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Forgiving an alcoholic before they make amends

Old 06-27-2020, 05:04 PM
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Forgiving an alcoholic before they make amends

I got word a man I was involved with last year went into rehab and have had no contact with them but I decided to reach out with a birthday card lending my forgiveness and tell him to let go of the shame, guilt, etc... A man involved at a recovery center said this is quite unorthodox but not bad in the slightest. Any thoughts?
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Old 06-27-2020, 06:40 PM
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Sounds like a very compassionate thing to do. As long as you are taking care of yourself and letting go of any expected outcome based on this message, I donít see anything wrong with it.
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Old 06-27-2020, 06:59 PM
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I think forgiving people is awesome, and I strive to be better at it every day. That said, getting a letter from someone who was magnanimously forgiving me - BEFORE I had reached that point in my recovery - might not go over well. I can think of a couple people who might offer me forgiveness for what I did, and I still view my actions in those situations as self-preservation.

I can see writing him and wishing him well. I can see forgiving him. But not telling him he's forgiven, before he offers you something, 'cause it just strikes me as a tad condescending.
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Old 06-27-2020, 07:29 PM
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velma929, I wish I had thought of such a thing as it being condescending before I sent it. I never considered that viewpoint. I also included in that letter that I knew he had done what he had done because he was in pain and hurting. I am currently recovering from major surgery and included a picture of myself, inscribed on the back, "If I can do it, you can do it". The thing that was hard is we parted under not such good terms. He had threatened suicide as manipulation and I confiscated his card temporarily out of fear; he had recently talked his way out of being committed and an attempted suicide, though I am unsure how real it was. He had also threatened to end communication if I called authorities, which I later did, then wanted me to come over while I lay recovering in a hospital on the East coast. I in turn wrote him a long letter about the affects his disease had but that I knew he was a good person and to think of me and know I care. Then I learned he was in rehab and sent him a birthday card of forgiveness.
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Old 06-28-2020, 06:48 AM
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As long as this isn’t an attempt to re-engage this person, I think it is helpful. But an honest self-reflection of your deep motivation for contact is important. This person needs to focus on their recovery, and not be distracted from it.

Best wishes on your own recovery!
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Old 06-28-2020, 07:48 AM
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Al-anon suggests we look at our motives when we are planning to do something.

I found that very helpful in my recovery.
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Old 06-28-2020, 10:31 PM
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Thank you for the last two replies. In truth... I wanted the person to know they are forgiven and I would be willing to accept them back into my life if they were healthy
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Old 06-29-2020, 06:08 AM
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The time table for “healthy “, even with diligence and hard work on the addict’s part, is more likely measured in years, not months. Relapse, usually multiple times, is the more typical outcome out of rehab, even if they eventually do find real recovery. That can take decades for some, or never happen at all.

I gently suggest moving on with your own life and not waiting to see how it goes. I hope you both get the best case scenario, but hope is not a plan nor a future fact.
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Old 06-29-2020, 06:27 AM
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ac------it does take years for the alcoholic to make real and lasting change. It requires that they change their thinking----and, then, changing their attitude toward life----and, then, channel all of thing into change in their behaviors. It takes about 6 months for the alcoholics brain to clear most of the "fog", so that they can even think. Then, it takes another one, or two, or, some say-----3,4, or 5 years to make the deep kinds of changes in life style that have brought them to the point of using alcohol to live, in the first place.
This takes intense work, with sobriety as their first priority, above ALL else. It means living by the principles of AA, every day, and putting in a lot of time into meetings, speaking with their sponsor, and meeting with a counselot/therapist, and doing outreach work to other alcoholics.

