Nothing can hurt me unless I allow it to! Facing alcoholics can be really unsettling. Learning how to interact with them with courage and confidence takes a little time and a lot of work on our part. What we need is a set of guidelines to follow, a few ideas on how to cope with an alcoholic better.
“When I am pained by anything that happens outside of myself, it is not that thing which hurts me, but the way I think and feel about it,” (Al-anon One Day At A Time, Page 7).
Prior to learning how to protect myself from an angry alcoholic, I would get emotionally devastated by the awful things they would say about me. The fear that gripped me every time I was around them was unexplainable. There’s an expression that says: “we feel as though we are walking on eggshells.” That’s what I was doing all of the time.
A great truth that I learned is that I didn’t have to accept everything the alcoholic said about me as truth. For instance, if she/he called me an idiot, I could keep my mouth shut because I knew that my I.Q. was extremely high. The key is in knowing that I don’t have to defend myself when someone lies about me. Just knowing in my heart what they have said is not true is settling enough for me.
Prior to learning how to not react to an alcoholic, I was constantly defending myself. It was like a classic case of the cat chasing the mouse. Around and around we would go fighting and arguing about stupid things.
Alcoholics push our buttons in many different ways. When we can learn what the buttons are that they are pushing, we can stop reacting to them in unstable ways. Our responses can become healthier than always wanting to defend our character in the face of the insult they throw at us.
The key to facing an alcoholic is found in learning how to communicate with an alcoholic. There are specific things to say along with other phrases that should be avoided.
Vocal expressions that help are:
- You may be right
- I’m sorry you feel that way
- Let me think about that
These short phrases can empower us when we learn how to stop reacting to an alcoholic and begin to “respond” with self-discipline and confidence. Our courage is strengthened when we practice methods that can help us stop fighting with an alcoholic. We become less fearful of the unexpected confrontations with them as we learn to keep our anger contained.
This process of learning how to deal with alcoholics can be learned through attending alcoholism support group meetings. There are also audio lessons designed to teach people proven methods of coping with alcoholics.
When we get educated about how to handle uncomfortable situations that alcoholics create, it is very much like having a suit of armor on. When they hurl insults at us, they just bounce off of the protective metal. The actions, comments and attitudes of problem drinkers are rendered powerless over our thoughts and emotions when we are fully equipped to handle them all.
Understanding the alcoholic personality and accepting that they suffer from an illness, really helps to calm our nerves. When we are lied to, we can leave it alone because we understand that it is pointless to argue with a drunk. When insults are directed at us, we can respond by saying, “that’s your opinion,” then keep our comments to ourselves. When an alcoholic is irresponsible, we can let it go because we have learned that they are undependable and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Setting boundaries with an alcoholic will instill tremendous courage and confidence in us. The first time we stand-up for ourselves in this way, can be rather frightening, but with practice we get more courageous with every situation encountered. It is extremely empowering to establish what is acceptable behavior and what is not with an alcoholic. You do not have to accept the unacceptable behaviors of alcoholics.
There is no reason for us to be someones door matte. When adversity arises, we can kindly say: “thanks for sharing that with me” and then exit the room. Are you beginning to see how empowering it is to learn a few ways to handle an alcoholic? Rather than stand in their presence and argue with them over ridicules things, we choose to make changes in our reactions.
We can find a way of escaping by saying something like: “that’s not true” and then go into another room and watch TV or something. Just make sure you close the door and lock it. An abusive alcoholic spouse can be relentless when they decide it’s time to argue.
Knowing what to say and what not to say is the key to being more confident when dealing with problem drinkers. Understanding when to have a healthy conversation with them and when you cannot, instills courage, and confidence as well.
Number one rule: never argue with a drunk.
You should always wait until they are sober before having any type of serious talk with them. Communicating with an alcoholic while they are plastered is certainly a total waste of time. They are in their most irrational state when they are drunk. Why on earth would we try to have a rational conversation with someone who isn’t capable of being rational.
There are thousands of ways to gain more courage and confidence while being in a relationship with an alcoholic. Your level of success is directly connected to your passion for learning and applying the wisdom of others to your life. You can live a more happy and peaceful life and today seems like a great time to start.
I sometimes feel as though I can’t stand living with the abusiveness of their words anymore. I know its an illness but I still feel like I am their target. How can they say such horrible things?
I hear you load and clear Eve. Some alcoholics can be relentless with abusive words. Unfortunately, we do become the target for their expressions of anger to land on at times. One thing that has helped me through the years is to look at them as if the word SICK was tattooed on their forehead. The other thing that helps me was mentioned in the article about not letting false statements bother me.
Here’s the thing though, we can learn how to set boundaries with the alcoholic. At first this sounds like a freighting thing to do, but with some coaching, we can communicate with an alcoholic and set things in place that have the potential to protect us. Once the boundary is set, if they cross it we can reinforce the boundary with the alcoholic.