Life with an alcoholic friend or family member is incredibly tough! Their alcoholic mood swings, anger and aggression are enough to drive you to severe depression.
The friend without an alcohol or substance problem struggles with the substance abuse in a different way.
You may need to decide if you should leave the person with the alcohol addiction or stick around for more abuse from the substance abuser.
Life with an alcoholic is very hard
Should you leave your alcoholic friend or substance abusing friend?
I’m writing this blog post more for the sober friend in the relationship, rather than the alcoholic or drug abuser because life with an alcoholic can be impossible.
Friendships deteriorate with time, especially when alcohol or substance abuse is involved. Walking away from someone because alcohol has ruined your friendship / relationship is not an easy decision to make.
Alcohol amplifies personalities, causing people with substance abuse problems to become judgmental and harsh with friends. As many know, physical abuse can, and does, result from alcoholism.
Substance abusers and alcoholics can become verbally and / or physically abusive, making life with an alcoholic near impossible.
The person with an alcohol problem will say things they don’t mean, or act out harshly towards you, but it’s not your fault or your problem! Always remember, it’s NEVER your fault!
My Friend is an alcoholic
Watching a family member, friend or coworker with an alcohol use disorder can be difficult. You might wonder what you can do to help the person. The addict may not want your help.
Alcoholism is a term used to describe someone with an alcohol use disorder. Someone suffering from alcoholism usually doesn’t see it as a problem at all even though they have a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.
Alcoholics have problems controlling their drinking habits and will often time say they can stop at any time, but don’t.
Most alcoholics don’t think they have a drinking problem, while others will admit it, but still never stop drinking.
Alcohol problems interfere with professional and social relationships, not to mention they cause health issues.
Mild alcohol use patterns can develop into more serious complications. Early treatment and intervention can help people with alcohol use disorder (if they truly want help.)
The only way a drinking problem can be stopped is if the person doing the drinking realizes the problem and wants to stop.
No one can make an alcoholic stop drinking
Before you do anything, it’s important to know whether your friend or loved one has an alcohol addiction. Alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is more than just drinking too much from time to time.
Sometimes, alcohol, as a coping mechanism or social habit, may look like alcoholism, but it’s not the same. People with a drinking problem don’t drink in moderation; they binge drink alcohol often.
If the person does have an alcohol problem, the best thing you can do is be open and honest with them about it. This will usually cause fights, as they are highly defensive and don’t think they have an alcohol problem. It will get really bad for you both, making life with an alcoholic very difficult.
Hoping the person will stop drinking alcohol and get better on their own won’t change the situation. The alcoholic will rage out at you, not wanting to hear about the problem “they don’t have” because you just don’t understand what they’re going through or that they “just don’t have a problem.”
How to help an alcoholic friend
Tell your loved one you’re worried they’re drinking too much and let them know you want to be supportive. They may retaliate by saying they don’t drink too much.
Be prepared to face a negative reaction, or a possible fight, as they may be very defensive. Try to roll with any resistance or negativity and ignore their anger. I know this is easier said than done. You have to be very strong and take whatever BS they throw at you. I know it’s unfair.
The person may be in denial and even react angrily to your attempts to help (they will.) Do not take it personally. Give them time and space to make an honest decision about how drinking alcohol is affecting their life and your life, and listen to them.
If your alcoholic friend or loved one slams you negatively, try to let it go in one ear and out the other. Realize this isn’t your friend talking, it’s the alcohol, or their severe DENIAL.
If the person with a drinking problem yells at you or tries to put you down, consider the source. They think you are trying to prevent them from doing what they love, or that you are trying to control them and force them into doing things they don’t want to do (quitting alcohol or substance abuse.)
An alcoholic will begin to resent you for telling them what to do, even though you have their best interests in mind.
An alcoholic may get hostile with verbal threats, saying the world is against them and that you’re just like everyone else.
An alcoholic will lash out harshly, making the conversation heated, trying to make you the bad guy. It will get worse, making life with an alcoholic close to impossible.
It’s best if you can have these talks when they’re sober, if that’s even an option.
Realize you can’t force someone into alcohol rehab treatment who doesn’t want to go. All you can do is offer your help and listen. It’s up to them to accept your help. Be nonjudgmental, empathetic and sincere.
You are trying to help them and be there for them, however, the alcoholic will see it as a personal attack and lump you in with everyone else who has tried to stop them.
I have been hurt by a few alcoholics in the past. One took my best friend’s life, while the others were terribly negative and harsh.
Life with an alcoholic should never include threats!
It will take a tough skin to help your friend or loved one with their alcohol or substance abuse problem. There may come a time when your friend needs to deal with their alcohol or substance abuse problem on their own. You may need to leave. This will be an incredibly tough decision, should you decide to make it. I can’t even imagine how tough it would be if the alcoholic was your spouse or child.
I left friends with alcohol problems
For me, in the end, I got tired of the harsh words, verbal abuse and threats. A couple people in my life with a drinking problem were blind to my help. I tried to talk and listen but in the end, all I got was mental abuse.