It takes much more than just a stint in rehab---which is just a start to point them in the right direction----or, sitting in a few meetings, or meeting with a counselor for a few times.
Getting "healthy". as you put it, takes a lot more work and time than most non--alcoholics assume. And, relapse, is always only one drink away.
I think it is important for you to know this.
I am not saying al of this to make you feel bad-----. It is to help you to understand the reality of it.
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Old 06-29-2020, 06:36 PM
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Thank you all for the replies. Yes, I know, it may be a long road, even if he never gets there. But I have hope. I almost moved in with this guy because he was telling me he needed my financial help for his mortgage, yet he kept walking out of the two rehabs I took him to. No one else in his family was doing anything, let alone his so-called friends. After bouts of his suicidal manipulation (which he threatened never to speak to me again if I called authorities or interceded) I just quit cold turkey. Last time I heard from his was Christmas when he was continuing his suicidal manipulation and I told him I no longer had control over his life but that I loved him. I've reached out by way of a long letter detailing how his alcoholism affected me. I later learned he went to rehab and I decided to beat him to the punch and forgive him. If you understand the backstory of how those in addiction reach that point, it is often based on trauma, just like my low-esteem being bullied as a child was I believe the reason why I related to him so much. However, it also led to my codependency with him; a situation I had not ever been in before. I always had rigid boundaries. If I had stayed and helped him with rent, he never would have wound up in rehab, that I am sure of. He is I am sure both angry with me still and yet extremely disappointed in himself and ashamed. But I believe doing the one thing an addict does not count on his setting limits but knowing they are still loved. I believe love transcends and am learning to maintain healthy boundaries and letting him be the one to reach out if and when he is ready. It pains me to see so many people on here being angry at the person and not the disease. It is a disease and ends up not becoming a choice when you reach a certain point. But if you feed the disease by enabling you are just as responsible. Those wanting an apology is understood, but if you genuinely care about someone, holding someone to obligation is not love, period! We don't end up staying with someone because out of fear solely, we underneath DO care which is why it is hard to leave. We believe the lies that are being told to us often time when we are in the thick of it. But allow that deception to make you question yourself and look at what you are doing wrong or right so you can better yourself and the alcoholic if you care and do right by both of you.
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Old 06-30-2020, 05:40 AM
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I almost moved in with this guy because he was telling me he needed my financial help for his mortgage, yet he kept walking out of the two rehabs I took him to. ..I told him I no longer had control over his life...you can better yourself and the alcoholic if you care and do right by both of you.

I suspect everyone here at some point thought they could love someone enough to make the alcoholism go away. None of us would be here if that was true. You never had any control over your qualifier's life, and none of us ever did either.

No one else in his family was doing anything, let alone his so-called friends... It pains me to see so many people on here being angry at the person and not the disease.

Your aren't necessarily more moral or more caring than his friends and family.or members here. You may be less weary.

If you understand the backstory of how those in addiction reach that point, it is often based on trauma...It is a disease and ends up not becoming a choice when you reach a certain point.

I think anyone who's been on this forum for a few months is aware of this.

AS far as holding people to obligations having nothing to do with love, that part is absolutely true. I think all people have an obligation to treat others civilly.I don't think of addiction as a "get out of jail free" card for failing to do that.
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Old 06-30-2020, 12:28 PM
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velma929,

