The Power of Persistence in Reinforcing Boundaries With Alcoholics

You cannot back down once you begin to change how you interact with alcoholics. Consistency and persistence are very crucial to your success. In other words- don’t give up no matter how much resistance you may have to contend with in relation to the boundaries you’ve set.

Imagine yourself and the boundary as being a large block wall. Every time the alcoholic in your life tries to cross the boundary, they must run into this wall. You have to remain strong and immovable. It’s not easy doing these types of things on your own. This is why I am always suggesting that you get involved with alcoholism-support group meetings.

There were a couple of situations in which I had to stand my ground and was met with great resistance from my alcoholic spouse. Eventually she gave up the fights and the boundaries were never challenged again.

One of the instances involved her inviting friends over to our home to have late night parties while the kids and I were asleep. They generally would start around two in the morning after the bar had closed. After this occurred a few times, I kindly asked her to stop having these mini-parties at our home.

There were two reasons for this:

  1. The children’s and my sleep were being disrupted by their drunken behaviors.
  2. We had four children between ages 7 and 15 who I wanted to protect and keep away from being encouraged to participate in that type of lifestyle.

When I first established the boundary, my alcoholic wife tried to disrespect our home and the parameters I had established. As hard as it was for me to address her behavior, I did it anyway.

As soon as the party would begin, I would find her and get her alone for a moment. Then I would re-establish the line and ask her to go somewhere else. Very rarely would she take the party elsewhere. I didn’t argue with her… I just reinforced my position in the matter.

I would say something like: “I asked you nicely to NOT have parties in our home.” I would then go into my room, close the door and try to go back to sleep.

Eventually because of my persistence in continually re-establishing the boundary with her, she started taking the party to a different person’s home. Finally, the children and I didn’t have to be awakened to the sounds associated with people having a party.

The more she met with resistance by hitting the block wall I continued to represent, the weaker her stance became. Eventually I won the battle and peace was established in my home late at night.

Did I have a battle in my mind to contend with- knowing that I didn’t know where she was? Yes! Did I have peace of mind for taking a stance for my children’s well-being and for my own? Yes!

I never said this would be easy. It’s a matter of getting our priorities in order. You have to ask yourself what’s important concerning your belief systems and morals.

Once you know what is important to you as an individual and what is best for the family, you can take a stance against an alcoholic’s unacceptable behavior.

In another incidence, my wife wanted to let our sixteen year old daughter’s boyfriend spend the night at our home. She allowed him to sleep on the couch one night. That was the open door that eventually led to him sleeping in our daughter’s room.

When I discovered what has happening, I had to set the boundary. My wife didn’t agree with me and I had to take a moral stance in our home on my own. This was really difficult because now I had to build the boundary/ block wall to keep three people from dishonoring what I felt was morally correct and honorable within my family and home.

Time and time again they tried to get the boyfriend to spend the night. Repeatedly, I had to meet them with persistence, resistance and consistency. Sometimes he would sneak in-in the wee hours of the morning (2 to 3 am) and I would have to ask him to leave.

There’s a point where a decision has to be made either to let go of a situation or to take a firm stance. Once again, the more I re-established the boundary through consistency and persistence, the less she tried to cross the line.

It’s tough being married to someone who doesn’t share the same moral standards that you do- due to their thinking being distorted by drugs and alcohol.

Letting go of an alcoholic doesn’t mean that we have to become a door mat. Keeping balance between acting in a loving way, letting go of the alcoholic spouse or friend and setting up boundaries takes time to master.

Through participating in alcoholism-support group meetings where you can interact with other members and reading literature designed to equip us to better handle difficult situations- we can learn how to live a better life while still loving the alcoholic.

Setting and reinforcing boundaries with alcoholics is not easy, but these 2 things must be done. The key to your success will be found in being persistent and consistent while establishing them and then reinforcing them.

35 comments to The Power of Persistence in Reinforcing Boundaries With Alcoholics

  • Nancy

    My significant other sometimes, not often, says explicit sexual things to other women in front of me when “really” drunk. The last time he did this was during the “family” Christmas party, with his family and children present. I was embarrassed, hurt and disgusted. Of course he doesn’t remember. My question is,now that I know this can be a boundary,: what type of consequence can I make for this type of behavior? Or do I just approach him when this happens and explain the boundary to him?

