It is important to put the responsibility for dealing with the alcohol problem squarely on the person in question while continuing to love him or her. What works depends on the individual.
Doing the “right” thing can depend on how severe the alcohol problem is and on how in touch with it the person in question seems to be. What works for someone who is highly functional in daily life and who knows that alcohol is causing trouble, for instance, may not be the solution for someone who denies that there is a problem.
Don’t make it easy for the drinker to keep on drinking
- Discontinuing “enabling,” along with putting the onus for the drinker’s behavior and its consequences on the drinker.
- Do not cover up for them. Let them be responsible for their actions.
- Accept your responsibility, if any, for enabling, and then transfer 100 percent of the responsibility back to the alcoholic once you have talked it over.
He or she is then unable to use you as an excuse.
Enabling includes protecting the problem drinker from the negative consequences of alcohol use. After all, if someone makes excuses when you miss appointments because of drinking too much, reheats dinner because you’ve missed it after stopping at the bar on the way home from work, readily has sex with you even if you’re drunk, or lends you money every time you lose your job, what incentive is there to quit? Stop bailing them out of trouble.
A son of an alcoholic unwittingly did the wrong thing by cleaning up after his mother when she vomited from drinking too much. In contrast, her husband probably did the right thing when he made her clean up or refused to call in to work saying she was sick when she was hung over.
One husband caught on to the fact that he was encouraging his wife’s drunkenness when he comforted her during sobbing bouts, which regularly occurred while she was under the influence. “At first he felt sorry for me because I would drink and let out all my feelings of sadness,” she explains. “But when he figured out what was going on, he said, ’I’m not doing this anymore.’”
Although it’s hard not to want to bail someone out of a tough spot, it’s the best way for that person to regain confidence and self-respect.
One alcoholic shares a story from his own experience. When he was just out of treatment, he needed transportation. He finally scraped together two hundred dollars to buy “an old rust-bucket,” which ate up a fair amount of money in repair bills. He found out later that his dad and brother had “debated long and hard” about whether to help him out financially. “Fortunately for all concerned,” He says in retrospect, “they let me deal with it by myself. It gave me a goal and sense of accomplishment once I was able to afford a more reliable used car.”
The bottom line is that it’s critical to stop all behavior that supports – or could support – drinking.