Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How to Talk Your Spouse About His or Her Drinking Problem

How to Talk to Your Spouse About His or Her Drinking Problem

What do you say when you talk to your spouse about their drinking? Do you lecture them about their drinking? Do you threaten them with divorce if they don’t stop drinking? Do you call them names and accuse them of wrongdoing? This is our emotions talking for us. Spouses of alcoholics are usually emotionally distraught over the behaviors of the alcoholic and because of this they may end up being a detriment to the sobriety of the alcoholic. This is why we must learn to detach emotionally from the alcoholic.

Are You Too Emotionally Consumed with the Alcoholic?

No one can make someone else stop drinking, not even a loved one. The only person who can truly help the alcoholic to stop drinking is the drinker himself. But you can influence them to come out of denial and recognize they have a drinking problem. But there is a certain way you have to talk to them and behave around them. If you are feeling mentally drained and frustrated over the behaviors of the alcoholic you won’t be much help to them.

Ironically, once a loved one learns to detach from the behaviors of the alcoholic and starts taking care of their emotional and spiritual well being is when the alcoholic realizes they have a drinking problem. You see, when a loved one is too emotionally consumed with the alcoholic and their negative behaviors it keeps the alcoholic stuck in the addiction. This is because they don’t have to take responsibility for it if you are already doing it for them.

Are You an Enabler?

The alcoholic loves all the negative attention you give them such as the fussing over them when they drink, arguing to them about their drinking, babying them by putting them to bed, cleaning up messes they make while drinking, paying their fines, and not to mention giving them money for alcohol. What is left for them to do? Loved ones enable and they don’t even know it! Enabling is synonymous with taking responsibility when it comes to being married to an alcoholic.

The alcoholic loves it when you become frustrated and lose your emotions in bouts of anger at them. It tells them that YOU are the one with the problem, not them. Anytime you fuss, argue, threaten, belittle, become angry over, and finger-point and accuse the alcoholic, you are giving them the ammunition they need to say you are the one with the problem. But you don’t even drink, so how could you be the one with the problem?

Let me explain this in an example so you will get an idea of what I’m saying here. Have you ever gotten all riled up with your child and threatened them with punishment if they didn’t do something, or have you ever screamed and yelled for them to clean up their room? What usually happens? They become rebellious! They scream and yell back, stomp feet, and talk back. That’s because screaming, yelling and threatening does not work. These tactics have never worked with our children and they will never work with the alcoholic either.

So, now that you know how not to talk to your alcoholic spouse, lets talk about how you should talk to them. NEVER talk to a drinking alcoholic because you are wasting your time. When they are NOT drinking tell them these things.

What to Say to the Alcoholic

1) I love you (spouses name) but I hate the disease.
2) I will stand by you when you want to quit but I will not stand by you when you drink.
3) I like talking with you when you are sober, but I hate talking with you when you drink.
4) I love being with you as long as you are not drinking, but when you start to drink, I can’t be around you.
5) I love the man/woman I married but I do not like what the drinking does to you.

Be loving and kind and give lots of good attention when your spouse is not drinking. Always let them know that you will be supportive of then when they are ready to work towards sobriety. But when they are drinking, let the alcoholic be. Do not talk to them. Detach with love. Get on with your day doing whatever it is you do and allow yourself to completely be freed of what the alcoholic is doing.

You’re not responsible for the alcoholic, so stop taking responsibility for the alcoholic. Without using an angry tone, or threatening or accusing speech, let the alcoholic know that when they drink you will not interact with them and you would like some consideration from them to recognize this boundary of yours. And that’s it. In fact, you don’t even have to tell them what you’re going to do if you don’t want to.

The best way to react to the alcoholic when they are drinking is to NOT to react. Take up some new hobbies and crafts, stay busy, make new friends, join Alanon, and continue living your life. Don’t let alcoholism steal another minute of your precious life!


How Do I Detach From My Alcoholic Spouse?

Do you live with an alcoholic - Detach from an Alcoholic Spouse


Karen said...