  • Genie

    Explain to him when he sobers up that he is doing this and that he doesn’t remember. Tell him that he is making quite a fool of himself in front of family and friends and that his children are embarrassed and saddened by it. Tell him that people are talking about his drunken comments and that he is becoming a joke to them. Let him know that when he is drunk, he has no control of what he is saying and doing and that the only way for him to achieve any self respect is to stay sober. If he refuses to detox and to attend AA and to quit drinking, avoid taking him with you to socials. If the social is with his family, tell them that you don’t feel that it is healthy for your children to attend where there is drinking because of your husbands comments when he is drunk. Family and friends should understand that the well being of your children is at stake. I definitely would address this issue. If you yourself drink, you should stop. Only attend the social where there is no alcohol. Don’t buy it for him or anyone else. Don’t have drinking socials in your home and if he insists on it, let him and his friends know that you don’t want it. A drinker can’t be freed from alcohol until an alcohol free lifestyle is put in motion. Hope this helps. Get a support group for yourself.

  • Nancy

    thanks Genie…I have been attending Alanon for over 3 years, what a God-send.

  • JC

    Nancy, how does it make you feel when he does this sort of thing, insignificant, ugly, rejected, abandoned, undesirable, disrespected as a spouse, like some morals of marriage have been stepped on, fearful or insecure?

    I think if you can identify how it makes you feel, perhaps you can share your feelings in a simple and direct way.

    If what your husband does makes you feel insignificant and undesirable, you might set the boundary by saying something like this: “Bob, when you say sexually explicit things to women it appears to me that you are flirting with them. I find myself feeling insignificant and insecure when you do this. Sex is a very intimate connection the two of us share. I would appreciated it if you not do this sort of thing anymore.”

    What do you think?

  • Sarah

    I think what JC and Genie say is very good and important. But my question to JC is how can she set that boundary when he doesn’t even remember he does it. I don’t think you can enforce that boundary. As Genie says, the boundary you can enforce involves drinking at all in social situations. That you will not go anywhere or remain anywhere in social situations if he starts to drink, and especially if he says the sexual things. Be prepared to leave him there. Or not bring him at all if you no alcohol will be an issue. I am sorry you are going through this. I have been there myself and it does make you feel all of those things that JC describes.

  • Amy

    Nancy, I’d call it unacceptable behavior and you know what they say in Al-anon; “we don’t have to accept unacceptable behavior.” I think that the commitment we have made to the person we’ve married demands that we work out our problems. This type of behavior would create a problem in my relationship for sure. If my husband ever did that sort of thing, he’d better just watch out because I might just lock him in the trunk of the car on the way home and then let him sleep in the dog house. I like what JC said; “sex is a very intimate connection.” The discussion of sex and the act should be kept between a husband and wife, no ifs, no ands, no “butts” about it!

  • Sarah A

    I think JC is probably right about focusing on how you feel. When I would try to explain to my x addict that he was behaving strangely, or in a hurtful way, he would throw his hands in the air like i was a nag. Then use it as an excuse to explode and act like I was provoking him. Then came more silly excuses for his behaviour. I think if I had just said how I felt there would not have been space for him to make excuxes. I FEEL HOW I FEEL.. he can not distort or change that! So just repeating it and not getting into an argument about what sexual things he said or didn’t say or whether you were “over reacting” is probably a good idea.

    Let me guess if you said “why did you talk to x in that sexy way its outrageous” he might say something like “Well you talk to men! You kissed your cousin when you arrived” If you gave me more attention like when we were first together I might say sexy things to you!….mmm they can “argue” in such an unfair manner it drives you crazy. But if we said “when you said sexy things to x I felt like this” They cant really argue about how you felt. When I told my x in a quite controlled way that I hope he understood that I loved him but couldn’t live with him until he had got clean and been though rehab ( he was looking at houses) He just sort of grunted in a sheepish teenage way! like he understood but had nothing to come back with. He did understand but he had successfully blocked it from his mind! He had NO COME BACK. NOTHING TO SAY. What could he say. If I had said Why this? why that? Why you looking at houses when you wont even spend the night with me? He would have had an excuse to argue. I must say this only worked because he was at a certain point in the addictive cycle when he was softer and less argumentative. Other times he was just completely contrary and looking for a fight. I never did work out whether he was very high and therfore it had turned him angry, or he was on the way up and was angry because I was in the way and he wanted to get rid of me with a fight. I could spot the come downs more easily. He was soft and weak and a bit muddled.
    I noticed that when I layed it on thick and tried to hammer home my point about his behaviour it made my x feel guilty. If he feels guilty then I must be a nag and therefore…..he is with a nag……and therefore he is justified in his behaviour! If I kept it low key and didn’t add on too much detail he seemed to respond less angrily.
    It must be horrible to have to deal with this obvious betrayal. The wife of a famous alcoholic guitarist ( wont say his name ) said that they were once in their family home having a gathering. when she came into the lounge from the kitchen he was talking to a young woman on the sofa and he said to his wife “f off and leave us alone I’m having a really interesting conversation with this girl” Sometimes Alcohol and drugs can be so cruel.

