Tough Love With Alcoholics-Changed Behavior Is Not Cruelty

When we begin to learn how to have tough love with an addict or alcoholic, many think it is an act of cruelty. Most of us are caretakers by nature. When we are in love with an alcoholic, taking care of them is one dysfunctional ways we express our affection to them. This behavior parallels with the concept of enabling.

When someone in a relationship with an alcoholic begins to attend therapy group meetings to help them cope with an alcoholic, usually they hear about the importance of detaching with love early on.

This is something that they generally struggle with because they are usually very angry and frustrated by the time they seek help for the situation. When I first heard about loving an alcoholic unconditionally, I thought to myself; “there is now way I’ll be able to do that.” I was furious at how she was ruining our family.

It is possible to love an alcoholic and be tough with them at the same time, thus we have the expression “tough love.”  This type of situation requires learning how to set boundaries with an alcoholic. Those parameters can be established through kindness, love and with inner strength.

Mastering tough love requires learning how to communicate with an alcoholic/addict differently. As we begin to set healthy boundaries to protect ourselves from the emotional abuse that gets hurled at us, we learn how to do this by keeping our composure. When communicating a boundary to the alcoholic, we might say something like; “I love you, but please do not ever treat me with that kind of disrespect ever again.”

With firmness in our voice (not anger) and a smile on our face, we begin to say what we mean without saying things mean. Changing the way we communicate with an alcoholic is only one way we can demonstrate tough love.

It is when we start detaching from being a caretaker and enabler that tough love is really expressed. When we stop doing things like loaning them money, paying their bills, giving them rides all over town, lying for them and doing everything to make their life soft, and wonderful, then we are beginning to express tough love.

When we learn how to say NO without feeling guilty, then we are on the road to expressing tough love to an alcoholic. Usually they get angry and fuss at us when we start detaching, setting boundaries and refuse to be their enablers anymore. This is why we need to learn how to say “no” to them and say nothing else. There is no reason that we have to explain why we have said no, it is our right to do so. When we can be self-disciplined in this way, we will argue less. The person with the drinking problem my want to argue over our setting boundaries and ways of detaching, but we can choose not to argue.

The trick of all of this “tough love” behavior on our part is founded on methods of expressing love to an alcoholic while being tough at the same time. There is a delicate balance to be maintained when we start to change how we interact with the person suffering from alcoholism.

You cannot learn and start doing these things on your own. Having the support of people who understand what you are dealing with and know how to coach you through the new changes is vitally important. The only place to establish close friendships with people who are wise about the characteristics of alcoholics is through getting involved in support group meetings for friends and family members if alcoholics. Al-anon is a great place to get started today handling things differently today!

To wrap things up, we have talked about learning how to communicate differently, the need for setting boundaries and the importance of not enabling the alcoholic. We briefly made reference to how we are caretakers by nature as well. Each of these subjects have individual techniques and methods that can be learned which will help us love an alcoholic while protecting ourselves from being too awfully hurt in the process. Using them altogether is how we express tough love in situations where alcoholism is present. This takes time to master all of the different metods of dealing with an alcoholic.

There is one rule I want to share with you that can help you while expressing tough love to an alcoholic. As you are detaching and setting boundaries, make sure that you never argue with the alcoholic. That’s the rule you MUST learn to live by. At all costs, we do whatever it takes to not fight with them. Usually, this means that we are forced to avoid them through leaving the house or going into another room, closing and locking the door behind us. In these situations we use phrases like:

I do not want to discuss this right now.
Let me think about that.
You are probably right.
That’s your opinion.

These are just a few phrases that can help you avoid getting into a shouting match with the problem drinker. The key to using these one-liners is realized in not saying anything else. This requires yet another skill, “learning how to keep our mouths shut.”

There are many other short sentences that can be used during the process of detaching from an alcoholic with tough love. There are many more revealed in the coping with alcoholics audio lessons.

A final word, find an alcoholism support group meeting to attend today designed to aid friends and family members handle the affects of alcoholism on their lives. I promise that you will be glad that you did.
Contributing Author: Timothy Odum On

67 comments to Tough Love With Alcoholics-Changed Behavior Is Not Cruelty

  • kaz

    I tried going into another room and locking the door. The door was broken. Very scary. Now I leave the room. Either I’ll go outside or I’ll physically leave the house. It frustrates me to have to do this so often. My peace is interupted. I didn’t cause the argument. This is my home too. You’re right when you say the alcoholic can be very demanding when ‘they’ want to argue. I am trying your one liners and they are working – slowly – thank you. I am setting boundaries. I am trying to re-inforce them. Can you help me to reduce my frustration when I’m up against ignorance? The drinking and anger seem to be increasing. I’m not sure if it’s the build up to Christmas or the resentment towards me for making changes.

  • Katie

    I’m wondering the same thing. I have 3 kids, but like tonight my husband told me to leave, this was his house. My husband doesn’t come home all the time buzzing…probably 3-6 times a month. I’m wondering if it’s the holiday season too…a little stressful…and I think when you aren’t having sex, that makes them more mad…but who wants to have sex with someone that smells like beer all the time, not me! Another thing that irritates me…is that my husband acts like a completely different person when he’s drinking…it drives me crazy!!!!!!!!!!! He’s loud, mean, and I truly can’t stand him. I get nasty thoughts like…he probably won’t go to heaven when he dies. How could he? That’s awful…but that’s how upset I get. Am I the only one? Sorry…I’m venting.

