In this world we all need to be loved, but expecting to get this from an alcoholic will lead us into disappointment and harboring resentments. Someone recently said; “going to someone with a drinking problem to fulfill my need to be loved is like shopping at a hardware store for a loaf of bread.” I found that comment to be very funny and yet sadly true.
The problem I had was being co-dependent upon what others thought of me. If they displayed behavior that said to me that they were displeased with me or did not really want me to be around them, then I would go into a downward spiral of anger and depression. When my wife (the alcoholic) would intentionally exclude me from her plans, this would leave me furious at times feeling abandoned, unloved and all alone. As I look back on those times now, she just wanted to be left alone to have her relationship with the bottle. It really had nothing to do with not loving me and everything to do with her addiction to alcohol.
I wasn’t until I started attending alcoholism support group meetings that I learned that I needed to get a life for me, apart from the alcoholic. I started learning that the only one responsible for me being happy was me; the alcoholic could not fulfill my need to be loved and accepted. I was told things work this way because the problem drinker is too emotionally bankrupt to meet my expectations of love or romance in a relationship. This did not mean that my choice to love an alcoholic had to change. It just meant that I began to understand more about the personality of the person suffering from alcoholism and how it affects me.
As I began to learn that expecting an alcoholic to love me was damaging to my emotional stability and something that they could not honestly do, I started focusing more on me and less on them. One of the results of this change was that there was less fighting with the alcoholic.
In a sense, I began taking care of me and not trying to get love from someone who was literally incapable of fulfilling my need for affection. Acceptance was the answer to my problem, but before I could accept not getting the love I needed from the alcoholic, I had to be taught that she loved the bottle and drinking more than me.
I recently heard someone say; “having a relationship with an alcoholic is a love triangle.” The sad part of this truth is that when given a choice, they will almost always go for getting drunk over being with us. In AA they call this “romancing the bottle.”
There’s an acronym we have in Al-anon that we call the three A’s; “awareness-acceptance-action.” Once I got the “awareness” that expecting an alcoholic to love me was something they could not do, I then had to “accept” that they loved drinking more than me. After working through those two things, I then began to take “actions” that led to me finding happiness in other ways.
If I have expectations of anyone, not just the alcoholic, I am setting myself up for a resentment. The very idea of expecting someone else to be able to make me happy is far from my thinking now. I always thought that if she (the alcoholic) would just quit drinking everything would be fine. This is not true in any way shape or form. Once I learned how to enjoy life whether she was drinking or not that’s when I started experiencing true happiness.
If you would like to learn how to live your life with a problem drinker and still be happy, try Al-anon. That’s where I learned about an alcoholic’s behaviors and how to stop expecting the alcoholic to give love and happiness to me.