Each year I see many people addicted to alcohol. At times they come to the session smelling of booze while still denying drinking. They play the game, “if you didn’t see me do it, it didn’t happen” as if seeing is the only sense of detection and smelling doesn’t count.

I have long since recognized I can’t help everybody. The issue then becomes, what does the intimate partner or family do?

I always recommend Al-Anon and Ala-teen. However, few of the intimate partners actually follow through. They continue to cajole or argue with their partner about their consumption.

They are locked in a bitter circular battle. These are the situations that tend to have very poor outcomes. With the focus of attention on only the person consuming the alcohol, people don’t realize how their behavior may feed into and perpetuate the problem.

I can only hope that at some point in time people stop arguing or cajoling the person with the alcohol problem and look at how to change oneself first.

I have had people come back to me years later to say they realized they couldn’t change the person drinking and finally did go on to make other decisions for themselves.

All the while the children grow up in that toxic environment. Consider the child’s experience and what they learn:

Tiptoe around others;
Normalization of abusive consumption of alcohol;
Conflict without end;
Taking care of others who may never take care of themselves;
Fear for violence;
Constant worry wherever they go;
They don’t matter.

In considering the experience of the child in this context, how might these issues show up in their life? Consider:

Attention Deficit Disorder;
Poor school performance;
Overachieving performance tinged with anxiety;
Anger and aggression;
Physical symptoms (headaches/stomachaches) with no physical basis;
Early onset sexual behavior;
Drug or alcohol use.

As parents continue the circular debate around problem drinking, the children continue to grow in this environment.

Consider your behavior, banging your head against the wall. It’s so good when you stop. When you stop, it can stop for your children too.

What to do as the intimate partner of someone abusing alcohol will depend on your personal situation. There is no one size fits all.

If you really want to stop banging your own head against a wall or that of the children’s by extension, then do consider Al-Anon and Alateen. You can also consider personal counseling.

The objective is to figure out what you can do differently in a context where your partner continues to drink. The goal is to mitigate the impact of your partner’s drinking on you and the children. You do that by changing yourself first and your children’s experience of you.

By attending for help it actually makes it more difficult for the problem drinker to deny and you teach your children that they can make choices in the interest of their well being too. That is already a better trajectory heading to a better outcome.

Google Al-Anon or Alateen and your city’s name. You will find the groups in your area to attend.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Author's Bio: 

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.