Understanding an Alcoholics Behavior

There are so many things that contribute to how the problem drinker acts. The process of understanding some of the alcoholic’s individual behavior patterns is something that develops over time. The way I learned more about why they do certain things was by attending Al-anon meetings and reading literature associate with living with an alcoholic. Living with an active addict can be mind boggling sometimes because the chaos levels go up and down. One day things are normal and all in life is good and without any warning everything changes and the change always revolves around the alcoholic’s behavior.

In order for us to be able to deal with these sudden unexpected life altering situations, we need to have a better understanding of the alcoholic’s behavior. It will do us some good to take a look at ourselves at the same time because that’s where the keys are for overcoming the frustrations that are associated with coping with an active alcoholic.

Let’s talk about the trust factor first. In my particular situation there were some things that the alcoholic could be trusted with. At other times they could not be trusted. The problem I had was always being suspicious. That’s because the alcoholic in my life had broken my trust so many times. Much of this problem is directly related to how they have a tendency to lie often. When truth and lies bubble from the same spring the waters get murky.

As soon as an addict   awakens, all an alcoholic  can think about is where they will get the next substance from to satisfy their habit. Here’s the problem though, they are never satisfied. So, they are constantly looking for an opportunity to fulfill the longing inside to get something to drink. If they are at a child’s birthday party, they want to get a drink. When they are out to dinner, they always want to have another one. If friends who are non-drinkers invite them over, the chances are pretty good that they will not hang out for long. It will be an eat and run engagement. That’s if they decide to go at all. My point is that they will try to slip a drink in every chance they get and they are always trying to create the chances.

It’s an addiction! You will never be able to control it or them. Only they can control what is out of control by asking for help.

So, trying to understand an alcoholic’s behavior hinges upon this very thing, they cannot stop trying to plan where and when they will have their next drink. The sad thing is that they will lie and manipulate situation after situation to get the alcohol that their body and mind are craving all of the time. Unfortunately, in a sense they are married to the alcohol. In actuality, the substance that controls them has become their god.

Now that you have a better understanding of what is going on in their mind and body, may I suggest that you accept them just as they are? Understanding an alcoholic’s behavior is one thing, but grasping the truth that you need to let go of them is another. Listen; ask yourself if anything that you have tried has forced them to quit drinking alcohol. I would guess no. They are not going to change so you will have to. The idea of forcing an alcoholic to quit just doesn’t work.
Along with letting them go, get into support group meetings. This will help you to understand yourself and your behaviors much better than the alcoholics. People in these meetings know what you are going through and can help tremendously.

19 comments to Understanding an Alcoholics Behavior


    Living with an alcoholic works, and the Title Of MONEY and ABUSE sure hit home for me this Christmas. I dont Have to worry about the attitude changes everyday, or the FLIP FLOP Moods, He Stole my money order from my rent, and went and cashed it up at wal-mart for 415.00 and Spent it. Now hes living back at his house with No running water, No heat, and No toilet. Probably next to NO food. IDK If i am going to press charges or not, IF i dont he may get away with this Time and time again with Some other woman.And Children. I have to take this one day at a time, but as i realize day after day I was addicted to the alcoholic addictive “behavior” Now, I am slowly Enjoying the peace with my kids. Even though he is out there Lurking ready to strike Some how some way. He wasnt there for any of his friends OR family, Just him and his booze, now In a way i have accepted. Thats the way HE wants to live until he dies. So be it.
    I cant believe after everything I have done for him, he would stoop so low as to take my money for OUR Home and go have a couple of big nights and drink it all away. NO CONCIENCE what so ever. but I can do something about it this time. No one else. Should I or Shouldnt I?

  • Jackie

    May I suggest not making any major decisions in anger. It’s good to set boundaries and not be an enabler. Learning how to do this in a loving way is tough and takes time.

    We need to be connected with people who know how to deal with these difficult situations.

    There’s a great saying that goes like this; “say what you mean but don’t say it mean.”

    The way I learned to set boundaries and to be more understanding of the alcoholic’s illness was by attending support group meetings.

  • My girlfriend is a thirteen years sober recovering alcoholic. We have been together for 8 months, and never had a cross word and then suddenly all hell lets loose, because I became a bit merry at a dance. I couldn’t believe how angry she had become, because of my behaviour. I enjoy a drink, and my girlfriend has indeed encouraged me to drink and not worry about her, but I found myself being “brow beaten”, because I was drinking too fast etc. I had only had 4 pints of Grolsch Lager/Beer. She totally ruined, what was otherwise a fun night and chose not to stay with me after we had returned home, which involved her getting all her things and storming off in a temper. etc. etc.

    This was just over a week ago. She calmed down after a few days and is friendly again, but still blames me, because I answered her back. I am now wondering, when will this happen next.

  • The person I am dealing with is not intoxicated, but 13 years sober, however desires, fears and cravings still exist.