  • Karen

    Katie, rest assured, you are not the only one. You are
    not alone and I believe it is good to vent. This web sight
    is great. There are so many people with addiction problems
    and families trying to cope. Keep your heart in the right
    place and even though you may love your husband your chidren must be protected. You do not have to feel guilty
    or like walking on eggs in fear of one cracking. You will
    get stronger. The Jeckle and Hyde of the alcoholic personality will be difficult in the beginning but eventually you will know which of the two you are dealing
    with. Sometimes you will be dealing with the combination
    of the two. Please stop, take a deep breath with a cup of
    tea in your hand. Children are smart and know what is going on. Reassure them with your love. Christmas is
    such a magical time. Share that with them and do as much as
    you can. If you allow the alcoholic to drive you crazy it
    empowers him. Restore your energy by caring for you and
    your children. Karen

  • Caitlyn

    I’d say it’s the resentment toward you making changes to how you react/interact with the alcoholic when they are inebriated. Consider this, the longer you have been together and catering to his alcoholic whims, the longer your peace in response to your changed reactions will take. It’s going to take a while before he accepts this is the way it is now between you two. It may get a little tougher for a while until he accepts this is the new way between you two.
    Explain to him when he is sober and receptive that you won’t tolerate “insert your new boundary” and let him digest this. Then follow through with conviction when the occasion calls.
    Good luck.

  • Mike

    If you are married to an alcoholic, like I am, you must work together.
    if you aren’t married, run away.
    Rule #1) Prevention is the best medicine.
    NEVER become involve with addiction.
    You can NEVER love it away.
    Rule #2) They choose to drink, regardless of what they tell you.

  • Julie

    My “love” for the alcoholic became nothing more than dutiful caretaking and damage control. Any feelings of romantic love died with the disgusting behavior of a vulgar alcoholic. I was punishing myself for staying married to a man like that. Being alone is a miracle after I finally decided I couldn’t take it any more. There has only been one alcoholic husband in my life and there will NEVER be another one. The person I married was not the person I divorced. It is truly a tragedy how alcohol and drugs destroy a person’s mind.

  • Pj

    You are spot on Mike, the Myth of alcoholism being a disease is perpetuated by AA and Al Anon who tell all they are powerless against it, strange as most diseases can be treated by medicine. The idea that loving an A more will change their behavior is well known to the A and they will manipulate it to prolong their drinking., they are the one’s with the problem and only they can sort it.

  • Debbi

    I agree with all the points made in this article except I am disappointed that every one of these articles does not address permanent detachment if necessary. Sometimes tough love means walking away. In my case the final straw was infidelity and no amount of smiling and setting my boundaries was going to stop this. How about an article that will finally address if you have to completely end it–the steps, what to expect, divorce, child support & co-parenting, spousal support, divorcing an alcoholic, divorcing or separating an alcoholic with all their mood swings, narcissistic tendencies and the like?

  • Pez

    Tough love never saved my relationship—So don’t look at it like it’s a salvation for the alcoholic. Even following these steps does not guarantee conversion for the A. A’s take advantage of love or anything they can get out of you. They are master manipulators. These are steps to preserve yourself if you can’t leave at the moment but eventually you will need to ask yourself if this is the way you want to spend the rest or your life.
    Tough love MAY cause conversion, but in most cases it does not. What does cause some to get “saved” is suffering the consequenses of there actions. I moved out from my XAB, gave ultimatums and followed through (not soon enough though) and he screwed me over moving another woman in immediately, second chance, did it again!!! And this woman is a scank–they Don’t care. Get that through your head right now! In the light of addiction NOTING ELSE MATTERS! On top of that he did it to intentionally hurt me (called the “Bomb”) on the Empowered Recovery site book. They will do things that are devastating just to hurt you. So BE prepared.
    If you wish to stay with the A detachment and tough love is mandatory for YOU! don’t expect it to change them.

  • Pez

    Debbie the Empowered Recovery site book gives most that you mention. things to do & be aware of when you leave the alcoholic. Children included.

  • Debbi

    I must be doing something wrong when I go to that site–it is counseling classes you have to sign up for so when I saw the book, I thought it was to train you how to counsel. What is the actual name of the site book?

  • Pez

    Here is the site scroll down to bottom of page. The book is called “Alcoholics Survival Guide” and it is only $10.00. It’s tough stuff but take what is for you and leave the rest.

  • Pez

    OOps it’s “Alcohol Relationship Survival Guide”

  • Chelsie

    I did the hardest thing tonight. I called the cops on my out of control alcoholic boyfriend. After he got physical with me and my adult son and his friend. I had enough. We have holes all over this house from his angry outbursts when he drinks. I love the sober person he is. But the drinking turns him into Jekyll and Hyde. I feel so guilty, and with him being already on probation he will probably hate me. But then it really isn’t love right?

  • leroy Johnson

    I have a girlfriend that I truly love very smart girl. Our plans was to have a family together. But there is one problem she is a alcoholic she goes to AA Meetings she will be sober for a month or 2. Then find her way back to the bottle then on a drinking free for all. I’m try to help her because I love her so much but how can you help someone that doesn’t help themselves.

  • lindsay

    You really cant help someone who wont help themselves.

  • lindsay

    Its not your job to fix her…its hers.

