How to survive with an alcoholic


“When our relationship began, we liked to wander around the city with a bottle of wine or drink beer on the boulevard. At first I even liked what Vika was becoming: she laughed, danced, invited passers-by to sing together. But it’s one thing when a young girl behaves this way, and another thing when she grabs people by the sleeve for almost forty years. ”

For fifteen years of marriage, 42-year-old Anton had to drag Vika from restaurants and night clubs more than once and then load him in a taxi. “She has friends, girlfriends who also like to drink, in this company not a single meeting is complete without vodka. When we come to visit, and I persuade her to limit herself to a pair of glasses, she looks at me as an enemy. I did not want to believe that my wife was an alcoholic; I was ashamed. But it is so”.

“We lived in a house without an elevator, and it was very difficult for me to drag Misha to the fourth floor. Once I decided: let him sleep on a bench by the house. But it was awkward in front of the neighbors, and I was also afraid that he would freeze, die, and I went down and dragged him up the stairs again. ” 34-year-old Nina talks about it calmly, even casually. Her husband is sober very rarely, but she does not abandon him – without her, Misha will succumb completely and die.

There are couples in which the spouse, despite the warm advice of others to quit the alcoholic, stays close and asks himself: how to help?

“He is very talented, writes such magical songs. Well, now he almost does not write, but when we got married, he constantly composed them and dedicated them to me. Sometimes I sing them to Misha: what if he remembers how good it was for us when he drank a little? But Misha always screams: “Shut up!” Throws things. I’m scared. It is as if he is turning into another person, evil, cruel, capable of anything. ”

Many could subscribe to these stories. Many families do not stand such a test and break up. But there are couples in which the spouse, despite the warm advice of others to quit the alcoholic, remains nearby, suffers and daily asks herself: how can he (her) help? What to do to bring a loved one back to life? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question. But there are several behaviors that make it possible to be close to one’s loved ones in suffering and not to die yourself.

help yourself

Until a person himself wants to get rid of alcoholism, attempts to persuade him to stop drinking in vain. He himself knows that his lifestyle is destructive, and pressure from the side in this case only increases the desire to hide from the world in drunkenness.

An alcoholic drinks for various reasons that made him addicted. But, even after learning these reasons and presenting them to him, it is impossible to instantly reorient him to a healthy lifestyle. An alcoholic must come to the need to stop drinking on his own, and the task of those close to him is to prepare for the day when he decides to start treatment. For example, you can make inquiries about centers that work with problems of alcoholism, and about nearby groups of anonymous alcoholics, unobtrusively offering this information to a loved one.

Accompanying a loved one on the path to recovery, you must not forget about yourself: in order to be near an alcoholic, you need strength

This does not mean that you need to make an appointment with a specialist or agree with the group about the first meeting — the alcoholic must perform these actions himself! But relatives can help, being nearby, supporting at all stages of treatment and without panic, meeting relapses of the disease.

Accompanying a loved one on the path to recovery, you should not forget about yourself: in order to be near an alcoholic, you need a lot of strength. Constantly afraid that he will start drinking again, you can destroy your own health, both mental and physical. “It’s better to admit that we are simply not capable of some things in relations with another person,” says French psychoanalyst Marie-Claire Lejeune, “this allows us to alleviate our feelings and look at the situation from the outside.”

Do not force him to admit the disease

There are many reasons for people to drink: this is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, and an attempt to escape from life’s difficulties, and unhealthy relationships in the family, and the influence of the environment. “The mechanisms for developing addiction are complex,” says psychotherapist Guzial Loginova, “but we tend to explain the behavior of a loved one who has become a stranger as simple as possible.”

Inspiring themselves that “he simply has a weak will,” or trying to hide a bottle, relatives often deny the complexity of the problem and defend themselves from negative emotions. This also explains the obsessive desire to make a person confess to his alcoholism.

“At some point, I began to bring Misha books on alcoholism,” says Nina. – It seemed to me that if he realizes that he is an alcoholic, utters these words, everything will be different. I kept asking him to say this, and in response he drank more and more. ”

It is generally accepted that an alcoholic simply has to be aware of his problems and stop lying to himself and others. “This is not a lie, but a legitimate defense! – the psychotherapist Vladimir Yesaulov objects. “A person suffering from alcoholism has the right not to want his personality reduced to the label ‘alcoholic’ or invaded his personal space.” Excessive perseverance will cause the drinking partner to feel humiliated – and get rid of unpleasant feelings in the usual way.

How to recognize alcoholism

This disease is determined not by the amount of alcohol consumed (many people regularly and relatively often drink without being alcoholics), but by the quality of the relationship that is established between a person and alcohol – a relationship of dependence.

A psychological connection is important that subordinates a person to what destroys him (this can be not only alcohol or drugs, but also a game, work, another person). In the book “Psychological Aspects of Dependence”, transaction analyst Alla Aivazova lists the signs of alcoholism: the presence of at least three of them may indicate the onset of the disease.

  • Alcohol is often taken in large quantities or for a longer time than the person intended.
  • A person has a persistent desire to reduce alcohol consumption. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to do this.
  • Much time is devoted to activities related to the extraction of alcohol; the very use (binges); returning to normal after alcohol (post-hangover syndrome).
  • A person is often under the influence of alcohol, while he must fulfill his duties. Important areas of life are abandoned, or their time is shortened due to alcohol consumption.
  • A person continues to drink, despite problems caused by alcohol (family quarrels, depression, exacerbation of diseases, difficulties at work).
  • The need to increase the dose to achieve a state of intoxication or a noticeably smaller effect when using the same amount.
  • Drinking alcohol to relieve a hangover or to avoid withdrawal symptoms (desire to “hangover”).

