Living with an alcoholic can have it’s ups and downs – literally. The chaos and uncertainty of an alcoholic’s actions and unpredictable emotions can keep loved ones walking on eggshells and living in fear of what’s to come. The precarious lifestyle can set off an emotional roller-coaster for all involved. When there is no outside help, the turmoil and uneasiness of life behind closed doors can spiral down and leave the family holding resentments, anger and living on apprehensive ground. When family members seek out help, it can be a catalyst for change – if all are willing.
How to Live with an Alcoholic
Anyone, especially children, will have hurtful and lifelong memories of these events when there is an alcoholic parent living in the household. The psychological damage that occurs from living with an alcoholic can leave it’s mark on the psyche of everyone who must endure the angry outbursts, broken promises, and the squandering of household finances. A healing process, with guidance and insight, is possible for those who suffer from the ravages of an alcoholic parent or loved one.
Characteristics of Alcoholism
It is important for family members and friends to be able to identify the symptoms of alcoholism so that they can understand why their loved one is acting in an abusive manner. Alcoholism is a disease, and it needs to be treated by professionals who understand both the physical and mental aspects of this disorder.
Some obvious symptoms are:
- Craving of alcohol
- Inability to stop drinking
- Need for an alcoholic drink in the morning
Some less obvious symptoms are:
- Unexplained injuries or accidents
- Neglecting important activities with family and friends
- Building up tolerance to alcohol to have a desired reaction
These are only a few of the many symptoms that will point to someone being an alcoholic.
The Dangers of Living with an Alcoholic
Any adult or child who has lived with an alcoholic experiences physical and mental perils that affect them in almost every aspect of their lives. When an alcoholic becomes angry or threatened, physical violence may be the weapon of choice toward family members.
One of the most costly results of an alcoholic’s impaired judgement is driving while drunk. Damage from drunk driving not only happens to the driver, it also creates financial and medical hardships for the other victims of a vehicle crash. When bank accounts and credit cards are tapped out to pay for alcohol, a family suffers from the stress of financial obligations that can’t be paid.
Children who must live with alcoholism in their family isolate themselves from their friends and adults to deal with the shame and helplessness they feel in their daily lives. The emotional attachments that children and spouses have to an alcoholic make it hard for them to be objective about the destructive behavior of their loved one.
One of the most helpful contributions to the recovery of alcoholics is to refrain from the act of enabling them, despite your feelings of compassion or obligation. When the rent is due, you may feel heartless to deny your son or daughter the money they need to keep a roof over their head. Providing your spouse with an alibi for missing work is enforcing the alcoholic’s network of people who are willing to be an accomplice to the avoidance of dealing with everyday struggles.
It is hard to admit to people outside the family circle that a loved one has a drinking problem. Denial is the first inclination, but refusing to face the problem is another form of enabling. Making excuses, allowing manipulation, and taking on additional responsibilities to cover for the alcoholic are all ways that well-meaning people allow an alcoholic to continue their harmful behavior.
Living with an alcoholic requires the courage and commitment to step away from the alcoholic’s problems. The act of detachment is hard for someone to accept as a way to help an alcoholic, but constantly focusing on the triggers that make someone drink excessively will only intensify the addiction. Abstaining from rescuing the alcoholic when they get themselves into trouble will create motivation within the addict to seek and accept help from treatment centers and support groups.
When an alcoholic agrees to enter a treatment center, careful research should be the first step in choosing a facility that will give the patient the best possible outcome. A treatment center that promises quick results may not be the best choice, but a facility that understands the complexity of alcoholism will be more thorough in creating a treatment plan that presents more realistic goals rather than shallow promises. Questions should be asked and answers should be verified.
Once a patient is admitted into a treatment center, the attitude and cooperation of the alcoholic will make the stay either successful or disappointing. The family members of an alcoholic may hear multiple complaints. Some may include the painful detoxification process or the lack of privacy, but they may also hear about the recreational time and the much-needed sessions with a therapist. While the length of alcohol rehab can range anywhere from one week to 6 months, the family of an alcoholic should understand that recovery is a lifelong journey.
A crucial part of the healing process ends when the patient is discharged. But it’s still just the beginning of the journey. Another significant step still needs to be taken. Support groups will give the alcoholic a helping hand in reinforcing the courage it took to accept treatment in the first place.
Beating alcoholism is tough. Having an understanding group of people to share thoughts, fears and victories, can make the battle worthwhile. Support groups are a vital part of the recovery plan for an alcoholic, and they should never be dismissed as time wasted. The most well-known group is Alcoholics Anonymous. It wasn’t founded by doctors or mental health professionals, but by people who saw the benefit in alcoholics sharing their stories with each other. People from all walks of life and age groups have benefited from this organization and others like it.
There can be light at the end of the tunnel if you live with an alcoholic. You must persevere in not neglecting your own needs, but by also helping and emotionally supporting the person who is fighting alcoholism.