  • leroy Johnson

    she says she wants to be sober,she asked me to be strong for her and I am. I’m not going to lie we use to drink together but I’m a casual drinker she’s out of control drinker.and it just leads to fights when were together that’s why I told her I would never drink with her again, and try to support her as much as I i said in my last post she’ll be cleaning for a month or two and then relapse.I guess she thinks because that she was clean so long she can handle it.but when I confronted her on Friday I caught her drinking she just said that she needs it so bad she thirsty for it. she’s also on meds I wonder if that has anything to do with her mental state as far as drinking.I want to be with this girl but all myfriends told me to run but it is hard when you love someone so much. I’m going to Al-Anon today to get some insight on how to handle this for myself emotionally.also how to handle her better.

  • lindsay

    Al-anon is great. Im in the exact opposite situation with my partner. I used to drink with him as well and it didnt turn out great when we drank together. It was so bad that he started a house fire by drunk cooking with the kids in the house. Its been up and down every since sober for a month then drinking binge again. I put my foot down finally a couple days ago and I can’t let him come home until he gets treatment for it and im taking the chance that maybe he wont too and its hard I have to live with that, the chance that he wont want to go and might just move on with his life. But it comes to a point where I have to put my children first, and also think that if I keep letting this go on that I am allowing this behaviour to continue and do I really want to live the rest of my life in fear that when I leave my home he will start drinking and cooking and put the kids in danger again. I cant babysit a full grown man but in the long run i have to remember Im doing it cause I love him and I want a good life.

  • leroy Johnson

    Thank you lindsay for your store it really help me. I went to Al-Anon today it was very helpfu veryl informative. Help me see things in a different light. I’m trying my best to make this work I left my wife of 4 yrs 13 yrs total to be with this girl. I been in love with this girl first time Isaw her. We were friends for a while before I got married she ask me to move in with her, but I turned her down becouse I was engaged, from that day she was out my life for 3yrs. Until one day we bumped into each other.and I never looked back scene. But now I’m torn I really love this girl but how long do I hold on and hope that things gey better. They told me to go to 9 meeting it would help me make my decision. I hope so

  • Lindsay

    Al-anon is great for strength. It never promises you can change the alcoholic but it will give you the coping skills you need to stay in the relationship if your not willing to leave it. I really miss my boyfriend alot and all the things he would do for us. I just cant let the fire go when my children could have died. Im stuck between looking at all the changes hes made since then and hes changed so much but he can’t control the drinking when he does drink. I can’t make plans with people because he drinks out of control when Im not there as if he needs to be babysat. He does good at home but when hes not hes drinking everyday again. I miss him and wish I could just say sorry and to come home but then Im saying that behaviour is ok and I will put up with it and I can’t because it puts my family in danger. My kids are scared if I leave because he will start to drink and Im not there to watch what hes doing. Hes crossed every boundarie I have set. There was to be no booze in the house after the fire and I find empties everywhere. I actually dont think he will go to treatment but its not my job to make him I just have to protect my children. Im mad at him for making me do this I have so many emotions right now. Im just taking the chance and leaving it in his court to make the change, its a hard chance to take because I don’t think I can love anyone like I love him. The pain of an alcoholic is so deep rooted, they have to start with the unresolved issues as to why they drink, they dont want to deal with the pain so the alcohol hides it but only pain forces change and if they cant feel it then why do it. I do wish you the best because there are good stories with happy endings but not alot of them. Its really hard.

  • Lindsay

    And thanks for talking with me as well, I dont have alot of support for this so this either.

  • Pete

    Hello All,
    I am married to my alcoholic wife. She is more of what they call a functioning alcoholic, she works everyday and never complains of feeling bad from drinking. She has been drinking for about 7 years and has gotten worse each year. She drinks bottle of wine a day when I am at work by herself at home. I am afraid to come home at night….afraid that I’m going to find her dead. She also occasionally drank cough syrup and has taken some random pills. You would never think she would do such things if you ever met her in person. She is a very smart nice person, but she is in serious denial about her drinking. She refuses to talk about it and if it is brought up she just gets mad and shuts down. I am at a lose as to what to do. I have been to Alanon meeting and I have been to a therapist to talk about my concerns. She attended one AA meeting and said she wasn’t like “those” people- which she is. I told her that she should at least go talk to a therapist, but as of yet she hasn’t. It is a real fear of mine every time I pull in our driveway at 2am after work…I am afraid to come in the house…..she’s that bad.
    I’m thinking that I might have to do something drastic lime tell her that if she continues that I will stay elsewhere until she gets help of some kind. I don’t know if I do that if she will do something even more stupid then I would feel quilty and blame myself. I love my wife more than anything, but something has to change. I don’t want her to feel like I turned my back on her, I just want her to get better. It is very difficult to live with an alcoholic spouse….I have never drank or done drugs in my life….it’s so crazy to be in this position. We are both in our 50’s, too old for this stupid stuff. I never thought that I would be afraid to come home to my own house and be afraid to come in every night….
    I just wanted to vent and see if anyone has had a similar situation as mine. It seems like most times the alcoholic spouse is the husband not the wife. I think it is a little different when the wife is the alcoholic because the husband is suppose to protect his wife. It’s very difficult to protect her from the bottle of wine….I can’t fight a bottle – if I could I would beat the crap out of it to protect my wife. She has not been affectionate at all to me in years and has distanced herself from her family since she started drinking more. Any advice or opinions would be appreciated. Thanks !

