How to Cope with a Heavy Drinker
Living with a heavy drinker can be a daunting task. In fact, just navigating the inherent mood swings can leave your head spinning. And by the time you’ve made some sense of the map, a new X pops up to mark the spot you’re in.
It is not an enviable spot.
Yet you are indeed in a spot. And you can either figure out how to handle it or you can walk away. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred though, there is no walking away. That isn’t even an option. Frankly, neither is not handling it. Because the longer the heavy drinking lasts, the more damage it’ll cause for you and your family. The damage it causes to the heavy drinker may just be irreparable.
That’s why learning to cope with the heavy drinker is so important. Sure, you want to get them some help. But that rarely comes about without some kind of dialogue or negotiation. Heck, many heavy drinkers don’t even admit they’ve got a problem. And it’s incredibly difficult to talk about something the other person refuses to acknowledge.
The good folks at the Cleveland Clinic just published a handy-dandy guide to dealing with an alcoholic. It was put together by psychiatrist Akhil Anand, MD, whose expertise is in addiction. We figure if you mix the good doctor’s long-developed common sense with our own 20 years of experience, you’ll be coping like a pro.
Dealing With a Heavy Drinker
By heavy drinker we don’t simply mean someone who binges on weekends (though it could also be that). No, we explicitly mean someone who’s addicted to alcohol. In other words, an alcoholic, plain and not so simple, whether they’ve admitted it or not.
Cleveland Clinic’s 9 Coping Tips
1. Don’t Blame Yourself
This is by far the most common tendency for people; it’s also one of the most detrimental. After all, feeling guilty only brings you down. It certainly doesn’t lift up anyone.
“Caring about someone with an alcohol addiction can lead to worry and sleepless nights,” says Dr. Anand. And you can’t be of much help if you’re worried and tired.
Besides, he adds, “you are not responsible for what someone else does. It’s their decision to use alcohol. Don’t carry that weight.”
How right he is.
2. Protect Yourself
“Angry drunk” isn’t just a phrase, says the doc. It’s a reality. And it could be dangerous. In fact, studies show that the risk of a situation turning violent is five times higher when alcohol enters the mix.
If the heavy drinker in your life often shows flashes of violence, the don’t confront them alone. “Bring [along] someone you can trust, advises Dr. Anand. And if ever you feel threatened, call the police.
“Don’t put yourself in danger,” stresses Dr. Anand.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Living with a heavy drinker can bring about some serious stress. In fact, it can bring on an array of often conflicting emotions, including frustration, sadness, bitterness and resentment.
Dr. Anand recommends talking to an addiction counselor. This will help you better understand the situation and work through your feelings. The good doctor also advocates emotional support programs such as Al-anon, Alateen and Families Anonymous.
“Don’t forget to take care of yourself,” says Dr. Anand. “It’s not easy when your life intersects with someone dealing with an addiction. It’s important to find an outlet where you can talk about it.”
4. Learn to Say ‘No’
This isn’t easy, especially if the heavy drinker is a close family member. But it’s all too common. Alcoholics often fail to fulfill their basic responsibilities. They also often rely upon those closest to get the job done.
But picking up the slack can send the wrong message:
“If you take care of problems for them over and over again,” explains Dr. Anand, “they never see or feel the consequences of their drinking.”
So take a step back. Let them suffer addiction’s after-effects on their own.
5. Don’t Cover up Bad Behavior
We get embarrassed. For our loved ones, as well as ourselves. And as a result, we often try to mask obvious alcoholic behavior. We’ll walk trash bags full of empty liquor bottles down to another dumpster. We’ll make excuses for this or that misstep. Or we’ll rush to clean up yet another spill. Don’t.
“It’s not your duty to hide the results of their drinking so they avoid feeling any sort of embarrassment,” says Dr. Anand.
We wholeheartedly agree.
6. Avoid Negotiations
We’ll often readily make adjustments in order to get a loved one to lay off the sauce. They know it too. In fact, they’ll just as often use our eagerness to their advantage. Be wary of any offer to “trade” a change in addictive behavior for something.
“You cannot negotiate someone into sobriety,” says Dr. Anand. “They need to take the action — and it should not be dependent on you somehow making it worthwhile for them”
In other words, buying your alcoholic loved one a car in exchange for getting sober is not a good idea.
7. Be Honest
This is as important for them as it is for you. Unfortunately, you’ll likely be the one who shows them how it’s done. Will they immediately come around? Probably not. After all, they’re alcoholics. But your continued candor is essential.
And it’ll all be easiest if you keep an even keel. You don’t have to be brutally honest. Simply matter of fact. Things are what they are. No excuses necessary. No histrionics either.
“Be open and honest,” encourages Dr. Anand. “Communicate in a way that is calm and constructive but not emotional.”
8. Limit Expectations
Be sure to celebrate an alcoholic loved one’s sober milestones, but don’t be surprised if they stumble. Relapse happens. In fact, it often happens a few times before sobriety really sticks. But press ahead anyway.
Addiction is a brain disorder, consuls the doctor, and not something that’s easily resolved. Be prepared for the long haul.
“It’s best to know that going in,” says Dr. Anand, “because it’s very hard to watch it happen.”
9. Stay Positive
Another difficult but essential directive. In fact, it’s downright crucial to the well-being of everyone involved.
Again, dealing with a heavy drinker isn’t easy. It involves pitfalls and setbacks and turnarounds some can’t even imagine. But resolution requires constant positivity. Try to separate the person from the addiction, suggests the doc. Save your negativity for the disease.
Most importantly, “let them know that you care,” says Dr. Anand. “Offer unconditional love and give them positive affirmations. Be there for them as much as you can — but make sure you take care of yourself, too.”
Healing Properties Helps the Heavy Drinker
Healing Properties has been helping the heavy drinker since 2002. That’s right. We’ve got 20 years of solid service behind us. And nothing but blue skies ahead. Yeah, we know it sounds a bit cliche. But we’ve got evidence to back up our claim. Men leave here with nothing but blue skies on their horizon. And blue skies is what they get to enjoy.
Don’t simply take our word for it, take the word of men who’ve come through HP. In other words, men like you. Some have chimed in with Google Reviews. Others have left Testimonials, in either written or video format. Whichever the route, the consensus is clear – Healing Properties works.
How about you? Do you have a loved one who’s been drinking too much for too long? Could you use a solid sober hand? It quite often takes a team before you can achieve true sobriety. We know. We’ve teamed with twenty years worth of families. That adds up. Not just to thousands, but to know how.
So give us a ring. Please. It may just be the call that solves the problem once and for all.
(Image courtesy PxHere.)