  • C

    I do not believe someone says or does anything because of alcohol. It is an excuse to get away with behavior they want to do anyway. Does not fly with me or my friends.

  • Karens

    If you do not draw a line for yourself it will never get better. If you draw a line for your self he will make a
    game of hideing his betrayal. I drew the line for me,
    one more time or incidence of unacceptable sexual behavior
    you are out of my life. Short,simple and direct. This seems to work for at least six months. I will never know
    what he may be hideing or saying behind my back. But you
    do not have to accept it. I have a back up plan if he will
    decide to embarass, humiliate and degrade me. You hurt
    from the stomach to your back bone. NO more, NO MORE

  • sharon

    i have to side with you on this matter

  • JM

    I’ve found setting up boundaries is helpful, keep their persistence in reinforcement works wonder to maintain my inner peace.

    Setting boundaries sometimes means you set bottom line!

    My boundaries include refuse to buy alcohol for the addict, refuse to attend the social gathering with the addict where alcohol is provided, refuse to host alcohol drinking event at home, refuse to throw the empty alcohol bottles to the bins.

    If the addict doesn’t like, one has choice to leave, and I will go out to celebrate!

  • Mia


    I had an incident with family and friends. Being nicked and run down . I brought this up with him and of course he denied it and said I was unable to understand his humor. Our relationship allows me to choose what I involve him in so this may not be possible for you but I told him that if this happened again I would attend these events alone. He did it again! I think they get a kick out of testing boundaries. Personally I feel they feel so bad about themselves they like to find flaws in us to make them feel better and us backing down gives then a feeling of superiority. I constantly feel heartbroken at the mess he is turning his life into but I refuse to join in or let him damage my emotional well being . Now I make plans and he doesn’t come. It’s hard but that way I have a better time, I feel more self esteem as in respecting myself and other people don’t have to feel uncomfortable. He resents this and when he complains I say, we’ve discussed this and you know why I go alone.

    I had an incident last week where I was shouted at and abused in the street by him as I wouldn’t lend him money for drink. He had money but not enough for the amount he wanted to buy in cash and he refused to use his card. He knows I will never give him money for drink so he was pushing the boundary and attempting to put on a street performance for all to see to show me to be a mean b**** .

    I was called every unpleasant thing possible . He ended our relationship and I wouldn’t give him money and stomped off home. Four days later he’s trying to get back together . At midnight and then last night 10:30 on he calls saying he wants to be with me. I ask for an apology and he refuses saying I am no lady by refusing him money.

    He says that I could be a mean bitch and while he is reasonable, I have to try to be such a loser. He also says he isn’t drunk cos he’d not be able to do his job.

    He continued to call me hurtful things. So I said your being insulting to me and clearly not sorry. So I don’t want to discuss it…goodbye ! It’s so hard to take so many insults no matter what form they come in and many situations don’t feel like there are clear ways to deal with them, but I do find saying the “I’m sorry you feel that way and that’s not true etc. quotes are good in the midst of the angry alcoholic.

    Afterwards it seems to be a battle of wills to see who backs down first. The alcoholic changing or us giving in. Sadly it seems some relationships have to end cos neither of those things are happening. I keep hoping he will apologize and get sober and he keeps hoping and trying to persuade me back cos he doesn’t want to get sober. I just feel the boundaries are so important or else we get lost in the chaos of their lives instead of enjoying ours

  • karen

    This saddens me but have to agree with C, they say these disgusting things coz they want to, alcohol gives them the gumption to say sexually degrading, humiliating stuff even to the point of saying sexual filth about my own daughter, not his daughter, mine. These destroying words have damaged my soul. Words are powerful weapons. Good words comes from a good heart, evil words comes from an evil heart, drunk or sober!!!!