  • Becci

    I love this website. Every time I start feeling guilty for not tolerating f the verbal and emotional abuse. I finally got up the courage to move my children and myself into our own home after a year of emotional torture. He knew I would stick around for his daughters. He used them as pawns to pull at my heart strings. I was so scared that he would drive drunk with those angels and get Into a wreck. It was so difficult. Even after taking the girls to their biological mother during one of his drunkin fits, she actually brour the girls back to him. His parents continued to try to cover everything up with money and gifts. I had to step back and see how this all impacted MY children. I was not responsible for him and his kids, I had to take care of my own. So I moved. Maybe not far enough though. He still calls and I still care, but I can control my life now. I have choices. I choose when to let him visit and when to answer his calls. I still hurt for his girls and his lack of ability to be a nurturing father, but I can’t change him. So I changed me

  • Mike

    Sorry, but I gotta call BS on this things about being a caretaker for an alcoholic or an enabler.
    When a spouse is hurt or sick it is YOUR DUTY to care for them and help them.
    If you really want to have tough love, divorce them.
    Other than that, it is all a cop out.
    “Checking out” does nothing for the drinker, all it does is help the non-drinker.
    If that is the life that non-drinker wants, then get a divorce and stop torturing yourself.
    Stop pretending that ignoring anyone is not an enabler.
    The only way to not be an enabler according to AA’s standards, is a divorce.
    Leaving a spouse to rot in alcoholism, is considered being an enabler?
    That is called abandonment. Man up and just divorce them. Make a choice.
    What is the difference between staying married and watching them kill themselves, or divorcing them and not watching them kill themselves? All it does is make the non-drinker feel better about themselves.
    First thing to understand: NEVER marry an alcoholic, no matter what.
    Thank you.

