It is a difficult and complex operation living with an alcoholic. Alcoholics are out of control, temperamental, intimidating, frightening, disrespectful, and in some cases, downright hateful. You must understand that the disease of alcoholism does not make the core person someone evil. This is not to say that, after years of being drunk, the character of the core person is not negatively affected…and can become a permanent feature of their lives if they do not choose otherwise.
The first key to living with an alcoholic is protecting your physical body. Depending upon your height, weight and whether or not there is a weapon in the house, this may be achievable or almost impossible. Keep in mind that your physical safety comes first, above your loyalty to them. You cannot support them in this disease if you are not alive to do so.
Secondly, you must recognize that this is a seemingly pervasive disease, but that you can walk away from it and escape at any time. This may be more difficult than physically protecting yourself, because alcoholics tend to pull you in by your emotions and your mind. The sickness is very compelling and will grab hold of any weakness in your character and murder it. It is important to remember that your own value and worth have not decreased, but that the psychological games are coming from a place of agony within the alcoholic.
Most importantly, you cannot live with an alcoholic without picking up some survival tips, including developing a “dry drunk” mentality. You may not actually drink at all yourself, but this does not mean that the language of alcoholism cannot be learned and memorized. Allow yourself plenty of time with outside, non-alcoholic individuals so that your psychological health is protected.
In the aftermath, when your alcoholic becomes sober or one of you moves out, the bitterness, resentment and anger will still be there. The anger will be so strong that it will seem as if you will never be able to forgive them, and they will never be able to pay you back for your investment in their life. Recognize that you may never be repaid, and make sure you understand all of the implications of this fact. If they are sober now and a continued relationship is desired by both of you, then you may need to forgive and keep choosing to forgive until the anger has been resolved. After all, humans are not the best at repaying all of their sins and debts.
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Living with an alcoholic parent. Weymouth, Mass.: Life Skills Education, 1991. Print.
Al-Anon family groups: formerly, Living with an alcoholic.. Rev. expanded ed. New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 1984. Print.