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.

15 Comments

Robert Murchison

As a teenager, I was never comfortable with my true identity! I suffered severe anxiety attacks and was dependent on prescription drugs to quiet my inner demons! I never was one to talk about myself and I managed to keep my profound sense of unworthiness hidden- always fearful of rejection! I was extremely shy and worked hard at becoming everyone’s friend! I was the guy everyone trusted and was respected for my loyalty and caring heart!

In my 20’s , I was on anti- depressants, and I went on a search to find meaning for my existence! The song, “What’s It All about , Alfie?” would make me cry because it so described my life! To make a long story short, my search led to books, videos and DVDs on self-acptance! Science of Mind, Leo Buscaglia, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, and Emmett Fox influenced me profoundly. Through the help of a psychologist and medical doctor, I gradually weaned myself off every drug, began a regiment of meditating, exercising and reliance on God!

In the winter of 2014, I started communicating with you, Levi Kreis! You, your music and writings blessed me and brought such peace and healing to my soul!

My mission is to spread joy and love through my writings and every day contacts!

Three years ago, my wonderful professor and mentor had passed away in Wisconsin! She guided me and encouraged me over the years and before she left Nova Scotia, she sent me a very special card with these encouraging words: “Robert, I am so proud of the fine man you have become- a teacher, a poet, a thinker, a person who cares so truly and deeply about his fellow human beings, especially the wounded ones!

We give awards like the Governor General’s medal and the faculty medal at the beginning of a career,but we really should wait to see the growth and development of potential recipents. If we had waited, Robert, you would have won.”

How fortunate I was to have such an inspiring, influential lady from Wisconsin to teach, guide, and befriend me! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am so thankful for beautiful, caring people like you, Levi Kreis!!

FrankinCT

You were kind enough just recently to send me a return e-mail as i began to notice these “life thought-provoking” comments that, I think.that you just began. I rear and re-read then quite a few times. I’m still thinking about the first one,”Hot To Stop Seeking Approval.” Your second set of thoughts,”How to Deal With An Alcoholic” is even more thought-provoking because one can use your thoughts when the self has become an alcoholic. So,your musings are very much appreciated. One request;don’t force yourself to write your personal thoughts. Only write when it is timely. The world and the internet is awash with self-help. Maintain your genuinely felt thoughts and we will all trust each other.

Joe Walker

Your words speak well to my soul. I grew up with a father whose alcoholism shaped so many of my own behaviors. “Successful” codependency, for me, meant doing most anything to keep attention off myself; avoiding doing anything that might spur a violent attack, which were always mostly aimed at my mother. Though a strong woman, she was no match when pitted against a drunk man on one of his “runners”. Still, the day finally came when my mother surprised Dad with divorce papers, and that was the beginning of her finest chapters in life. Letting go, despite the guilt trips, the sympathy, and even the sadness, is one of the most important steps one can take. We have to be willing to forgive others and ourselves along that hard trip, or the act of letting go will only create an illusion of well-being. Best to you, Levi.

Levi Kreis

wow. good stuff, Joseph! I’m loving hearing about these strong women today that was able to draw the line. Thank god for strong mothers. Yeah, I’m still battling forgiveness right now – that’s likely to show up on the original album coming in November. lol.

Joe Walker

You continue to inspire through the telling of your own experiences, Levi. Thanks for sharing. It’s always great to hear your new music. Forgiveness is definitely an ongoing, active process for all of us mere mortals! Cheers 🙂

tomhulse

Another well-written blog, Levi. Thank you for sharing your insights and your experiences. It’s always interesting learning more about an area that I know little about personally or have had any close association with.

i hope your loved one can find his way through this and that one day, you two can have a positive relationship again.

Levi Kreis

Thank you, Tom. And likewise, thank you for sharing about the things I have known little about. You have been my educator.

tomhulse

<3 Any time. We can all learn so much from each other if we're just willing to listen with an open mind and an open heart.

BrianB

My father is a lifelong drunk. There is no sugar coating it by saying he has a drinking problem, or he abuses alcohol – he’s a drunk. Many people tried many things to get him to realize the destruction he was bringing to his life. One by one, we all walked away from him. The last time I spoke to him I laid out the options that were available for us to have a relationship going forward. The drinking was only a small part of that conversation. His parenting skills sucked, but that’s another story. I let him know that I had given all I had and there was nothing more I could do. I gave him my contact information and said I was moving on with my life, but I would always be there when he called. It’s been 15 years since we last spoke. Truly, you can’t force someone to change, and some people don’t want to. I still hope one day my phone will ring, but I’m not sitting there staring at it either. Congrats to you for putting your own demon in their place.

davidurban54

Foolish to tangle with a scorpion…highly dangerous to do so with Scorpio!
Unless that person utilizes the other symbol for their sign as a beacon of transformative behavior–the Phoenix.
The Phoenix energy kicked in for you Levi, and replaced the typical, scorching, often lethal sting of earthbound Scorpion with compassion–the uplifting, enduring compassion of the soaring Phoenix.
Once again, you are presented with choices regarding your loved one, and the man I so admire leads with his heart.
Not only that, but you tackle the fraught complexities of addiction overall with grace, generosity and transparency. (Beginning with priceless humor.) Phoenix with advice, Phoenix by example. Bravo.
I know you are living, day by day, a happy ending. Wait. Fly. Watch. Yours won’t be the only one.

Jonmac

We lost my nephew 11 years ago to cancer and my sister has turned to the bottle since the day he was diagnosed and has just gotten worse thru years. No one else in the family wants to admit she has a problem and she has refused help at anytime I have mentioned it – just killing me watch her sinking deeper into the darkness !

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