Loving The Alcoholic By Letting Go-How Can This Be Love?


Loving our children, spouses and friends seems to be something that we “do” naturally. Letting go of the alcoholic means that we must learn to love them differently. Alcoholism is considered to be an illness or a disease. How could letting go of someone who is sick possibly work?

Understanding the concept takes time. Eventually confusion about this subject will disappear. Logical thinking says that if someone that I love is sick, I must take care of them. If the person struggling with an addiction is one of our children, then how could it be the right thing to do by allowing them to continue to be ill. After all haven’t we always cared for them when they caught the flu or a cold and every-time they fell and hurt themselves?

Chalk HeartThere’s more to it than just “letting go.” We must also practice putting them in God’s hands. This in no way means that we are turning our backs on the ones we love. We are just saying; “God I can’t-you can-so I’m going to let you.” This is where faith is born, in letting go of the alcoholic in our lives.

Once we grasp the reality that nothing that we have done and nothing we are presently doing is working, then faith can be born when we turn the situation over to God. Still this type of total surrender takes a certain amount of practice over the course of time.

In our minds and hearts we are seeing the destruction that is happening all around us on a daily basis. Somehow we think that we can fix the troublesome situation by the things that we do or say.

The reality of the alcoholic’s world is that nothing will make them quit but themselves. We can talk, scream or yell until we are blue in the face and they will still continue to stay on the path that they are on.

Why?, because alcoholism is a disease that they can only be cured by their choice to stop drinking. We cannot make them choose the right thing to do. It may be a good idea to read: Why Can’t Alcoholics Stop Drinking.

death gripLoving an alcoholic child comes natural to us, but when the horrible behavior kicks in, then we begin to loose all sense of trust. Somehow love is directly related to trusting someone with “our” emotions.

What a startling conflict in the way we think that love should be.

When the relative or friend begins to have no respect at all for our feelings, possessions, or family, we have to begin to set boundaries because we do not trust them anymore. We place locks on the doors and refuse to discuss things with them when they are using drugs or alcohol.

Furthermore, our decisions to “not” get them out of jail or loan them money become great pillars of strength that demonstrate I love you but will not support your poor behavior in life. You will find many tips in our article about having tough love with an alcoholic.

Still, how can this be love? Our ideal of giving affection to people is through helping them, hugging them and giving gifts. All of these things can still be done, but we must learn how to protect our emotions while we are loving them.

All of the changes that we make to protect ourselves do not mean that we do not love them or cannot continue loving the alcoholics in our lives. It just means that we are setting boundaries to protect ourselves from the effects of alcoholism in our lives. They may get mad, but hey, they get mad about everything so what’s the big deal? Learning how to set and reinforce boundaries with an alcoholic is well worth the effort.

arrogant upper class alcoholicRemember anger and anxiety are the weapons of the alcoholic.

Just knowing in our hearts, the truth is “we love them,” is going to have to be good enough for me and you.

We know that we know how much we care about them regardless of what they say about our affections toward them. Unconditional love is not defined by how we treat them, it is something that is un-dieing inside of our being toward them.

Making changes to protect ourselves and live in more peace and serenity is in no way not loving someone who is ill.

The only cure for this disease is the addict must realize that they need help.

As long as we continue to place big cushions underneath them when they fall, the hurts in their lives will never be great enough for them to stop drinking or doing drugs. You can read this post about how to stop enabling an alcoholic to gain insight on what to do to help them hit their bottom.

Still, even though we make changes to not enable them, the disease of alcoholism is horribly cunning, baffling and powerful. Although many alcoholics have tragic things happen and we think that those things will be their wake-up-call, many die from the disease because they were never able to quit.

The only choices we have are to love them unconditionally and continue letting go of them and putting them in God’s hands everyday. Even though they are our kids, grand-children, spouses, friends or close relatives and we want the best for them, they must choose the best for themselves. Nothing that we say or do is going to make them quit drinking or doing drugs.


37 comments to Loving The Alcoholic By Letting Go-How Can This Be Love?

  • cris campbell

    Dear Sirs;

    I work for Oklahoma State University Prevention Programs, which focuses on preventing underage drinking and assisting to provide a continuum of care (treatment) in my region. I ran onto this article in research and wonder if I can have permission to reprint it in my area?

  • Shelly

    This article was so enlightning, however, I find myself in an almost opposite situation. I have a very difficult time loving (I love my husband I guess the word would be liking) my husband because of the drinking. I have been in this relationship for over 20 years, we have children together, and yet I find it harder and harder every day to let go and to love him unconditionally. The horrible and hurtful things that he says about me or the names he calls me is so hard to hear and to ignore. These are things that are being said by the one that you love, if they love you, how can they say such things to you and not mean them. I find myself actually questioning those things he says and wonder if they really are true or not. I get so angry and am so hurt that it takes a while for me to get over the episode. In my head I know that I myself need help as much as my husband does, but I just cannot seem to get my confidence up to get help. I love my husband with all my heart but my heart is being broken and I don’t know how to stop my way of thinking and get help. I guess what it comes down to is that I can’t help but to think that if he loved us (the kids and I) enough he would stop drinking for us. He chooses alcohol over us everyday and that hurts.

    In this article it compares alcoholism with a disease like cancer. Where I have a problem with understanding this is that someone that has cancer would do anything to not have it, and sometimes there is nothing that can be done for them to be cured. Alcoholics have a choice and can be cured, maybe not cured but can get better, all by choosing to not drink anymore. I just haven’t made that connection yet in my mind of it being a disease like other diseases; it’s a very different disease indeed.

