Pearls of Wisdom

They say those closest to you are the ones who are likely to hurt you the most. But, should family members and friends who are alcoholics or those who exhibit other forms of substance abuse be held to the same standard? After all, alcoholism is a disease, right?

Support is critical when dealing with the issue of substance abuse.
Support is critical when dealing with the issue of substance abuse.

The Matter At Hand

Yes, it is extremely disheartening that your loved one chose this potentially destructive route. And, knowing that a substance was chosen over a person may leave a family member or friend feeling empty and helpless.

Overall, people who have family members and friends who are alcoholics may wonder why can’t their loved one chose them instead of the substance. Or why, despite their best intentions can’t the family member seek help. Says Dr. Drew Pinsky, “I have deep empathy for alcoholics.” “You are not responsible for being an alcoholic; you are responsible for your treatment.”

A Defining Moment

By definition, alcoholism means a dependence on alcohol essentially to survive. How much drinking puts drinkers at risk? Bear in mind that a standard drink is one can of beer, one glass of wine and/or one mixed drink.

A woman who consumes more than three drinks at one time or more than seven drinks in a weeks’ time span may be at risk for becoming an alcoholic. For a man, the scenario is significantly different. A man who downs more than four drinks at one time or more than 14 drinks a week is considered at risk for the disease.

An Epiphany of Sorts

For all intents and purposes, here are suggestions on how I coped with the after effects of a friend who suffers from the disease of alcoholism. Following is a list of things I discovered along the way:

  • I realized the problem at hand had to be dealt with by the person who has the problem (I am not the cause of it, therefore I can not stop it).
  • I surrendered the issue to my Higher Power; everyone needs something that is greater than they are to believe in.
  • I journal about what alcoholism means to me and how I feel it has affected my life as a non-alcoholic.
  • I forgave. But, remember that your own timeline for forgiveness is better; nobody can force you to do anything.
  • I discussed the situation with a trusted family member. Not too long after, I discovered we had similar viewpoints on things, which really helped.

What Others May Do Also

  • Reading literature on the subject is another helpful vice for coping with an alcoholic family member or loved one. There are books aplenty on Amazon. And, Barnes and Noble has sections upon sections of books dedicated to the self-help arena (I had no idea such topics were covered).
  • Realize what you can and can not do. Since nearly everyone may agree that a natural instinct is the desire to want to pull someone you care about out of harm’s way, you must wait for their cue to do so.
  • Take things day-by-day. Living in the past will stop a person from moving forward. Many people give the metaphor of a car; the windshield is way larger than the side mirrors and that was not done by an accident. It is not so important to see what is behind you, than it is to see what lies ahead.
  • Attending counseling sessions for yourself or in support of your loved one can only help you gain insight into their reality. This can also help you air-out your grievances with the help of a trained professional who can offer an unbiased opinion.
  • You can look to outside sources for inspiration. Believe it or not, celebrities are great people to examine because they are just like us. For example, what do Halle Berry, Suzanne Somers and Judy Garland all have in common besides being icons? These celebs have either struggled with alcoholism or have witnessed other members of their family suffer from the disease.
  • Attending 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) with loved ones will not only show your commitment to supporting their sobriety, but allow you to glean valuable information about how things escalated to such a point. Meetings usually are held once a week at locations such as churches, libraries and schools and are free of charge (however, some donate a dollar for the cost to keep the program running) for about an hour. Note that you do not have to participate in the meetings, but if you do this may help facilitate your healing process as well. Be sure to check where the meetings are held in your city.

Getting Back to Reality

The takeaway is this: When a member of your family, loved one or friend is at odds with themself it is not your fault. After all, you can not stop the pain your loved one is causing. Therefore, blaming yourself will only harm you and take a toll on your self-esteem. You are not held accountable for anyone’s behavior but your own. An individual must find the need to change, it must come from within and never will truly work if forced.

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-Kimberly Williams

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