  • Mia

    Apologies for hundreds of spelling mistakes and typos , also I’m in the uk so big time difference ! Hope you could figure out what I was trying to say . I’m feeling very unsettled today and I know it’s cos I reacted to the button pushing last night and lost my “calm response mode ” after the third phone call when he said I was so many horrible things I can’t list them all , I told him I didn’t much like having a boyfriend who’d rather sit in the bathroom at 7 am drinking a can of cider rather than being in bed with me.

    We used to have lovely affectionate mornings but the cider can has now tempted him to the bathroom every morning . It’s so true when they say you feel like he has a mistress . He wants to talk so I say yes when you’re sober (who knows when that might be ,as a daily drinker is he ever really sober) . He’s lost another job and denies the real reason , drinking at work on a building site! He thinks if he pours vodka into juice bottles no one will know. He doesn’t think people know. They just don’t understand his charismatic character !! Yeah right !

    He also says he works hard everyday when he’s unemployed, completely brainwashed himself I think . He talks as though he’s doing loads and working when all he does is watch tv all day. Drink cider and go supermarket for food. He goes shopping to buy himself clothes but doesn’t buy things for others, can’t help people and can’t cook a whole meal. Things are constantly broken, split and left in a mess.

    He tried to change a light bulb the other day and he couldn’t do it . It was of course the light bulbs fault ! When I did it I was accused of being a smart arse !!!

    I’m rambling I know ! Thing is what is shocking me is how much worse his drinking is than a few weeks ago. I’m almost pleased, yes I’m truly upset and grieving for the beautiful man he is but I’m almost cheering his alcoholism to do its worst and hurry up so he hits bottom and gets help . Yes u know he probably never will but this is such a confusing thing. Seems we shouldn’t do the very thing we want to and do the things we don’t want to, put boundaries up and tell ourselves there is no hope stop kidding yourself. Stop putting yourself in this chaotic world . Walk away, no, RUN!!

    Then I remember the man I fell in love with and a glimmer of him makes an appearance and I see a little flicker of hope . Then I feel I should give him a chance! It’s great it’s lovely and he respects me. Then dee da dee da dee da ! Off we go again ….

    One day I guess he just won’t be able to win me round Again and again, maybe one day I will meet a man who doesn’t swear at me and isn’t drunk all day … Guess til then, I’m best on my own in my own little world which is quiet and calm and free from chaos … It’s actually rather nice … Why was I so afraid of it ? ….. Mia

  • uncadiane


    You are correct–RUN, don’t walk, AWAY! You are not married to this man. You are in love with the man who “used to be” and he is in love with alcohol, or enslaved to it. In either case, only he can decide if/when he ever wants help.

    I was married for 23 years to a man who was sober for the first 12 years of our marriage, then started abusing narcotics and drinking. It went on and on and on. Trust me, I tried everything. None of it worked, but it beat me down. Last May he called me a filthy name one more time, and it was the last time. I told him I was done and I have never looked back. We aren’t divorced yet (in Maryland we have to be separated for a year before we can be divorced), but I will file in June. I am living in a lovely apartment; he is in an assisted living facility and is on the brink of being evicted because of his drinking. If he gets kicked out, he will be on the street or at the mission, and I AM NOT GOING TO RESCUE HIM! I am done.

    It took me a long time to get to this point, and I have no regrets. I know in my heart that I did everything I could possibly do in my situation; he knows it, too. I’m sorry for him, because he leads such a miserable life, but he was determined to have it. I think he thought I would always be there and would never leave. He was wrong. Now we both live with our choices. I am happy; he is lonely.

    Mia, please demand the respect and regard you deserve. Since your boyfriend won’t give it to you, or isn’t capable of giving it to you, LET HIM GO. Move on. Your life won’t be perfect, but it will be a whole lot better than it is now.


  • uncadiane


    When my husband (whom I’m in the process of divorcing now) would tell me he didn’t remember what he said or did, I would say, “Well, that’s because you were drunk. I was sober. I remember it.” It doesn’t matter if he remembers or not. Blacking out is not an excuse. I asked my husband if he thought a judge would care if he killed someone while he was drunk and didn’t remember. Nope! The judge would tell him he is responsible for how much he drinks. If you know you black out, then don’t drink so much.

    To me, it’s all about responsibility. We have to accept responsibility for what we do and say, and the alcoholic has to accept responsibility for what they say and do. Only we can make them accept the consequences for their actions. In my case, it finally came down to walking away.

    BTW you don’t need to be embarrassed or hurt by his actions; they’re not your actions. My husband once said to me, “You’re just embarrassed by me.” I said, “I’m not embarrassed. Why would I be embarrassed? What you do doesn’t reflect on me. You just make yourself look stupid.” That was the last time he said that to me.


  • Mia

    Thank you , it’s hard to watch someone destroy their lives when so often their potential is amazing . I’ve lost so many people and our lives are so previous we shouldn’t waste them on being so hurt. I’ve found a new trick for when I feel hurt or wonder rather fearful that maybe there is truth in his horrid words. I ask myself if any of my friends or family would agree with him or if they would behave that way and I find that absolutely they wouldn’t . Their opinion is more sound and they actually know me well and have their opinion of me based on them being sober ! That usually works 🙂

  • G

    I am soooo sad. I have a functional alcoholic husband and a non-functional alcoholic daughter. I am also angry with all of this. I have not attended any al-anon meetings as of yet, but am seriously thinking of going to a meeting. This site has helped me with alot of the decisions I am now making.

  • JC

    Thanks for sharing G. I know your sadness and would like to encourage you to attend Al-anon. It’s a big step, for me it was a step in the right direction. I was very sad, lonely and extremely frustrated from trying to force solutions for such a long time. The process of change takes a while because we’ve established habits in relation to how we interact with the alcoholic’s in our lives over a long time that aren’t uplifting for us or them.

    I am grateful to Al-anon for many things, learning to how to set healthy boundaries and how to reinforce them is just one of many. Above all the blessings I’ve received through the many years of participating in support group meetings, the one I value the most is the gift of loving others without conditions.

    Prior to learning how to have more self-control with the alcoholics in the family, I was a sad, angry, depressed mess, always reacting in negative ways rather than responding with unconditional love.

    There’s much to learn about changing our attitudes. I still feel this is the higher road in relation to changing our address. At least as long as we are not being overly abused by an alcoholic.

  • Genie: Though the thread was 2 years ago if a new contributor wants some small advice I have some. I too have a person in my life that is an alcohlic and whom has really big boundary issues.

    On some occasions when my dad drinks (up to 24 beers in three or four days) all normal boundaries cease to exist. There was one occasion where my dad came into my room when I had no clothes on. I screamed at him, get out of the room now. I yelled giving him the cue, that it is not appropriate for family members to see each other with no clothes on.

    Now the average person with healthy boundaries fully understands that family members are not to see each other without clothes. Yeah a girlfriend of mine can, she has permission. Girls do. But not my father.

    Geneie you are not alone. My father said the following “I don’t mind that you don’t have clothes on.”

    I have suffered from depression off and on since I’ve spent time with him over the recent years.

    He has so many endless alcohol related boundary issues that I felt I needed to share with you Genie.

    His drinking has gotten so bad that when he crosses boundaries he has almost gotten family killed.

    He is dangerously reckless with his major issues.

    My younger brother lives in LA. His girlfriend died in a car accident 20 years ago. When he recently married, it was I can imagine a very big deal for him on many levels.

    My father, the full blown alcoholic, that he is, showed up in LA. When a neighbor my younger brother and his wife got too loud one night, my father stupidly and with no regard to safety went up stairs and got into a full blown fight with strangers in a huge big city.

    Today that stranger is stalking my younger brothers wife.

    You are definitely in a relationship with an alcohilic who probably had emotional issues before drinking.

    My father admitted when he was a teeanger that he had emotional issues that were not divulged to me or the rest of my family.

    So there you have it. Your not alone. I suffer as a codepdant daily with my fathers very real boundary issues.

    I’ve discovered that people who alcoholics whom have boundary issues are similar to sociopaths, and people whom seek power.

    The normal boundaries that people set, they violate them. Just an observation.

    Not to say your boyfriend husband is a sociopath. What does he do for a living? My father has high paying job and is a supervisor. When a person is not a supervisor, I’ve discovered or wealthy they have to compromise.

    Does your husband have a job that allows him complete power over coworkers.

