Do you have a loved one currently battling the addiction of alcohol? Or perhaps your worst fears have realized and your peers have commented that you’re an enabler for your alcoholic spouse? All these are terrible truths to face when a loved one becomes an alcoholic. Not only do they suffer the ramifications of it but you, too, are subjected to the brunt of it. You might not have purposely intended to worsen your loved one’s predicament but sometimes, we’re blinded by love and are unaware of the true impact of our actions even if done out of love.
Whether it’s your loved one who needs to kickstart their addiction treatment journey or you who needs to change your behavior toward them, it’s definitely a joint effort. What one person does, will inadvertently affect the other especially if you guys interact on a daily basis or live within the same household. Hence, it doesn’t remain as a “they” problem but rather, an “us” problem even though they’re the ones with the alcoholic dependence.
Hence, do some introspection. Has any of your behavior or actions towards your loved one exacerbate their alcoholism? Once you become self-aware of your own approach and attitude to this issue, you’ll gain a better, less myopic understanding of the situation. You can start seeing from different perspectives and judge it more objectively.
Step 1: Deflecting the Blame
As with any personal flaws, it’s easy for anyone to redirect the blame for their problem to everyone but themselves. They’d rather deflect the cause of the problem than take responsibility for it. If your loved one begins to point a finger at you, don’t retaliate or be defensive. Understand that they’re coming from a place of vulnerability and hurt because no one likes to have their weaknesses exposed. Moreover, they’re most likely blinded by their overdependence on alcohol and would be unwilling or at least, highly resistant towards giving it up that easily.
Step 2: Don’t Take It Personally
Another common behavior for alcoholics to exhibit would be to deliver half-hearted or empty promises of abstaining from drinking, only to find themselves back under the influence in a mere matter of hours. When this happens, it’s easy to feel betrayed and be offended by their actions. Thoughts such as “If ___ truly loved me, they wouldn’t have lied to me.” would cross your mind.
However, don’t be discouraged or dismayed in these situations. Alcoholism is an intense psychological battle because their brain has literally been rewired over time due to constant exposure to alcohol. This means that their cognition has physically changed to the point where their brain is no longer strong enough to exercise executive functions such as discipline and rational thinking and resist alcohol despite trying. Thus, don’t take their relapse to heart, if it’s accidental of course.
Step 3: Relinquish Control
Although you might try everything in your power to stop your loved one to stop drinking, all these intermediary acts often end badly in conflicts and uncomfortable tension lingering within the household.
When faced with such a crisis, both parties would feel utterly helpless as nothing is going according to plan, either personally or collectively. Hence, what’s the best approach to take in these situations? Well, to put it simply, don’t do anything at all.
This might seem extremely ridiculous, absurd, and contradictory. However, when the whole family reaches a breaking point, it’s sometimes necessary to let the alcoholic suffer the consequences of their actions rather than protecting or saving them all the time. It’s only through experiencing the consequences might they truly awaken to the severity of their addiction. Only when they’ve suffered enough of their irresponsible actions and come to their senses, can true recovery commence.
Step 4: Attempting to Cure It
It should be noted that alcoholism and alcohol dependence are generally primary, chronic, and progressive diseases with potentially fatal consequences. If you’re not a healthcare professional, abstain from accepting full responsibility for curing your loved one. You’re not equipped with the right professional knowledge or training. Your loved one’s health is not your responsibility to live up to entirely.
You’ll need external help from medical professionals to truly give your loved one the treatment they desperately need. Moreover, it’s only until an alcoholic starts contemplating on quitting their action, can help be formally administered to them. Help can only go so far when met with resistance.
Instead, consider other soft measures such as educating yourself on dangerous enabler behavior like not encouraging their denial. A lot of family members tend to “help” their loved ones with making excuses or covering up their relapses out of love and sympathy, but they don’t realize this is even more damaging and unhelpful to them in the long run. Addressing the problem transparently is the only way to successful recovery.
In situations that are too dire, desperate, and unsalvageable without third-party interference, you might consider family intervention too.
Step 5: Unrealistic Demands and Being Realistic
Lastly, when dealing with alcoholics, we must be prepared to adjust our expectations of what’s reasonable or unreasonable. What might seem common sense to “normal” people doesn’t necessarily apply to recovering alcoholics because our circumstances are simply too different. Expecting more than what they can handle would be unfair for them.
For example, even though an alcoholic pledges to quit alcohol cold-turkey, this is often a large and daunting stake to claim. Thus, we should practice patience, understanding, and forgiveness towards them when they slip up. We’d rather they be honest with their temptations than to lie their way through it, feel like a failure and give up completely.
Bottom line is, recovery from alcoholism is a long and arduous battle. There’s no full-proof or quick-fix solution to it. Instead, it demands trust and steadfastness as we put our faith in our loved ones to recover from it, no matter how long it takes. So long as they’re willing to begin their first step, we owe it to them to support them every step of the way till they see the light at the end of the tunnel.