I want to thank you for all you're doing to help those who are living with this diesease. I stumbled across your website last week on my 21st anniversary. After 20 years of doing it the wrong way and separating from my husband,I found Al-Anon and began my life anew.
Everything you say is so true. The first benefit of detachment is that you find peace within yourself. As you gain strength, you begin to realize that you'll be fine whether the alcoholic gets help or not. You're living your life for yourself, your children, your job, your friends..... the good stuff. I'm still saddened by the loss of the marriage I wanted to have, but I know I can remain committed to him (in an emotionally safe way) and have a great life at the same time.
I wish you and your family a very happy new year.

Frank and Angie said...

Hi Karen,

Thank you for your comments, it is very encouraging. Have you thought about trying to restore your marriage? Don't give up hope. Your getting emotionally well may very well be a turning point for your husband to seek help for his addiction.

May God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Hi Angie,
I have a question. So when my husband drinks. Me setting boundaries like you say above, Let them know you will not interact with them. Can you give me an example please? I'm wanting to do this but concerned that if I say that to him then he will pop off with a smart remark and me trying to detach would backfire bc all of my emotions would be stirred again. Thanks. I know God is going to set him free! He is Faithful and hears our prayers!!!
Thank you greatly,

Discover Cuenca Ecuador said...

Hi Caitlin,

Here are two obvious examples of how we enable and take over responsibility for the alcoholic.

If the alcoholic asks you to do something that would be enabling, such as call the boss for them and tell them he is sick, or to pay his DUI fines, etc, let them know "you love them, but you will not do anything that will enable the alcoholism".

In other words, let them know I will support you to "stop drinking" but I will not "support you to continue drinking!". It is called tough love. If they come back with a smart remark, so what! Let him pop off with a smart remark. we cannot stop what the alcoholic says or does but we can stop reacting in negative ways to what they say, and especially if it is a smart remark.

The ebook "How Do I Detach from an Alcoholic Spouse" shows you excellent examples for learning to detach, it is filled with understanding and knowledge and Godly advice that any loved one of an alcoholic should arm themselves with. Reading this book on detaching and applying the advice into your life will give you your life back!!


Anonymous said...

Hi,Thanks for your advice,One of the thing's that i get very upset over is the money he spends on alcohol,I want to save money and he spends it like crazy.Should i let him spend all this money and not say anything?Also one thing we both love is ride horses,but of course he has to drink,he get's very angry sometime's if i don't do what he say's,or if i do not do to his liking.I love riding with him most of the time,i just try to enjoy and do what he says,i have threated to stop riding with him but he would not care cause he would just rather sit in his chair and drink and watch tv.Any advice i would apprecate.Thanks,Connie

Janet. said...

Hi, my spouse goes on binges, me and my family have lost trust and whatever else that comes with trust. As for me, i am going to leave him not only because of his drinking but of all the pain he has put us through, I have not emotional, spiritual, financial, physical support from this man, yes, i am angry at him for trapping me in this marriage, putting my family in disharmony with no stability at all. Emotionally and spiritually, i have been going through this for many years and i am finally going to release myself from his behaviors and disrespectful attitude towards me and my family, i have to stand up for my family and take us away from him, i have no inner peace and i do not struggle with the fact to leave him. it is for the best for me because this has been going on for years, i do pray for him and talk to him about God too but only he can stop drinking but being responsible is another aspect that he has to deal with, i have done so much, its time he does his own thing for himself and i'm doing mine too for me and my family. Any other advice you give i'm all ears for any comments you may want to share

Michelle said...

We have the "Elephant in the room" problem. I have 2 sons ages 13 & 16. I have yet to sit down and talk to them about their dads drinking problem. They often stay in their rooms, I believe to avoid him. They have only seen him really drunk at a wedding last summer. He's a binge drinker, so many days go by that he doesn't drink at all, and then he will drink a 6 pk. or more in one night. He wants to have serious conversations with us, while slurring words and losing his balance as he talks. He often does dangerous behavior, like working on projects around the house using power tools while drinking. He even replaced electric outlets while drunk and wired my brand new dishwasher wrong and later the electrical wiring melted and almost caught fire. He blamed that on the dishwasher. He could have caught the house on fire! How do you detach from that? How do you talk to your teen kids about their dads drinking problem? I don't think they really notice that much.