Everyone living under the same roof with an alcoholic, particularly a belligerent, abusive one, is part of the problem. Everyone involved in the inevitable pattern and dynamic of dysfunctional living will be affected, and not just the alcoholic.
There are some common behavior patterns in individuals living with substance abusers that are difficult to change because the behaviors are natural to the majority of human beings. Natural or not, for a harmonious domestic living arrangement with an addict, the following coping mechanisms must be addressed:
1. Denial – If you do not admit to yourself that the person you love is an alcoholic, you will not develop the coping skills necessary to live with him or her, and the hope of a harmonious relationship will be doomed from the start.
2. Reaction – Your reactions to the alcoholic’s sometimes erratic behavior must remain appropriate and calm to stop the situation from escalating.
3. Attitude – You must not demand improvement from the alcoholic. The alcoholic needs healing, not lecturing or blaming.
4. Socialize – Do not isolate yourself from friends, enjoyable activities, or society. This will lead to depression, fatigue and feelings of failure and render you incapable of developing the skills required to keep you and your family members going.
5. Respect – All family members must respect each other. If the alcoholic is abusive and/or belligerent, he or she must be removed from the family home. Likewise, if a sober member of the family mistreats the alcoholic, that person needs to find a new home. This is the time for tough love.
Guidelines: Living with an Alcoholic
We thrive on the company of others, whether they share our beliefs or characteristics or not. The following guidelines have proven invaluable for family members caught in the predicament of living with an alcoholic they love.
1. Do not attempt to control the alcoholic--you cannot.
2. Do not take over his or her responsibilities, you are invalidating the alcoholic as a person by doing so.
3. Do not consider yourself a victim. You are not. You are an independent soul capable of taking care of yourself.
4. Do not be an enabler by encouraging alcoholic behavior. This does not mean removing all alcohol from the alcoholic’s presence. That has never worked. It means that if you know what may trigger binges or excessive drinking in your loved one, avoid instigating those triggers.
5. Do not protect the alcoholic in any way. Do not lie or cover up for him or her.
6. Do not try to change the alcoholic. Change comes from within the individual, not from without.
7. Do anything to give yourself a break from the constant trauma of your domestic situation. You must get a life outside of living with your alcoholic. There are many support groups for the families and friends of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon and others. Many people do not feel joining groups or clubs will offer valuable assistance, but in your situation, a support group is a must. The most profound support comes from those who are going through the same thing you are. The very least you can learn from such groups is that you are not in this alone.