How To Maneuver An Alcoholic From Defiance To Recovery


Defiance defined as a form of resistance or opposition fits well with an alcoholic who refuses to admit to having a problem. How can we handle this common problem that many problem drinkers have, called denial?

Some people who are bound in addictions realize they have a problem, but are reluctant to do anything about it. In one breath they can admit that they drink too much and in the next boldly say that they are just not ready to do anything about it.

So, what is it that could possibly move an alcoholic from openly expressing opposition to the suggestion of getting help to deciding to enter into a program to help them stop drinking?

I think that we must understand that although we cannot make an alcoholic spouse quit drinking, we can help maneuver them in that direction. Even though we learn early on in recovery groups that we are powerless over other people’s actions and choices, we still have power over our attitudes and how we respond to an alcoholic’s actions.

Here are a few common areas where we could all stand a little improvement:

Getting the alcoholic out of a jam-Have you ever heard the expression: “no pain-no gain?” That’s the simple truth of what happens when we make life easy for the alcoholic. When they do not have to feel the pain of their poor choices, there is no gain toward getting help. It is vitally important that they have to experience the consequences of their unacceptable behavior.

Imagine this: If the alcoholic in your life stole a friend’s car and wrecked it, should the friend press charges? Would the thief have to suffer the consequences of their actions if the friend had compassion on them and didn’t press charges? Would the pain be greater or less if the charges were filed and the problem drinker had to spend time in jail, hire an attorney and appear before a judge to be sentenced for their irresponsible actions? Letting go of an alcoholic in this type of situation is the best thing we can do for them.

Helping them with finances-While they spend their days doing very little to find employment and work for wages, we feel sorry for them and loan them money. A friend in AA the other night said this: “there is no reason that anyone should not be able to find a job. DON’T tell me you cannot find something to do” He’s right! There are ways to make money even when the economy is falling apart.

Not to brag on my children, but both of my daughters, who are in their twenties, held down two jobs at once this year in the restaurant business. I have a good friend of mine who closed his finish carpentry business two years ago and has been pulling weeds and trimming hedges to make money.

It takes tough love to NOT make the financial road softer for the family alcoholic. They will continue to live a life of defiance as long as we continue to approve of their behavior by helping them out all of the time. NO! They must be maneuvered toward getting help by having to feel the pain of their poor choices in life. Hey, if they cannot pay their car insurance that is not your problem or responsibility to take on. But what if they get angry at me for not helping them? Oh well that is going to be their problem not yours.

One of the things I hear people share in alcoholism support group meetings periodically is that the family member is afraid if they don’t make life easy for the problem drinker, they will get so bad that they may die. It appears to be a lose-lose situation, but it is not. The alcoholic is going to slowly drink themselves to death if they do not have consequences to deal with. The consequences will help maneuver them toward getting help quicker than us trying to rescue them all of the time.

An alcoholic only “really” cares about two things, where will they be able to get the next drink from and where will they get the following one when that drink is gone. Don’t be fooled by their persuasive behaviors. Instead, see the reality of the BIG picture of things.

Has anything you have done for them up until this point help move them toward getting sober?

I hope you can see clearly how important these ideas are for helping you gently pursued and maneuver an alcoholic toward getting help. Their defiance will be broken down one pillar at a time as they have to handle the consequences of their poor choices without us rescuing them all of the time. This is not a guaranteed method of getting someone to decide join a recovery program and stop drinking; it will have a greater impact than enabling them to stay addicted to alcohol though.


1 comment to How To Maneuver An Alcoholic From Defiance To Recovery

  • Betty

    Question: When an alcoholic goes to a bar or two on a regular basis, he is known by the people who serve him, or her. Shouldn’t they refuse to sell alcohol to someone who has been in there drinking for hours? Shouldn’t they cut them off at some point? I know it might be looked at as baby sitting a problem drinker; but, we owned a place where beer was sold and our license would have been ripped of the wall if we sold beer to someone who was obviously drunk. I have even thought about calling the Alcohol Control Board to check out these places to make them stop selling alcohol to drunks. Or remove their license to sell it. The cops sitting outside are not a threat when these drunks get a ride home. The ones that do drive could kill somebody.

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