- Face the facts.
If you think that things will somehow get better – you are likely wrong. Facing the facts means grasping a new realization that your loved one is in the grips of a physical and emotional addiction. Their addiction has shifted their thought patterns and behaviors. The realty is that you have no control over what they do. You may experience constant worry — feel powerless — try to run after them with a safety net — tell lies for them — minimize their behavior – blast them with anger.
- Disconnect with Love.
This is a very common theme in Al-Anon yet one that is not easy to implement. Learning how to set limits is a very important skill. Limits are healthy boundaries — they are not ultimatums which come from desperation. Detachment with love is letting your loved one fall and hit their bottom. You might cringe as you read this but it’s true. If you were to attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous — you would alcoholics say, “I needed to hit my bottom before I stopped digging.” You will never hear the addict say, “I quit because my wife told me to.” You cannot force them to stop — so stop demanding.
- Let Go and Let God.
As you clearly face their addiction — look closely at your own actions that involve — fixing, protecting, minimizing, enabling, controlling, shielding, manipulating, blasting or lying — in an attempt to protect or expose the addict. If you realize you’re trying to change them — accept that as your problem — which you can change. The Serenity Prayer can provide a fresh perspective as you contemplate your own behaviors and what you can change.
God, Grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
- Get Unstuck.
When an alcoholic drinks – they fall into a pattern of thinking and behavior that focuses on their addiction. The pleasure center of the brain is impacted and their ability to grasp long-term consequences of their actions is difficult. As you watch your loved one go through this — it’s exceptionally painful – especially if have no support. The most important thing you can do is to care of yourself. Get yourself help — join a support group such as Al-Anon. Learn about addiction as well as co-dependence and enabling behaviors.
- Embrace the difference: “Helping” versus “Enabling.”
Ask yourself one question: “Whose responsibility is it for them to stop drinking?” The correct answer is — theirs. Alcoholics don’t consider risks or consequences. If you keep taking on a responsibility which doesn’t belong to you — the alcoholic will never take it on themselves. Enabling behaviors might look like this:
- Giving ultimatums in anger — and later retracting them
- Running after them with a safety net so they don’t hurt themselves
- Lying and holding secrets
- Giving them money
- Sweeping things under the rug
- Retracting limits/boundaries — over and over again
- Picking them up after a night of drinking (again!)
- Suffering in silence while hoping it goes away
The alcoholic has plenty of options/choices for help, including a counselor, priest/pastor, spiritual advisor and/or a 12-step program for any addiction, including:
- AA (Alcoholics Anonymous); NA (Narcotics Anonymous); GA (Gamblers Anonymous); DA (Debters Anonymous); SA (Sexaholics Anonymous); CGAA (Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous)
The family has support groups too (Al-Anon for alcohol, Gam-Anon for gambling, ACoA for adult children of alcoholics, etc).
~~ Al Anon