When we begin to learn how to have tough love with an addict or alcoholic, many think it is an act of cruelty. Most of us are caretakers by nature. When we are in love with an alcoholic, taking care of them is one dysfunctional ways we express our affection to them. This behavior parallels with the concept of enabling.
When someone in a relationship with an alcoholic begins to attend therapy group meetings to help them cope with an alcoholic, usually they hear about the importance of detaching with love early on.
This is something that they generally struggle with because they are usually very angry and frustrated by the time they seek help for the situation. When I first heard about loving an alcoholic unconditionally, I thought to myself; “there is now way I’ll be able to do that.” I was furious at how she was ruining our family.
It is possible to love an alcoholic and be tough with them at the same time, thus we have the expression “tough love.” This type of situation requires learning how to set boundaries with an alcoholic. Those parameters can be established through kindness, love and with inner strength.
Mastering tough love requires learning how to communicate with an alcoholic/addict differently. As we begin to set healthy boundaries to protect ourselves from the emotional abuse that gets hurled at us, we learn how to do this by keeping our composure. When communicating a boundary to the alcoholic, we might say something like; “I love you, but please do not ever treat me with that kind of disrespect ever again.”
With firmness in our voice (not anger) and a smile on our face, we begin to say what we mean without saying things mean. Changing the way we communicate with an alcoholic is only one way we can demonstrate tough love.
It is when we start detaching from being a caretaker and enabler that tough love is really expressed. When we stop doing things like loaning them money, paying their bills, giving them rides all over town, lying for them and doing everything to make their life soft, and wonderful, then we are beginning to express tough love.
When we learn how to say NO without feeling guilty, then we are on the road to expressing tough love to an alcoholic. Usually they get angry and fuss at us when we start detaching, setting boundaries and refuse to be their enablers anymore. This is why we need to learn how to say “no” to them and say nothing else. There is no reason that we have to explain why we have said no, it is our right to do so. When we can be self-disciplined in this way, we will argue less. The person with the drinking problem my want to argue over our setting boundaries and ways of detaching, but we can choose not to argue.
The trick of all of this “tough love” behavior on our part is founded on methods of expressing love to an alcoholic while being tough at the same time. There is a delicate balance to be maintained when we start to change how we interact with the person suffering from alcoholism.
You cannot learn and start doing these things on your own. Having the support of people who understand what you are dealing with and know how to coach you through the new changes is vitally important. The only place to establish close friendships with people who are wise about the characteristics of alcoholics is through getting involved in support group meetings for friends and family members if alcoholics. Al-anon is a great place to get started today handling things differently today!
To wrap things up, we have talked about learning how to communicate differently, the need for setting boundaries and the importance of not enabling the alcoholic. We briefly made reference to how we are caretakers by nature as well. Each of these subjects have individual techniques and methods that can be learned which will help us love an alcoholic while protecting ourselves from being too awfully hurt in the process. Using them altogether is how we express tough love in situations where alcoholism is present. This takes time to master all of the different metods of dealing with an alcoholic.
There is one rule I want to share with you that can help you while expressing tough love to an alcoholic. As you are detaching and setting boundaries, make sure that you never argue with the alcoholic. That’s the rule you MUST learn to live by. At all costs, we do whatever it takes to not fight with them. Usually, this means that we are forced to avoid them through leaving the house or going into another room, closing and locking the door behind us. In these situations we use phrases like:
I do not want to discuss this right now.
Let me think about that.
You are probably right.
That’s your opinion.
These are just a few phrases that can help you avoid getting into a shouting match with the problem drinker. The key to using these one-liners is realized in not saying anything else. This requires yet another skill, “learning how to keep our mouths shut.”
There are many other short sentences that can be used during the process of detaching from an alcoholic with tough love. There are many more revealed in the coping with alcoholics audio lessons.
A final word, find an alcoholism support group meeting to attend today designed to aid friends and family members handle the affects of alcoholism on their lives. I promise that you will be glad that you did.
Contributing Author: Timothy Odum On Google +