You are so right about not having control! Yet, it is so ironic, because when an alcoholic is using emotional manipulation, it draws on your heartstrings and empathy turns to codependency because you have a hard time saying "No". Again, the backstory of someone makes it harder to leave, yet, if you stay, you're helping them die. I read an article that said if you keep an addict's secrets, you're helping them be enabled and thus helping them to kill themselves. As far as my being more moral or caring, that isn't the issue. My mother who is recovery clearly stated, many do not wish to get involved. The main reason this man began to become angry was I let the cat out of the bag. If an addict is happy, you're enabling; if they're angry, you're doing the right thing. I told the truth(s) and did not hide it for even though I lived in fear of his retaliation, I'd rather his life be okay in the end. Yet, I had to say no more, because he continued to make me feel responsible for his life, he wanted me around on his terms, and I was continuing to apologize for things that were not my doing. Part of my own healing is realizing how naive I was in enabling him in some ways, yet, as soon as I got wind of what I was doing - acting impulsively out of shear fear - I started speaking up. I found myself buying into the manipulation because I was so scared and having a lot of responsibility for their livelihood imposed on me and I bought into it because of my caring nature. It is difficult: if you surrender to an addict's manipulation, yes, they will be in your life, but under their terms and you feeding their addiction. If you do the right thing, and no keep their secrets and start speaking up, you are the enemy, the threat to their feel-good access and they blame you. Doing the right thing for both is never easy. I miss my friend, the person I met who inspired me to do something with my life, and the good person I know who is within him. It is time for me to heal just as he is and to know being angry at him is misplaced anger. Same goes for myself. Be angry at what addiction does to everyone involved.
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Old 06-30-2020, 01:48 PM
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ac------all you can do is the next right thing. That is all anybody can do. The rest will be up to them----it will have to come from inside of the alcoholic.
It is incredibly hard to care about an alcoholic----or addict of any kind.
Keep looking our for your own welfare when you make your decisions. You cannot leave yourself out of the equasion---that would be as wrong as enabling an alcoholic.
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Old 07-01-2020, 02:52 PM
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Thank you all for the comments. One thing I found is that it is very hard to discern being an empath versus codependency. As an ACoA, I think I have codependent traits for sure, but I have always had very rigid boundaries. This was the exception. I've had a habit of "helping" people, but not without boundaries. I will tell you though, acting impulsively and "in the moment" out of fear when an alcoholic is unfairly imposing manipulation on you; stating they cannot survive unless you financially help them is emotionally unbearable, in a nutshell. And the manipulation? Yes, it works! Because you are not heartless, and the disease knows that. I remember telling my counselor around this time I was afraid to move in because his drinking was still active and he was not seeking help for himself. By this time, I had admitted myself for three days because of feeling such in despair mentally, I even put out a Facebook posting about feeling suicidal. I was constantly checking this man's online activity because I knew his pattern and learned to keep tabs on if he was not active, he was not good. I was feeling neglected because of his push-and-pull dynamic, leaving him food, trying to get him into rehab. He would be appreciative, then turn around and point the finger at me. He was not eating, yet he blamed me for trying to give him food. Same thing when he called at Christmas and I lay in a hospital; telling me he had lost so much weight and was not eating, then threatening suicide. What I learned is it is okay to be empathic, but WITHOUT being codependent. I had to separate myself until, and IF, he did get better. I did the one thing he did not count on, and that is for him to know he is still cared about no matter what he has done onto me, but that my separating myself was preservation not just for he and him finding his own way, but for I. I do not deserve abusive behavior, nor does he deserve to have someone support him being unhealthy. See, if you stand by someone you deeply care about when they are actively using and in self-destruction, you are therefore condoning it is okay. Also, if you allow them to mistreat themselves, or you for that matter, it reinstates their shame and need to use alcohol to cope, and you to stick around to try and protect them from their consequences. I wish someday I will hear from him, I have hope, but cannot bank on it; much as I wish. What I can know in my heart, is that I cared enough about him to no longer enable his behavior and do the right thing by allowing his actions to manifest his outcome, and right by myself by setting boundaries. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I'm here for myself right now, solely. But should he choose to want to reenter my life? ONLY, and if ONLY if he is doing right by respecting me, but as well as himself.
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Old 07-02-2020, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by acshore View Post
Also, if you allow them to mistreat themselves, or you for that matter, it reinstates their shame and need to use alcohol to cope, and you to stick around to try and protect them from their consequences. I wish someday I will hear from him, I have hope, but cannot bank on it; much as I wish. What I can know in my heart, is that I cared enough about him to no longer enable his behavior and do the right thing by allowing his actions to manifest his outcome, and right by myself by setting boundaries. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I'm here for myself right now, solely. But should he choose to want to reenter my life? ONLY, and if ONLY if he is doing right by respecting me, but as well as himself.
Hi ac, sorry you are going through a tough time with this person, I know you care.

You know, you don't actually 'allow' someone to mistreat themselves, they either do or they don't, nothing to do with you. In fact you don't allow anyone to do anything (barring children of course!).

He is the master of his own life and nothing you do or say will probably alter that. People make changes when they want to, now, later or never, generally that is totally out of our control.

What is in our control is what we do about that (or not).

Staying with an alcoholic is not necessarily "enabling" them. There are many people who have been in a relationship with an alcoholic for years and either feel trapped or have chosen to stay.

