Detaching From An Alcoholic

What are the ways of detaching from someone who drinks too much? Why would we want to detach form an alcoholic? How can I do this in love when I am so angry at them for being this way? Is loving them still possible after all they have done to me?

This particular subject unfolds into many various roads. I will shed some light and share suggestions on how to separate our emotions from being enmeshed with a problem drinker. Separating ourselves from the way they affect us takes time. It is a process of learning how to do things differently. We don’t really realize it at the time, but our entire lives get all interconnected with everything they are doing and it really affects our behaviors in damaging and negative ways.

Don’t Allow Them to Rent Space in Your Head

You may be thinking; “what does HE mean by that?” Obsessing over an alcoholic is our biggest problem in this situation. The constant looming thoughts in our heads are taking up precious space in our minds. With that being said, don’t allow them to rent space in your head. Find things to do which will change your focus. Read books, exercise, go to the movies or talk to a friend on the phone. Find things that will help your mind DETACH from thinking about them.

Learn to Take Care of Yourself

In the midst of your extremely busy life, learn how to take “out time” for yourself. The alcoholic may not like it that you are doing something to make your SELF happy. That’s OK… do it anyway! When they approach you afterward, just say; “I’m sorry you fell that way” and go into another room.

Understand that alcoholics keep us angry and anxious. We must do things for ourselves in the detachment process regardless of what they think about us. If you are a woman, get your hair and nails done. If you are a man go golfing, fishing or go for a walk. Taking time out to get a massage works really well for relieving stress. You can count on meeting resistance from them, but you have to start taking care of yourself regardless of what they think.

Detaching From What They Think

Because an alcoholic uses anger to try and control us, we must not get upset when they voice their disapproval of when we take care of ourselves. If you get involved with alcoholism support group meetings, the alcoholic will try to goof up your plans. They might say something like; “why are you going to those stupid meetings?” It’s possible they will try to create an argument with you just prior to you leaving for a meeting. It doesn’t matter what they say. Take care of yourself and make your support group meetings and recovery literature the most important part of your life.

Detaching From The Phone

You have a choice…you can either answer the phone or not answer it. You also have another choice. You can either listen to a message they have left you or delete it without listening. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LET THEM UPSET YOU ON THE PHONE. If they are getting out of hand, kindly say; “I’m going to hang up now. I’ll talk to you later.” Then gently hang up the phone. If they leave you nasty messages, don’t listen to them. If the start calling you repeatedly, don’t answer the phone. This is how we detach form the negative influences that an alcoholic has on our lives.

In a sense we are protecting our own emotional self.

How to Stop Arguing With an Alcoholic
Detaching from the old behaviors of arguing with them takes a while. You will have to learn how to keep your mouth shut. When you sense an argument is starting, tell them that you love them or really care about them and then say; “I don’t care to discuss this right now.” You can then go into a different room, close the door and read a book or watch TV. It doesn’t matter what you do…just find something to do other than to argue with them. Learning how to not fight with an alcoholic takes time. This is why it’s important to get involved in support-group meetings for friends and family of alcoholics.

Detaching from the way we have been doing things is a huge subject. We must learn how to separate ourselves from feelings of guilt and shame.

How To Enjoy More Peace and Serenity

  • We learn how to avoid getting into arguments.
  •  We stop getting into the car and driving around to try and find them.
  •  We quit snooping around in their stuff trying to find their stash.
  • We stop obsessing over the alcoholic’s behaviors.
  • We learn how to just get in bed and go to sleep when they aren’t home late at night.
  • We detach from confronting the lies.
  • We learn how to let go and let God deal with them.
  • We stop calling them to check up on them.

There are so many things effecting your life right now from the alcoholic’s behaviors that it’s going to take a while to learn how to do things differently. Little by little, “one day at a time” things will get better as you learn more about how to detach from an alcoholic.

When dealing with an alcoholic, learning loving detachment techniques is vitally important. As we grow in knowledge about alcoholism and how to handle dysfunctional situations better, we start understanding that enabling and detaching are very closely related.

