Loving an Alcoholic

6a00e551f9630d883301a73db4114f970dThis is a painful post to write because I am the alcoholic. I am loved by many, many, many people despite my poor choices, my erratic behavior, my relapses, my promises…. I have continually let down the ones I love.  The ones I love most. I’ve ruined precious relationships because of my choices. I’ve chosen Master Alcohol over everybody else.

Sure, from my perspective, when in my alcoholism, I wanted to beg for understanding…for mercy…for my loved ones to realize that this is a disease like cancer. I wanted them to see that I didn’t mean to be this way. I don’t want to be this way. I didn’t plan to be this way. I spent every day praying God would “fix” me.

I’m not an irresponsible person. I run my own business, have a college degree, two beautiful children…lots of friends. I think people even like me.

But I’m a real alcoholic. I drank alcohol and I couldn’t stop. I tried to avoid that “first drink” and then I succumbed to it. When I succumbed to it I’d do all types of crazy things—drive, emotionally react, panic, exaggerate, was cruel, lashed out, hurt the ones I love most. Cancer patients don’t do this.

Cancer patients—while similarly, cancer does affect the whole family— don’t lash out at those who are caring for them, helping them. Cancer patients appreciate help, are humble and resigned to their sickness. Alcoholics rebel—we fight back. We are confused—we deny and think we don’t have a problem. We think everyone else has the problem. Until we don’t. Until we realize we definitely are the problem.

That’s when things get worse. The shame, remorse, guilt, suicide thoughts…all that kicks in.

I’m writing this post because I regularly get comments from readers/followers who don’t understand why their loved ones have cut them off. I ache for their pain because I understand and get it. I have loved ones that have cut me off too. It hurts so badly. It contributed to my shame, isolation and sense of worthlessness.

I reached out to my best friend to get her perspective. She is one who has distanced herself from me. I am absolutely certain—and I’ve always been absolutely certain—that her distance was out of love. I KNOW she loves me, wants the best for me, wants me sober and believes I have so many gifts to offer the world. She is a Christian and knows God has a better plan for my life, if only I will adhere to His call.

My take on it was this. I thought she was trying to control me, to fix me. I thought she thought if she showed me tough love (withdrew her love from me) then it would somehow make me get sober. Actually, I even thought it was a little “passive-aggressive.” I thought she was trying to get me to do something by withholding love.

So, today, I just flat out asked her.

Why? Why do people shut out their loved ones who are alcoholics? I was afraid to ask her. I was afraid she would get defensive and avoid me more. But I really wanted to know. And she was the only one who I truly loved who has responded this way, I wanted to know why? I knew 100%, 1000% that she loved me. So I never questioned that. What I didn’t understand is why she would abandon me?

And her response…was beautiful and helpful and I wanted to pass it along to my followers/readers. Her response was this:

“Sometimes the people on the other side need to protect their own sanity; and the only way to do that is to walk away. That doesn’t mean they stop loving. It’s setting boundaries. Boundaries are healthy.”

And I understood. My heart opened and I understood. This wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about me being bad and her judging me. It was about her having healthy boundaries, protecting her heart and spirit from my poor behavior. Even though I am sick and am trying to get well, I can’t expect her to hang in there to the detriment of her own sanity and emotional health.

I am so grateful for this understanding. It’s critical to my walk. I hope this helps some of y’all out there? We are LOVED. We truly are loved.  XO

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15 thoughts on “Loving an Alcoholic

  1. Yes! She’s absolutely correct. I had – had – a friend who was a prescription drug attic all his life. He’d quit, tell everyone why things fell apart and then just relapse again. I lost track of him for awhile, not by choice, but when we got back together again I heard from all his family and friends that he had continued to repeat the pattern to the point of destroying his family and almost losing his life. I was hesitant to let him back into my life, but I tried, because I was a Christian and I should love my friend, and then I started to get the crazy a$$ phone calls and conversations, which basically said he was erratic again because of drugs. He reached out to me one more time to explain why things were all good again and it was at that point that I felt for my own sanity and safety in life I had to let him go. I didn’t love him less, but I couldn’t destroy my life trying to fix his life, I just had to set the boundaries.

