This second article concentrates on three areas, isolation, secrecy and having a life and changing.
In the previous article we discussed the dilemma that living with an alcoholic is like living with two people, the one that you chose as your partner and the drinker that brings problems to the household. In this article we will start to look at things that you can do to make your life better and deal with this dilemma.
Probably at this stage your thoughts are, there is only one thing needed for my life to be better and that is for him to stop drinking. In fact it would be surprising if you did not think this as this is the most common response from partners of drinkers. However we are going to deal with things that you can change about your own life in this article and then look at things that you might do about the drinking in the next article. We will concentrate on three areas, isolation, secrecy and having a life.
We briefly touched on the topic of isolation in the previous article. We explained that the shame of living with an alcoholic, and the fact that everyone seemed to be suggesting that you leave him, made it more likely that you did not discuss your life and the dilemma you have with your drinker. Many partners of drinkers take refuge in secrecy as it saves them having to reveal their shame and to be confronted with the ‘advice’ to leave. Of course the advice is usually well meant but it does not take into account the fact that you actually love him.
While it is understandable that you withdraw from telling others, living life never mind living with a drinker is difficult without support. The first thing that you can do to change your circumstances is to find support. Some people go to Alanon (the family groups of AA. More recently Bottled Up has been available online. While both of these organisations are very useful in helping you to cope it is a good idea to look to your family and friends for support. They already love you and accept you as you are, so try to spend more time with them. Rekindle old relationships and let people back into your life. We discussed this at more length in another article.
You may think that the problem with meeting up with family and/or friends is that you would then be forced to talk about your life with the drinker and that is exactly why you have kept to yourself. However maybe you need to rethink that logic. By keeping your circumstances secret who or what are you protecting? Yourself – no, you are denying yourself support; your drinker – if he had a physical illness, eg cancer, would you keep it a secret and deny him support. Not only that but the secrecy could collude with the drinking behaviour as there are less voices confronting it or offering advice or support. In most cases the apparent secrecy is more denial than genuine secrecy as the drinkers problem is often already well known to close friends and family. Breaking out of the secrecy restraints often brings sighs of relief all round as everyone can now talk about a subject that has been concerning them. Often having agonised after opening up they are very pleasantly surprised by the reaction they get from friends and family and how warm and supportive it is.
Finally, it is time to get back to having a life. Too often the partners of drinkers find that almost all of their time is spent looking after the drinker or worrying about him. The result is that they do not have any time to have a life themselves. Sports they used to play, hobbies and pastimes that they used to enjoy have vanished into this endless round of looking after the alcoholic. This is a cycle that needs to be broken so that you get a life back. Ask yourself, when was the last time you did something just for you? Make a decision that you will do something that you like this week and that you will continue to do something for YOU at least once a week. What should you do? Well that depends what you like doing, a walk on the beach/park/countryside, lunch or coffee with a friend, a massage or pampering session at a local spa, a night at the cinema. The point is that it should be something that you do for you, because you enjoy it!
These three changes are probably the most important and effective measures you can take to improve your life with a drinker. 1/ Stop isolating yourself and re-acquaint yourself with family and friends, 2/ allow yourself to talk about your circumstances and 3/ do something for you this week and every week. Next time we will talk about measures that you could take to address the drinking behaviour.
If you are looking for more information on any of these issues then you can find help and support at Bottled Up.