It’s an assumption that knowing about alcohol misuse is a given for families. Well I’d like to clear that up!
For many years I had no idea that I didn’t know that much about it, I knew what carnage alcohol caused but that was it. I hated alcohol and how much it ruin my families life.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realised how little I knew. This isn’t anyone’s fault, just that I probably wasn’t in the right head space to hear it or learn about it. Plus I thought it was my Dad’s problem, not mine.
How little did I know!
I knew that alcohol made my Dad act different, aggressive, distant and not much fun. It’s hard to know for sure what was the alcohol and what was just his personality, but I think alcohol just enhances the existing personally you have.
Here are some of the things I’ve learnt, which I hope you’ll find helpful:
- Most drinkers (addicts generally) have experienced some sort of trauma
- They usually lack self-esteem and self worth
- The shame they feel is why they isolate, they don’t want you to see them this way
- When they’ve been drinking a very long time, they want to stop but can’t. They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired
- It’s not that they choose to put the alcohol over the family, it’s between pain and no pain (at least in the beginning)
- Families can ‘t make the drinker stop
- As famiiles we try to figure things out logically and alcohol misuse isn’t a logical problem
Push and Pull
For families most organisations will say that as a family member of a drinker, you need to focus on yourself. Whether you’re still impacted on a day to day basis or not. The implications of living with a drinker go beyond their active using or them being in your life, it carries on until you find a way to manage it or deal with it.
Think about it, for parents it must feel like the totally wrong thing to do to not support their child with an addiction problem. Their whole reason for living in a lot of cases is to bring up and support that child, so when someone says to not interfere and let them do what they do, it sound ludicrous. Most people would ignore that advice.
Very often though, family members go down the road of trying to control things, stop the person drinking or using only to be exhausted, stripped of all sense of self and at a loss. This can take many years for some, some never give up.
In my opinion, families would benefit from pulling away from trying to control and pushing yourself to focus on what you need. You are the only one that you can control and change, also, if you’re feeling resilient, strong in yourself and not triggered by things, you’re less likely to fall apart when the s**t hits the fan.
What the answer to helping someone with a drink problem?
The 60 million dollar question!
How would you help someone with cancer, diabetes? Maybe you’d research it? Then that works the same here. I’d highly recommend finding out more about alcohol misuse. Gabor Mate is an expert on the topic and you can check out his You Tube Clips for more information.
- Try to separate the person you know from the person that drinks, they are still in there. Digging deep to find your compassion and empathy will help, but I know how hard that is when you’re in the midst of the drama.
- Take note of the points above that I’ve raised and try and digest them. Nothing happens overnight.
- You can reassure your loved one that you have faith in them, that they can get well. Maybe remember good times before their drinking.
- Always let them know about services available, depending on your area. There are AA meetings everywhere, but a lot of people may find that a step too far. In the UK there is Addaction and you can self-refer, or go to your GP (they usually refer to Addaction or similar service in the UK)
- Talking about the impact in a way that isn’t judgemental maybe helpful, lost of job, not looking after themselves, missing out on exercise they once enjoyed, social life they once had
- Put boundaries in place to help keep you sane, believe me it’s so easy to not do it, but it can lessen the struggle. I did a blog post on boundaries, check it out here.
- Depending on their level of drinking, you can put in place a safe plan, so you both agree what to do when they’re in difficulty
I did a 5 minute video talking about this topic so you may want to check it out.
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If you’d like to chat then do get in touch, I’m happy to gift you some time. Click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (07732) 403305.
Remember you aren’t alone and you can always join my Change Your Mind Facebook group, where other families of alcoholics support each other with challenges they experience from the past or present. You may have lived with an alcoholic in your past, but it’s still impacting you in the present.
I also run a podcast with my sister, click here to find out more.