    It sounds like somewhere in his life, he sought out a life style where he didn’t have to have deal with the day to day that the everybody else does.

    My father also admits that he likes getting away with things when he’s tempted.

    I would have left him if I was you. I have had girlfriends who talk about sex with other men too. One I remember told me about the guys that propositioned her for sex.

    She has no conscience to that. To this day she swears that she’s a happy go lucky person.

    She too was permiscous in action. Sounds like your husband in temptations and words.

    I suffered also when my girlfriend talked about guys propositioning her.


  • LUNA

    my partner writes sexually with women on fb, wenn he is drunk. he did let me see, what he wrote, because he remembered, that one of them, a mutual friend, was not in a good place. he did, however not remember, that he got at her sexually.
    he tells me, he would not have shown me, if he had.
    it is hard for me, to belive, that one blacks out so much, that there is no memory left. and…. is that not what is inside, that comes out drunk? (sorry, my english is funny… i live in a non-english country)
    it is hard for me, to trust him sober now. and i am hurt terribly.
    when he is sober (he is over long periods and drinks only, when i am not with him. but then major) he is a faithful, tender person that is empathic to the needs of others. but the fact, that he is unfaithful (and that is, what this is to me, when he talks to other women about that he wants them sexually) when he is drunk, breaks my heart and makes me unsure, if i can stay with him….?
    i love him, he is sober a wonderful man and besides the stupid writing, not an agressive or evil drunk. but it hurts me deeply (or am i too sensitive? he says, he really does not want these women. has ended friendship with the one, where it bothered me the most, too) that he wrote these things to someone else.

    i was in england on vacation with my son, when it happened. he was supposed to follow us, it was my birthday. but he was drunk and missed the flight. he was so worried, that i would end the relationship, he continued drinking, wrote another friend, he can not belive i love him anymore (as i told him on the phone, when he called to tell, that he would not make it to england. i did however tell him, that that was part of what would have to change, should we continue our relationship. he needs to stay sober alone too and is starting treatment) – so it could be, that he just wanted to re-build his ego and go into: “she leaves anyways” modus? or does he really want to be with these people?

    i know, i sould not worry about that. but that fear keeps coming to hurt me.

  • Helen

    I have divorced my husband. After two nasty years of the divorce, we came to good terms. He works abroad, of course to avoid the family responsibility that the day to day require. When married he was home for a month perhaps and then gone. Money was never an issue he has always bought stuff and be very caring and giving to our children and myself. Unfortunately, the damned illness never left. He is functional, he can work he is a fantastic engineer. Every day at 5 pm the beers, wine and liquor would come into the picture. He would be holding a beer in his hand and step somewhere to have a strong shot of tequila so I would not notice .. (as if we cannot notice) … back to after the divorce.. During those 2 years I had a boyfriend that helped a lot through the bitterness of the divorce, but it was not meant to last. He just blames all on the boyfriend he says that I divorced him for the boyfriend and that ALL is my fault because I always had everything even things I didn’t asked for. Exactly all I wanted and want is peace not material stuff. So, we started talking and since I do not trust him with my 3 children alone, I decided to let him come in the house while he was in country, at least I could supervise and make sure my kids were ok. Some arguments here and there, but the drinking started progressing, he promised 2 beers a day and I started finding little bottles in the trash. Of course I knew he was drunk every nite. He moved to a hotel after a month of being here, because I was always on his back about the drinking… I cried myself to sleep yesterday. My little boy left with him, for him His father is his Hero and I don’t want to take that from him, I just tell him that he is ill and that he needs to call me no matter time or what is going on that I wont be upset. It took me more than 2 years to get rid of the anxiety and all that goes along living with a person like this … I am stronger now, but I cannot feel extremely sad, I love him as a person, he is the father of my kids, he is a brilliant man, and to see the destruction he is doing to himself is heartbreaking … I do no t understand how is it that a man can give up at least a family life for a month with an easy going exwife to go drinking and partying with women or i don’t know what else…. … Very very sad….

  • Kslevett

    Hi Helen, I don’t think we will ever understand how they choose alcohol over their family. It’s hard to watch when you can see the potential in them. The only thing we can do is pray for them. I’m divorcing my AH after 10 years of marriage and all I wanted was peace as well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have that with alcohol always involved. I know it will take some time but we can’t focus on them. Life goes on and if peace is what we are searching for we will have to let go of that life.