  • Katie

    I am in totally agreement with you Shelly. My husband does the same thing to me…I’ve been married 10 years, and have 3 little boys. I alot of the times just think he’s selfish…and I think he chooses the devil over serving the Lord every day. Everyone has a choice to go home to their family, or have that first selfish drink at the shop after work. But the thing that my husband says to me, is that I have an addiction with my phone…or something that he can get me back with. The thing is…is that my talking on the phone doesn’t have a huge effect on my family, like his drinking. Everything in moderation…he just likes to come back with things that make him feel better about himself. But yes…I have the same question about the disease…disease my butt. It’s just an excuse. Sorry…I’m just venting.

  • Denise

    I wish I could let go but, doing so I would feel very responsible for whatever happens next to my boyfriend. It would feel as though I have given up on him. He would also use this to bring himself down even lower, I think…and this is something I cannot except. I’m soo tired of it all. IT’s only been 3 years in the relationship and I read that some spouses do it for 20 years or more! OMG!
    My brain understands the whole idea of it being a disease, but my heart cannot stop hurting.

  • Jane

    I am currently struggling with this situation with my boyfriend of 6 years. It is so difficult to see and be around, especially since my mother was an alcoholic. I have done my years in therapy, but now I see I need to break the cycle again. I will turn this over to his God and love him through this without me trying to fix him. To think that this drug that has ruined so many lives, is still so very acceptable in society.

  • Sally

    Two months ago I just met someone who I suspect is an alcoholic. He is so charming!! I am a single mom of two and usually have my kids all the time. We kept contact to texting. Then on one of my free weekends that I was not able to go out due to being sick, he was out drinking, and was issued his 2nd DUI which he was driving on an already suspended license. When he met me, within a week he signed up for his classes that he had been putting off for many months. I was so proud of him and told him so, and then the second DUI landed him in jail over a weekend. And he had a prescription drug with no prescription on him as well, which was news to me. I gave this try another month, but I can’t get it out of my head that he really needs to deal with his legal stuff and yet at the same time he needs a friend. He was very clingy/charming/wanting to see me all the time, but I couldn’t cause of kids. We had a couple good weekends together. He has expressed that he is learning in his classes and he thinks he has found fun in me and enjoys being around me and my kids without the drinking. I was very happy to hear him say that and told him so. I really started to fall for him. Then this past weekend I couldn’t go out to the bar with him to see this band and he went with the “group” and I saw a pic of him dancing with another girl. And now he has gone cold with me. So I guess he found someone else. I am letting this one go, but I very much enjoyed his company and we were just starting to get to know each other. What should I do if he comes back to me?

  • Katie

    Sally…
    I’m going to be blunt with you…and not say anymore. Run away from this guy…protect your kids…he still likes partying it sounds like…not something you want to teach your kids…and not what they need to see. There’s more fish in the sea.

  • Jami

    For Shelly – my situation is very similar to yours. My husband’s alcoholism was very progressive, and I always felt he was a decent kind man, until the past couple of years when things really sped up. Now he is mean, abusive and cruel. The things he has said to me (and often later doesn’t remember saying, or so he claims) have cut through me to the point of where I feel totally worthless and that I don’t deserve anything, that I might actually deserve his cruelty. Of course a part of me, when I get a grip on things, know this is just not true, but to be treated so terribly by someone who treated me with respect for over 20 years – to have it all go there other way, it’s like he has taken on the personality of something evil. The hate in his eyes, the long hard, cold stares at me – they are frightening. He has destroyed the decent life we had and I know I cannot go on this way much longer because quite honestly, I’d rather just die, it’s that bad. I just don’t understand how alcoholism can turn someone who was good hearted and loving into this monster.

  • Ben

    Do your alcoholics pick a few small fights a day? I see mine doing so, and her fighting is very intense- storming out of the house, swearing, throwing things, saying very cruel things, not answering calls or texts, etc….It can be over anything- if I ask a question she doesn’t like, pick a topic she doesn’t like, have an opinion she doesn’t like, walk the way she doesn’t like, dress the way she doesn’t like…let’s not EVEN talk about driving. She makes me drive her everywhere, but criticizes my driving the entire time. The problem is six or seven times a day I have a lump in my throat and tell myself “I can’t live like this” and then it gets better for a few hours, then another episode. Her perspective is “you keep screwing up” hence, she isn’t wrong in how she treats me, I deserve it. There is seldom an apology. She has broken me down to the core. I am just wondering if all women act like this, or is it just this one? Also, do all alcoholics act like this, even when sober? I cannot imagine living life in her shoes, so I am wondering how other alcoholics behave.

  • Jules

    Ben, I can completely relate to what you are saying. I live with the same insanity. My husband’s alcoholism has been progressive – in the past few years, it has become hell. I used to get apologies for outbursts – and the outbursts weren’t that often. He has been a drinker since I met him, only he used to be a nice, kind person. I don’t even recognize him anymore – I guess long term alcoholism changes the way the brain works. When he says cruel, cutting, horrible things to me, I tell myself this is not truly him, but what alcoholism has done to him. Then I wonder if he actually really does hate me now – but he will tell me he “loves” me, yet this vile behavior continues. I have been told they project the way they feel about themselves on to you – it doesn’t help our hurt. I have tried hard to detach – it’s not easy. I remember the nice person he was for many years – it’s absolutely devastating to me how I am treated now. At one time, I know he treasured me – now I feel I am nothing more than garbage to him. The toll on my self-esteem – I don’t know if I will ever truly recover from what he has put me and our two children through. He makes me feel like I deserve to be treated like crap. I