Category Archives: advice

A Guide to Living With An Alcoholic

Practical guide and tips for partners and spouses of alcoholics

Some good news for a change!!

I have finally finished the book that I have been developing for 3 years! It is a practical guide to living your life to the full while still living with an alcoholic loved one. By following the action plan, written exercises and advice which I followed, you too will find a better more fulfilling life, and as a result your loved one may find sobriety.  It is thanks to the feedback I have got from all you who have visited this blog over the years that I have stuck at this project. So thank you and I hope you find it useful. A print version will soon be available.

(I have kept the price low, but if you can’t afford it, please let me know and I will send you a copy free of charge. )

Remember, you’re not alone – there’s lots of us in this ‘secret club’!

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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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Can Alcoholism Be Cured?

This week my husband and I heard a radio interview with an Irish Comedian (Tommy Tiernan) He has been sober for 3 years and started having the odd pint now and then and is finding it ‘fine’ . He’s comfortable with it and so are his family.  It sent shivers up our spines. That was us. That was our story.

When my husband got sober the first time he attended a few AA meetings and one of the stories he told me always stuck in my head. There was a man who had been sober for 25 years. He went on holiday with his family and had a drink and he was fine. His wife was delighted cause they could enjoy family events again together. He started to have the odd drink and realised he was different to others, he was cured. Two years later and  he  had to go through the whole painful act of getting sober again. He said he suddenly got worse han he ever had been.

My husband stayed sober for 3 years – he didn’t find it difficult. He was perfectly comfortable with people drinking around him and had no cravings. We went to family functions, parties, the pub together and he would just have a non alcoholic beer. Three years on and we went on a business trip where there was the best of drink available and free. He decided one wouldn’t do any harm – it didn’t. I was delighted he could drink normally. The comedian on the radio said it was his wife too that encouraged him to have a drink because he was boring without it.

My husband drank ‘normally’ again for two years. We came to the conclusion that he wasn’t really an alcoholic, he just had an excessive personality but he could control his drinking. His normal drinking became hot ports every night and then just straight port and wine. Still, it was fine – it was how he was ‘normally’.

Then I began to become more aware of his drinking it was getting earlier each evening, every evening. I said it to him that he should maybe just leave it to the weekends or when we were out. But he was fine, sure he wasn’t causing any harm. It went on. And then after nearly three years of ‘drinking normally’ our world seemed to suddenly collapse. It was like over night he became worse than he ever was – all the horrible memories came back to me of how he used to be and why he ahd to give up the first time, because we ewre suddenly reliving them – Except this time it was worse. I wondered how I had forgotten how bad it was (like childbirth we block out the pain and pretend it was really not that bad!). He stopped breathing twice during this time, he was suicidal and insane. Luckily we managed to get back on track and he got sober again, but not after alot of pain and hurt.

They say alcoholism is a progressive mental illness. So if the alcoholic starts drinking again it is only a matter of time that it picks up where it left off and progresses rapidly. To Tommy and his wife I truly hope your story does not the same, but my advise to you would be to turn back now, why risk it?

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Why is he an alcoholic?

“Why?” is a meaningless question. No husband, wife or child have ever made their loved one an alcoholic – the alcoholic does it all by him/herself. The alcoholic may keep telling you its your fault but it’s not!  However, you may contribute deepening and strengthening the addiction. This is called ‘enabling’.

Below, is some advice I found from Al-Anon (an organisation for relatives of alcoholics, that collaborates with AA) which I found very helpful;

  1. Don´t try to control your alcoholic, no one can. You will feel a lot better when you stop trying.
  2. Do not take over his or her responsibilities – the alcoholic might begin to grow up when they have to take full responsibility for their addiction and the problem it causes.
  3. Refuse to be a victim – that role is equally destructive as the role of the alcoholic.
  4. Think more about yourself – take more responsibility for yourself and the other non-addicted people around you.
  5. Refuse to be an “enabler” for continued abuse through comforting the alcoholic, calling their job, to lie etc. Instead you should say “That´s your responsibility!”
  6. Don´t protect your alcoholic from the consequences of his/her drinking. “Pain is the biggest gift” – many alcoholics are not willing to do anything about the alcohol problem before they reach the bottom. If you protect an alcoholic from the pain you delay the recovery.

