Many of us know of someone or have someone in our own families who has struggled with alcoholism. For me, it was my dad. We don’t have a close relationship today because of this disease. I have often felt like I had to draw boundaries around myself when interacting with him in order to ensure that times we did spend together went well. As a child I remember thinking don’t ask too much from him or expect too much because you will only get your feeling hurt.
I don’t see him very often, but it is my understanding that he still struggles with alcoholism to this day. After years of dealing with this relationship and also working within the mental health field I feel like I have gained a clear understanding of what it means to love someone who struggles with alcohol addiction.
Recently, I have had several clients who are struggling with similar relationships in their lives. I am so proud of them for seeking help. Many times, we treat the alcoholic but forget about treatment for ourselves – the family. When I work with family members of an alcoholic, I try to impart three major lessons I have learned as a therapist and a child of an alcoholic.
The first lesson is “Do Not Blame Yourself”. Many times, the alcoholic may suggest that if you treated them differently or if you had planned an event differently they may not have been encouraged to drink. Each individual is responsible for his/her own actions. He/she chose to drink in order to handle the stress. You didn’t make him/her.
The second lesson is “You Should Not Accept Unacceptable Behavior”. If your loved one behaves badly there should be consequences. If there are no consequences, you may be enabling person which with usually increase the poor behavior. If he/she spends his/her last dime on alcohol and doesn’t pay the bills. You shouldn’t continue to allow that person access to your own personal funds. If they yell and scream at you when they are drunk, the issue should be addressed when they are sober. Sometimes hitting rock bottom and being held responsible will motivate your loved one to seek help.
The third lesson is to “Find Support for Yourself”. Keeping someone’s alcohol addiction secret can be a great burden to carry. Find someone trained to assist you in unloading that burden. In many communities group therapy for family members of an alcoholic are available through a program called Al-Anon. Individual therapy may also work for you in the beginning. I encourage you to seek the setting that works best for you and your situation.
If you are living with someone struggling with alcoholism and would like to consult with a therapist about your concerns please feel free to call Path To Hope Counseling. Call today to make your appointment, 984-500-2021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.