We called grandmother the morning of July 5th. Here in the country, we celebrate Independence Day by making our own fireworks show out in the fields. We knew it had been a loud night for her. Me: Grandmother, how did you sleep last night? Grandmother: Well, not at all! The kids were throwin’ Roman Catholics against the house all night!
Along with the occasional word mix-up, Grandmother had some great phrases. Her language is a glossary of old Appalachian phrases you can’t find on Google. One phrase I’m sure my fellow southerners have heard – “He’s drunker’n Cooter Brown” – usually said about the town drunk.
Us country boys can drink. As proven by the entire bro-country sub-genre made popular by bragging about it. (Thank god that fad is dead – talk about the dumbing down of country music.) But sure, it’s cute’n all until you have to deal with an alcoholic on a regular basis. That’s a different ball game.
I don’t do this blog to position myself as an expert on anything. It’s your life. You figure out what works for you. But I’ve lived both sides of this – as the substance abuser and as the abused. I figure that what works for me might work for someone else out there. And I do think there are specific ideas on how to deal with an alcoholic that are relevant to both the alcoholic and the addict.
Last week, I blocked a loved one on my phone after getting a late night drunk text. It was hateful. Tearing me down. Insulting my partner and l. Blaming me for his disappointments. Holding my own disappointments over my head. Leaving threats. This happens when he’s binge drinking. The first time it happened, I had a talk with him. The second time it happened, I blocked him, but forgave him as he felt so horrible and apologized. This time, I’m blocking him until he realizes he has an alcohol problem. It’s breaking my heart this week. It’s hard not to cave in and call him.
I’m a sucker for a good display of remorse. Work up a tear and I’ll think you have the sweetest heart in all of the southeast. Good apologies and big announcements of change tied me to two abusive, alcoholic partners for years. But my best suggestions come from being a drug addict myself. So here are an ex-addict’s thoughts on how to deal with an alcoholic – relevant to both alcoholics and addicts.
Enabling Is Not Compassion
If I could go back, I would tell my friends to let me know they love me…and let me hit bottom.
Hitting bottom, though it threatened my life, it ultimately saved it. It altered the course of my life forever, but what a tremendous blessing it was. There is something to be said for letting someone choose their actions and letting them fully experience the repercussions of those actions.
Pain pushes until vision pulls. Protecting us from painful situations may be robbing us of our wake-up call. Just know that as you are paying our rent, bailing us out, and handling responsibilities that are not yours to handle, enabling is not compassion. So the question is this: are you willing to watch us lose our job, lose our apartment, become homeless, spend a night in jail, if it were the very wake-up call we needed to change our life forever? It doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person for letting us hit bottom. I now realize that the first to let me fall was the first to take my call.
Nagging Breeds Resentment
We will not hear you. We will only resent you. Nagging us about our addiction drives our behavior further into the shadows and just causes resentment. We know you don’t mean it because you always pick up the pieces. And when you do, we’ll blame you for everything.
Nagging makes you the target of our victimhood. Addicts are often victims who need a perpetrator. Otherwise, we have to face the fact that we are the reason our life isn’t working the way we want it to. Again, letting someone fully experience the repercussions of their actions is the loudest way to make your point. No matter how much it hurts for you to do so.
Let Go & Let Love
You are not responsible for the world. You can’t control the circumstances. You take on our responsibilities so our life appears to work. You worry about us all the time and fear for our safety. You shout at us until you’re blue in the face. You take all the blame we give you. This is enough to make you lose your mind. You don’t have to feel this way. You’re not a better person just because you hold us down and force us to take your help. The best way to help an alcoholic might be to let us go.
When I got the drunk text last week from my loved one, my first instinct was to attack back. My blood was boiling as I typed out my best scorpion response. Then, I stopped and asked myself, “Who do I want to be in relation to this behavior?” The answer for me was really an answer of letting go and letting love. As hard as it is, I have to let go of the idea of having a relationship with him, even though he means the world to me. I hope he has a rock bottom that transforms his life. If that moment comes, I’ll be there. Till then, I’ll be over here. Not controlling. Not investing. And not asking him to be any more than what he wants to be.
When I got sober on May 27th, 2009, I had to make a lot of amends. In my addiction, I had no clue how many people I used, abused, and pushed away. Many of us have a rebirth at rock bottom. A resurrection. But that resurrection is not by your blood. It is not your job to bleed for us. Do not crucify yourself for us. Do not take us on as your self worth. Only we can fix ourselves. And we won’t until we do. Be the first to let us fall. Then be the first to take the call.
I’m still learning how to deal with an alcoholic in my life. But I leave you with this: Forgive yourself for what you blame yourself for. Let go of the need to control what you can’t control. Let love speak louder than your indignation. Love at the level that others are able to receive.
I put AA’s third step prayer to music. The message of surrender is good for those dealing with alcoholics or addicts. Here’s a song to remind you.
Are you dealing with an addict or alcoholic in your life? Do you struggle with addiction? Please sign in below and let me hear from you. I would love to read and reply to your comments below. We’re in this together.