I didn’t realize how much I longed for the approval of the alcoholic. They made me feel like there was something wrong with me most of the time. I didn’t really see how they were doing this until I started participating in the Al-anon program and began to write in a journal on a daily basis.
Prior to going to support group meetings all I knew is that the addict in my life periodically made me feel horrible. There were times when they were very critical of me. In my situation, I was seeking approval from an alcoholic who was abusing prescription medications. The ups and downs of their moods were so unpredictable. It was a very unstable relationship to be in.
Once I started learning about why alcoholics act the way they do, I started seeing distinctive behaviors that were occurring repetitively. I encourage you to keep a written account of your interactions with the addict. It’s a good idea to record the events prior to, during and after spending time with them.
Here’s what I discovered once I began to learn about why addicts do some of the things they do. I didn’t have to own the negativity that was being heaped on me. Adapting that sort of attitude was a slow process of transformation. After all, I’d spent a number of years being beaten down by the criticisms of the addict. Common sense tells me it’s going to take a while to change my perceptions of myself because I’ve been so trodden over by the alcoholic’s relentless barrage of criticisms.
Eventually, I stopped owning the degrading things that were projected on me once I realized that most of what the person was saying wasn’t the truth of who I really was. I eventually reached a point where I knew there was nothing wrong with me and saw how sick the addict was. I believe my personal freedom was realized when I truly began to love myself regardless of what the alcoholic thought of me.
Following are a few things that attributed to me realizing that there wasn’t something wrong with me within the wake of the alcoholic’s opinions.
- My attitude change came through learning how to like myself apart from what the alcoholic’s opinion of me was or how they treated me. In 12-step programs we learn to make a list of the good things about our personalities as well as our character defects. I started seeing that even though the addict was telling me I was a horrible father, the truth was that I actually was a great father. I saw that even though the alcoholic said I wasn’t a good provider, I actually was doing the very best that I could to fulfill the role of providing.
- I learned that just because the addict expressed a poor opinion of me that I didn’t have to believe them. This sort of revelation came when I realized that much of what the addict was saying to run my personality in the ground wasn’t the truth.
- When I learned that alcoholics use anger to keep the focus off of themselves that really helped me not own everything they said about me.
- Another thing that helped me was when I learned that alcoholics blame people for many things. I was constantly being blamed for things that were not right in the relationship.
- I learned that an alcoholic will do things to create an uncomfortable atmosphere so that they can escape to go and party.
- Getting involved with a good support group and also taking interest in church activities really helped me discover more of who I was apart from the alcoholic. As I began to use many gifts that I’ve been entrusted with, outside of my relationship with the alcoholic, friends would give me encouragement and praise. This was a far cry from how the addict viewed my talents. The addict would treat me as though there was something wrong with me because I had a dream to be a singer. Yet, my friends encouraged me to do all that I could with the gift of music that I have within.
When I started understanding what many of the characteristics of the alcoholic were, then I was better able to not take things so personally. Much of my problem had to do with insecurities and having low self-esteem. Once I started doing things that I enjoyed doing and interacting with people who celebrated my talents, the alcoholics periodic negative opinion of me didn’t have much of an impact.
- Start keeping a journal of day to day events surrounding your interactions with the addict
- Everything the alcoholic says about you isn’t necessarily true
- Get involved with a support group or other group where you can share common interests and establish friendships apart from the alcoholic/addict
- Learn what the various personality traits of an alcoholic are such as blaming others or telling lies
- Make a list of your character assets
One final tip. It’s a good idea to understand that many alcoholics can’t express love very well. They are mostly engaged in drinking and give their habit more attention than anything else. I’ve heard it said in Al-anon that going to an alcoholic for love is like going to the hardware store to get a loaf of bread. They just don’t have what we are in need of.
It takes a little time to get over thinking that there is something wrong with ourselves when we’ve spent years seeking approval from an alcoholic and gotten very little of it. Check out this article: The Alcoholic Makes Me Feel Worthless. You will find some very helpful information there.