Because you are not heartless, and the disease knows that.
The "disease" doesn't actually know anything. Although you speak of it as a third party, it's not really, it's part and parcel of the addict. One person, one personality. I think sometimes it can be detrimental to try to separate the "real person" from the "addicted person". It is one person. All things cannot lay at the feet of the addiction. There are choices to be made. I do believe that some people don't have the will to quit, for whatever reason (and I don't mean willpower). That is up to them.

I'm certainly not sitting in judgement here, I do understand the seriousness of addiction and how it can take hold of a person. I think the only consideration is how it makes you feel to be around him, which in this case is obviously horrible. It is, perhaps, just as simple as that.


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Old 07-02-2020, 03:21 PM
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@trailmix,

Perhaps I misspoke in terms of "allowing". I meant condoning. If we stand by and comfort an addict continuously, we are therefor condoning their behavior that they are self-imposing. Especially, under manipulation with others, such as what was happen to me; that, I allowed. But when you are in the thick, you cannot see the forest through the trees. In terms of will, I believe, that is something that they want to but simply CANNOT. There is a very good book I read in a four-day-gap called, "Under the Influence" by James Robert Milam. When someone progresses so far, they cannot stop on their own. Two things happen: they either have to have an intervention, or they have to have a catalyst, in which circumstances make their life absolutely unbearable and they fight their way out of their imprisonment. They go thru all their resources, friends, become near destitute, etc... Often, as I found in my situation, my empathy was creating a problem because the man knew my compassion made me prone to being manipulated. And I allowed it, though, I did not realize I had control over myself, but I in turn reacted to it by trying to control him; I thought his acts of suicide were serious and given his history, I should have. But I realized what a disservice I was doing by comforting someone who was seeking to continue their addiction and asking for help, then walking out of rehab twice. I was willing to be there for them if they were doing right by themselves, as a friend, or whatever, but not if they were not seeking help. Walking away was the hardest thing I have ever done yet the best for both of us. If you choose to stay with someone who is self-harming, you ARE essentially saying you are accepting unacceptable self-harm and subjecting yourself to the wind-tunnel of abusive draft. You CANNOT change people, but I believe you can influence by positive reinforcement and not giving up on them completely. Yes, reality DOES often take precedence, but I also believe hope and faith - even at a distance - is the one thing they do not count on. They do not expect that when someone walks away, they will still care and still be there if and when they decide to do right by themselves. If all you do is simply extend a hand for the sake of love with no expectation but hope for them, there is nothing wrong with that.
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Old 07-02-2020, 04:23 PM
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I guess I'm confused. Do you need support, or are you here to lecture everyone you think is less experienced, less compassionate, less knowledgeable than you are?
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Old 07-02-2020, 04:27 PM
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Actually, neither, velma.

I am just relating my experience(s) and I both need support but also like bantering different opinions with other people to see their responses so I can become more introspective, as well. Sometimes emphasis comes across as "in your face" over text. My apologies if offended.
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Old 07-02-2020, 04:58 PM
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Talking

ac------actually, I think that all of us, here, are in some stage, or other, of learning. We are all students. Lol----some of us have a longer track record than others...lol.
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Old 07-03-2020, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by acshore View Post
@trailmix,
You CANNOT change people, but I believe you can influence by positive reinforcement and not giving up on them completely. Yes, reality DOES often take precedence, but I also believe hope and faith - even at a distance - is the one thing they do not count on. They do not expect that when someone walks away, they will still care and still be there if and when they decide to do right by themselves. If all you do is simply extend a hand for the sake of love with no expectation but hope for them, there is nothing wrong with that.
Ac, I hear you talking lots about the alcoholic which is understandable. However the more you can focus on your own shortcomings, and what you are doing to overcome these, the better.

We, like the alcoholic, don't want to change. Alcoholics have the booze; we codependents have the dysfunctional dance of the relationship. Under both the alcohol and the dysfunctional relationship lies the pain and wounds that need to be addressed.

It isn't a bad thing that you have educated yourself about alcoholism. What have you learned about codependency? Have you read Codependent No More?

We all love to talk and think about the alcoholic. This is our own disease. It is why we are here. Detaching and focusing on our own problems is what we do to heal . . . .and with that I'm off to work on finances: reconcile a credit card statement, look up some information on shared banktivity program and open some mail . . .ugh.

Let us know how you get on!
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