As you continue reading you will learn various methods of separating yourself in a loving way from the destructive behaviors of someone else who is close in your life. These lessons can be applied to many different types of relationships.

The more co-dependent we are and enmeshed with someone, the harder it is to distinguish where we begin and they end. When they are happy, we also are happy. When they are angry our emotions are affected in a negative way as well. We can learn how to not flow with the mood swings of an alcoholic. It’s just going to take making a few changes and doing that “one day at a time.” Remember to go easy on yourself. These changes are all about making progress and not necessarily about doing everything perfectly. If you mess up, just start over.

Let me just trow out a few…

Suggestions That Will Help You Detach from an Alcoholic:

  • Get involved in Al-anon support group meetings. Al-anon is a great organization to try.
  • Read literature on the subject
  • Start developing friendships with people from your support-group meetings
  • Take notes during meetings
  • Start keeping a journal
  • Make this new lifestyle the number one priority in your life

Now here are a few…

Methods of Detaching From A Problem Drinker:

  • Kindly say, ” goodbye” and hang up the phone
  • Refuse to listen to phone messages after you hang up and they frantically call you over and-over again.
  • Quit investigating what they are doing
  • Read books or go visit with friends
  • Shut your mouth when you are angry at them and go into another room
  • Don’t look at them trying to figure out if they’ve been drinking
  • Get your own life by doing things you enjoy doing without them
  • Don’t allow them to rent space in your head,. Stop thinking about them all the time
  • Arguing with an alcoholic accomplishes nothing. Refuse to partake in the chaos
  • Let go of them completely and stop trying to control their behaviors
  • Go for walks
  • Talk on the phone to friends or relatives
  • Take up hobbies again

When We Start Detaching-We Stop Enabling.

This new way of acting will allow the alcoholic to suffer the consequences of their actions and also help them to reach their bottom. In separating ourselves from all of their drama, we in turn,  experience more peace and serenity in our own personal lives. Loving the alcoholic by letting go is the goal of this detachment process that we are learning about.

Separating ourselves as an individual in a co-dependent relationship takes time. As we continue attending alcoholism support group meetings and set goals to better our personal lives, it becomes easier to lovingly remove ourselves from the alcoholic’s behaviors. Being kind to an alcoholic will become easier as we learn how to love them differently. Again, this is not something that will happen overnight.

Avoiding The Sting
As time goes on, we begin to recognize the times in which associating with them would not be a good idea. As we continue to learn detachment methods, the sting of alcoholism occurs less frequently.  This works very much like hanging out around a bee hive. As long as you don’t stick your nose in the hive and keep a safe distance, you won’t get stung.

The hard part of detachment from an alcoholic is breaking habitual patterns that we have been doing for a long time. This “just takes time.”  I’ve heard it said:  “if you walk a hundred miles in the woods,  don’t expect to walk out in an hour.”  The same applies to being obsessed with an alcoholic. It takes time and effort to break free from our destructive behavior patterns that we have become accustomed to.

As we begin to detach more from all of their drama, we quit enabling them to depend upon us. It’s hard to do at first because we are so used to rescuing them from everything. When we quit rescuing them and let them suffer the consequences of their actions, we are less affected by their behaviors.

Detaching from an alcoholic means that we let go of them. It doesn’t mean that we quit loving or caring about them. We just learn how to mind our own business and start living our own lives as they continue to drink. Even though we may still get frustrated with an alcoholic, we will react differently  so that WE will remain more calm and experience greater levels of peace within ourselves.

Consider making a list of things that you enjoy doing and start doing them. This can help tremendously in the process of changing our focus.

The alcoholic may not like our changes in behavior, OH WELL! We have to be strong as we start doing things differently. This is why we need the support  of  support group meetings and of friends who know how to help us change.

Loving detachment from alcoholism means that we don’t make decisions based upon the alcoholic’s opinions, moods  or advice in relation to our life. We eventually begin to be hardly affected by their destructive behaviors, views and attitudes toward us.

Now …I know I’ve shared a lot in this session, but just remember to do the best that you can “one day at a time.”