  • Haley

    I entered into what I thought was a soul mate/soul connection deep love 3 years ago with a man. I had never felt so connected to someone in my life. The energy between us was and still is “like magic”… I was not aware of his alcoholism, in fact he was excellent at keeping this from me for the first year of our relationship. We would drink socially together and there would never be a problem. Once he was more comfortable in the relationship and I was “hooked” and madly in love with him I started to see a bi-weekly binge drinking pattern, and every few months he would then go missing. I remember not being able to function in business, sleep or eat during those times and sometimes he would come home with the smell of ladies perfume on his clothing, or coconut smelling hair from showering wherever he was. In the early stages of all of this I put my hand up, I had asked him to leave and I had my power and I felt like I could go through with ending the relationship. I’d get right to the move out day for him or I and then he’d pour on the charm and do all the things that “I LOVE” and then I felt I couldn’t go through with it… his patterns continued so I thought we’d do a “geographical move” to another City together, to start fresh and away from his negative influenced friends. I gave him an ultimatum this time, we move, you’re in AA and I’m in Al-Anon and you’re 100% sober and committed to sobriety or its over. He made it 3 months sober, things were the best they had ever been… I’d never seen him so full of life, so happy. All along the way I as a Business Owner helped him start his own Company as well. I helped him build it into a very successful operation in a very short period of time. Him being sober for 3 months gave him more strength every day and he said he felt he would be better at managing his money for his business and that he didn’t need my help now… I continued to grow my own business, he was growing his… his income started to become disposable … near to the end of his 3 month sobriety into the new city he started acting strange…not wanting me to come with him anywhere… that he was too busy in business and he’d see me at dinner time…. we’d always tied our business together and I’d come with him to do his quotes and be on the phone or ipad rocking my business remotely. I started to get a bad feeling. Sure enough I go out of town to do business and come back this one sunny summer’s day, he was scheduled to play golf that morning with one of my family members… I came back into town to be greeted at the edge of the driveway with flowers… I knew he was guilty of something, he never buys me flowers except when he fell off his wagon. I get out of the car, I go to kiss him and smelt booze badly on his breath, he agreed he fell off of his wagon and he begged me to come “patio hopping” with him and have a date day… I thought to myself he’s the binge drinker, he’s fallen off his wagon and his first real attempt to being sober he is going to relapse hard, especially if I keep to my ultimatum before we moved to this new city of either him 100% sober and committed to sobriety or its over. So I kept to my ultimatum, I asked him to leave and pack his things. I felt just awful saying it, I was scared of the series of events to come but I had to stay true to myself, keep my word my bond for my own health and well being.. perhaps inspire him to fall off a final time but realize I’m not going to be there anymore to pick up the pieces, no longer the enable or playing the victim. I took my power back that day, I remember feeling so sick inside my stomach but nothing like all the sleepless nights I had when he would go missing /bendering in the past. He had been drinking so he left with his suitcase, took a cab. I didn’t hear from him for days. Until he came knocking on our door looking like hell, clearly on a bender. I stopped him at the door and told him he had to go, that I am not putting up with this BS anymore and I’m keeping true to my ultimatum, it was so hard to stay strong, he’s such a sweet heart when he wants to be, so charming and I’m so completely in love and attracted to him but I had to stay true to myself and my well being and word, so I did. He left. Then the real hurt began… he had money in the bank from a business that was starting to really succeed in a short period of time, a disposable income and his woman has asked him to leave… it was the start of a 5 month bender that nearly killed my heart. I refused to have him back under our roof staying strong and requesting him to get his own place ( he’d never lived on his own, always with family or with his x-girlfriends ) so he got his own place. He bought himself all brand new furniture, new flat screens, stereos, new boat, new travel trailer, new truck, new designer clothing … new cologne, new shoes, new leather jackets, the list went on… he was determined to really make me jealous it felt…he never went out of his way to have “brand new anything” before… he started to frequent all of my clients restaurants, lounges and businesses and being the show off and trying to invite my clients out for dinners and to his house parties and trying to sewer me in my own business… it was absolutely devastating as I have worked for 5 years to build my brand to be so super successful, outside of helping him grow his own company. During this time he was buying strippers, escorts and trying to sleep with as many women as he possibly could… I would come over to his place and catch him in bed with other women all while he was trying to keep things going with me. He’d bender for 3 days, sleep for 2… bender 3 days sleep for 2 for 5 months straight… I had to pull myself back … away from him and let him self sabotage himself to rock bottom in hopes he would wake up, all along I’m dying inside my heart, unable to move on because I LOVE this man so deeply… I knew in my heart he didn’t love these women, he was a very ill man in active addiction not getting the professional help he needed, no AA, no nothing just a bank full of money and free time = dangerous combination for him … after 5 months of me not being able to focus as a person muchless my business I lost a lot of weight and I felt so low, so depressed and so powerless .. I felt like a failure that I couldn’t help him help himself… I love to help people WIN/succeed its what I do for a living so I felt responsible ( CRAZY HEY ) for the path he was on and that I couldn’t do anything about it except watch him go down a bad road…. then I learned about Al-Anon, OMG life saving.. I got myself a sponsor and I started to learn that none of this was my fault and I couldn’t have saved him no matter what… he has to save himself, he has to want sobriety himself and he has to make the decision himself to stay on the wagon or to continue falling off and dealing with the consequences. Well, he started to appear to really enjoy his playboy / party lifestyle he had created for himself… I was starting to see him less and less and or hear from him less and less… It was around Christmas 2013 a time for family, forgiveness and quality time together… I started to pour on the showing up at his place, calling him and looking amazing and being sweet and pretending as if nothing had hurt me, nothing he did bothered me in his path of destruction… all of the sudden he started to really enjoy my company and talking about really wanting to be a sober man…. he nearly lost his business at this point, he was in multiple bar fights that he didn’t even remember doing, creating a bad rep with the women in this new city being tagged as a “player” … to then having a terrible truck accident on Christmas Day … he could have died, so lucky to come out alive. I had this horrible feeling at Turkey Dinner with my family that evening so I excused myself from the dinner table and I drove to the police station… our connection is so UNREAL that I often know how he is feeling or where he is… anyways, I drive up to the front of the police station in the pouring rain and there he was missing his shoe, pouring rain, looking very sad and ashamed. I got out of the car and grabbed him and held him in the rain and said.. its time to take your life back into your own hands and stop the alcohol from taking your life from you isn’t it? He agreed and started to cry and cry and cry. After a few days of sobering up and nursing him back to health we had a serious talk. He showed me his bank statements and he blew through all of his money, personally and in business .. he was down to his last pennies… I said to him, “was it worth it?” He sat in silence. The next thing you know he’s got an eviction notice on the house he had rented during our time apart and him relapsing/bendering those 5 months… stating their reason for eviction was loud partying on a continual basis disrupting the neighborhood. So now he had no where to go.. so I said well lets try under the same roof again, you back in your AA program and me attending Al-Anon and we’ll see how we progress together. I don’t know how I was able to forgive him for sleeping with so many women but I was able to block it from my thoughts and realize there is no future in the past. I also kept reminding myself that these women were there for the $$$$ / the party and that the sex between him and them was just sex and didn’t mean anything. WOW, I am amazed at myself considering I have always been a little jealous especially with him as I find him so attractive, but never jealous in an un-healthy way… I came at it from a mature/adult perspective and just kept thinking about the “bigger picture” and our future together and all the things we have in common and all that I adore about him. So now he’s back under the same roof as me at our home… he made it a month sober and fell off the wagon x 2 this week. Evening drinking not binging but still I said to him this is NOT OK with me. From Al-Anon I’ve learnt tools on how to cope living with an alcoholic, and implementing ‘healthy boundaries”…. yesterday he called up a bad influence friend who drinks and had the audacity to say to this person on the telephone, “come pick me up I need to get out of this house and away from this crazy bitch” and it was clear he was having a “bad day” / not reaching out to his AA connections and earlier before his call trying to pick a fight with me … I didn’t feed into it, I in fact remained silent… but I sure wasn’t after he made that comment I came unglued, took my power into my own hands and stood up for myself…. I wish I didn’t react with such anger but I refuse to be put down or disrespected by anyone especially my partner … being called or referred to as a name of such kind is just NOT OK… So the healthy boundary was about to be set, “I won’t tolerate being spoken to or spoken of like that. Pack your things, you’re out of here” I think I made the message very clear, he had the day and evening to spend with his bad influence friend and by last night I went over there and picked him up, yes he had been drinking but got him home and he fell asleep. He’s out boating today on this beautiful sunny day and I’m hoping he’s had time to decide for himself what he wants out of life… I’m sure after relapsing and bendering for those 5 months so hard that its going to take him a few tries to get back up on his horse… My healthy boundary will have to be ‘measurable time’ at this point because I have a life to live and it isn’t suffering … I’m praying and thinking positive that he wants sobriety more than breath itself this time and that he realizes the woman he has in his life and how amazing she is before I slip through his fingers and he spends the rest of his life regretting losing me. Some people don’t realize what they have often…until it is gone. That felt good to get that out and share, hope my story has inspired you…

