How do you handle a drunk parent during the holidays? How do you help said, parent? Are you really an enabler for an alcoholic spouse or partner? Are you the one who’s targeted for the consequences of a family member’s alcoholism?
There are so many questions and reactions that alcoholism can drum up, especially when it’s with immediate familial relationships. Whether it’s a parent, a sibling or a spouse, their reliance on a substance like alcohol can be exceptionally detrimental to you. Basic coping skills may not even cut it for alcoholism, as it tends to be a problem that only gets worse. The best way to cope with the extra family member known as alcohol is to monitor how you react and know when to seek outside help. There are many ways to help yourself and the alcoholic in the family, but it will require patience and strength.
- Blame—Recognize That It’s Not on You
Often, the alcoholic will blame their choices on anyone and anything except themselves. It’s their job, their spouse, their lot in life that everyone else has chosen for them. Rarely if ever is it their own fault of refusing to change and rise above their troubles.
If you refuse to believe that the blame is yours and realize that is isn’t your fault, you will find a weight lifted from your shoulders. When it comes down to it, the alcohol is a crutch for your loved one, an easy way out. So is their blaming everything and everyone else? Remind yourself that an alcoholic will drink no matter what you do, or what you try to change to make them happy. They have to choose to move forward, not you.
- Sometimes It’s Out of Your Control
Of course, you love your family members. Even when they are suffering from alcoholism, and even when they’ve chosen this path. It is out of this love that most family members will try to control the situation. They feel that because the alcoholic is no longer capable of making good decisions that the intervening person needs to make choices for them. This simply isn’t the case.
While you can seek outside help, if the alcoholic is aware of the help but refuses to change, your attempts to control them and the situation, even if done out of love, will be fruitless. Give up the frustration of trying to control the situation. Do what you are able, present the options, and then step back. You’ve got your own life to live.
Without a doubt, depending on alcohol is a choice. Granted, a choice that can lead the person to a place where they are unable to choose otherwise, but even if you were trained to handle this kind of thing, you shouldn’t. Your role here is not to be the counselor or doctor. You should not have to carry the burden of treating a family member. It simply isn’t your responsibility, primarily because you are biased and may confuse attempts to help with true ways to progress out of the disease.
- Go with the Flow
Once the alcoholic reaches their crisis point, or you feel the impending doom, is when the pressure to help is at its worst. But your desire to help may just make matters worse. Because this isn’t your choice in the first place, nearly the best thing that can happen to the alcoholic is dealing with the consequences of their choices. It can cause them to break the vicious cycle that alcoholism is. The loss of a job, being on the receiving end of a DUI, or even jail time may just be the thing that helps your alcoholic the most.
While it can’t be said enough that it is not the responsibility of anyone except the alcoholic to choose a different path, being informed on ways to help can lessen the burden of loving someone who is an alcoholic. There are resources, like a guide for families of Addicts and Alcoholics, online and at many substance abuse counseling, or general therapy centers. Being armed with information is the best thing you can do to cope with alcoholism in the family.