Help for the Alcholic Family

Although alcoholism is an incredibly tenacious disease, the non-drinking members of an alcoholic family are not helpless to do anything about it. What they must do to deal effectively with the alcoholic's drinking, however, is usually the opposite of what they have been doing.

The first thing the members in an alcoholic family must do is realize they have been as much affected by the disease of alcoholism as has the alcoholic, although in different ways. If he is dependent upon alcohol, they have become co-dependent. If he can't stop his drinking, they can't stop their attempts to control it. If he denies the harm he causes himself and others, they are equally deluded about the nature of the disease and its effects on them.

Alcoholism affects all members of the alcoholic family in hurtful ways. An alcoholic family is a troubled, pain-ridden family with constricted communication and suppressed emotional expression.

The drinking of the alcoholic has been a great source of pain to the family members but they have all learned to deny that pain and not to express their feelings. Many of the members in an alcoholic family have concentrated much of their time and energy in attempts to control the drinking of the alcoholic, all to no avail. Failing their attempts at control, they usually then attempt to protect her from the full consequences of her destructive, alcoholic behavior, loving maneuvers which only enable her to continue drinking.

If the family members are to recover from the effects of alcoholism and paradoxically provide the best chance to help the alcoholic quit drinking, all of this must be reversed. They must learn about the disease nature of alcoholism and its effects on them. They must acknowledge the pain they have suppressed for years and begin to express it.

More importantly, the family members must realize that the alcoholic is, in fact, dependent on alcohol and that they are powerless to do anything about it. Instead of focusing their attention on his drinking, they must shift it away from him and refocus it on themselves. They must refuse to take any more responsibility for the alcoholic's behavior and no longer attempt to make him stop drinking or protect him from the painful consequences of his drinking.

No more pleading or nagging. No more lectures or futile threats which aren't backed up with inevitable consequences. No more making excuses for the alcoholic's drinking. No more calling in sick for her when she is hung over. No more keeping her dinner warm until 10 p.m. or cleaning up her vomit.

All of this may sound selfish for the family members to do - and perhaps it is - but paradoxically it creates the best chance they have to bring the alcoholic to sobriety. Without a co-dependent family enabling his drinking, he may decide to seek treatment. There are no guarantees this will happen, but certainly what the family members have been doing for years hasn't worked.

If you have a family member who is an alcoholic, what I am suggesting you do is not easy. You probably can't do it alone, so my plea to you would be to seek professional help to support and guide you.

Author: J. Bailey Molineux from: