There are several methods of communicating that I’ve learned through the years that are helpful when interacting with an alcoholic. These various techniques offer solutions that will defuse difficult situations that you may find yourself facing when trying to talk with an addict or alcoholic. The end goal of applying these methods of interacting with the addict is to help you find a place where you can experience more peace in your life. As a result of arguing with the alcoholic less, you will have more serenity in your life.
-Avoid Adversarial Situations-As I’ve said on many occasions on our site, the number one rule is to never ever argue with a drunk. If we can keep that within the forefront of our mind all of the time perhaps we can be a little more successful at accomplishing that goal. If we do slip, lose our temper and say or do things that we were working hard to not allow to happen, we can start over at any time. Even if we mess up a hundred times in a day we can start over that many times in a day. Communicating with an alcoholic is not such an easy task so be kind to yourself when you feel as though you have failed the task.
-Know When To Talk- I think it is vitally important to understand that when an addict is intoxicated that is not the time to discuss any sort of serious issue. We must not try to have rational conversations with them when they have had too much to drink. If we do we are just setting ourselves up for disaster. The following day after they have had too much to drink may not be the right time to talk either, wait until they’ve sobered up.
–Avoid Being Judgmental–Trying to not point judgmental fingers can be challenging at times. An alcoholic already feels horrible on the inside about how their life is going. It’s best to try not to call them names or point out to them how much their alcoholism is ruining their life and the lives of others.
-Envision The Word “ Sick”-When you are in the heat of the moment in trying to converse with an alcoholic, inebriated or not, just picture the word “SICK” tattooed on their forehead. This a great reminder for yourself that you are dealing with someone who has an illness. It may also bring a smile to your face for a moment.
–Three 3 S’s From Al-anon –I recently discovered this method works wonders when anyone does something to rattle my feathers. Rather than reacting in a negative manner, I choose to step back, shut up and smile. This brief moment in time allows me to think of the correct response in the moment rather than reacting instantaneously to what someone has just said or done to upset me.
-Learn A Few Right Responses-When an alcoholic communicates in such a way that you want to just blast them with both verbal barrels between the eyes, consider saying the following instead:
That’s your opinion
You may be right
I’m sorry you feel that way
That’s not true
-Communicate Love-No matter how upset they get do your best to communicate in a loving way. Prior to responding to something they have said or setting a boundary, say I love you. Here’s an example: “Bill I love you very much and understand that you are upset with me, but please do not ever call me that degrading name again.”
-Pay Attention To Your Body Language-You can be saying one of the nicest things in the world to someone, but if your body language radiates that you are angry with the person, I doubt they will believe you. Work on smiling while conversing with the alcoholic.
-When To Speak-I learned this in Al-anon. If I feel strongly that I have something to communicate to the alcoholic it’s best to run it through a filter by asking myself if what I have to say is kind, necessary or true. Whatever the answers are to these questions can help me determine if I really need to try and convey a message to the alcoholic/addict or not.
-Place Your Finger Over Your Mouth-When someone begins to upset you, place your finger over your mouth as you listen to them as a reminder to be self controlled with your response.
As you can see these methods will work wonders in any situation, not just in those where you are trying to communicate with an alcoholic spouse, child or friend. Actually, the person you are trying to converse with doesn’t even have to be an addict. These methods of communicating can work wonders in all relationships.