The only person any of us ever actually can hope to change is ourselves. If there is a change, relationships with other people will, with all certainty, also change. To change means that you will experience something new, different and unknown. Because of that we all are afraid of changes in some degree. If you accept the condition that the only person, in the problematic relation you can change is you, and that you are willing to actually make an effort in order to change, you have the power to change the direction of your life radically. The following six stages are fundamental when you want to liberate yourself from the destructive aspects of living with an addictive person:

  1. Stop taking responsibility for what your addictive relative or friend does. As long as you make it easy for the alcoholic to drink in an irresponsible manner, through cleaning up the tracks and carrying out his/her duties, you cannot begin to grow and change the way you want to.
  2. Stop letting yourself be abused, both physically and mentally by your alcoholic friend or partner. To let yourself be abused means that you strengthen the feeling of indignation, but it also brings insufficient personal strength, dignity and self-respect. Therefore, it is time for you to stop being a punchbag. Each time the alcoholic tries to abuse you, you must act, in one way or another, to prevent this abuse (even if it means that you have to go to the police or staying out of those situations).
  3. Get a life outside the addictive relationship. You need to break free from the isolation that the alcoholic has put you in. In order to feel better, do interesting things, have fun – try to change despite the fact that you´ve chosen to continue living with the alcoholic – you have to live your life another way. Do things together with others or on your own.
  4. Find and preserve new relationships. In close relation to stage three, is the requirement that you begin to develop new relationships. This can be particularly difficult since it requires that you take initiatives on your own. You must meet and get to know new people. You probably also will be forced to revaluate your bonds with old friends, relatives and family. Organisations like Al-Anon can be an excellent starting point in your search for new friends who are willing to share their strength, their understanding and their sympathy.
  5. Improve your physical shape. Constructive change must include that you protect your physical health and well-being. That means, among other thing, diet, exercise and hygiene.
  6. Make changes every day. It is important that you work with the five previous stages every day in order to get any results. It will take time and energy, but it´s worth it in the long run.

Good luck and take care of yourself.

loving an alcoholic

Live YOUR Life

It’s been a couple of months since I visited this blog. I was shocked to see how many people had posted messages, most of you in similar desparate situations – living with an active alcoholic. I can relate to you all because I was the same only a few months ago. He has been sober for nearly 3 months now and the desparate times seem a distant memory. He had been sober for 4 years previously and then over the course of a year or two, an odd drink turned into beers every night and then WHAM, it seemed literally in the space of a week he became worse than he ever was. I believe he actually died twice during that week, ie. he chocked on his own vomit and stopped breathing and he took an overdose. What did I do – what is the secret to getting your partner sober? Stop trying to change them. Instead Change yourself. That is the secret.

I left. You can too. All of you have given reasons not to – the kids (I have kids too), financially strapped (I have very little income too – during the worst of it I was on social welfare, he was on social welfare. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you have you are probably are all in the same boat –  any spare cash has been spent on booze and debt has built because of booze), the bills won’t get paid (I have a mortgage, utilities too and loans too all have been put on the long finger or renegotiated), they will die without you (I left my hsuband twice, I didn’t threaten to leave I just packed up and as soon as he knew I was serious he threatened suicide I still walked out that door – once with a shotgun in his mouth and once with enough pills beside his bed to kill a small elephant).

I had got to a stage where I decided enough was enough I was not prepared to go on ‘surviving’ this precious thing called life. Your life is your own and is precious. You need to make it what you want it to be. Yes sure it would be perfect if your partner woke up sober, felt great about it and became that person you love again. But why should they change and become that person? As long as life tips along the way it is and you don’t change your ways, what motivation do they have to change? Why would they want to change what they are doing today when there is always tomorrow with you there to pick up the pieces and keep them in their comfort zone.

Stop trying to control what they are doing and start controling what you are doing, what you want to achieve. Talk to people – this is very important. Don’t be embarrassed, everyone haschallenges in their lives and this is yours. If leaving seems too drastic a move for you, start with small steps. Instead of dreading a ground hog day scenario of their drunk behaviour every evening arrange to go out to meet a friend and have a laugh, go to the cinema, join an evening class, do something for yourself. Do not make a big deal about it by telling your partner this is your intention and you are doing it because of them, etc. Just do it and do it for you – not to spite them or show them a lesson. Don’t keep calling them during your time out. It will be hard but you have to let go and let things start to evolve.

I left – I was back within 2-4 days each time – not because of false promises. I knew he was serious – an appointment had been made and kept with a counsellor/doctor or rehab centre which we attended together. He got his act together. He is finding it tougher this time than the last but he knows what he will loose if he goes back there, why? because he knows I am serious about his sobriety and that I am not prepared to go thorugh that again. I love him to bits, but I also love our kids and myself and to live under the same roof, our sanity depends on his sobriety. The alternative is that we don’t live together, it’s his choice to drink or not to drink. If he drinks then it is my choice to live seperately somehow. We are in a good place at the moment and I take one day at a time and am thankful for each sober day. Stay strong and love yourself and your life.