  • Nel

    Dear Haley,
    You are worth so much more than this!
    Prediction – 10 years down the track and you will still be going around and around.
    Please set yourself free. For a clear view of your future,
    You are a brave woman, but this is a battle you don’t have to fight. Please break
    Free! My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Julie21

    One thing MIke you are right that you care for a sick spouse but you do not do it to the point that it destroys you and your children. And you have to watch what caring for them means. It is not always cut and dry or black and white. Sometimes you feel that it is caring to bail out an alcoholic or to help them when they are lying in their own puke and have passed out. But there is a fine line between caring and enabling and that is how we get caught up in the relationship. I think the best way is to take a step back and look at it from a logical mind (third person point of view) and then make our decisions. You have to learn to care for and not enable. It is not soemthing that is easy to “see” expecially when you are living entangled in the relationship and trying to be a good person. The truth is a person who is healthy emotionally and mentally will not stay in a relationship that is dysfunctional. And it is not easy and you should not judge anyone who is staying in that relationship because they need to become healthy themselves before they can truly help the other person. And if they find that the other person does not want help and does not want to get help then it is not their right or responsibility to stay in the relationship and try to force them to. So i do agree that if they truly want to help and not enable then they need to get out of the relationship. Staying because you feel guilty for leaving is not a reason to ruin your life to save someone who does not want to be saved. And as far as marriage goes, a true marriage has both partners helping eachother. And yes alcoholism may be a sickness and we marry for sickness or health but even God would not want you to give up who you are and allow yourself to be destroyed to help someone who does not want your help. I stayed in my marriage for 21 years and tried everything to help my spouse until i finally lost all hope that he wanted help at all when he finally was honest and he told me himself he did not want to change and i had to put up with him because i am his wife. Well when i tried to make him understand how he was hurting the children too and he told me the kids could go “F” themselves, i knew it was time to get out, so i did. You sound so angry and i am not sure who you are angry at. But don’t judge the people on this site who stay with their spouses. It is a hard long road and everyone has to get to the point where they believe all hope is lost if they stay. It is important for them to feel good about themselves but learining not to let guilt run your life is important too.

  • munsung

    dear Haley, get out of it before you find yourself destroyed…trust me … been there, did that. ..left after 7 years of ..well, at the end, ..hell.
    The person I left had exact behavior as the one you are describing. I had the same feelings,.. This kid of mental construct is called – unmature. No matter how much you feel for him, being your soul mate, you should leave far enough and WAIT for his results. there is nothing else you can do. If you stay, you will get hurt, and you will do him opposite from what you are trying. children need 2 learn from their OWN mistakes. being there for him will just hold him from doing so – thus change. trust me. go far. stay in contact, but just by mail or chat. brief one. just so you can see how he is dealing with himself and acknowledge that you did not turn him back. explain him and leave. sooner yu do so, the bigger chance for him 2 learn 2 walk on his own – and for you not to destroy both by love. ..think about it. I wish you both wisdom and strength.

  • Susan

    Haley, Why do you keep picking him up right after you kicked him out? That in my book is enabling. Break free! You’ve got to get away from him- he has done nothing to earn back his right to be living with you!

  • Susan

    Mike- if your spouse had cancer and refused chemo there isn’t much you can do about it is there? If your spouse cut a major vein and was bleeding to death but fought off all efforts to tie off the vein- there isn’t anything you can do for them is there? So when an alcoholic doesn’t take the steps toward sobriety or continue with those tried and true means such as AA – there really is no hope for them until they want to be healthy. So no it’s isn’t my duty to take care of somebody who isn’t taking care of themself first.

  • lanatoto2014

    It is tough doing the tough love, but I think it wiser than walking out without at first giving it a try! Problem is, I am the one who makes the house payments and most of the bills, but he is a man, and he won’t leave. I am so frustrated that I would be the one to lose everything, and he gets it soft either way, but I cannot take the house to heaven, It sure comes in handy, but it is not worth losing my health over. Frustrated in tombstone!

  • Brenda

    My A partner and I broke up for the second time eight days ago. He decided being in recovery was not for him. He is retired and was drinking in the morning and then crashing in the afternoon. Both times his sobriety didn’t last very long. I guess I need to realize that he isn’t ready to give up drinking and may never want to be a part of the AA program. I don’t think there’s any hope for us if he doesn’t want sobriety. This relationship is only a year and a half old unlike some of you who have lived like this for a long time. Loneliness is painful but I’m learning to Let Go and Let God. However, difficult it is for me it has to be twice as sad for him with not many friends or family. who want to be around him. I feel so sorry for him but he’s the only one who can bring about recovery. I tried to be supportive and went to open meetings with him but he didn’t attend the closed ones for alcoholics only. There is no communication between us now and I don’t really want any as I fear I may not be strong enough to stay away from him. God bless all of us who are hurting because of alcoholism.

