What To Do When They Start Drinking
What To Do When They Start Drinking
What do you do when they start drinking? It could be your husband that drinks too much. Or maybe you’re not married, but they’re your lifelong partner, boyfriend or girlfriend. The specifics of your relationship don’t really matter, because the impacts are all the same.
And along those same lines, maybe your husband (or partner) doesn’t drink at all, but instead they use drugs (illegal or legal), look at pornography, abuse prescription pills, gamble away valuable resources, or use tobacco.
Their substance(s) of choice doesn’t really matter, because again, the impacts and effects are the same.
So what do you do when they start drinking or using?
Here’s the thing, I believe in being gentle, compassionate and loving with myself. And I want you to do the same. It sounds simple, but it can actually be tough to change, especially if you’re used to beating yourself up, judging yourself, or hearing that internal trash-talking voice in your own head.
Loving someone suffering from addiction can wreck your self esteem. This disease, addiction, is called a family disease for a reason. Addiction tramples anyone in its path. Its goal is to control and take over. The disease doesn’t have the love and compassion for you that your loved one has. And yes, there is a difference between the two.
When you love someone suffering, it can feel like a roller coaster ride.
It’s full of the highest highs, like when they promise to stop drinking (or using), and the lowest lows, like when you find their stash, they come home with a 12 pack, or they leave for the bar instead of staying for dinner.
And here’s the kicker: when they start drinking, they’ll usually blame you.
You might hear something like, “If dinner would have been on time, I would have stayed.” Or, “If you’d just get off my back, I wouldn’t have to drink this much anyway.” Or, let’s be honest, you may hear far worse than that.
This disease denies responsibility for drinking too much or using drugs. It doesn’t want you to think there’s a real problem. And so, addiction constantly lashes out and uses situations as excuses for your loved one’s bad choices.
Because addiction is sneaky, assigns blame, and tries to convince you you’re wrong, you may feel crazy. You’re not crazy.
When they start drinking, and even when they’re not, you can expect the manipulation, the lies, the blame, the aggression. All of it. That’s what addiction needs to thrive, so that’s what you see.
Let me say that again: You. Are. Not. Crazy.
Let me remind you that you have a strong intuition. You know in your gut, in your heart, in your mind, and in your bones what’s really going on. You’re a smart woman, and although your loved one’s addiction is trying to convince you that you’re wrong, you’re actually right. And I know that. And I hope you can know that, too.
If you don’t know that today, that’s okay. Please come back tomorrow, and read these words of affirmation: You’re not crazy and you’re right.
Say it to yourself, practice, practice, practice until you believe it. Say it out loud when no one is around (no judgment here, a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do), say it while you’re looking in the mirror, say it with your eyes closed before you fall asleep at night: I am not crazy and I am right.
You might be thinking, “Okay, I’m not crazy, and I’m right, but what am I supposed to do?”
YWhat do you do when your partner starts drinking? How do you react? Do you know the best way? Learn how you can help here. ou may be wondering what you’re actually suppose to do when they start drinking.
Great question. Please remember that in this community, we believe in real advice. We believe you have power over this disease, that you are not powerless. And frankly, we know this works not just because it worked for me when I loved a good man that suffered from addiction, but it’s also worked for thousands of women in our community who love someone suffering.
With your commitment to change and hard work, it will work for you too. You ready? Here we go.
Here’s how to react when your husband (or partner) starts drinking or using.
We’ve heard from women in our community – and I’ve experienced this myself – that when we find our partners drinking again (or whatever they use), we come completely unglued.
First, let me be totally honest with you: That’s normal. It’s completely normal to feel anger, disappointment, pure rage. It’s all normal.
If you feel like curling up in a ball on the bathroom floor and crying for hours, that’s normal.
If you deeply love your partner, even after they’ve broken your heart time and time again, that’s normal too.
These experiences are all part of loving a very sick person suffering from addiction.
But here’s one thing I don’t want you to feel: Guilt.
Unfortunately, that’s a normal feeling to experience too. But let me tell you why it’s not necessary, and why I want you to move away from that feeling: It’s not your fault. There’s nothing you need to feel guilty about. There’s nothing you’ve done (or haven’t done) that’s caused them to drink or use. When they use their drugs, alcohol, or whatever they use, it has nothing to do with you.
When they reject you, start drinking, and go to a bar instead of coming home, or when they don’t show up at the kid’s soccer game and you’re left cheering for your child alone, or when they call you awful names, your reaction matters. It counts. Big time. It’s actually the game changer.
