What Doesn’t Help

by Guest Post on February 27, 2009

Original Pic by Miro-Foto now at The Discovering Alcoholic

I want to thank my guest blogger Elizabeth at HopeMaybe for helping me out while I’m in Japan and providing this insightful look into the way alcoholism affects the entire family. Sometimes even the best of intentions may be less than helpful and often cause resentment. Not unlike throwing water on a grease fire, uninformed/unwanted help can be fuel for the flames.

Even today, two years since I left my alcoholic, I still explain that
I was married to an alcoholic but HE WASN’T AN ALCOHOLIC WHEN I MET
HIM.

So much of the advice you find on the internet and in Al Anon
literature is hurtful to a person dealing with a relationship with an
alcoholic. (I need to caveat that by saying that I found the support
groups in Al Anon wonderful and life-saving). While searching for
help, I read material that said that not only did my spouse have a
disease, but that I also have a disease called co-dependency. That I
was probably born this way. I care too much about other people and do
too much for them. That’s why I married someone who became an
alcoholic. His alcoholism was always there and that is why I chose him
to marry. He was someone I could latch onto and support. He was needy
and I needed to be needed.

Even today, two years since I left my alcoholic, I still explain that
I was married to an alcoholic but HE WASN’T AN ALCOHOLIC WHEN I MET
HIM. This is truly said with all capital letters. I always feel the
necessity of making it perfectly clear that I am normal and just got
caught up in a downward spiral when he started drinking. Why do I feel
I still have to defend myself? It is mostly because our culture looks
disparagingly upon those of us who are caught up in alcoholism. We are
somehow weak, and big suckers to choose an alcoholic.

Click “Read more” to continue…

In my case, it was naivety. There were no alcoholics in my family and
I had never known anyone who was an alcoholic. When he told me that he
used to drink heavily and pass out on the weekends, I really didn’t
think I should be concerned. I thought an alcoholic was someone who
had to start drinking first thing in the morning, and stayed drunk all
day. They couldn’t hold down a job and ended up in jail for a DUI. My
husband didn’t do any of those things. So, I think, legitimately, that
I had no idea I was marrying someone who was on the path of
alcoholism.

It is true that as I developed coping mechanisms to deal with
alcoholism, I did use co-dependent behaviors for a while. I nagged him
to stop drinking and took over jobs that he couldn’t handle. I picked
him up off the floor, took off his shoes, and put him in bed. But
reading about co-dependency made me aware of what I was doing and I
stopped these behaviors rather quickly.

There’s also lots of unhelpful advice like stop feeling sorry for
yourself, don’t hide the drinking from friends and family, and never
provide any support that will make it easier to drink. The latter
piece of advice is impossible to put into practice 100%. Should you
not take over paying the bills because he doesn’t do them on time? If
you don’t pay them, you will be hurt by a bad credit score as well. If
you tell all his friends, it is likely his boss will find out and he
will lose his job. Few couples can survive on one spouse’s salary.

So what is helpful advice that I would have liked to have read? Blogs
about how another person coped with the drinking and blogs written by
those in recovery (like this one) proved to be the most useful.
Articles that described what alcoholism is, how to recognize it as a
problem, and what it does to change someone’s mind were useful. As I
watched his mind decay and his emotional response to anything become
more volatile, it helped to read about how the alcohol was affecting
his brain. These articles helped explain many things that were
baffling to me. And last, articles that touched on personal experience
and suggested solutions. Rather than assuming that all of us are the
same and we all cope with alcoholism the same way, just tell us what
you have learned personally and what you want to pass along to help
someone else.

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