Written By: JC



458 comments to Detaching From An Alcoholic

  • Mike


    I feel your pain. My brother’s drinking was the focus of my family for years. Our world revolved around his drinking. I started to lovingly detach from what he was doing and stopped trying to control his drinking, figure it out, or change him. It was hard, but I had to do it for my own sake. I realized that there was nothing that I could do to change him or get him to stop drinking. I had to accept that only he could change himself and only if he wanted to.

    When I first started reading and writing on this blog, my brothers drinking was out of control. I let it get to me and it made me crazy. But it was then that I started reading about detaching from an alcoholic and reading about how to deal with an alcoholic loved one. Through these readings I started to find some peace. He relapsed again and again, until he was suicidal. He finally got some help for his mental health situation and he has been sober ever since. I take it day by day and I am grateful that he is coming back around to being his old self.

    I myself am also an alcoholic and what i have learned in AA is that I cannot control other people. My mother for example, used to obsesses over my brothers drinking and was very angry. I learned to just let it her and not worry about her either. I can only fix myself. If your wife doesn’t want to help herself to deal with your sons alcoholism, that is on her. My mom is/was the same. I could not convince her to to to Al-Anon, or even to read about how to deal with an alcoholic. I think its because they believe there is nothing wrong with them so why go to therapy, and why go to meetings because “they don’t have a problem.” But they do. And its especially bad if they are enabling the alcoholic, believing they are helping them when they are actually making it worst, and then refuse to change or do anything different. Every family is different, but I would say educate yourself on detaching, go to counseling, go to Al-Anon. Especially Al-anon because you will find people who can relate and you will have some support from others who are going or have gone through the same thing.

    Worry about yourself. Let your wife be. Let your son be. Its hard, but you don’t have to be miserable if you don’t want to be.


  • Eileen

    I want to speak to Brett, who wrote a few months ago. I hope things are better for you. It saddens me to hear you inside this web that the alcoholic entangles their loved ones in. If your situation has not changed, I would strongly encourage you to participate in Alanon and work the 12 steps through that program, for you own sanity. If your girlfriend has continued to drink, nothing you say or do will stop her. You are not devoted or powerful enough to make that happen and her behavior has nothing to do with anything you have or have not done. A practicing alcoholic is a very sick person. You can see that while you are attempting to talk to her, she isn’t rational. I am a recovered Alcoholic so I know exactly what I did and now I understand why. Blaming and Believing I was a victim was my MO. It’s how I operated and it’s what your girlfriend is doing. When you leave her she becomes desperate and even terrified but it is only in that state that she will seek help. It isn’t your fault. It isn’t fair to you to live with such stress, manipulation, being made to feel as though you are a bad person, or to feel like a victim yourself. Alanon will teach you to detach and take care of yourself, which is your right. You deserve to be involved in a healthy relationship and this one is sick, she is sick. She has a disease but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer too. She has to seek treatment and you do not have to be there in order for her to do that. It is okay for you to walk away. You are not a bad person. If you find that one day she has stopped drinking and has a strong working program, if you want to, you can revisit the idea of reuniting. Until then, all you will get out of this relationship is sickness that is going to take you down. You do not deserve that. You deserve healthy and happy and stable and consistently reliable and trustworthy. I wish the very best for you.

  • Catherine

    Hi all, very happy to find this page. My ah does is not aware that his illness is a progressive one and thinks he can stop when he will be “able” to, because of his position. His position is the perfect job for an alcoholic. Speeches, travelling all over the world, dinners, networking, more drinking, all expenses paid. His job takes up 70 percent of the year away from us ( I have a 7 year old son), and recently, since his drinking has become much worse, I am thanking God for it. But I have a question: is it too early to talk about it with my son? It is starting to become obvious when he is at home ( a newish thing as he used to not drink at home). His father is an alcoholic. I want to say that his father is “doing well” but he relapses regularly. He has two older daughters who I believe are not aware of this problem. Should I be the one to speak to them about it? He avoids them when he is drinking so they are not really aware of it, but he is seeing them less and less, which is causing resentment from their part. They don’t know why. I spend more time with his family than he does. Any thoughts?