  2. Great that you would check this out with your friend. But, and maybe it’s just me, I was a little unsettled by her answer? I get the concept of boundary’s especially if there was risk of some physical or other harm. However, if this isn’t the case, then someone setting boundary’s against me, feels like being ring-fenced from them, especially if it’s close friends or family. Good for them, bad for us. We are still people too; we just have a problem. As Catholics, we are called to love each other. Seems to me that this should be done in the context of the other person, letting us know they love us, are praying for us, and will help us- if they can and we are willing to accept and act on their help, and in the process if they need to pull back a bit (to set a boundary), OK.

    • emotional and mental well being are as or if not more important as physical well-being. just because we are not directly, physically hurting them doesn’t mean we aren’t deeply hurting them.

  3. I have to agree with what your friend said and think it applies to a whole host of situations outside of alcohol. I am a worrier and have had a dear friend I had to pull back from because worry over what her toxic spouse was doing to her and her lovely children was causing me to feel like I was developing an ulcer. It is self-preservation…not mean-ness or abandonment. She and I even discussed it and tried to come up with ways we could still enjoy our friendship, but she was unable to keep Mr. Toxic out. I was unable to keep dealing with fallout from Mr. Toxic. I hope this makes sense, and I’m glad you were able to take what your friend said in the right spirit. She’s probably a worrier too, and it’s SO hard to watch someone we love self-destruct, so to speak, and not feel the emotional and sometimes physical impact. Keep up the good fight, step by step and minute by minute!!!

  4. As someone who is an alcoholic who no longer drinks and who is still married to a drinker, I understand your friend’s feelings completely. Drinkers don’t only cause havoc and unpredictability in their own lives, they cause it in the lives of those around them, especially spouses. For me, it sometimes feel like alcohol is still controlling my life because I find myself manipulated because of my husband’s drinking and I resent that. The more I try to gain control back by nagging and threatening and screaming and yelling, many times it does no good, because alcohol is in control, not me, even though I’m no longer drinking. His drinking turns me into someone I don’t like, just like my own drinking did. It may be that at some point, I will have to walk away because that may be the only way for me to gain back control of my life.

    Also, sometimes the frustration and anger can turn a deep love and concern to something close to hatred. It is better to distance yourself while you still love that other person.

    • oh man I totally relate more than you know my husband and I are going through divorce it’s awful and so sad but it is impossible for me to stay sober being married to a drinker. our best sex comes when we drink together. when I’m sober he had no interest in the “normal” me. he says he wants me sober but he LOVES it when I drink because I have no inhibitions. When I’m sober he really is not attracted to me. I get sober for a while then find myself craving his love. I drink and he loves me all night. I haven’t quite psychologically figured all this out. but I know it is dysfunctional.

      Sent from my iPhone

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      • I’m sorry. I really worried that when I quit drinking my marriage would be over, that worry kept me drinking for a lot more years. My husband is very proud of my sobriety and I am lucky that he has never said, “I miss the old you.”

        You ARE doing the right thing!

  5. So true! You are so much loved! Keep trying open your heart and keep praying. Sounds like you are on the road to recovery. It’s a a process keep the faith. Pray to for intercessary prayers of St Monica she struggled she is a great Saint because of her faith and perseverance in prayer and love. Every day is a new day every day sober is a day closer to feeling better in every respect in mind , body , spirit. You are truly loved and you are truly special. You are in my prayers God Bless!

  6. Thank you for this! My sister is still actively drinking and her children are having to set those boundaries and walk away. So heartbreaking. I am also an alcoholic (11+ years sober) and I wish with all my heart that my sister could see how happy I am now and want what I have. I will share this post with my nieces.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I understand the heart break and I’m sorry you’re going through this with your sister. Keep praying.

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