Why Should We Be Nice To An Alcoholic

Please feel free to comment below the article. This subject of being nice to someone when the aren’t is a good one to discuss. How do you be nice to an alcoholic when they don’t treat us with kindness most of the time?

Guest Post By: Debbie
I don’t know how to put this where you can truly understand where I’m coming from with few words. I really appreciate your knowledge and wisdom… However, and maybe I’m all wrong, but.. why is it the alcoholic is somehow deserving of the special treatment and added care and concern by us? And we aren’t expected to do anything, besides all the extra work involved dealing with them. Seems they get excused and justified for what they choose to do (drink), and still deserve to be treated in ways they never even attempt with us? I am 48, now with congestive heart failure, and other issues, directly linked to the stress caused by my alcoholic husband. So, I get to pay in every way, and now with my life. I don’t have options, and wonder why I should bother trying to fight.

JC: Thanks for your question.  I am sorry to hear that you are ill. I do hope you find comfort during this difficult time in life. Every situation is different Debbie. Why should we be nice to a substance abuser? It seems that if we can live by the rule of doing to others as we would have them treat us that this is the path in life where we are able to live without regrets and feelings of guilt. We teach people how to live with an active alcoholic as well as how to not be a doormat by accepting unacceptable behavior. If changing ones attitude within a situation where alcoholism is present isn’t working, then the alternative is to change our address. You know, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The thing about life is that “we” are responsible for our own choices. If we choose to stay with an active alcoholic, as my mother used to say, “we’ve made our bed, now we have to lie in it.” Under no circumstances should relentless abuse be allowed to continue.
No matter what we are going though in life, it’s all about our attitude. As I’ve said so many times before; “have a nice day unless you’ve made other plans. ” We can choose to be happy even if the alcoholic is drinking or not.

11 comments to Why Should We Be Nice To An Alcoholic

  • Debbi

    Debbie: ((HUGS TO YOU))

    I know how you feel. I sometimes go there myself. I am battling a brain tumor, lumps in breast & neck and very possibly caused by my ex alcoholic husband possibly transmitting two different sexually transmitted diseases to me over the years. When the brain tumor was discovered he abandoned me, picking up prostitutes, sitting in the house, not contributing towards bills and upped the amount he drank. I had to choose an alternative surgery because I had no family or friends to help me. The alternative surgery left damage to my optic nerve.

    I surely did not want to be nice to my soon to be ex alcoholic so instead I did a complete no contact while I remained in the house. No matter what he yelled at me, or the theatrics he did I ignored everything. I chose not to be mean. During the marriage I chose to be nice. Sometimes now I feel like a big fat “chump” for being the nice one but what is the alternative?? Become like him? No way. . .I have more self-respect and I’m sure you do also. Don’t let the alcoholic take away your ability to care & love others or you will become like them.

    You still must place boundaries. . .not speaking to them when they’re words are hurtful but to be like them will only cause you grief later.

    Rent This move: “Pay It Forward” with Helen Hunt & get the Kleenex Ready & you’ll see why treating everyone with kindness pays off.

    Please continue to post here–it helped my anger & I know it will yours also.

  • Phyllis

    I’m sorry but I think giving the alcoholic a taste of his/her own medicine sometimes is a good thing. They need to experience the consequences of there actions and it relieves anger in the abused. My attitude is just fine towards others and I don’t feel guilty at all for making decisions that show the alcoholic that there actions and lifestyle are unacceptable. It just needs to be done with thought and wisdom!! Not retaliatory but for there own good and yours!
    Things I’ve done: Moved out! F U
    Stopped giving if it’s not returned (reciprocated) Let them suffer financial hardship.
    Called probation for tampering w/ankle bracelet.
    Withheld my companionship
    Although alcoholism may be part disease it is also a choice to continue the bull. They Know, at least in part!