    Cheers !! Ray.

  • SJC

    Raymond, is the a personality still alive and well? Blaming, criticizing and insults.

  • SJC

    Just read you post. She has not blamed ect… for the past 13 years. Just wondering if they quit, thing really change?

  • SJC

    Sorry again Raymond…I’m a little slow tonight. lol You have been together 8 months…not trying to be a downer but the new in the relationship may be wearing off and Hyde comes out. I was with my xah (very high function alcoholic) 19 months b4 we lived together, after I moved in things stated to slowly change. Easier said than done but you might want to run for your life. No good can from being with an a or an recovering a in my past experience. My father was sober 19 years b4 he died and still acted out. It was not daily, weekly or monthly but I knew even as a kid that he would act out again. I will never get involved with an a or a recovering a…they hurt people with meanness and they can not be reasoned with. I’m just saying….

  • Jill

    My boyfriend has been in the AA program since Sept. 2014. I was relieve when he decided to go to meetings, then get a sponsor. I had hope that things were going to finally ease up and be better. Life has turned upside down and now Im the recipient of blame, accusations, emotional abuse. Jeckle n Hyde behavior. I’m just dumbfounded by how everything seems really good and within a blink of an eye Im blindsided with a behavior that cuts me off at the knees. I say Im hurt. Then he says “whats the big deal. ” “I didnt know I was hurting you.” Your making this bigger then it is”. He tells me how Im feeling or does not hear what I am trying to convey. It’s maddening. it pushes me away from him. Is this tsunami of rotten behavior Im seeing now due to unearthing his issue while working the steps… taking inventory?? I feel like Im getting the outpouring of blame and resentment that has accumulated over his lifetime. And because Im the only one standing there; I get dumped with it! Its too much crazymaking for my brain to take. He is so sweet and loving for a couple of days and then all I do is say one thing and bam… he’s indignant, pushy and covertly mean. I feel like Im going crazy at these times. How do I lose ME so quickly?
    I have found I don’t have the skills to stay grounded when he turns the situation back on me. I basically come undone. A defenseless child. I almost think he likes to see me this way.
    Where do I go from here? We have so much potential but this new behavior is killing me. I’m starting to think things aren’t going to get better. I blame myself because it was me who introduced him to AA.

  • SJC

    Jill, did he blame and criticized when he was drinking and did he also do it before he went to AA? what he’s not getting about taking inventory is…it’s supposed to be about him taking inventory on his self and not you. alcoholics don’t want to look at themselves, its like they never factor their self into any situation, its always the other person. I’ve read that counselors at work with alcoholics say they had this problem it’s considered a external focus of control.
    I understand losing yourself. that’s exactly what happened to me with my ex alcoholic husband. I had always felt attractive independent and somehow I lost them. I’ve been divorced for 3 years and I’m still struggling with the emotional and verbal abuse. it’s sad what these people do to you. I had a friend that says Alcoholics kill everything around them. I wish you the best take care of yourself.

  • SJC

    Sorry for all the wrong wording. I need to reread what I write before I hit send.. LOL

  • Jill

    Thank you! I have been attending Al-anon and I believe Im still somewhat sane because of the program and the group wisdom. This site has also been a God send to me. It just helps hearing from other ppl in similar situations validating that Im not insane. Seems like we’re dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t with the alcoholic.

  • Jill

    One day at a
    time!! :)

  • Jill

    Omg help, The insanity of this disease it taking me over and I dont even know how. My brain shuts down. I forget whats important in my life. I was so upset yesterday that when I got home I shut myself off and watched alanon videos on youtube to find some relief.
    I completely forgot a huge meeting I co-chair. How could I be so focused n clear last week and over one rotten behavior of the alcoholic Im brainless. Im scared of what this is doing to me. Can anyone give me guidance?

  • Rachel Warnock


    I’m new to this and currently absolutely heartbroken as my alcoholic boyfriend has had another episode. In short, he lives 200 miles away and gets depressed when it is time to go back. He should be with me now & leaving on Thursday. Instead, I have no idea where he is & all I’ve had are horrible messages saying I’m fat, obese, accusing me of sleeping around & he hates me. At 2.45pm I got a message telling me how much he loved me & couldn’t wait to pick me up from work at 5pm. When he didn’t show that horrible sinking feeling in my stomach told me something was wrong. I cried all the way home & found some junk mail when I got in addressed to my ex so I gathered that was the “trigger”. He’s the most affectionate, loving & caring man usually. He says I’m beautiful & the best thing that’s ever happened to him & I know he loves me. I love him so much it hurts & I can’t get my head around how quickly he changed from when we woke with our arms around each other this morning. I can’t talk to family & friends as they will just tell me to leave him. I’m 44 & he’s 47 & we have so many plans for the future. I know if he rings tomorrow I’ll just feel relief & forgive him when I should probably finish it. I can’t sleep, eat & my stomach is in knots. I’m devastated & so depressed. Can anyone help?


