Living With Alcoholics
Alcoholism is still the scourge of this country.
Earlier identification of the problem and better treatment
programs have improved things,
but the number of lives damaged and all of other costs involved remain
Much of what will be said here applies to other types of
chemical addiction as well.
IN THE FAMILY
Alcoholism is a family disease.
In its typical form, alcoholism requires a family
which is as united in its denial as it is in its chaos.
IS IT REALLY ALCOHOLISM?
Most spouses of alcoholics care too much if their partner
is "really" alcoholic or not.
This question is best left to the experts, and even they can't always
Ultimately, it doesn't matter if your partner is an alcoholic.
What matters is how you and the rest of your family are treated.
HOW YOU ARE TREATED
If you are being badly treated by someone, focus on that
behavior and tell them it must stop.
Don't be too concerned about whether they are alcoholic, whether they
need treatment, etc.
If you've been taking this mistreatment for some time
be concerned about your problem of tolerating the mistreatment
and get the counseling you need to overcome your problem.
DON'T ACCEPT APOLOGIES
If you are dealing with a "true alcoholic personality"
you will notice that they often apologize after they have mistreated you,
usually the next morning.
Never accept these apologies.
Tell them directly that you will not accept their apologies
no matter how sincerely or pitifully they are offered to you.
Tell them that the only thing that matters is that the
mistreatment itself must stop.
"BUT SOMETIMES THEY CAN BE SO NICE"
Unfortunately, alcoholics often have two sides to their
They can be very abusive and they can be very caring.
If you want the caring too much, you will get the abuse too.
Note: Some people who consider themselves alcoholic
are not directly abusive to others - but people who have the typical "alcoholic
personality" definitely are. You can be an "alcoholic"
by one definition and not by another... AA tends to define alcoholics
by their alcohol usage. Therapists, of course, tend to think in terms
of typical personality traits.
Since alcoholics almost universally deny that they have
a treatment strategy called "interventions" is often necessary.
A professional alcohol counselor calls a surprise meeting
which the alcoholic, their family, their closest friends, and sometimes
even coworkers attend.
This group then "confronts" the alcoholic with
If you know someone who you believe has a serious alcohol
call a treatment program to discuss an intervention.
They don't always work, but they are your best and often
your only hope
besides simply getting away from the person.
TO THE ALCOHOLIC
If you are an alcoholic in denial, this is what I want
to ask you:
Is this the way you want to treat the the people you love?
Is this a true reflection of who you are?
If not, you definitely need professional help,
whether it is about drinking or not.
Think also about your priorities:
Is your life organized around your drinking?
If so, you need alcohol treatment.
You owe it to yourself to rediscover who you are without
You can't do it on your own. You have tried.
Don't be concerned about whether it is a disease or not
If it's a disease, it's a curable one.
If it's not a disease, it's a bunch of changeable behaviors.
Be concerned about what is happening to your life and to the lives of
those you love.
Be concerned about what has become of you.
Remember who you once were,
and who you have always wanted to be.
TO THE ALCOHOLIC'S PARTNER
You may feel insulted when you hear that you have a problem
But if you keep taking the alcoholic's abuse,
there can be no doubt about it.
You probably either feel you deserve the abuse (a guilt problem)
or you need someone to vent your anger on (an anger problem)
or both (most common).
You can't reasonably ask your partner to get help if you
DO YOU "WONDER"?
People who think they might be in an alcoholic family usually
If you've read this far with interest,
you probably need to talk to someone about how alcohol is hurting you.
Please Tell Your Friends About
Enjoy Your Changes!
Everything here is designed to help you do just that!
Write To Me, I Want To Hear From You!
Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee)