Category Archives: advice

loving an alcoholic

Respect for Yourself

When you live with an addict you can find yourself doing and thinking things that are alien to the person you believe you are. You may have hateful thoughts, become bitter and resentful. You criticise and mock the person you once loved with all your heart. You roar, rant and scream in ways and words you never thought possible. You do things to spite the person …  ‘I’ll show them!’

Your confidence becomes low and you find it hard to recognise the person you have become.  You do everything in your power to change loved one’s unacceptable behaviour.

Changing someone else is not possible. Change must come from within them.

The same goes for you. You must change from within and become the person you were or want to be. This needs work. You need to change your reactions to their unacceptable behaviour. You need to be true to yourself and learn to love yourself again.  The first step towards this is taking care of your reactions and knowing and respecting your own limits. Telling your ALO (Alcoholic Loved One) what you are going to do the next time they drink does not make a difference, instead decide what your limits are, decide the course of action you are going to take and then act  if the time comes. Do it for you, not for them.  Start respecting your own reactions and establish behaviour that reflects integrity and the person you want to be.

“He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


confronting an alcoholic

Confronting the Alcoholic in Your Life

When confronting a person about their drinking, be sure to do it in a loving way. Don’t yell and accuse or threaten the person. Tell them that you are concerned about their drinking and that you are afraid that they may have a problem. After you confront the person about their drinking, they may try to control it. If you are still bothered by it, it is important that you do something to help yourself. You do not want to enable them or become obsessed with their drinking. Oftentimes, the alcoholic doesn’t want help. It is important that you get help for you and the rest of the family.

When the time is right, make it clear that you are always there to talk about his problems and possibly find a solution with him. In that conversation, you will have to try to motivate the drinker to change his situation. There are a few important items related to this:

1. Make the drinker feel positive about himself. Many drinkers think very negatively about themselves and find themselves useless. Don’t reproach, but give compliments about the things that do go right and the reasons why you love them and want to support them.

2. Take away the prejudices about treatment, such as the idea that people are always hospitalized, that therapy only consists of talking, or that others will judge him.

3. Give the drinker a perspective. Examples you can use are that he will have more money if he doesn’t drink, that he will have better contact with his family, that he will have better health, a better chance for a job, etc.

4. Listen also to possible problems that make the person keep drinking, but indicate that drinking will not solve these, but only make them worse.

5. If he doesn’t want to be helped or cannot be helped, ask him what needs to happen to convince him to get treatment.

Be ready to help. Collect information on various methods of treatment. If an alcoholic agrees to treatment you will have done the research and be ready to discuss options with him.

stress from living with an alcoholic

How To Avoid Confrontation with an Alcoholic

Arguments, tension and confrontation are daily occurrences when living with an alcoholic. Avoidance of interaction with the alcoholic while they are drinking is the best solution; this includes, talking and arguing with them. They are not thinking clearly and won’t take in what you say, so why waste your breath arguing about their behaviour? Why fuss and fight with someone who has lost the ability to make any sense? Don’t become ensnared in the alcoholic trap with them. Stay out of the trap, so you can help them.

Alcoholics are often confrontational, so it is better to avoid him when they are getting drunk. This is often easier said than done. This may take going to bed early or setting up your own area of relaxation in the house. If he follows you to try to draw you into an argument, try to get him to agree to talk about it in the morning instead. Don’t say, “You’re drunk, so I am not discussing it” as this will only add fuel to the fire. Instead say, “I’m feeling too tired to discuss this now, so can we talk about it tomorrow?” He’ll probably continue to rant and rave, but keep firm to this line and hopefully he will leave off.

When he is sober, then address the issue and say you are ready to talk about what he was keen to talk about the night before. He may not remember having the conversation or the context of it and try to brush it off. So you may need to drop a few reminders of the hurtful things that were said. However don’t gloat, nag or labour the issue. If you are not comfortable doing this, then don’t do it – it is not mind games, but just enough to remind them of their behavior so they realize gradually over time that they are having blackouts and being nasty.

- Extract from How To Live With An Alcoholic and Still Enjoy Your Life

Additional Tip: When I would see the signs of a confrontation brewing I would deflect it by acting like I didn’t notice and then ‘casually’ realising we needed milk or I had forgotten to get something for dinner and leave the house as quickly and as casually as possible for a couple of hours with the kids and go to a friend’s or the playground. He’d be usually unconcious  before I got back.


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Drunk father

Is He a Genuine Asshole or Is It the Drink?

My husband is older than me. When we met I was 21 – a mature 21, I had done a lot of traveling, I had a good job and I loved my life. Meeting the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was not on my ‘To Do’ list until I was about 28. But there he was.

He was handsome, funny, manly, gentle, kind, intelligent, interesting. All that was missing was wealth and good dress sense … and he smoked. But hey he excelled in all the other boxes that needed ticking. We were friends for 6 months before I asked him out (that’s a story for another day). Over time I saw he was amazing with children, my nieces and nephews loved him, that’s when my previous non-existent maternal instinct was triggered. I wanted his babies. He was the one.

Roll on 3 years and My Work Your Way Around the World Guide was put on the top shelf to gather dust and Your Guide To Parenthood  had taken its place. We were married and had our first baby. I also had come to realize my dream man had a drink problem – he was a functioning alcoholic. He was an introvert but people loved being around him – he’d tell amazing stories which I would cringe at because they were so exaggerated. People were laughing at him not with him, he didn’t notice but I did. My husband was clearly a drunk so I bore the embarrassment for both of us.

