Caring for an Alcoholic

It is human nature to shield, protect and nurture the ones we love. Living with an alcoholic loved one challenges this instinct. A lot of things go wrong in the lives of drinkers: taking care of their home, work, family, appointments, etc., all tend to suffer in various degrees. Human nature kicks in and our help often consists in solving the things that go wrong, like running errands for the person, buying them drink to get them through a bad period, cleaning up after them, making excuses to work and friends or cancelling appointments.

When it comes to loving and caring for an alcoholic we tend to help them through their day whatever way we can so we can survive and live with hope. We adopt their responsibilities as our own. In the short term, this is helpful for the drinker, and they appreciate our help because without it life as an alcoholic would be so much more difficult.  Think about how you help your alcoholic partner.  Now start asking yourself what your help and support is actually doing for the drinker. Does your help make it easier or more difficult for the person to keep drinking? Are you enabling his bad behaviour by not letting him see what he is doing?

Think about it, if your partner’s bottles, spillages and mess are all cleaned up and tidied away by the time he sobers up he has no evidence of how bad his drinking is. His mind will tell him, ‘look around everything is fine and lovely, your drinking is in control so it’s okay for you to continue drinking.’

If he does not have to answer to people about his behavior because you have picked up the pieces, made excuses on his behalf and swam oceans to cover up for him – he doesn’t have to face up to awkward questions.

In other words he does not have to face consequences for his behavior or actions because you have already cushioned the blow or stopped it in its tracks for him.

So if he does not have to face up to the fact that his drinking is causing problems in his life, well then why should he stop drinking? He has no motivation to do so. You will continue to make sure life continues as is, solving his problems and so he can continue his life as is, ie. drinking. Why not? It isn’t causing any harm! What you are doing is, is putting off the inevitable. Things are not going to improve but only going to get worse if you continue to enable their bad behavior. So it may be better for him to face things that go wrong, so that he realizes what he is doing.

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5 thoughts on “Caring for an Alcoholic”

  1. The lasy few days I have just started to read various sites about people in relationships with alcoholics and finally I realised I was not going mad most people felt similar to me.I have had a relationship for 7 yrs with an alcoholic , but I would and have never lived with him.How partners can stand the stress and anguish of alcoholism and live with them is beyond me especially with children.It amazes me how many partners are depressed ,having counselling, etc this cant be right ,surely if you are suffering this much at the hands of an alcoholic its time to move on .So many people also say get out and run fast ,I can agree with this because how long do you hope for them to become sober,2yrs 10 or never.I also have found yes you can get on with doing your own thing and doing things for self – fullfillment but ultimately their behaviour impinges on your happiness.I was perfectly happy last week and then went over to spend the weekend with my partner , I went and bought some food to take and then usual story he could hardly talk or stand -up so I come back home and am alone again.Then I feel a wave of depression and hopelessness at the situation and I feel tearful . I was so fed up at coming in second best I ended this relationship.He has had lots of help over the years lots of counselling , AA etc. but he uses this to enable him to get a government flat, benefits etc he has not intention of giving up. And when he has run out of drinking partners he will want me back again, he will be charming etc. and I stupidly have gone back because in a way I do love him but I am realising I am missing out by wasting my time and energy on him and always on guard for the next episode of hurtful behaviour . So I am amazed how much other people are putting up with,they must have endless patience and understanding.

    1. I am so glad to be able to share with friends like you sharing the same experience .
      Here is my story : I lived I think from the beginning of my marriage with an alcoholic not even knowing that disease to name it .This disease for some person is progressive so it is hard to aknowlege it. And then it progresses very quickly and I realised .After many unsuccessful rehabs the last one seemed to work and not drinking for 11 years (I don’t use the term sobriety on purpouse) my husband decided to go back drinking and in a matter of two months he is near hitting rock bottom (peeing on himself, starting early ending late)
      I left for a while thinking it would be a wake up call ,it was not
      I was just punishing myself sleeping on a coach (I am 66 )
      But this distance gave me the opportunity to really detach and now I am back home not enabling in any way and putting boundaries :
      No comments from my end no insults from him
      Being polite ( that doesn’t mean taking care of his needs)
      And now that I feel stronger with many helps that I didn’t have before and that I have today is because I broke the secrecy I had before to protect him
      I feel free because I trust my Higher Power if it is thend of his journey let it be it was a deliberate choice .
      Now the hard part was to find myself since I spent 45 years with my husband .
      I think that we family are not aware of our strength an creativaty just remember all the mess you fixed your addict let you
      I am using all the energy and skills for myself today
      LOVE and COURAGE

  2. I totally agree with you. As long as things are easy for an alcoholic to continue living life getting wasted the longer it takes for them to hit bottom.

    When a problem drinker has to deal with the consequences of their poor choices that’s when there’s hope for change.

    If we keep catching them every time they fall…well, they will never feel the pain that could ultimately save their life.

    Excellent post! I looked at your eBook, nice work there!

    1. Thank you! It’s nice to hear back from people and that hopefully my book is helping spouses and partners to find a healthy and happy life for themselves while living with a drinker. If anyone has read my book please do send me feedback of what you thought of it and if it helps.

  3. I am currently in a relationship with an alcoholic. Although he hid his drinking from me while we were dating it became very obvious once we moved in together. I love him and I know he will never get better. I know this may sound pathetic to some people but I know I won’t ever leave him. Every single morning I leave a cup of coffee by his bed and he knows if that cup of coffee isn’t there he really messed up the night before – he can’t remember anything so I don’t feel the need to berate him. As I have always said to him every morning starts a new day and I will not keep a grudge against him. Well, at least I try not to :) There are times when he is feeling no pain and I know he won’t remember anything I do argue with him but that is more for me as I know he will never remember any of it. It is hard to see him hurting himself but I know that with him I am stronger. I know that may sound weird but it is so true. I am 47 as he is as well, we have both said many times that we aren’t getting any younger and that is so very true. I know he is going to pass before I do because of the abuse he is doing to his body and his mind but I also know that he will try his damndest to make me happy all the time.

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