When Addicts Don’t Want To Recover: Seeking Help From a Higher Power

When Addicts Don’t Want To Recover: Seeking Help From a Higher PowerIf an alcoholic is committed to his own destruction and even death, where does this leave the friends and relations of the alcoholic? Are they powerless in the fight? Is there nothing they can do to help?

Recognition of powerlessness is the first step for the alcoholic who wants to recover and it should be the first step for those who are impacted by the alcoholism. Certainly you have tried everything you could think of. You have hidden the alcohol, you have tried to keep the alcoholic from situations where alcohol may be present, you may have prayed, you have threatened, cried and begged. Admitting you are powerless does not mean giving up. It means you have acknowledged the truth about yourself and the enemy you are up against. There is freedom in accepting this reality.

We are not born with a set of instructions for dealing with alcoholics. Therefore, families should seek professional help. You may not realize the ways in which your own behaviors are either not helping the problem, or perhaps enabling it. Education won’t make your alcoholic stop drinking, but it will help you to understand the disease, recognize common behaviors and side effects, and learn how to live and deal with it.

Though the alcoholic may reject treatment or A.A., this should not bar the family from seeking the emotional help they need. Al-Anon groups are nearly as ubiquitous as Alcoholics Anonymous and the family will be greatly served by learning more about alcoholism and what they can and cannot expect. Family therapy is also recommended—whether the alcoholic family member will participate or not. The family of the alcoholic bears the battle scars of the war with alcoholism that has been waged in the house. These psychological and spiritual needs must be addressed.

If you are the spouse of a persistent alcoholic, a large part of your role will be in the area of damage control. It is not your job to hide the alcoholic’s behavior from your children or to make excuses, but it does fall upon you to explain what is happening and to help them process it. You may not want to deal with the truth of it yourself, you may not know what to say, but your children have an even further diminished ability to make sense of the craziness. Do what you can to support them and help them through this.

Though you love the alcoholic in your life, you must learn to practice detachment with compassion. Though you feel cheated of a normal life and marriage, though you still sting from abuse, you must try to understand that your alcoholic is in the grip of a demon. He or she does not continue drinking out of spite or malice, but due to legitimate physical and mental illness. Try to make peace with this. And then let yourself detach from the notion that you must be the savior. This is something you cannot fix.

It is tempting to try to make excuses for the alcoholic’s bad behavior or to attempt to smooth things over, but you aren’t doing anyone any favors. An alcoholic’s situation may have to progress to an almost unbearable level before he or she will take measures to get well. You cannot control this process, but constantly trying to mitigate the effects of his or her drinking is enabling. Yes, you love the alcoholic and yes, you want to make things better, but realize that your actions may be holding the alcoholic just above hell. Don’t stop someone from hitting bottom. Though it feels cruel, ‘bottom’ is often the place from which alcoholics recover.

Acceptance and detachment are not akin to giving up. Never give up on the alcoholic. In the end, your alcoholic may take his life through alcoholic suicide. Know and accept that you were always powerless to stop this. But by taking the above actions, you will have done your part to ensure that you and your family are not left in total wreckage. This is not harsh or unfeeling—it is honest and wise.