Living with an alcohol addict is difficult

Alcoholism is not an incurable disease nor are there two categories of drinkers: “normal” and “alcoholics”.  It is a fact that most people who fall into drug/alcohol addiction manage to get free.

Alcohol is a legally available very addictive drug.  In 2008 in an independent study it was identified as the most damaging drug in our society.  It is also classified as a category 1 carcinogen.

Becoming an alcohol addict is easy. No one ever decided consciously to become addicted; just like everyone else they thought it was harmless fun. In our society it is difficult not to consume alcohol, especially when you consider that every youngster in our society is exposed to about 100,000 pieces of alcoholic propaganda before age 18.  Having said that, although the alcohol addict does not bear guilt for becoming addicted, he/she does have the responsibility to deal with it. Until that person takes responsibility, there is little anyone can do to change the situation.

I have been addicted to alcohol myself, but have been free and independent of it for 18 years. I have spent fifteen years working with hundreds of alcohol addicts helping them get free and independent of alcohol. The suggestions below are based on this experience:

  1. Do not blame yourself: Alcohol addiction is the problem and responsibility of the addict. Even if he or she tries to blame you for his/her drinking, remember it is their responsibility.
  2. Do not enable his/her drinking: Do not try to hide or lie about the problem. Having an alcohol addict for a spouse or in the family can create a sense of shame. The understandable tendency is to hide it from the outside world. By hiding or lying about it, you will inadvertently create a “safe space”, which will enable the alcohol addict to keep drinking. Hiding the problem will makes it worse. Don’t do it!
  3. Do not try to cure or control it: Your intentions might well be good and sincere, but to cure or control is simply not in your power. You cannot change another person, only yourself. An addict will probably feel terrible about what is happening, often frightened and powerless. Constant pressure, control, nagging will only make the addict more anxious, secretive and obsessive, and can make an already difficult situation worse.
  4. Do not accept abusive behaviour: Abusive behaviour should not be tolerated whether the person is sober or drunk. Accepting such behaviour means that you will quickly find yourself in an abusive/toxic relationship.
  5. Don’t obsess: Don’t obsess about something you cannot change. Instead, focus on taking care of your own physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and any children that are affected. It can be painful watching a loved one destroy their life. Often, the most compassionate thing you can do, is allow the alcohol addict to experience the consequences of his/her actions. Get really clear about what you will and will not accept. Communicate this as clearly and as responsibly as possible obviously when the addict is sober.
  6. Encourage him/her to get help: A good first step would be to have a conversation with us so we can understand his/her situation and suggest a way forward.

Author: Geoffrey Molloy

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