Do you have a loved one who is currently dealing with an addiction to alcohol? You’re definitely not alone.
There are almost 18 million Americans who suffer from some form of alcohol abuse.
Loving an alcoholic can be difficult to do. It can take a lot of strength, patience, and understanding to help your loved one as they struggle to get a grip on their alcoholism.
Countless marriages, friendships, and working relationships have been severed over the years as a result of alcohol dependence.
If you’re struggling to maintain a relationship with a loved one who is addicted to alcohol, there are some things you should keep in mind at all times to make loving an alcoholic easier on you. Take a look at them below.
1. Your Loved One’s Alcohol Abuse Isn’t Your Fault
When you’re in a relationship of any kind with an alcoholic, it’s easy for you to put the blame on yourself for their behavior.
Some kids think it’s their fault that their dad or mom drinks all the time. Some spouses believe that, if they had just done a better job cleaning the house or taking care of the kids, their husband or wife wouldn’t have turned to alcohol.
If these thoughts ever cross your mind, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and stop.
Part of loving an alcoholic is coming to the realization that your loved one is simply wired differently than everyone else. There is something in their brain that is making them turn to alcohol over and over again, and there is nothing you did to cause it.
You shouldn’t blame yourself for someone else’s alcoholism, and you also shouldn’t allow someone else to put the blame on you.
2. There Are Others Out There in the Same Position as You
Loving an alcoholic can be a very lonely feeling. There is, unfortunately, a stigma surrounding addiction, and it can make it hard for you to express yourself to others when addiction wreaks havoc on your life.
While your loved one might not be able to deal with alcoholism head on, you shouldn’t let that stop you from turning to others to talk about what you are going through. Whether you seek professional counseling or turn to a close friend, don’t suffer in silence.
Simply getting your feelings out and talking about them can be incredibly cathartic for you.
3. Educating Yourself About Alcoholism Will Help
If you’ve encountered alcoholism in the past, you might know a thing or two about it. You might be able to use what you know to help both yourself and your loved one.
But if you’ve never come into contact with an alcoholic before, then the best way to prepare yourself for loving an alcoholic is by learning more about it.
Some people are under the impression that an alcoholic should be able to “just stop drinking.”
And while that logic seems simple enough to someone who has never encountered addiction before, it obviously just doesn’t work that way.
You can educate yourself about alcoholism in a variety of ways. You can:
- Read a book about alcoholism
- Search the internet for interesting articles about alcoholism
- Attend an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting
- Contact an alcoholism treatment center and ask for information
- Speak with other alcoholics you know about their disease
By finding out as much as you can about alcoholism, you can have more effective conversations with your loved one about their condition.
4. Your Support Will Mean the World to Your Loved One
If you think you feel alone when it comes to trying to wrap your head around your loved one’s alcoholism, just imagine how they must feel.
Alcoholism–and any kind of addiction really–can put people into a very lonely place. They often feel like there’s no hope and that there’s no one who they can talk to about their struggles.
If nothing else, you should make yourself available to your loved one and let them know you’re there for them.
A big part of loving an alcoholic is showing your support for them in a variety of ways. Whether that means sitting and speaking with them about addiction or actively trying to get them help so they can stop drinking, you should strive to show your support at all times.
5. It’s Also OK to Be Angry or Upset With Your Loved One
While you want to be supportive when loving an alcoholic, you also have the right to be angry or upset with them because of things they may have done to you.
You should avoid confronting them at every turn and lecturing them about how awful of a person they are since that won’t do much to help. But you shouldn’t avoid sharing your feelings with them if you are angry or upset.
In many cases, alcoholics already know how much they’ve hurt the people who love them most.
But at times, it can help for them to hear about from someone who has also been showing them support. There are some alcoholics who turn to help almost solely because they want to do right by those who have always been there for them.
6. Enabling an Alcoholic Is One of the Worst Things You Can Do
Have you ever…
- Made excuses for the behavior of the alcoholic in your life?
- Lied to someone to cover up for something the alcoholic has done?
- Taken care of bills that the alcoholic was supposed to handle?
- Loaned money to the alcoholic?
- Threatened to cut off ties with the alcoholic and then refused to do it later?
If you’ve done any of these things, you might be an enabler.
Usually, an enabler thinks they’re helping an alcoholic. But in reality, they’re actually just enabling them to continue drinking and carrying on like nothing’s wrong.
When loving an alcoholic, it can be tempting to enable them. After all, you just want what’s best for them, right?
But you’re actually making it possible for them to continue to drink without facing any consequences. So you should steer clear of being an enabler.
7. Creating Boundaries Between Yourself and an Alcoholic Is Important
One way to avoid enabling an alcoholic is to create some very clear boundaries between yourself and your loved one. While it might be difficult for you to do, it will ultimately be for the best and will help you avoid putting yourself in a difficult situation.
Here are some of the things you can say to an alcoholic in order to create boundaries:
- “I will not spend time with you when you’re drinking”
- “I will not allow you to bring alcohol into my home”
- “I will not bail you out of jail if you end up behind bars because of alcohol”
- “I will not give you any money for any reason”
- “I will not lie to others about your behavior”
Setting these boundaries may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do when loving an alcoholic. Don’t let that stop you from doing it.
8. There Is Plenty of Help Available for Alcoholics
While alcoholism has wreaked havoc on millions of American households over the years, you should know that there is hope for you and your loved one.
Your loved one can get help in a variety of ways. They can:
- Check themselves into a rehab facility
- Enroll in a 12-step program
- Seek counseling from a therapist
Studies have shown that about one-third of alcoholics are able to kick their habit, and that number would likely be even higher if more people tried to obtain treatment.
You can’t force a person to get help. But if they’re up for it, there are tons of options out there.
9. You Might Want to Consider Getting Help, Too
Once your loved one agrees to get help, you might think your job is over. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.
While they’re getting help, you should consider getting it, too. You can start seeing a therapist, attend meetings for those who love someone with an addiction or find another outlet.
Your loved one isn’t the only way who has been through hell and back during their ordeal. You have also been through a lot, and you might have trouble moving on with your life if you don’t seek help.
10. The Road to Recovery Is Never Over
Trying to solve an alcohol addiction can take time, and there are those who will tell you that there’s no surefire way to prevent the addiction from creeping up again in the future.
There are even some studies that suggest relapse is almost inevitable. About 90 percent of people who have received treatment for alcoholism relapse at least once in the four years following their treatment.
You might feel discouraged by that number, but don’t let it get you down!
The important thing to remember when loving an alcoholic is that you’re going to need to continue to show them support long after they stop getting treatment.
That might mean asking them to get more treatment. It might also mean attending counseling with your loved one to repair your own issues with them.
Whatever the case, don’t lose sight of what’s most important. If you continue walking down the road to recovery, things will get better, both for you and for your loved one.
Loving an Alcoholic By Getting Them the Help They Need
You can get help for your loved one by choosing the best recovery addiction program for them.
You can also help them by encouraging them to continue to seek treatment for their alcoholism even when times get tough.
Check out our blog for more information on battling addiction and getting the best of it.