  • Jill

    First of all you are so not alone in the insanity. What you wrote discribes the rollercoaster ride most of us ride when involved with an alcoholic. Get to several Alanon meetings and go until you can start to disearn whats his and whats yours. Otherwise the ride will never stop. Watch some youtube videos on co-dependency, detachment from the alcoholic, etc. Thats where I found this fantastic website. Information that restores sanity. Be easy on yourself. And remember, your enabling keeps him from his true potential. Our ego tells us we can save them. WRONG! They have to do ALL the work.
    Paint your toenails and give this to God.

  • Rachel Warnock

    Hi Jill

    Thanks for your reply. I’ve looked up the meetings and I will go to the next available one. I know I need to look after myself but I just can’t eat & dreading getting through work tomorrow. He texted me earlier saying he had slept on the train station & had his trainers nicked. He apologised for being a “vile c–t” (his words) & said he had re-read all the nasty texts & was so sorry. He said he really does love me & he should be holding me right now. I took an hour to reply & said I was just glad he was still alive & I don’t hate him etc. He rang me an hour after that but there was just silence at the end of the phone so I eventually hung up. I then got a message saying he was going for a walk as his head felt ready to explode & he asked me not to ignore his calls. I simply replied that I did answer but there was silence & told him I wasn’t ignoring him. I expected a call back but have heard nothing from him. I kept up No Contact all last night & all today which was really hard. I didn’t want to provoke him & thought he would talk when he was ready & sober(ish). Now I’m kicking myself for letting him know I still love him as I feel he doesn’t now see the need to ring me, apologise or beg forgiveness. He’s no longer scared that I’ll leave him (although I’ve never threatened that..he’s admitted before he’s terrified of that happening) & that makes me vulnerable & weak..which I am…I was just trying to make him think I wasn’t. I’m so confused, hurt & struggling to get through this. I want to be with him but this rollercoaster is seriously damaging my mind & health. Sorry for such a long email


  • Rachel

    I’m worse today than I was yesterday. Walking to work this morning I got a text asking if we were finished & he loved me so much. I asked why he couldnt ring & talk to me & no reply. I tried ringing & he ignored my call. So i sent a msg saying i was sick & tired of the mind games & couldnt cope anymore. All day ive been receiving awful messages ranging from calling me an “obese c–t” to him threatening to kill himself. I switched my phone off & when i left work i had missed calls, more messages & voicemails. None of them nice or remotely apologetic. I thought i was doing the right thing & letting him calm down but ive just made it worse. He did eventually get hold of me & i answered. I asked him not to abuse me anymore but he was obviously drunk & saying he had taken a load of pills & he just didnt give a f–k anymore. I played right into his hands & told him i did love him, i missed him but just didnt want the name callingetc & he just hung up. Fortunately ive had no more msgs but he now knows how i feel & i might have well have said “dont worry, you can abuse me all you want.ill still be here!” I know im codependant but I dont have the courage to set boundaries as i dont want to lose him so im in a vicious cycle of knowing what i need to do but being to scared to do it. This is why ive never threatened him as i know i wont follow it through. Ive never been such a mess. If only he would sober up & tell me hes sorry & he loves me..everything will be ok. Yeah..i know it wont but it would make me feel better right now. Im sorry to go on so much & i know people may be thinking..u need to get a grip. I do but i cant do it on my own. Thanks to anyone whos listening


  • maria

    Hi Rachel, I am concerned for you. you are going through exactly the same as I did for the last four years of my life. It does not get any better the pattern of behaviour of the alcoholic you have described is as I experienced. You must leave this situation. I began to experience depression, common for partners of alcoholics. the mind games, abuse, blame will never end. When you set those boundaries for unacceptable behaviour it just gives them another reason to abuse you. They hate themselves and hate everyone else who is good and normal for being what they wish they were. Their mission is to bring you down to their level. I do not know how old you are, but please please do not do this to yourself, life with an alcoholic is a warzone, he will never respect you and like me if you spend long enough time with them you start to know no different and become used to being treated badly. There is no light at the end of this dark tunnel leave. Get support from family friends and us if need be. He will destroy you. I know you love him, but that will never be enough. There are lots of addiction free men out there that you can have loving healthy relationships with. please listen. leave My best wishes to you.

  • I understand everything that has been said in this article. I have been to a counselor about my alcoholic husband and also to Al-Anon. My counselor stated over and over again not to react to the mood swings. I think this is one of the best solutions along with setting boundaries (never accept abuse), but do find it difficult not to react at times and say negative things. I really have to work at it. It is very difficult not to take things personally also and this is another process I have to really think hard about over and over again in my head. What a negative life it is living with an alcoholic.

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