You want your alcoholic to take responsibility for their actions and stop their current behaviour that is wasting away their life, don’t you? However for you to be of assistance to them in this endeavour you need to apply the same formula to your own life.
You want them to stop behaving the way they do? Well to achieve this, you need to stop behaving the way you do and blaming them for your resulting unhappy life. If you don’t want to be a doormat then get up off the floor!
Your life path or your quality of life is not their fault or a result in their actions. It is a result of your reactions. This is the same in reverse; their drinking, quality of life or life choices are not a result of your actions. Their drinking is not your fault, their actions are not your fault, their quality of life is not your fault. They are an adult and they are responsible for their day to day life choices. The same as you are responsible for your day to day life choices.
Look at your partner’s life… think about how they are wasting precious days of their life. Now think about your own life, how many days recently have you spent looking after your own dreams and happiness? If the answer is none, then those days that you just existed or existed to deal with the results of their addiction were also wasted.
You don’t have to do anything drastic – just small steps. For instance this week why not take time out to meet a friend for a few hours or to go to an al anon meeting without letting your mind race about what your partner might be doing while you are out, without worrying if they will be drunk or sober when you get back. Without feeling you have to get back home to ‘control’ their behavior. Turn off your phone so they can’t harass you with calls and don’t call them to check on them. They are an adult, you are an adult! The first few times you do this, you probably won’t be able to focus on relaxing and being you, but with practice you will learn that they coped without you.
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“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;
- Don´t try to control your alcoholic, no one can. You will feel a lot better when you stop trying.
- 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.
- Refuse to be a victim – that role is equally destructive as the role of the alcoholic.
- Think more about yourself – take more responsibility for yourself and the other non-addicted people around you.
- 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!”
- 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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.