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Living with an alcoholic

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:48 pm
Living with an alcoholic can be extremely difficult, and can affect the entire family. In the beginning, denial often occurs, taking the form of excuses to bosses, colleagues, or friends about the alcoholic's behavior. Spouses may lie or cover up for late arrival to engagements, missed appointments, or other irresponsible behaviors. In this way, families learn to be 'enablers', unintentionally facilitating the alcoholic's drinking problem. The pattern of denial and enabling often becomes so entrenched that family members lose their perspective, perceiving the behavior as normal or ignoring the problem altogether. The alcoholic may make promises to quit drinking, but these attempts often fail. The spouse may feel suspicion, anger, and despair, while the alcoholic may feel like a failure, continue to drink, or even drink more than usual. As a result, the environment of the home can become progressively more unpleasant. This is one of the reasons that alcoholism is sometimes referred to as 'the family disease.' The most helpful thing that spouses, family members, and friends can do for the alcoholic is to stop enabling behavior. For alcoholics to admit that they have a problem, they generally must see that they're powerless over alcohol, and that their lives have become unmanageable because of it. However, it's difficult to reach this point if they're continually being protected from the consequences of their actions. Although refusing to be an enabler for a loved one can be extremely difficult, it's important to keep in mind that it's probably in the alcoholic's best interest. For more information about living with an alcoholic, contact a health care provider.
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