In the previous article; Living with an alcoholic - Shame, we talked about the shame and the secrecy that comes from living with an alcoholic and how it leads to isolation. In this article we will look at ways to start tackling and reducing the shame.
It is important to point out up front, that there are no quick and easy answers. Changes in the way we feel always take time. This is doubly true if we are still living with the same issues that caused these feelings in the first place. However, if you work at it then it has been shown that around 75% of people who address the issue start to feel less depressed, more empowered and have increased self-esteem, so it does work and it is worth while.
It is also important to point out that these changes can be achieved in spite of your circumstances. Obviously it would be great if your alcoholic decided to get treatment, become abstinent and change his ways. However that may not happen some time soon, or even at all. So you can't let your feelings depend on this hoped for change.
The first thing to do to change your feelings of shame is to step back from your drinker and his behavior. You may know deep down that his behavior is not your fault, that you are not responsible. However as we mentioned in the previous article, this is where the - but! - comes in. Your head tells you that it is nothing to do with you but nevertheless your emotions still seem to volunteer for the responsibility. It is not easy but keep telling yourself - I am not responsible, I am not responsible!
The second thing to do is to break out of the isolation that you have been creating for yourself. If you are invited somewhere, accept. Why should you not enjoy yourself and have a life? If the invitation is to you both and booze may be available you have a couple of choices. You can go alone and have a more relaxed time not having to worry about whether he will get drunk, make a fool of himself and ruin your evening. Alternately you can accept as a couple.
However instead of your usual warning or pleading to not drink too much, you can try a different approach. Tell your alcoholic that he can drink as much or as little as he chooses, it is completely up to him. However you will not make any excuses for him neither will you take any responsibility for his behavior. You can then go to the party and try and do exactly as you told him. This second strategy may take time to perfect and you may need the help and support of friends to achieve it.
The third thing is to stop covering for him. Don't tell people he is unwell when he is drunk, tell them he is drunk. Despite all your secrecy most of your friends will probably know about the drinking anyway. So let your friends into the situation. You may find that it is a relief to both of you that you can talk about it openly and they can be very helpful and supportive.