  • Susan

    My sister has had a history of anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. She is now 51. There have been alcohol issues with her for years. She isn’t married, no kids and her social anxiety has ruined her life. She is lucky if she gets a job (she doesn’t try hard) and lucky if she can keep it. She just doesn’t seem to try in life. She moved across the country a couple years ago hoping to reconnect with a college boyfriend (that she hadn’t seen in 25 years) but he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. She has worked at department stores and can’t really support herself on that salary paying a California rent, especially, if she is spending money on alcohol. I have flown her home to see family and given her money on several occasions. Once was to move to a cheaper apt. but she never did and spent the money. She called a year ago and drove herself to the hospital because she said she was coming off days of drinking and afraid she would have seizures. At that point she needed money and I gave it to her. I told her she needed help and she told me what she knew I wanted to hear and left it at that. Over the year I have given her money for her car registration and different things and told her I couldn’t keep giving her money and she gives me a sob story of how she hates herself and what not. She is a master manipulator. She called yesterday and said she has been drinking non stop for 3 days and in severe stomach pain and needed to go to the hospital. She said she was afraid they would tow her car and needed money to put in the meter and for a cab to get to the hospital. I reluctantly gave her money only later to find out she never went to the hospital. She was drunk facebooking all night. She tells me today that she doesn’t want to spend $40 for a cab ride to the hospital and thinks she should go to a emergent care clinic for ativan. I now know that she is telling me lies to get money for alcohol. She hasn’t shown up for work so I’m sure she’s lost her job and her rent will be coming up. I’m writing this because I have no idea what to do. How can I help her when she is across the country? I can’t keep feeding her addiction as now I know that is what I am doing. She has no money at all. She will be homeless if she doesn’t pay rent. How does someone get help when they are broke? She has medicare, I believe. She continues to text me and I’m ignoring her but feel horrible about it. Anyone who has had experience with this, can you please help me and tell me what I should do now. I’m trying to keep this from my parents who have enough to deal with helping my brother who has a traumatic brain injury and requires help. My father has heart issues and I just don’t want him worrying about her. I feel helpless.

  • Diane Kasprick

    Find support for yourself, and look after yourself first. What your sister is asking of you is too much and unfair. Each person is responsible for their own life. Don’t feel guilty she is an adult that needs to take care of herself.
    Good luck, Susan and I hear and feel your pain.

  • JC

    Susan, thanks for sharing the details of your situation. This must be extremely difficult for you. If you have Al-anon in your area, please give them a try. There are people in the program who have many years of experience in dealing with situations just like yours. I can assure you that you will find tremendous support if you can try Al-anon out for a few weeks on a regular basis.

    Here is a good article:
    This video has great tips in it:

  • jay

    Hi.. Susan first thing to do is detachment… I have major issues with my wife and use the detatchment method.. it’s not easy but you need to look after yourself…educate yourself as much as possible… as you can not control this situation.. right now you are playing a game of tennis with your sister.. she with her issues and you trying to help or stop her.. she needs to help herself… throw the racket down “I am not playing anymore”..Remember the three c’s
    Can’t control it, didn’t cause it, can’t cure it.. you need to look after yourself or you will get sick, I have been down many roads in eight years..nearly lost my job through stress and anxiety all brought on by my wife’s actions… find an al anon meeting in your area.. family jc’s to people in simular situation’s..belive me I feel your pain..right now I have a belly of glass.. but I do my best with breathing exercises.. trying not to think of it.. using the detatchment way..go for a walk.. anything to get your mind off she can only help herself..

    All the best..


  • Laurie

    Hi Susan,
    I would suggest you seek an Al-Anon meeting to gain knowledge and support. We have a misconception that by giving money it is a token of love, unfortunately this only feeds the disease of alcoholism and assists the alcoholic to drink. It is also literally loving an alcoholic to death. I would urge you to read all you can on this site. Great knowledge here.

  • Laurie

    You didnt cause the alcoholic to drink
    You cant control the alcoholics drinking
    You cant cure the alcoholic from this problem.

  • Susan,

    Alcoholics and addiction create the very best liars. Those plea’s for help, money, attention etc. are so they can stay in the addiction. Nothing scares an alcoholic / especially long term ones, than feeling like they are going to lose the only relationship that has been reliable to them. That between they and their vice. Sad to hear, but it would be wise to detach as has been said above. Really, when it comes down to it, the only person who can help the alcoholic is themselves by seeking treatment when they have had enough. Enough of what? Consequences! It is the only thing that will FORCE an addict to seek out recovery. None of them says’ I’m tired of drinking / drugging etc. They only feel that pain when there is a consequence. When we take that away from them, by saving them with money or jobs etc.., we really stop the mechanism that forces most people to seek out help. Severe addicts will find ways to relapse and think it’s normal and ok. The sad reality of relapse is certainly there, but when the consequences are severe for relapse, recovery is at a much higher rate. What I hate to say is, that rock bottom for your sister or any addict, may be well below what you think it is. They may not find it till their health is compromised severely and irreversibly. Some never find it. If you are able to find a “sober” time to speak with your sister, you can tell her that you’ll be glad to help her when shes sober, and until that day, you’re not going to contribute to any portion of what she’s doing. Let her find the consequences including damaging a relationship with her family and those who love her. These are the only real ways that addicts find bottom. And remember, enabling someone is no different than going out to buy them the bottle or vice of choice. Never work harder than the addict in their recovery. Supporting them in recovery is fine, but never take away the consequences or they will always relapse. Any alcoholic in recovery will admit that.

  • Paula

    Hi Susan,
    The addict, will only stop and get help when they have hit rock bottom. It is scary and unfortunate but all you can do as a sister is explain to her that you are not helping her, and tell her you love her and wish her all the the strength she needs, but that your enabling her isn’t helping her. She is 51, not a child, she needs to take responsibility for her own life. Let her know that you have enough on your plate, and that you won’t do it anymore. When she calls you again with another sob story, tell her , “I’m sorry you are struggling with that, but I can’t help you.” A manipulator will try every trick in the book to get you send her just a little more money, but the only thing they understand is a strong standing “no”. Remind yourself, that she isn’t concerned with your struggles, and it might help you even the playing ground, and easier to say no. No matter what happens to her, she keeps herself there. It might not seem like a decision she has made, but it is only her who can help her. Let her know she needs to help herself first. She suffers from mental illness, and there might be resources in her area to help with mental health issues. What you need is the permission to say no, and above are many comments that affirm your need to say no. Know you are doing the right thing by stating your boundaries with her. Good luck Sister

  • zara

    Unfortunately this person needs professional help. And quickly.

  • Marj

    If you substitute my daughter’s name for your sister – you pretty much have my story. She needs to feel the harsh pains of the consequences of choosing booze over the thing even the bathe needs of food and shelter. The quicker and harder she hits bottom – the better (physically, emotionally… you can name most all of the categories). I am her loving father (and I told her this) who wants his own daughter to be cold, wet, scared, homeless, and hungry. Instead she always takes advantage of her good looks and lying ways to manipulate men off the street to get what she wants and her path to sobriety is delayed.

    So I agree with some of the other comments. Take care of yourself do what you please with the money you worked to achieve.

    I can guarantee this – if she will accept Jesus in her life and include Him in her plans – He is thee only answer. If she attempts this by pure strength of her own will power (and/or social programs and professional therapy) – she will Not make it. I encourage you to take full advantage of being a Christian simply give the big problems and all huge burdens to Christ. Tackle what you can and give the rest to Him. He doesn’t work on our mortal timeframe so you must simply have Faith. Trust in your Faith and trust in Him. The more your trust in your Faith the stronger his method will work.

    He saved my life. I am an alcoholic – He saved me but I admit I am one of the more fortunate ones. I went from a drunk jerk to sobriety in less than a week. I am not completely healed where I think I can drink like a “normal”person but I can go into a bar and order sandwiches (to go) and ordering a drink doesn’t even occur or me. I Love Christ and am so thankful for rescuing me.

    My point is – prayer and Faith is the real answer. Therapy and programs help and have their place. Different stroke for different folks. Al anon didn’t help me one bit but I do recommend every alcoholic try it.

    May God bless your sister. Be specific in your requests to Him but for now simply pray.

  • Nellie

    STOP sending money! TODAY!! Never, ever, ever send one single cent to this woman, ever, ever again.
    This woman is NOT your responsibility. She is an adult woman, and she is NOT your child. She is God’s child, and there is an old saying
    “God looks after drunks”. So please, step back, hands off the situation and Let go, Let God.

    End of year/Christmas time is a notorious time for Drama in the alcohol/codependant community, as we can see looking back at
    the dates on the posts on JC’s wall here. So instead of sending money to alcohol dependant people and therefore the giant Alcohol companies,
    let’s all paypal $5 or $10 to this site that helps us all in so very many ways. Thank you JC for everything you do for us, and please post how
    we can donate again.
    Happy Christmas and a wonderful, peaceful New Year to everybody here!!

  • K


    I agree with the statements above,
    like my self, they have experienced
    the pain of detachment. Start with
    simple steps. For me, not answering
    texts was the start, in a few days
    I quit reading them. I took back
    my life, I did not let them control my life. I realized I was part of the problem. I was allowing
    them to make me feel guilty. You do not have to pay for their party. You do need to release your self from their manipulating control. It will not be easy but you can have a peaceful life by letting go and letting God do His work. Good luck

  • Holly

    Once you realize that you are enabling your sister to stay stuck in her self destructive patterns you’ll feel comfortable saying no. Often addicts need to hit bottom before they will get the help they need. When you see that your support is actually hurting her by helping her avoid dealing with the consequences of her addiction; it will be easier to say no to her. You don’t have to stop loving her and you can assure her of your love while setting healthy boundaries. Her bottom might involve being homeless but you have to trust that she will reach out for help when she is ready. Giving her money is enabling her to stay in her pain cycles. You are not doing her a favor. Hopefully she will get the help she needs but it is her call to make; not yours. This awareness will free you to set boundaries while hoping she makes healthy choices for herself. Your greatest support is to hand her hope for her potential not money. Wishing you all the best!

  • Denise

    Dear Susan,
    Like my son says when we see a homeless person, homeless by choice. So true. As it is with an alcoholic. Alcoholic by choice. My husband is an alcoholic- by choice. Their life is the booze. They lie every time a word is uttered. Let your sister go. We are still married and that’s about all. His social skills are gone except for the alcoholics at work. I can’t care anymore- I will not. Do not allow this shell of a person to ruin your life. No one is coming to the house for X-mas. I am being alienated by my son who lives close because of my ah. Not fair. It hurts. Stay true to yourself. I wish you well. Denise

  • terry

    I to have an A at home.. it’s a pint or more every night. I don’t leave for fear he’s left the stove on again or worse had another heart attack. I’ve threatened to leave but he begs me to stay. I’m in my late 50s now and I feel I’ve lost so much of my life taking care of this man. How do you walk on ?
    How do you move on to a happy life of your own with out guilt? What if he does worse,such as carrying thru on suicide threats. How do you pick up and just say I’m done. He has quit before for 5 years but the doctors said this time the drinking effects his brain differently. Before wasn’t as bad he had been drinking since he was 14. But this time so much different. He not at all the guy I met.
    Any advice

  • SC

    What did the doctor’s mean by this time the drinking affects his brain differently ? Is it different once they quit drinking and go back, because of his age… ?? Just curious.

  • SC

    Patricia if you’re still reading this website , how are things going with you ?

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