure if we maintain a vigil in our spiritual practices, it certainly can not hurt and it very well may help!

  • K

    Thank you all so much. I will take what each of you has said to heart. It is very appreciated!!

  • K

    Hi everyone. Last night my boyfriend and I were out playing pool, we were having a wonderful time, then he turned on a dime when I decided I didn’t want to pay for another round of drinks(I guess he takes bets seriously…), anyways it blew up and we left, I began crying and he became mean. I tried walking away but I couldn’t. He said I am trying to change him and I will never accept his drinking, and he’s right. I can’t because I watch him destroy his life when he is a wonderful person. But of course he was mean and without thinking called me a bitch. He stopped in his tracks and said he didn’t mean it, he has to get to a bar, he can’t handle this. We were fighting and he had said to me in the past that he wanted to marry me, he saw a future with me, that he was so happy with me. He told me last night, he said those things because it was “what I wanted to hear” and that he never saw us getting married. He liked the idea of us, I suppose he is telling the truth, although it seemed so genuine at the time. Even just playing pool last night, he would stare at me lovingly and say how much he loves me, how beautiful I am to him, and came over and kissed me softly. I am so confused and I feel so used and manipulated if indeed he never felt those things for me. I never once thought his comments were in-genuine, I truly viewed him as my future husband despite his issues. Long story short, we got to his house and he began crying and said “I’m such a f*ck up” and I told him if he did not feel the same way for me as I feel for him then I need to go because I’m not fighting for something that is not there. I gave him my key to his place and I left with him shutting the door crying. I cried all night long…I love this man, I feel like he is confused, but then I get confused about whether I do think he is confused or not. It is a mess. He texted me 530am “sleep well”… I did not respond. I don’t know what to do, we are on Facebook still as in a relationship, our profile pictures are us together, and neither has changed it. I am not ready to give up, but if he doesn’t feel the same, I don’t know what other choice I have then to move on…sorry for venting, but you all really do understand.

  • J

    K, I’m so sorry to hear all of this, it’s awful and it truly sucks. I’ve been there so many times. One thing that helped me get clear is this: When someone shows you who he is, believe him. Maya Angelou said that, and it is a life saver if you can do it. Whatever he said in the past does not matter, what he’s saying and doing right now is what matters. Fact: he says he never saw you getting married. Whether he really means it or not isn’t for you to figure out. He said it, and he didn’t stop you from leaving. By getting tied up in wondering if he’s confused or genuine you are giving all of your power to him and taking the responsibility for his actions away from him. Let him be responsible for his actions. And let the past go.I know it hurts terribly and I feel for you. But you now have an opportunity to get some distance and sort things out. You know he isn’t good for you and that this pattern is going to continue, and it’s going to get worse, trust me on this. Although you love him, he doesn’t have the capacity to return that love. As long as he is controlled by his addiction he never will. You can’t change that. Another thing that helped was this advice: If someone is stuck in a pit, you can’t help him by climbing into the pit with him. This is so so true. He’s not ready to come out of the pit and you’re getting dragged down with him. This is where you have to be strong and not jump back in with him. It’s hard I know. My ex is still reaching out to me and it’s been over a year. I know that you know all of this, and it’s hard. Keeping you in my prayers girl.

  • K

    Thank you J I know you are so very right. I have been crying mostly non stop and in time I will accept all of what you’ve said. And I do know it all deep down but I love him so very much I am clouded by emotions. But I can’t keep wishing things would be different because that does nothing but hurts me. He has bought me so many gifts my life is littered by his presence and it doesn’t help that my roommate is not here and I live fairly far from my parents. My friend is a psychologist and told me alcohol/addiction is no joke and I do not want to be involved in that and I don’t. I just love him. And I am enmeshed with his family, I love them too. It is so difficult. I feel like I am waiting for him to text me or contact me but I do not know what I’d expect from him. I feel I need closure but I know last night was closure enough. I am just looking for a way for things to get better and I know they won’t. It just really hurts. But you all know. Thank you for the support it means the world.

