Perhaps you've been dealing with a friend's or loved one's drinking for a long time. He's stressed out from work, or she's struggling to get through another crisis. That is what you tell yourself. You may have grown weary from the unpredictability, the unreliability, the worry. You may have taken on more responsibilities in the family due to your loved one's drinking. You may have even asked him or her to stop, to cut down, or get help. When all else has failed, you may have tried to bargain with them, to cut deals, if they would only stop. But they don't. You wonder what you have done to deserve this. You have made excuses too.
But you are sick of lying, and you wonder how long you can keep your integrity. She can't make it to Thanksgiving or Easter again this year. He's sick or working late, you say. Everyone in the family nods. They may know, or they may be in denial. But none of it matters to you because it doesn't help.
You are likely tired of sacrificing your life, of making compromises. You cannot count on two hands how many times you have deferred your own desires, put off your own plans. You focus your attention on taking care of your loved one because he or she cannot take care of him or herself. Your loved one has a disease of alcoholism; that is why they cannot stop. You likely remain on high alert because if you are not, well, the entire house of cards might crumble. Inside, you feel like you are the one crumbling. But what to do?
You Cannot Control Another's Drinking. This is the first thing you must accept, and it is not easy. Your loved one will need to decide on his or her own how and when it is time to stop. They will have to hit "rock bottom" before that happens.
You Can Change What You Are Doing. Even though your loved one doesn't have the power yet to stop, you can stop making excuses for them. You can stop enabling their behavior and regain control of your life. You can draw healthier boundaries for yourself.
Talk to A Friend Who Will Be Honest With You. Chances are that your friends and extended family know that your loved one is struggling. Talking to someone can help you feel less alone and less hopeless.
Take Inventory. Have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself. Ask yourself, What am I afraid of? What keeps me in this relationship? What am I gaining from my loved one's drinking behavior?
Find a Community Who Understands. Locate an Al-Anon meeting in your community. Al-Anon is a 12-step organization for those whose loved ones are struggling with alcoholism. You will find welcoming people there who understand what you are going through.
Seek Therapy. Seeking a professional therapist or counselor can provide you with understanding and perspective. You can begin the healing process together and decide for yourself which path you would like to take.
Most of all, stay hopeful, and know that you don't have to suffer alone.
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Diana M. Pash, MA, LMFT is a certified Solution-Focused therapist in private practice in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. To find out more about Diana click here: Diana Pash Therapy