When in company he would of course drink to access and 9 times out of 10 he would say something way out of line that would provoke heated discussions, usually about topics etiquette warns you not to discuss – politics and religion. Or he would forget an unmentionable and put both feet in his mouth without thinking – you know what I mean – discussing how wonderful being a parent is to a friend who can’t have kids. Or repeatedly tell someone that she had a great color for the time of year and keep asking had she been away, while it was obvious to the rest of us that her self-tanning efforts had gone disastrously wrong. She hadn’t intended to be that shade of burnt tangerine.

He was always oblivious, while I would be on tender hooks before we even arrived at a social event, sitting on edge, monitoring what he’d be saying so I could clumsily interrupt and divert the full flowing conversation, or alternatively wait for the ‘ground please open up now and swallow me’ moments to pass.

We lived in an old house that needed a lot of work, we could afford a second hand DIY book not tradesmen. I realized my husband had no patience or logic –  when something needed to be done he’d immediately do it without thinking it through or having the patience to read the DIY book. I ranked top of my class in Mensa logic tasks – his efforts irritated the crap out of me. For instance when he’d put up a shelf I knew it required plugging the wall and screwing the supports to the wall. I also knew a shelf had to be straight so you would use a tool to ensure it was level. Instead he would use a hammer and nails and his own judgement about how level it was – a drunk’s version of level is not very level. Family and friends would snigger at his work he proudly showed off. I would detest everything he did, wishing for the day that I could afford to employ a professional to redo everything.

So roll on another 5 years of rapid decent into living hell. The affects of his drinking worsened. We rarely went out together – he was obnoxious, insulting, suicide threats and attempts, arguments, vomiting, collapses, accidents, hospitals, no work, no money, etc, etc. And then another 8-9 of post rehab years, a few slips but now nearly 2 years fully sober.

Yes, my husband is sober. He is no longer abusive, suicidal or all that stuff I mentioned in the last paragraph that were a result of drink – we have an amazing happy home which I had years of doubt could ever be possible.

However, he still often puts his two feet in his mouth when in company, he still starts heated discussions about his views on religion and politics and he still tells exaggerated stories. Our daughter is now 16 and looks at her father in disbelief sometimes in these situations and I say to her ‘Wow I thought he was only like that because of drink’.  We laugh. I’m relaxed in company with him now because he’s an adult he can say what he likes, I am not his keeper. These quirks in his personality are part of him they were not caused by drink they were always there. I’ve grown to love them and family and friends love them too, they always have done, they were laughing with him not at him as I had believed. Thinking back to the times I clumsily jumped in to save him from a conversation hole I thought he was digging, I must have looked like the person who needed medication for my mental health not him.

We look back on what we have been through and we know what’s important in life – we don’t sweat the small stuff so we rarely argue. DIY is the only thing we have heated discussions about – we warn the kids what to expect before we open a flat pack. He still refuses to read an instruction manual and I haven’t grown a love for wonky shelves. However his skills are improving I have to say. Now that his life is not a drunken haze, he remembers what he did wrong during the last DIY effort and learns from his mistakes, so our house is improving. I know longer have a longing for a DIY TV show to come in and level my house and rebuild it while I spend a weekend at a spa. It has turned into a home built with love.

What’s my point? My point is for you to think back to why you loved the person in the first place. What were they like before alcohol took over?

Sobriety will remove the ugliness and emptiness caused by alcohol, but becoming sober is not going to change the person’s basic personality. If they were an asshole before alcohol became a problem they will still be an asshole when they get sober. If this is the case, you may need to rethink your own long term plans. If you have kids and commitments which you feel are better in the current home structure, read my book How to Live With an Alcoholic but Still Enjoy Your LIfe. Follow it’s instructions and it will help you make the most of the years you feel you have to wait out.

Until next time (sign up in the top right hand box for alerts of new blog posts), take care of YOURSELF.

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Anger Management

If My Alcoholic Husband Died It Would Be A Relief

When my husband was an alcoholic (correction: my husband is an alcoholic still but not an active alcoholic) I went through a stage of thinking of myself as a victim, that these things were happening to me. Then I finally realized that things don’t just happen to me – they are a result of me not taking action or were a result of me repeating actions that didn’t work. This was my comfort zone and it took a hell of a push for me to step out of it and say “No More!”

Not Caring Anymore

The same way your body fights infections, your mind creates coping mechanisms, ‘barriers’ to protect your mental health.

Many times when I felt strong and my husband was drinking, I thought to myself, “If he just got on with it and died now, I could get on with my life.” This was my mind’s defense system kicking in.

When living with an alcoholic, your own mental health hits all-time lows. Repeated disappointments make you numb. Think about it -the human mind is strong enough to make someone crave a substance so much that they are willing to risk everything for it and likewise, it is strong enough to develop an invisible barrier to emotion to stop us from being hurt over and over again – to survive.

You may feel the alcoholic knows what he’s doing to you and that he’s killing what love is left.  You may feel you don’t care if there’s help for him anymore or if he becomes well or not, or if he lives or dies.

This is not a natural way to feel about someone you love; it is your mind protecting you.

Alcoholism is a mental illness which affects those living with the addict also. Illnesses are nobody’s fault, not yours and not theirs. Your negative thoughts and feelings are normal.

It is possible ,however, to hate the problem of alcoholism and love the person who is drinking – both at the same time. This is called detachment.

You can learn more about how to detach with love at free Al-Anon meetings in your area or in my book ‘How To Live With An Alcoholic And Still Enjoy Your Life‘.

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