Even though I told them, I’m not here to tell you what to do, it’s your life, that wasn’t good enough. People trying to help are usually seen as a threat.
How did I know it was time to leave them? I got tired of feeling depressed, worthless and attacked. It was hard to leave an alcoholic friend, but I was tired of their abuse.
Broken Promises from an alcoholic
Your friend or loved one may vow to cut back on drinking alcohol. Actions speak louder than words. Urge the person to get into a formal treatment program for alcohol or substance abuse.
Ask for concrete commitments and then follow up on them. They will more than likely fight you verbally, saying they don’t have an alcohol or substance abuse problem.
If they do decide to go for treatment, it’s going to be difficult for them in rehab. If they make it, they may go right back to drinking.
You may get the blame for putting them in rehab. You may also get the blame for never being there for them when they needed you, even though you were. You will never win. It’s a sad situation to be in for both sides of alcohol abuse or substance abuse. Life with an alcoholic is incredibly difficult.
The person binge drinking is unable to stop and may not want to stop. They see the person trying to help them as a nag. You need to start thinking at what point you will leave the relationship if it gets bad enough.
You may also want to see if other family members and friends want to be involved. This can depend on several factors, such as how serious their drinking problem is or how private the person may be.
Treatment of alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process. Don’t consider your part done after your friend or family member is in therapy or rehab. If they are open to it, attend meetings with them.
Ways to help someone with an alcohol problem
Offer to help out with work, childcare and household tasks if they get in the way of treatment sessions. It’s important to not let their life duties overshadow yours, while helping them.
Standing by your friend or family member’s progress during and after substance abuse treatment is important, too. For example, alcohol is everywhere. Even after recovery, your person will be in situations they can’t predict.
Ways you can help include avoiding alcohol when you’re together or opting out of drinking in social situations. Ask about new strategies they learned in treatment. Stay invested in their long-term recovery.
Treating alcoholism isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always work the first time around. Often a person has been contemplating abstinence for some time, yet couldn’t get sober on their own. The person with the drinking problem may question if they even have a drinking problem.
Life with an alcoholic is the most difficult especially if you live with them. You may be dealing with verbal and possibly physical abuse weekly, if not daily.
While trying to heal the alcoholic, you are more than likely defending yourself against their attacks and trying to keep yourself strong. You may not see how bad their alcohol problem is because maybe it was a slow descent over months or years.
Patience is necessary. Don’t blame yourself if the first intervention isn’t successful. The most successful treatment happens when a person wants to change.
Remember to take care of yourself too. The emotional impact of helping a loved one stay sober can take a toll.
Seek help from a therapist or a counselor if you feel stressed or depressed. You can also participate in a program that’s designed for the friends and family members of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon.
When alcoholism affects a spouse or partner, it’s possible to become too wrapped up in their well-being. This is called codependency. You may get to the point where you feel compelled to help your person get well.
You cannot fix people, you can only show them the way. Rarely do people change.
Family members and friends often have deep emotional ties to the person with an alcohol problem. This is what makes life with an alcoholic incredibly difficult. You want them to be how they once were and they think they don’t have a problem.
If you don’t control your codependency, it can lead into more serious complications such as obsessive behavior, blame, guilt and mental health issues.
Finding the right way to approach someone with an alcohol use disorder or drug problem will be tough. Let them know you care and that you’ll be there when they need your support. Be prepared for verbal abuse.
Addressing someone’s drinking problem is tricky. You will be walking on eggshells most days, especially if you are living with an alcoholic. Regardless of personality, most alcoholics will deny they have a problem and come up with reasons they are not alcoholics.
I lost a few friends to alcohol
I got tired of the mental abuse and harsh words, when, most of the time, I was just there to listen. I also lost a best friend to a drunk driver 25 years ago.
Don was 24 with 2 little kids and a wife. The drunk driver was driving on 3 counts of DUI. No words can explain the pain of losing someone suddenly.
I didn’t know Don would die within an hour after getting off the phone with him. If only I kept him on the phone a minute longer or a minute later, he would more than likely be alive today. I had no idea that would be the last time I ever spoke with him.
I kept guilt with me for a long time. If only I stayed on the phone with Don a few minutes more, he would be alive today.
It took a few years to realize Don’s death wasn’t my fault…it was a drunk driver.
Life with an alcoholic is very hard
You may not want to let people go, thinking you are giving up on them, but sometimes you may need to, even though you really don’t want to. If they lie and mock you and verbally abuse you by calling you weak, maybe it’s time to go.
People who drink too much won’t understand what they’re putting you through and will even go so far as blame you for their actions.
Some alcoholics can claim to be followers of God because maybe they go to church on Sundays. They will mock you for not following what they believe, even though you aren’t sure what they believe. They are hypocrites and will accuse you of crazy crap a lot.
