Don' isolate yourself because of the shame of your drinker's behavior. Keep close to your friends.
Living with an alcoholic often brings emotional overload, anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness and betrayal and many more. Some of these emotions are responses to the events happening at that moment or recently and they can pass. However there are other emotions that are often rooted very deep in the partners of drinkers in particular guilt and shame.
Alcoholics have an amazing capacity to make others feel responsible for them, both for their welfare and as a cause of their behavior. Drinkers look for somebody or something to blame for their drinking and unfortunately, only too often, their partners will take on that role. They start asking themselves questions such as could I be more caring, do more to avoid arguments, be more attractive, more interesting, more exciting, more …? The truth is that it would not matter. The drinker drinks regardless of what their partners are or are not doing. It is not their fault.
However it is the shame and how it is handled that is the most destructive. Most people, who suffer from shame tend to avoid anything that exposes them to more of it, and partners of alcoholics are no different. Living with an alcoholic means that life is unpredictable, as there is no way of knowing whether he will turn up on time, or at all and what kind of condition he will be in when he arrives.
This unpredictability makes entertaining, for example having friends round for dinner or drinks or cards or a barbeque or whatever enormously stressful. For if he does arrive intoxicated and starts arguing with the guests or being generally obnoxious then the partner almost certainly will feel uncomfortable and ashamed by the situation. It is a perfectly understandable reaction to feel shame and embarrassment for a partner that is behaving badly. Even though it is not their fault or within their control still they take the shame of the incident on themselves.
It is unsurprising, and understandable, then for partners of drinkers to avoid social situations where their drinker can cause havoc and embarrassment. They stop hosting parties or get togethers at their home and stop accepting invitations to social occasions at other people’s homes for the same reasons. Then it is not long before the invitations stop coming and they become increasingly isolated and alone.
It happens slowly at first but one day they wake up and have no one to confide in. In the mistaken impression of being loyal to the drinker, they had don’t share their situation and the worry and fear that they live with. For it feels that discussing their worries is an act of betrayal and so they deny themselves the release, comfort and support of their friends. In other words they sacrifice their own welfare for his.
Understandable though it may be, this social isolation then is the biggest mistake that partners of alcoholics make. By making themselves a prisoner of their partner’s secret they can leave themselves open to illnesses, physical, emotional and psychological. It is also a futile gesture as, in most cases, the ‘secret’ that they are trying to protect is one which most of their friends and family already know only too well.
So if you live with an alcoholic and are starting to avoid social contact because of the shame it brings, try not to shut yourself off from the help and support of those who love you. You will probably find that they already know the truth and are eager to help you, if you will only let them in. They could be your best support group. If there is no one to turn to or who would understand then you can always find people know who are going through, as they have been there themselves, at Bottled Up.
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