  • Amy

    Glad I ran across this. Yesterday I left my boyfriends house and his asked me to call when I got home. I tried calling his phone once I arrived. No answer. I left message that I was home safely. Went about my business and went to dinner with a friend. That is a big no-no to him. Not allowed to have friends, male or female. While having dinner he called my phone repeatedly over and over. (Let me add this is a good 5 hours after I left his house). I did not answer. I did listen to a couple of the message. They were really nasty. Finally after I got done dinner, (didn’t answer his calls for about an hour, while eating), I picked up the phone and he accused me of all sorts of things, like I had stopped on the way home and has sex with someone. Accused me of having sex with my female friend, my cousin, whoever else he wanted to throw into the picture. I was stupid and replied, that I had left his home 6 hours ago and for the first 5 he didn’t call and now that I didn’t answer my phone for an hour then I am the one who was up to something? He hung up, I did not call back. Today he never called me, so I waited til 1 to call his phone and of course, no answer. He finally called back once again 5-6 hours later and blasted me as soon as I answered that he didn’t answer his phone because he knew I was out doing something with someone last night. What the hell is that?! I try so hard not argue and just feel like from now on I’m best not answer his calls at all. If he is sober when he leaves a message I will call back, otherwise just ignore the calls? Is this the right thing to do? Also, I posted somewhere else about how to remove myself from the area when he gets verbally abusive. If I’m at his house I have a 2 hour drive home. There is no where to go when he starts his rants. I can sit there for no exaggeration 2 hours and listen to him go on and on and repeat the same thing over and over, and not say one word back, but believe me it is hard. What do I do and where do I go when he does this?? It’s winter here so its not like I can go for a walk and I don’t know anyone out by where he lives. Do I go rent a motel room for the night just to get away from him?? I’ve tried asking him nicely to please just stop. If I get up and go in the bedroom/bathroom he will follow me and continue. Sometimes I just get so depressed that I actually put up with this that I wish I could just leave die. Anyone else ever feel this way?

  • June

    Stop going to see him. You don’t to marry into this. You were looking for someone when you met him…keep looking.

  • Denise

    just read JC’s do’s and don’t’s – again. They sure do help!

  • Ruth

    Thank you for this wonderful site. It has provided me with much information. I was involved with a man from February until September. He told me he was in rehab and decided to go on a date. Let me say I figured him out quickly, but didn’t listen to the bells and whistles. I experienced the emotional blackmail, blaming, lying, verbal insults. Every week it was something that he found fault and would cause a disagreement. March we officially started to date and Mother’s Day weekend I ended it, but it lingered. A relapse occur we which wasn’t a huge surprise. Sucidual threats, begging and pleading. I still wanted to encourage his journey, but from a distance. I had set my own boundaries for myself. Whenever he did something, my foot got closer to the door. He went back into another rehab and I decided to see him. The second time I made the mistake of kissing him and feelings and words of a second chance, but quickly realized I was falling into the same pattern. Again row and I distance myself more. Letters were written, but nothing could be changed. In September once again my personal space was invaded because of his feelings. A light went on and I realize this will always be unless I change it and I did. I blocked his number and on a social media. I told him we need time apart. An olive branch was offered, but when I have no answer, the verbal insults flew like rockets. He has contacted me twice, but I am quite done. I came out of this with no battle wounds. I learned more about myself in these few months. There is some sadness for the dream we had. I accepted him, but he can’t accept me or anyone for that matter because he can’t accept him.

  • Eleanor

    Thanks to this article i realize how deep i am in all of this. I am a mother of a 3 year old little girl and my second child is due in 2 months. my husband is an alcoholic, that being said i bet alot of people might understand all of my concerns. after being lied to so many times and hurt so many times how am i supposed to trust anything i say. i told him the other night that if i take him at his word im empty handed and feeling burned i have tryed to move out, even give him eviction noticed and some how in the end its allways my fault and i take the blame and cant seem to find the courage to walk away and give my family the stability they need is disconnecting from obsessing going to help the situation and keep my family safe thats all that i want to keep everyone safe, and healthy want him to get the help he needs and be there for him yet it seems like the only thing that i need from him is too much to ask thats the truth. whats next.

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