Not because you need to respect your partner, but because you need to respect yourself.
So when they start drinking, and you’re having these feelings…
By all means cry, scream, fall apart… but do it with grace and dignity, and don’t do it in front of your partner.
Please don’t let your kids see you fight. Remember that they already have enough to deal with because they live in the same house as someone suffering from addiction.. And there’s no need to belittle yourself by causing a scene in public either.
Again, I’m not saying that you won’t feel the same anger, disappointment, rage, or deep sadness. Moving past those feelings is possible later in your recovery, but right now, I believe you’ll still feel those feelings. And what I’m asking you to do is to simply stop and think before you react.
Think about this question, “Will I regret this later?”
Learning to have a healthy reaction to their drinking or drug use is the key to being gentle with yourself. You get to keep your dignity and grace, regardless of what they’re choosing to do.
Get to a safe place and then let it all go.
Instead of coming unglued, exploding into a yelling match, or fighting in front of the kids, you can find your healing in stepping away from their craziness and doing something that brings you joy.
Light a candle, turn on some music, go for a walk, play a board game with the kids, enjoy a cup of tea.
Here’s the ironic thing:
When you can react calmly in front of them, and politely leave the room, house, party, wherever, they might actually consume less, because there’s no one nagging them to stop. There’s no one trying to ‘teach them a lesson’, or tell them they’re doing something wrong.
This certainly isn’t the case for every situation. It truly depends on the individual person and how long they’ve been addicted, among other things. But I will say this, they will notice. They will see your change in behavior. Regardless of whether or not they say anything, they will certainly notice.
Before we go further, I want to address one thing…
Because I heard this when I was married to a good man suffering, and I know women in our community hear it too. You ready?
“You’re not loving them hard enough.” “Love them more.” “Show them that you care.” “You can’t leave them alone drinking and leave the room, they’ll feel lost and alone.” “That’s not how marriage works.” “You’re supposed to provide unconditional love and support”
Have you ever heard (or thought) any of those things? And let’s be honest with each other: Once again, that’s normal.
I will keep this short, because trust me, I could talk about this for days. That’s appropriate advice in a marriage or relationship without addiction. But a relationship with addiction, that’s a whole new ball game.
Applying “normal” couple’s advice to your relationship with addiction could destroy it, and destroy you.
And here in this community, we’re all about being honest and telling loving truths, so let’s say it: This is hard.
It’s a skill, and like any skill, it takes practice to master. But learning to be gentle with yourself while loving someone suffering from addiction is the fastest way to heal and shut down the lies this disease tells us.
Here’s another loving truth:
You’re a kind, generous woman. You’re smart. You’re dignified.
So let’s make a game plan. How will you react the next time you ‘catch’ them? Will you keep a quiet mouth and politely excuse yourself for a walk? Load up the kids and go for a drive? Call a friend for coffee?
Make a plan for something you enjoy and fits easily into your lifestyle. Then, when it happens, you’ll know exactly what to do.
You’ve got this. I know you, and you’re here looking for answers. That tells me that you have the power and tenacity it takes to handle this disease.
So long story short:
When your husband (or partner) starts drinking or using, react with dignity and pride in yourself.
Regardless of what they’re doing or how they’re acting.
Questions from women in our community:
How do you control a drunk person?
It really depends on the specific situation you may be in, and how drunk the person is. The truth is that you cannot control anyone else. You can only control your own actions. Safety is your number one priority. If this person is known to be abusive or aggressive, please leave the situation and find safety for yourself.
What defines an alcoholic?
An alcoholic, or someone that has alcoholism, has a chemical dependence on alcohol. They may use this substance every day, or maybe they only drink every few months. Alcoholics look very different depending on their individual habits and circumstances. Some may be homeless on the streets, while others own their own businesses and have families.
How can I help my husband or partner stop drinking?
The truth of the matter is that nothing you can do or say will help your husband or partner get sober for good. There are certain things you can do to help though. These include to stop enabling, start setting boundaries, learn to stay in your own lane, and detach with love.
How much drinking is too much?
There are legal safety limits set, and other standards released by government agencies for safe amounts of alcohol to consume and/or operate a motor vehicle. Each person is different, and what may be acceptable for some will not be for others. The specific amount of alcohol that is considered ‘too much’ is determined by each individual and whether or not they struggle with addiction, among other facts.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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