  • Dear Debbie – First and MOST importantly, you are doing something right now by reaching out to this group. You are clearly a courageous woman battling what you are. You do have an option and it’s your only one – seek help from active Al-Anon groups and immediately begin the process of focusing on yourself. What I mean by that is: meditation, healthy eating, and sleep are the best things you can do and through that you will find the strength to separate (literally) from this terrible, sick, sad, and dark man. JC’s support group helped me find the strength and break free from an emotionally abusive, cheating, alcoholic that I was in my own stage of denial with. Truly affecting my health, my mind, and almost my soul. Take the option, Debbie. Start today…find websites and local cancer survivor groups – they will give you new perspective on how to live your life. All the best blessings and strength to you….Francesca.

  • Bev

    Dear Debbi – So sorry to hear about your heart and your husband. My son suffers with alcoholism as well. He is in his early 30’s and is in the middle stage. Keep asking questions and reaching out, it helps so much with the stress that we deal with everyday. I realize that everyone’s situation is different and not all wives can walk away from their husbands. Many times it is strictly for financial reasons why they stay. It’s difficult to understand that an alcoholic does not choose to drink. The first drink is a choice, which turns into abuse, which turns in addiction. The person who was once ‘the life of the party’ now drinks to live. When alcohol attacks the frontal lobe of the brain it changes how the alcoholic thinks. And that is what you are experiencing now. Should he be ‘excused’ for his behavior. Yes and no. But maybe rather than excuse his behavior we need to understand why he behaves the way he does. That is what I am struggling with as well right now. But the more I talk to those who have been there and the more I learn the easier it becomes. My son was a loving, giving person before addiction took hold. I’m sure your husband was as well. Once I started to get past the hurt, I made an effort to remember my son the way he was. At first it hurt – I grieved for the person he was. But know I have hope for his recovery and that is what I hold onto. Going through the hurt, anger and grief I can once again ‘love’ my son. I pray for his recovery everyday. I am part of his life and enjoy the time I spend with him no matter what that looks like because I know that alcoholism if untreated can be fatal. And sad to say that even with treatment there are many alcoholics who never recover and will die from this horrible disease. The choice is really ours Debbi – stay or go – love or not. I hope the best for you and your husband.

  • Lisa Garrett

    I am a very confused and concerned spouse. My husband works everyday, doesn’t have access to money because I have the checkbook as per our agreement, has good days that I love but also has may tendencies of the things Ive read make an alcoholic. He always has a bottle of vodka in his truck and in the kitchen. Never runs out. He leaves early on each weekend morning for hours. I know hes out drinking. He has a high level of tolerance. There are memory issues that make me nuts. There are times after we are in public that I regret it due to his behavior. How do I know if hes an alcoholic or not. I desperately want to determine this so I can get my head around it and make decisions. I do not know if I am able to remain with him if he is an alcoholic.

  • Lisa Garrett

    I am a very confused and concerned spouse. My husbandworks everyday, doesn’t have access to money because I have the checkbook as per our aggreement, has good days that I love but also has may tendencies of the things Ive read make an alcoholic. He always has a bottle of vodka in his truck and in the kitchen. Never runs out. He leaves early on each weekend morning for hours. I know hes out drinking. He has a high level of tolerence. There are memory issues that make me nuts. There are times after we are in public that I regret it due to his behavior. How do I know if hes an alcoholic or not. I desperately want to determine this so I can get my head around it and make decisions. I do not know if I am able to remain with him if he is an alcoholic.

  • Debbi


    Your post caught me just as I was struggling with the same questions as you. I am now divorced but I still struggle every day trying to determine if my 15+ years of marriage were to an alcoholic or narcissistic or mentally impaired. I very rarely saw him drunk but he too hid his alcohol. Either way I could not tolerate the abuse from him and towards the end it got physical and he put my life at risk with his affairs and use of escorts. I feel like he never loved me and wondered what he was thinking the day he took his vows on our wedding.

    I desperately search for the answers and pray to receive them every day. So I know exactly what you are feeling and sometimes is feels like desperation.

    I try to move on but hope one day to receive my answers

  • Caitlyn

    to answer your original question, first and foremost you must look after yourself because generally the alcoholic is incapable of looking out for you or looking after you. They deserve our compassion and understanding because they do have a disease that rules their lives and much of what they say and do requires our compassion and understanding much as you might reach out without being able to fix it for a cancer victim.

