Pretending When You Have a Drink Problem
For alcoholics, one of the most common factors of the illness is not facing up to it. Pretending there is no drink problem. It might seem incredible to the outside observer, but they will often go on for years pretending everything is fine, even through it’s very clear that there is a serious problem.
It will usually take some kind of crisis to change their behaviour, or finding themselves at rock bottom. It’s worth noting though that sometimes alcoholics never face the problem and the number of homeless and desperate who drink is testament to that fact. It’s often the case not that they drink to feel better about being a vagrant, it’s the other way round. They are there because drink has ruined their lives in the first place.
Very often alcoholics will go on drinking for years without admitting to the problem. They will lie, not just to everyone else, but to themselves too – denial is a huge part of the condition.
Living With ItAnyone who has lived with an alcoholic will recognise this. It’s very important to understand that whatever happens, the only person who can make the decision to quit drinking – and that is what needs to happen – is the alcoholic themselves. Pleading with them to stop will yield little, except empty promises and the effect of pushing the habit further underground. The alcoholic will drink in secret, lie about it, hide empties around the house and then often become angry or aggressive when questioned.
Are You Aiding And Abetting?Those living with the alcoholic can often end up actually helping to perpetuate the problem without even realising it. So the first thing to do is to stop helping to facilitate the drinking.
Very often well-meaning family will actually be supporting the alcoholic without even realising it. This might possibly through covering up for them, which means that the drinker can carry on without having to face up to the facts. You might think you’re doing the right thing by keeping it from friends, but you’re really just providing a safety net.
Or maybe you’re giving them the excuse to drink by continuously confronting the alcoholic, giving rise to constant arguments and therefore creating a reason for them to keep drinking – a home filled with chaos is a simple reason to blame drinking to escape on after all.
What Can You Do To Help?The best thing to do is to do nothing. If you mop up after them or take the trouble to cover up for them by lying to friends or work, it’s like you’re condoning the behaviour. If you shout, you’re giving them an excuse. If you press on regardless, the drinker will have nobody to point the finger at, and hopefully will come to realise what’s going on. If they fall asleep on a bench, leave them there. If they start to point the finger at you, don’t rise to it. It’s your only real hope of getting the alcoholic to see the truth.
Most importantly, acknowledge that it’s not your place to stop someone drinking, nor could you do that even if you wanted to.