Taking care of ourselves is not something that many of us in family settings understand how to do if we are always very busy taking care of everyone else. I have learned the importance, however, of protecting my own emotional well-being in the midst of situations where alcoholism is present. In this article, I will offer a few suggestions on how you can begin to do a few things differently in order to increase your emotional stability while dealing with difficult situations due to alcoholism.
What are some situations that you find yourself in wherein you feel extremely uncomfortable? Can you identify the situations which cause you to be anxious? What are the things in your relationship with an alcoholic boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, family member of friend that cause you to be emotionally on edge?
Is it when she/he asks you for money that you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps it is when you give him/her money that you experience discomfort. Maybe it’s when she/he breaks the agreements that you’ve made together without notifying you and it causes you to get really upset.
How about this one… always saying: “yes” when you would really like to just say: “NO!”? Are there times when you begin to feel anxious -knowing that you will be spending time with him or her? Are you allowing things to continue that you are really uncomfortable with just to be a nice person?
There are thousands of situations that can cause us to be emotionally uneasy. It is important to identify which things are stealing your peace and serenity away form you in your relationship with the alcoholic.
How can you start to do this?
In my opinion, the first way to begin is to keep a journal. Every time you experience an uncomfortable situation related to alcoholism, write it down. You can write every day if you like. This will be very beneficial. Once you begin to notice the various things that are really causing you to be uneasy, think of how you can do things differently.
I learned many methods for changing my behaviors through participating in alcoholism-support group meetings and living with alcohol addicted people.
Here are a few things I’ve done to take care of my emotional well-being during relationships involving alcoholism-related problems.
- Sometimes I change my plans and decide to do something other than what was planned when I notice an emotional uneasiness within in relation to being around the alcoholic. I notify the alcoholic of my change of plans and usually do this with as little explanation as possible. It can be as simple as telling them I will be going to Walmart for a while rather than coming home. I’ve found it really helpful to visit a local park and spend time reading or just going for a walk. It doesn’t matter what you do… just give yourself permission to take a break from being around the alcoholic. It’s important to begin to recognize when you are not emotionally fit to be around them and then to give yourself permission to avoid being around them. In other words, it’s OK to take a break from the madness!
- Have you ever heard of the acronym H.A.L.T.? Here’s what the letters represent: H-hungry, A-angry, L-lonely and T-tired. When my emotions are way out of whack, I think about this acronym. I can usually take care of myself by attending to a few of those things.
- Just say: “NO!” At times when the alcoholic has asked me for money, I’ve just said: “No-period!” You can do this without explaining yourself. You and I have the right to say: “No” in order to keep our emotions intact. We may have to contend with an angry response from the alcoholic and likely will . I have often said: “No” and when they responded with anger, I said: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” I give a list of these short responses that you can use in the “Dealing With Alcoholics” audio series.
- I try to be aware of when the right time is to have a serious conversation with an alcoholic. Be mindful of when they are intoxicated because that is NOT the time to talk about house payments or college funds for the kids. Mood swings with alcoholics happen too quickly when they are intoxicated to take chances of getting into arguments about serious issues.
- You do not have to be everything to everybody. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself. Go shopping, get your nails done, enjoy a message, go for a walk on the beach or just spend some down-time with a good friend. All these types of activities will help you get your mind off of the alcoholic and help you to enjoy more peace and serenity in your life.
- Stay out of harm’s way! If you know that a particular situation is going to upset you, avoid it. If it is something that cannot be avoided, call on your friends from your support group meeting to help you get through it. Attending meetings, talking to your peers on the phone or having a cup of coffee at Starbucks with a friend can help prepare you to follow through with the difficult task at hand.
- Make a conscious effort to stay grounded in the moment. Let go of past events that are troubling and avoid experiencing fear by looking towards the future you want to create. Stay present in your day and do your best to enjoy the moment.
- Make a list of things that you really enjoy doing alone. Take time out of your schedule to do a few of those things and exclude the alcoholic from your plans.
- If you are a believer in God, then put all of your trust in Him. He knows exactly what you are going through and can work all things out for your good. You have to trust Him completely to enable Him helping you.
- If you are not a believer in God, consider telling him that you would like to know him. If you truly ask him to help you, He will.
- Change your focus from obsessing on all of the horrible things in life to appreciating some of the good things in life. Take out a sheet of paper and just start writing down all of the things you are grateful for. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have access to a computer right now? Do you have a cell phone? Are your children healthy today? Are you healthy today? Are you breathing and did you eat a decent meal today? It doesn’t matter how small something is that you are grateful for… just write it down.
Here’s the bottom line: anything is better than obsessing over an alcoholic. When I learned how to let go of the alcoholic and started giving myself permission to take care of me, that’s when I began to experience the gift of serenity.
None of this is easy to do when living with an alcoholic. We are often met with such resistance from that person when beginning to make these changes in our attitudes and behaviors. We have hundreds of articles on our site that can help you learn how to cope with an alcoholic lying, staying out all night, being abusive and many other topics. This is going to take work on your part to do things differently, but it will be worth it. I promise you! I can’t think of a better moment than now to make a decision to start doing things differently by caring for your own emotional well-being.