According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, addiction is a family disease. Living with an alcoholic affects the functioning of the family system and leads to unhealthy coping behaviors as family members experience the chaos, negativity and uncertainty that often come with addiction. Living with an alcoholic can be difficult, but here are some tips that will help.
Engage in therapy.
Living with an alcoholic can affect how family members think and behave. It’s common for family members to develop enabling and co-dependent behaviors that can reduce their own sense of identity and well-being and further perpetuate the addiction.
Engaging in individual therapy can help family members learn to cope with the addiction in healthy ways and recognize unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that can lead to deep personal and familial dysfunction. For younger members of the family, who are at greater risk of substance abuse themselves from living with an alcoholic, therapy can be instrumental in preventing unhealthy coping behaviors like detachment or acting out.
Support organizations for families living with an alcoholic offer a safe place to voice fear, frustration, anger and other negative emotions that can cause problems at home and reduce the quality of life of everyone in the household. Support groups like Al-Anon for adults and Alateen for younger family members help reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness that can come from living with an alcoholic. They can also help family members best support their loved one once he or she enters recovery.
Take good care of yourself.
Co-dependent behaviors include neglecting your own well-being in an attempt to ensure your loved one struggling with the addiction is okay. But self-care is essential when you’re living in an environment of substance abuse. Self-care includes taking care of your physical needs, including eating healthy food and getting adequate sleep, along with caring for your emotional needs, such as the need for love, companionship, security and well-being. Putting your needs or those of your children before the needs of your addicted family member will help you better cope with the addiction and the problems it brings to the household.
Create a happy, stable home despite living with an alcoholic.
Addiction can bring negativity and uncertainty to the home. When children are involved, it’s important to create a stable home environment that promotes personal happiness, safety and well-being. Engage in family activities that offer fun and relaxation and try to involve the family member struggling with alcoholism whenever possible. Minimize disruptions as much as possible, such as avoiding arguing with your addicted loved one while he or she is under the influence or continuing with family activities even if your loved one is too drunk to participate.
Leave or consider an intervention.
If you feel that you or your children are unsafe living with an alcoholic, leave. If you need help and support leaving, talk to a trusted family member, counselor, clergy member, or friend.
Even if living with an alcoholic isn’t dangerous, it’s almost always disruptive. If you’ve tried to convince your loved one to get help without success, it may be time to consider an intervention. Interventions are a planned meeting between you and other concerned loved ones and the alcoholic family member. Interventions that are facilitated by a professional interventionist have a 90 percent success rate in getting the loved one to agree to treatment.
Living with an alcoholic almost always causes relationship problems and household dysfunction. Ultimately, addiction almost always gets worse without professional help. There may come a time when you’ve taken all you can handle and done everything you can do. At that time, you’ll have to decide on a course of action. The more support you have when that time comes, the easier it will be to make the choices that are best for you and other family members in the household.