Addicts will use phrases against you such as:
- You don’t know me
- You don’t understand what I’m going through
- You sound like everyone else
- You’re just like everyone else, always telling me what to do
- You don’t care about me
- If you don’t accept me for who I am there’s the door
- If you want to leave I’ll hold the door open for ya
- Sorry I’m not as perfect as you
- You don’t know anything
- You don’t know what you’re talking about
- Oh so now you’re a counselor
- I wish I could be as perfect as you
- You’re not my mom or dad
- I can stop any time I want
- I don’t have a problem
- You’re my problem
- You’re the one who needs help, not me
- I hate you
- Addicts will lie and play mind games more than usual
- Addicts will disappear from your life
- Addicts will blame you for their faults
- Addicts make promises they can’t keep
- Addicts mentally abuse you
- Addicts physically abuse you
- Addicts have mood swings
The list goes on and on but these are some of the things I heard when trying to help people I was close with. I did nothing but listen. I told them they can do what they want, it’s their life, and I’m here to listen. Nothing I said was ever good enough.
I had a friend I was very close with in high school. He started drinking a lot. Let’s call him Allen. Although his drinking didn’t affect me much, it affected his girlfriend. She came to me for help with his alcohol problem because he refused to work (a few years) and was using her for money, her car and anything else he could.
I tried talking to him about his drinking and got accused of taking her side. I told him I don’t take sides but if I had to, I would choose his, and I was just here to talk…we were like brothers.
All through high school and a handful of years after, you could find us together hanging out. Some of my favorite memories were taking frozen walks in winter, coffees in hand, late at night, and making the taco bell run. We’d have tacos at his parent’s house, while listening to music until 1am.
While others would hit the clubs or the bars, we were content with each other’s company over coffee, discussing music or books or movies. It was an awesome time.
Once his alcohol issue got worse and I tried to talk to him about it, I haven’t heard from him since. That was over 25 years ago and it still hurts at times. I do miss our friendship.
I’ve tried to get ahold of him through social media, with no response. Towards the end it was bad and he became a different person.
Don, as you know, was killed by a drunk driver and that haunts me to this day.
I had a super cool friend who we will call Samantha. She had the best singing voice for a rocker chick I ever heard. She was in a band and I was a guitarist / friend of that band. I had the honor of recording them a few times in my studio and their practice space in the city. Samantha always nailed the song on one take. She was a very good, powerful vocalist. She was a fighter and very good friend.
Years went by and while others got “real” jobs, they were still trying to make it in music. I didn’t know she was battling alcoholism until I found out years later on Facebook that she died.
I just chatted with her a couple months previous. We had all planned on getting together for the holidays. Her liver just gave out and it was too late. I had no idea.
I still have her final texts to me. We miss her and that one hurt a lot. Had I known she was wrestling with an alcohol problem, I would have been there for her and she would have listened.
It’s great you want to help someone with an addiction problem but if they constantly fight you, you don’t need that negativity crap in your life! Life with an alcoholic is something a lot of people don’t understand. You live a dual life that is very unhealthy. It will kill you mentally. If you are helping someone and they don’t want it, RUN AWAY FAST!
One thing I’m still learning is that you can’t fix people. People are going to do what people are going to do. In my line of work I fix things and keep forgetting that people should never be put on that list, unless they want to be.
True friends never treat you like crap!
I have a close friend, who we’ll call Tim. I’ve known Tim since he was a teenager. I knew he liked to drink, but didn’t realize it was a problem for him. One night he called and told me he has a drinking problem and can’t stop. He drinks every night until he falls asleep. I didn’t realize it was so bad. He talked to me normally, as he always did. He listened to me and wasn’t attacking in any way.
He isn’t sure why he drinks so much but he promised he doesn’t do it while on the job or while driving. He drinks himself to sleep because it numbs all the thoughts in his mind. He says he can’t stop. He would never yell at me since he values what I say. Not all alcoholics are abusive.
I have always said that alcohol AMPLIFIES your personality. If you are a bitch, it makes you a crazy bitch. If you’re sweet, it makes you really laid back and open. That’s my experience anyway in life with an alcoholic.
I’m trying to think of a way to help. The best I can come up with is for him to drink what he normally does, but just cut back a glass every other day or maybe once a week. Cut back slowly on the alcohol.
Trying to stop any addiction quickly will more than likely result in anger, aggression, depression, or any of the other “essions.”
It’s not only the alcoholics and substance abusers who are affected, but the sober ones are affected as well, by their actions. The sober ones who try and help, wind up getting hurt more than the ones with the addiction problem in my opinion.
Life with an alcoholic or addict is bad enough but if it’s your son or daughter, or you’re married to them? Well, then I don’t have to tell you how extra tough it is to cut the cord if it gets bad enough. I personally don’t know if I could do that with immediate family but if they get bad enough, they should be forced into rehab before they hurt themselves or someone else.
All in all it’s a very confusing train wreck on ice and I pray for anyone one of you going through this terrible addiction and anyone dealing with an addict.
Life with an alcoholic is incredibly hard especially if you have to live with them. If you are faced with the terrible decision of leaving the person, know that it isn’t your fault. People have to want to change and you need to save your sanity.
Here are some books that may help you out if you’re trying to help someone with a drinking problem or substance abuse.