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Can You Live With an Alcoholic?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 • Posted May 26, 2010

Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic— what happens with diseases? If they’re not treated, they get worse. It’s as simple as that. So, first on the list of what you know, or think you know, about alcoholism is that it’s a progressive disease. It won’t stop or go away on its own. Even with treatment, the person will always be an alcoholic – but he or she will be a recovering alcoholic. This is important to remember, since it may weigh heavily on your decision. Can you support the individual in his or her recovery? This doesn’t refer to financial support. The alcoholic needs your unconditional love and emotional support during treatment and recovery. It is the single-most important factor in his or her sobriety after admitting they have a problem with alcohol and committing to get help.

• You cannot change the alcoholic – No matter how good your intentions, or how much you love the individual, the simple fact is that you cannot change the alcoholic. This is a decision that rests solely with the alcoholic. If you decide to live with the alcoholic, you can be supportive of his or her decision to get treatment, or learn as much as you can about the disease, treatment and recovery so that you can be in a position to be supportive, or you can delude yourself with denial of the problem and think that it will go away. It won’t. Until the person admits that he or she has a problem with alcohol and makes the decision to go into treatment, there’s nothing you can do to hurry the process along. Sure, you can make threats to leave, but that’s a negative inducement, hardly conducive to real change. Change comes from within – in this case, within the alcoholic.

• Living with alcoholism is a tightrope – Let’s face it. It’s not an easy road to follow when you’re living with an alcoholic. Despite promises to "quit drinking" or "cut down," unless the alcoholic goes into treatment, things will just continue on the way they have been for some period of time, or they will get dramatically worse very quickly. Sooner or later, the bouts of forgetfulness due to alcoholic blackouts, the wild mood swings, verbal and/or physical abuse, financial problems, employment and/or legal difficulties, and the negative effects on you and any children will escalate to the point of no return. Living through this, you will find yourself seeking to find ways to cope with the alcoholism. Coping mechanisms that you select may actually enable the alcoholic. If you buy alcohol for him or her, make excuses to friends, family or employer about your partner’s drinking, tell yourself it’s not really that big a problem, or blame yourself for the problem, these are enabling behaviors. A better way is to get help yourself so that you can make better choices in dealing with the alcoholic. You may want to consider attending Al-Anon meetings.

• Be prepared for schizophrenic behavior – Some days things will go relatively smoothly. There may not be any incidents for a while, leading you to falsely believe that things have gotten better. They haven’t. It’s just been a lull. Before long, your seemingly together partner’s behavior will devolve into recriminations, argumentativeness, suspicion, anger, possibly even violence. Then, it will swing back into begging for forgiveness, promises to stop or even get help – promises that will go unfulfilled. In short, you will be living with what appears to be two (or more) different persons. There’s the person you know and love, and the vastly different person under the influence of alcohol. In this case, it is true what they say about alcohol: it brings out the worst in a person. Ask anyone who’s lived with an alcoholic (who didn’t get treatment) for years and they’ll tell you what they’ve had to endure

…. Excerpt from Alcohol Rehab Treatment Centers website.

Al-Anon is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity, organization, or institution. It is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope, in order to solve their common problems. We meet every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at the Historical Building in Mason. Please call 347-5805 or 258-4441 for more information.

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