  • jasonp

    Hey K

    I ended the relationship with my girlfriend earlier this year. She was such a lovely person, but could change when she had been drinking. It was so horrible and painful watching this person. I thought I would be the one to change her and get her to stop drinking. I even took her to an AA meeting. I thought she might see sense. I even proposed to her, as I thought she might give up the drink.

    I decided that the pain I was experiencing was too much. I had two options, 1…accept this person and live with the madness, 2. Get the hell out of there, coz they aint gonna change whilst I am around. I got help by going to Alanon…an absolute blessing as far as I was concerned. They told me to detach with love, and let it begin with me. I had to leave the city and the country to get distance from her. She was so lovely in her texts and emails when I had left. The reality was so different. It was terrible at first. I thought I had failed her and me and the relationship. In contrast I had started to put value on me and what behavior I accept and do not accept from people.

    With the support of Alanon, some lovely friends, alot of screaming (that helped so much!, daily journalling and doing nice things for me I managed to see that I am worth so much more than the way I allowed her to treat me.

    I continue not to respond to her phone calls, her emails disguised as another sender and voicemails. That is 6 months later. I cannot help her. Only she can help her, and that’s when she is ready, even if in fact she wants to get help. She knows where AA is an that’s enough.

    My heart goes out to you, as I know it is a painful place to be, but talking from my own experience, I decided that being nice to me was the most important thing. So I didn’t expect the pain to go in one day or one week. But slowly it has disappeared and now I feel so different. Amazing, and having a great life single. I have a better relationship with my family and friends. I wish you well. Stay strong and be good to yourself, you deserve it.

  • K

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you so much. Everyone’s support has been monumental. I am struggling. He has not contacted me but I want him to, but I don’t know what I’d expect him to say or do. He is my world but alcohol is his world and I can’t settle for that. He is wonderful when sober, really the most amazing boyfriend! But I hate when he drinks his whiskey and starts ragging on me etc. It is not fair to me, I love him but I know I need to let him go. It is so difficult, but everyone’s support on this site has been more than I could ask for and I am so thankful. It makes me cry because you speak the truth and I wish it weren’t the truth!! But I know it is. Anyways…thank you. 🙁 it will be tough for me for a while.

  • M

    I have lost all my adult children (for the time being) to chemical dependency plus my lady friend (end stage alcoholic) of 30 years and my guy friend of 3 years. I went to AlAnon and AA as well, so I don’t start drinking myself to drown out the pain. It has been about 2 months since I realized all these people can not be in my life.

    At an AA meeting I was told this chilling fact. On average, if there are 33 alcoholics, only ONE will walk through the doors of an AA meeting, work the simple program, and recover. The other 32 will continue in their addictions. The odds, numerically, are NOT in favor of recovery. This is sad at at the same fact it is important to me to KNOW this and use it to motivate myself to live MY life.

    My spiritual practice includes meditation. I “breathe in” all the suffering of all addicted people and I “breathe out” compassion for all Beings. It goes me something to “do” about all these wonderful people that I love…and with whom I can not relate because their addictions make them crazy! They may or may not recover…and while they are doing whatever they do, I am going on with my life. It took 2 months but now I am happy most of the time. I feel for you. And yes, my guy friend says the sweetest things on those brief moments when he is “himself” and then says the meanest things when he is under the influence OR has been under it within the last week. Alcohol makes him a totally different person. It is very sad.

    Remember that allowing someone with an active addiction into your life is a CHOICE. There are other people on Planet Earth who live without chemicals. Those are the people I want in my life! I won’t settle for anything less!

  • C

    M: Great post, and I thank you for sharing. You are right that there are lots of people around us who do not drink and they are the ones we need to interact with in order to keep sane.

    Wishing you a very peaceful and happy Holiday season. All of us have to remind ourselves that our health is the most important priority no matter what is going on in our lives.

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