  • Margie

    Hey Helen,

    I am sorry for all your pain. It is the hardest emotional battle you will ever go thru. At the end of the day the only person who can help the addict is the addict. They choose their addiction over everything and everyone. You can pray for them every day but you must move on and let them get the help they need.

    Big hugs to you.

  • Dawn

    Helen I’m so sorry to hear of your pain. I applaud you for explaining to your son about your ex’s sickness without bashing him AND keeping the door open for your son to count on you to be there if needed. In time, your son will understand more. The pain that an Alcoholic distributes can be so reckless and it’s hard to understand the “whys”. I’m presently in a relationship and he shares my home and even one of my bank accounts. We aren’t married and we don’t have children and I find that every day is more of a trifle. I remember when he wasn’t like this and we had the world in our hands. Now every day is more painful than the last. In my mind I think there’s always hope and that he will come back to me. But our future looks grimmer day by day.

    You had the strength to break free of your marriage with him which is most brave. I understand that you still try to remain friends for the sake of your children. But know that you are doing everything in your power right now and none of this is a reflection of you. Alcoholics have a way of turning everything around so that the blame is never on them. It’s always going to be your fault unless he gets some professional help. My guy got pulled over the other day for having expired license plates…7 months expired! Thankfully (maybe) he hadn’t started drinking yet. But I got blamed for him not renewing his license because I didn’t remind him. Yes, I DID remind him several times and he called me a nag. I had to remind him of our conversation. He said that he must have been drinking when I told him (yeah, each and every time I reminded him, he was drinking). It’s a constant struggle inside yourself when you remember the person that he once was. How could anyone NOT want to better themselves? Why? Because they have a disease. But with this disease, they are the only ones who can accept treatment. You know and see that there’s some kind of underlying pain inside them that you wish you could just take away. Please know that you haven’t caused this pain upon him no matter what he says.

  • Kate

    Hi Helen
    I totally understand your pain at seeing an amazing person destroy themselves, and the obvious pain behind this. I tried for 8 years to break through, to help, to at least share the pain. But I think often the reason why people turn to alcohol is because they cannot open up. I’m trying to come to understand that that isn’t necessarily ours, or theirs either, fault. I wish you luck and strength.

  • Suzanna

    Dear Helen
    First of all I am so sorry for your pain, and the loss love of your husband. A functioning alcoholic is very difficult and painful to deal with, have you considered any Al-anon meetings? I’ve been with my spouse for 23 years, I’ve tried everything known to mankind to “fix” him, but in the end the relief I’ve received most was through Al-anon, and through prayer. Al-Anon is for me, and prayer is for us, and our family. As I sat listened to other peoples experiences of the alcoholism in their lives, I noticed that living with an alcoholic you very over responsive to everything the alcoholic does which in turn left me in excruciating pain. Its as if your climbing as hard as you can up a never-ending mud hill.
    I realize its a choice he’s made, and we as loving spouses make choices that affect our receiving peace and happiness too, I realized I didn’t ask for this, and the constant blame to deflect his own responsibilities and shame. In my own effort to control a better outcome or deal with the instability I was living with I became sick in his disease. It tooks years for me to reach out for help, and I mean 21 years. But I am glad I did, because its never to late.
    Al-anon helped me realize the choices I was making to deal with the alcoholic were not healthy, and to choose better ones. This isn’t a list of what you’ve done wrong, and what you should do right. Not at all. It is a group of compassionate people that have lived it, are now making deliberate decisions everyday, step by step to make better decisions for themselves and children, decisions that will edify and bring peace and rebuild you and your family after the wake of the destruction that alcoholism leaves behind. It doesn’t happen in one or two meetings, it happens subtly as you listen to the plight of other people in the same situation and the decisions they are making to rebuild themselves to wholeness. Continue to be an example to your son of the successes and joys of what a sober person looks like, even if you don’t think he understands the difference or notice it, because children notice everything, actions, reactions, what you say and do from both parents. Eventually, during logic and critical thinking a child begins to put the pieces of life into place, and will start to developing their own opinions of their world, the pieces come with age, and experiences, eventually all the puzzle pieces will begin to work together to create in him a full picture and understanding of his father, and the situation. In the meantime, continue to love him unconditionally and allow him to love and spend time with his father, pray over him a lot, that God will show him and deliver him from the same snare his father is trapped in. The author -Stormie Martin “the Power of a Praying Parent” has been my very present help in times of trouble. May God bless you with a supernatural level of peace, and heal you forever with His eternal love from this day forward, and forevermore. Love in Christ.