Understand your personal role

It is important to pay attention to how a close relationship with an alcoholic is built: the situation in the family is not the last factor affecting a person’s desire to drink. It is necessary to realize, without blaming yourself, your own involvement in the family system, consisting of “I” and a drinking partner. “I tried to free Vika from household chores so that she had time to think about herself and find some interests,” Anton recalls. “But it was getting worse.” She came at night drunk and shouted: “You do not need me! You hate me! You don’t even let the dishes wash! ”

The situation could be even more complicated. “Drama can be beneficial to those who experience it,” explains Vladimir Yesaulov. “The wife or husband of an alcoholic does not realize this, but they are attracted to the role of the victim, the opportunity to be a carer.” Moreover, the idea of ​​their own importance in the life of a partner can make a non-drinking spouse provoke an alcoholic during periods of abstinence – by chance draw his attention to the wine department in the store, leave a bottle in the refrigerator.

“When Misha drinks, it’s terrible,” Nina says, “but when he doesn’t drink for a long time, I begin to feel somehow strange. The husband is busy with his own affairs, and I have freed up a lot of time, which used to go in his search, quarrels. ”

Why live with alcoholics?

The urge to drink and the urge to live with an alcoholic are similar phenomena. They are based on the lack of something important for humans, explains Vladimir Yesaulov.

Psychologies: Why do they connect their lives with alcoholics, knowing about their tendencies?

Vladimir Yesaulov: Man strives for what he needs. At the beginning of his acquaintance, he can hear from his beloved: “I can’t live without you.” It’s nice to hear that, but essentially blackmail: if you leave me, I will die. Such a person has an initially dependent personality structure, the need for someone to lead him through life and constantly save him. The phrase “You save me” becomes central. Leaving the alcoholic, the second spouse begins to feel that his life has ceased to be bright and heroic.

What explains this need to carry your cross?

This is a matter of general deficit thinking. A potential spouse of an alcoholic may need respect, and life with him gives cause to complain to others and receive a portion of admiration from them. In Russia, where there are many single women, wives of alcoholics value their status. “Carrying the Cross” is essentially a martyr path, satisfying the need for self-realization. And the thought “No one can do this except me” makes these people feel omnipotent.

Is such a person able to help a drinking spouse?

Co-dependent people are internally interested in having their husband or wife drink, and here both need the help of a specialist. But if the spouse of the alcoholic does not see the point in such a relationship, if he has not formed co-dependence, he can make it clear to the partner that he was too carried away by alcohol. It is wiser to do this when the alcoholic is still ashamed of his behavior. It is important to show the dependent how his craving destroys what is valuable to him – health, work, income, communication, and the lives of children. But the person who “fills” the lack of something important in life needs to be offered new values, passion, meaning. The spouse of an alcoholic who finds the strength to do this will help her beloved recover.

Back to life

“We need to establish autonomy where alcoholism creates co-dependence,” Guzial Loginova explains. “When the partner returns to life, the spouse will have a desire to join him.”

“You take away the whole world from an alcoholic. What will you give him in return? ” – wrote the Russian psychiatrist Pyotr Gannushkin. It is worth offering other options: going to the cinema, meeting friends, traveling. And to speak with your beloved is not about alcohol, but about what is happening inside, about your feelings, even if they are only impotence and indignation. “In this case, he will not have to defend himself,” Guzial Loginova continues, “and the partner will soon be heard.”

But stopping playing the alcoholic game is not easy. “To give Vika the opportunity to independently fight the passion for alcohol meant for me to leave the person in trouble,” Anton recalls. “But if I hadn’t stopped the game“ you drink, I’m saving you, ”she wouldn’t look for the means to be saved.”

Take it non-drinker

Abstinence from alcohol, alas, is not the end of difficulties. Even if the partner has been waiting for this moment for a long time, he may not be ready to meet the person who was hiding behind the bottles. “There was a moment in our life when Misha decided to encode,” recalls Nina. “It didn’t last long, but I remember how unpleasant it became: a obese, always displeased face.” I didn’t want to come home from work. ” A bad mood is not the only unpleasant change in the behavior of the “started” alcoholic, and one must be prepared for this.

Having lost constant attention, a person who has stopped drinking may begin to attract the interest of others by other methods. For example, scandals in the family and at work, complaints. The best way to help a loved one adapt to a new life is to accept him non-drinker and give him the opportunity to rediscover himself in society and family. And if earlier only the role of an alcoholic was assigned to him, then with the beginning of abstinence such a person should be restored to the roles of spouse, colleague or parent in order to regain balance already in a normal, healthy life.

To leave or stay?

What to do when a loved one destroys himself and your relationship? What is better for him – if you leave or if you stay? These questions, which are often asked by psychotherapists, are answered by one of them – Christoph Andre.

“Many people know from their own experience that reproaches, screams and tears help little. To stay and moan is, in my opinion, not an option. Sometimes it’s better to say that you love him (her), but you can’t live like that anymore – and leave. Leave for real, not just threaten or blackmail. Often an addict needs a similar crisis.

But it can be very difficult for you to leave: sometimes it is much harder to see another in despair than drunk in the smoke. If you decide to stay, you need to be able to defend yourself and protect yourself. For example, to demand from your spouse some reasonable minimum: not to change completely, but to change the behavior and habits that especially hurt you.

No matter how your life takes shape, know: love alone is not enough for a couple to live, develop and be happy. You can love someone – and completely ruin his life. Sometimes it is necessary to accept this thought in order to regain happiness – in this union or somewhere else. ”

Have a question?

Association Alcoholics AnonymousPhone: (495) 220-09-69.

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