    Having said that our compassion and understanding does not necessarily need to be that we stand before them and let them assault us with a tirade of verbal abuse or misbehavior believing our compassion for their illness forgives all they say and do. Compassion means they receive our pity and sympathy for the disease that has a stranglehold on them but doesn’t release them from their obligation to honor us. They should still be capable of being respectful toward us. They may need a helping hand to stay on track to this end. The helping hand is our compassion and understanding. It is possible for an alcoholic to have a meaningful relationship with a compassionate and understanding partner but they have to be willing to work toward that and may need our helping hand to achieve it.

    Also I think by thinking kindly, your persona reflects this peacefulness that comes from showing compassion and understanding toward the alcoholic. This compassion and understanding is two way. The alcoholic needs to realize that they too need to show you compassion and understanding for having to deal with the disease of alcoholism in them from a third perspective; your perspective. They need to understand and accept it is a difficult disease for others around them to deal with. It all comes down to self awareness on both sides – yours, and the alcoholics. Self awareness permits compassion and understanding to develop in such a way that acceptance is the only answer to inner peace. When you get angry or feel angry, get angry with the disease not the person. Tell them that so they may understand that the anger and conflict around them is directed at the disease not the person; them.

    I’m not sure if this helps you at all or others out there. Not all cases are the same and sometimes too compassion and understanding are just not warranted to be spent on the person; they are too far gone and too far out of your league.

    You will feel better about yourself if you can show compassion and understanding but not excuse the person from the disease. Excusing is not related to compassion and understanding. That would be a cop out, an easy way out for the alcoholic to blame away their behavior. By having compassion and understanding in your life you will create a peaceful inner you and that has to be good for your health and well being.

  • gG

    I like what you said about compassion and understanding. You have come a long way to get to the grace that you have for him. I admire you and I know you must know the Lord.

  • maryann

    Caitlyn, that was beautifilly written with compassion, kindness and love. My A is for the most part a loving and kind man. I lived with him for 4 years then I left and went back several times finally out completely 1/11. We continue to see each other he has acknowledged his bad behavior and I reason why I didn’t move back. He has changed in positive ways but continues to drink. We were engaged but in my heart I knew I couldn’t marry him for fear of a miserable life. I see him 3 times a week but he knows if he doesn’t act kindly or respectful or gets out of hand i will get in my car and go home. We love each other dearly , even though he drinks he’s always home and doesn’t run around. His hobby every chance he gets is fishing. Just don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t want to give him an ultimatum cause hes basically a good man honest, loyal he has never been physically abusive when I lived there as i I would not tolerate it. We had many nasty arguments in the past though but thank God not any more you see if I don’t want to deal with him I don’t. I
    When I moved out I lived at the office where I worked on a blow up mattress toilet and small refrigerator at my choice but I was at peace, I have my own place now but I went to hell and back it has made myself better and stronger and it has helped him as well. I still want that miracle like all of us.

  • Mavis

    Wow ! Alot of good advice and familiar experiences. I was raised in an alcoholic home, verbal abuse and threats of leaving me and my Mom were a daily thing. My Father(the alcoholic) ended up separated from my Mom after 20 plus years and diagnosed with cancer.He moved in with me and my now ex husband.We had ups and downs, he tried to sneak a beer here and there but it made him sick now with all the meds he was on. It was hard for me to take care of him basically cause he had been so abusive to me my whole life. I knew I had to push forward.With the help of God, prayer, and an anti depressant, I cooked for him, he cried cause hr was nauseous and could not eat it. We had lots of talks, he said he was sorry for all the drinking and abuse. Now he was getting weaker from cancer and in a wheelchair with one leg and oxygen. But the most regret he had was watching my husband abuse me the same as he did. Now he was dying, in pain,and most of all could not protect me from the abuse he had to watch me go through in his kadt days ! We made our ammends, loved each other til he died in my home a short 6 months after diagnosis.He was my Daddy, I loved him and I HAVE NO REGRETS. I did get a divorce from my abusive husband 4 months later in April of 1999.
    Now , I am living with an alcoholic boyfriend, alot of same abuse as my Dad, I love him and often think of my Dad and I am torned as to what to do with this situation… I have listened to some of the audio on this site about stopping the arguments.I am going to use the advice and push forward .

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