LivIng With An Alcoholic — Don’t Run; You Are NOT Powerless!


In her last article, Lou discussed the anxiety that came from putting down denial and walking into reality. She was faced with the sudden realisation of the enormity of the situation that she was in. No wonder so many people prefer to stay in denial about this addiction; it saves so much heartache. However, for Lou — and all the Lou’s out there — having stuck her head out from the denial about this, she and they realise that there is no going back. Somehow they need to deal with the situation as best they can.

The first thing they do is go straight on the computer, go to Google, type in alcoholic and see what comes up. Generally, they are looking for two bits of information 1. Is my partner/wife/husband an alcoholic and 2. What can I do? Let’s take these one at a time.

Is My Partner An Alcoholic?

The reason that you are asking this question is because he is causing some kind of problem in the household. She is drinking too much — too often. He does not come home when he says and when he does, he smells of alcohol. He is always the last person to leave the party, or she is always the first person to suggest having a drink.

Part of what you are looking for on the Internet is the definitive definition that will pinpoint whether he is an alcoholic, and then, you will have the ammunition for your next confrontation with her. This time there will be no denying it he will be forced to admit the problem and seek help; result — problem solved! Well actually, no. It is not quite as simple as that.

Many of the symptoms of alcoholism are subjective; that means that the diagnosis tends to be a matter of opinion. OK, fair enough. There are criteria laid out, and the opinion of whether the drinker actually meets those criteria tends to be given by an ‘expert.’ But most alcoholics are just as capable of ignoring ‘expert opinions’ as they are of ignoring yours.

At Bottled Up we offer a different definition. If he is an alcoholic or not is not really that important; instead, if alcohol is causing issues in your home, relationship and family then there is a problem. It is a simple, straightforward definition. 

However, we can provide you with a way of measuring the problem and how it affects your life. We give you a tool called SHARE, which stands for Safety, Health, Ambition, Relationships, Environment. This is a much more meaningful way of looking at the drinking and its impact on all the different areas of your life. It is also a much less threatening way of discussing drinking with your drinker as it focuses on the consequences and avoids the pointless arguments that revolve around whether or not she drinks too much.

What Can I Do About It?

If you have searched for solutions you will almost certainly have found that there are two diametrically opposed views about your course of action. View No. 1 states that you should get out of there and quick, or better still, get him out of there. Although it is easy to see where this view comes from; save yourself heartache as addiction is a relapsing condition. However, it fails to take account of one critical piece of information. Usually, the person searching the internet still loves their drinker; he/she is looking for a solution and not a travel agent or a realtor.

View No. 2 takes a different view, suggesting that you are powerless so you might as well accept what is going on. OK, there is some truth in this view, as there is some truth in view No. 1 also. It is difficult to change another person, especially if that person does not want to change. What this view does not take into account is that change does not happen in a vacuum and external factors influence whether change occurs or not. Moreover, research has found that a large factor in the change process, initiation and maintenance is the home environment and the family.

Bottled Up’s View

Most of the people who come to us still love their drinker and are looking for a solution of how they can live in peace with the drinker. Obviously, their dearest wish is to get him/her to stop drinking all together and preferably now. We dearly wish that we could deliver that outcome to order, but we can’t.

The first thing that we do in Bottled Up is to help to empower the partner of the drinker. We get them to look at things they can stop doing that increase the tensions in the relationship and lead to greater frustration and anger without having any therapeutic value. We get them to look at how they can build their life more independently of the drinker. This is not them running away but detaching from the emotional and behavioural interdependencies that develop in relationships where there is an addict. We then start to put support mechanisms in place so that they can come out of the secret world of shame and stigma that allows the drinking behaviour to flourish.

Then, when they are feeling more empowered, we start to look at ways that the drinking behaviour can be addressed. We show them how to confront the drinker and the behaviour in ways that are less challenging in nature and therefore, are more likely to get a hearing. Sometimes (we would argue most times) the all-or-nothing approach does not provide the results that we hope. Therefore, we use a process of negotiation that can provide incremental change that builds to the desired outcome.

At Bottled Up we believe that you are not powerless provided that you approach change in a systematic and realistic way. Let us show you how.