Couple Communication

Tips for Dealing with an Alcoholic Spouse



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The fist thing you need to know, without a doubt is: You cannot change another person.

That having been established, the sad truth is, everybody in the family of an alcoholic suffers from the disease. Make no mistake about it, alcoholism is a disease. Unfortunately, you can't just go to the doctor and get a prescription or have surgery. The only hope for an alcoholic is complete abstinence from alcohol. That won't happen unless or until the alcoholic can admit:

1. That they have a problem

2. That they are powerless over alcohol.

When these two things happen, the most successful place to get help is
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Sadly, this doesn't usually happen until the alcoholic has reached their "bottom". When things are so bad that there is no alternative but to get help. Many have lost everything by this time.

The good news is, the family doesn't have to wait that long to get help. Alcoholics Anonymous also has programs for spouses of alcoholics, called Al-Anon, and for the children, called Alateen.  These programs deal both with living with an "active" alcoholic or with a "recovering" one.

The families of alcoholics have usually been through hell. These groups do not focus on how to change the alcoholic partner or parent but rather, how you can change yourself. It gives you the tools and spiritual guidance to enable you to help yourself. It also teaches you how to not let alcohol control your life any longer, as it has for so long. You will find others there that have been through the same or even worse horrors then you have. Being with others who have the same life experiences makes it easier to talk about what's happened in your
life.

One of the hardest things for the alcoholic's spouse to admit is that the alcoholic is not the only diseased person in the family. This disease has contaminated the whole family. Everybody needs help.  Spiritually, physically, and mentally.

When and if the the alcoholic partner goes into recovery, it is important that everyone continues to participate in the AA programs.  The spouse may accompany the alcoholic to open AA meetings but should also continue their own meetings with Al-Anon.

Many times marriages that have struggled along together through yearsof active alcoholism fall apart during recovery. Why is that? The answers can be varied but the 2 main reasons are:

1. You each find you are now married to a stranger. The alcoholic becomes a different person when not drinking. Sometimes this can be very difficult. During active drinking an alcoholic goes through periods of severe guilt and remorse and because of that allows the spouse total control. (Until the next drink, that is.)

2. Either the alcoholic or the spouse stops getting the necessary help from a support group, usually because they believe they can do it on their own.

Continuing support for the family is essential in order for every member of the family to get and stay healthy.

I have focused on AA in this article for one reason. It's the program that works best for most. There are other programs available and they can work too. However, the greatest success rate for many years has been AA.

You can find listings in your local telephone book for all types of  meetings. Also, there are schedules online for meetings.

This article was written from my own personal knowledge of Alcoholism and
Alcoholics Anonymous.

More about this author: G. Schettino

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