  • Geraldine Byrne

    .Please keep sending these writings.I find them very encouraging. The more I learn about the desease and the behavioural problems of Alcholics the freeer I feel and the more I understand the importance of nuturing yourself when involved with an alcoholic.
    Nothing we say or do will ever change what they do or the distorted way they precieve things. Avoiding deep dicussions at all time works for me. After five years I finally decided to end this toxic relationship and take care of myself.
    After just one week of seperation and no communication ,which I requested, my energy was restored ,not to mention anxiety.I feel calm and happy once again.

    Peace and healing to all those beautiful compassionate caring people who struggle with Alcholics.

  • c

    The most wonderful people seem to be so caring that they have a very difficult time separating from an alcoholic. I used to think my A would suddenly see what alcohol was doing to him but it will never happen. Mine became arrogant if you confronted him about fixing something or eventually taking showers daily. I gave up after 8 years.

    Sadly, years can go by living with a functioning A. They fool everyone but those who live with them. Please get support to take care of your children without the stress of your ex. Your personality and energy will return when he is away from you. The children need a happy and healthy mother.

    Take good care and find someone who makes you laugh – it really makes a difference after living with an A.

  • David

    Sorry to read of your hardship Helen, I hope you will soon feel better and can regain some energy and move forward.
    It is very hard to let go of a person you once had faith in, and so disheartening to come to the conclusion that it is incredibly rare that an alcoholic will change for the better.
    I am just coming out of a two year relationship with a woman I put my life on hold for. I spent much of our time together trying to support her until she eventually admitted she did not want to give up alcohol.
    I found out shortly afterwards that she had been seeing another man (an alcoholic himself) behind my back for eight of those months we were together. In my experience, lies and deceit go hand in hand with alcoholism.
    I hope you can find the strength to be positive, and will be able to put yourself and your Son before your ex-husband.

  • SP

    Hey Helen,

    I read something this morning that may apply to your decision–which you should not second guess I might add; you can’t control what someone else does, but you can control what you will and won’t accept in your life. This is what I read: Unless you plan on going there–don’t look back.

  • Zita

    Keep a journal Helen….then when you start to doubt yourself, you can look back on your notes and know that you were right in your decision. Keep Strong.

  • I conceive this website has some really excellent information for everyone :D. “We rarely think people have good sense unless they agree with us.” by Francois de La Rochefoucauld.

  • Laurie

    I am a member of Al-Anon and would like to share my experiences based on this article.
    To fully embrace Step One I must accept I am powerless. This means I have no power over people, places and things. If I have no power, I have no control over anyone or thing other than myself. So for me to be able to apply this step to my life, I haven’t set boundaries or rules for other people. i have found when doing so i am setting myself up for a fall.

    I have previously set boundaries for others and consequences too, only to find out that I am adding to my own illness of codependency. I have based expectations on an unpredictable and irresponsible person to respect these boundaries, yet they don’t respect themselves. With having expectations they have led to disappointments, arguments, chaos, crisis, and resentments. Of course I blamed this on the alcoholic.. But it was my own fault for setting myself up for a fall. I also found that in setting rules for others I had motives of control. As for consequences, it’s not my job to punish a person that is already punishing themselves enough. It is the disease, not the person.

    Through Step One I have learned that I control me. So to stay in tune with myself and this step, I have set personal boundaries. A lone in the sand for me, things i will and won’t do. I am able to choose what I respond to. I can remove myself from situations, I can choose to not react, I can choose to call a fellowship friend or sponsor. These boundaries promote self-esteem, self-worth, confidence and self-respect. I am not punishing anyone, I am not disappointed by someone disrespecting my rules for them, the only person that can break these rules is me.

    This empowers me to grow. I am not feeding my addiction of control or loss of self in someone else’s addiction.

    Thank you for reading

  • […] If you must get firm with them do it in a loving manner. Ask them kindly to stop behaving that way. Try to reassure them of your love for them prior to telling them to quit being such a jerk; don’t use those words though. Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean. This article will help you: Reinforcing Boundaries With An Alcoholic […]

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