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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What to do...

The question was about what to do if your spouse, partner, or other family member is over-indulging in alcohol. The answer: It depends. And to further complicate matters, there is no easy answer.

If your loved one is in the early stages of alcoholism you can take whatever opportunity you can to try to talk to the person. The opportunity would be when you can talk rationally without anger or nagging. If you become a nag, the alcoholic will close any doors to communication because they just don’t want to hear about it. But, if you can find a moment when you are both open, try mentioning that you were sorry that he/she couldn’t participate in… (whatever was going on) and maybe next time he/she can plan to drink after the event. If you preface your comments with some type of understanding or veiled apology, the conversation will not be confrontational.

I also suggest getting brochures and information about the different types of support groups for alcoholics – AA, Smart Recovery, etc. and leave them around the house where they will clearly be seen. You can research rehab centers and when you find something interesting, like San Patrignano Rehab Center in Italy, you can start a conversation with, “I was reading on line and discovered that there’s a place in Italy that takes addicts and treats them free of charge.” You can tell how their program works and that it would be great if there was a place like that here in the United States. You can even say – I know this wouldn't fit for you, but I was just finding it interesting. There are other rehab centers that are more like a vacation in a luxury resort rather than a rehab clinic. You can mention them and say… “I would love to go there.” The point is you can open up discussions and lite a little fire of interest in the not-so-totally-soaked brain of the alcoholic.

Of course, none of the above works if the alcoholic is past the point of communicating reasonably. In that case, there is almost nothing you can do. The alcoholic is not going to listen or open any doors of communication because he/she will always feel that they are being pushed into rehab. They don’t believe anything is wrong with them, so why listen to someone who wants to try to convince them that they need help?

The most important thing that you can do in any stage of alcoholism is focus on yourself and not the alcoholic. What is it you want to do? What are you passionate about? Develop your own interests and actively participate with others who share those interests. Join a book club, quilting group, dog lovers group or any other kind of group that you find interesting.

If you have kids, use them by taking them to different places or encouraging them to do things outside school and home. I used to pack a picnic lunch, put the kids in the car and ask them what direction they wanted me to drive. Eventually we would find a place to have our lunch and try to find our way back home. In reality, I always really knew where we were, but it was fun to let them try to figure it out. I also watched the newspaper for “free” events, festivals, fairs, etc. and hauled the kids along. These kinds of activities got us outside the house and away from the alcoholic. It was a great bonding experience and created some pretty awesome memories.

The bottom line is that the alcoholic is going to do what alcoholics do – drink. They will do this without regard for what it does to you or the family dynamic. There’s no point in confrontation, anger, or threats because they will fall on deaf drunken ears. If you do make any threats, you must be prepared to follow through on the consequences that you've set. If you threaten to leave, be prepared to leave.

There are obviously a few things that you simply cannot let happen – like blindly letting the alcoholic drive drunk or allowing complete control of the finances.  Use common sense while letting them find their own way.

If you are a parent of an alcoholic child the whole game changes. See: Do just one more thing

Soooo…. It all sounds so simple – right? Well… not so right. This will be the hardest thing in the world to do. The NOT doing anything to “help” or “strongly encourage” the alcoholic will be the most difficult thing you've ever done. It’s just not natural to let someone you love fall down a never-ending rabbit hole. All our instincts will tell us to do SOMETHING, do ANYTHING. Ignoring anger, frustration, disappointment is almost impossible.

You will need support and you can find it by joining a group such as OARS or Al-Anon and/or getting a personal therapist. I offer one-on-one support coaching through my website LindasFrontPorch (http://www.lindasfrontporch.com/one-on-one-visits-with-linda/). To join OARS on Facebook or the independent website, send me an e-mail requesting an invitation.

Here’s a list of other relevant postings:

1 comment:

Guy-Léo Morin, p.a. said...

Hi ,

Al-Anon’s book The Dilemma of The Alcoholic Marriage illustrate but a false dilemma. The true dilemma is marriage itself whoever to. It has little if anything to do with an alcoholic person. That book is sexist and outmoded. It should have been discontinued a long time ago. It should have never been written in the first place. There is but 10-12% men in Al-Anon Family Groups, no wonder why. I owe my survival to Al-Anon; but I believe AFG will disappear before men are equal to women – at least in number – in that “wonderful” fellowship.

Also much more is known today about mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, etc.) than at the time of the two cofounders. The pamphlet Do You Doubt Your Sanity says nothing about neither sanity, nor insanity and less yet about substance-induced psychosis – mental drunkenness. It is an empty pamphlet like many other useless Al-Anon pamphlets. Let’s keep it simple. There is much too much useless Al-Anon literature that speaks about anything but the real thing and that keeps members deluded about the real thing: mental illness.

If Al-Anon literature does not reflect today’s reality, then what? If his/her/their alcohol or drug abuse is your obsession (schizophrenia-related obsessive-compulsive disorder), try AFG and hurry on to more important matters. See Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (http://www.sardaa.org/)