what happens to the familys compassion for alcoholics

For many of those years he was a kind, loving, caring, reliable, responsible, and respectful partner. He drank socially at first, gradually increasing the amount he drank over time, and his dependence on alcohol seemed to develop rather slowly. It took me a long time to realize that he was losing control over his drinking.

Despite his growing dependence on alcohol, he remained a kind and caring partner. The breaking point for me came when his long-term abuse of alcohol began to have severe consequences on his health. That’s when I became concerned and began urging him to seek help from AA, his doctor, and addiction specialists. But in Richard’s mind, he didn’t have a problem. Alcohol wasn’t the enemy, it was his friend. Though I didn’t understand this for quite a long while, it helped him cope with life. For some reason he simply couldn’t function without it.

Each person is unique. Each person has a different emotional and physiological make-up. Each person’s life experiences are unique. I don’t know why Richard couldn’t cope with daily living without alcohol, I’m sure there were many details in his life that he chose not to share with me. Some words are just too painful to speak. Some experiences too painful to share. I believe that some people are just too fragile for this world.

I stayed with Richard until nearly the end of his drinking days–something I do not recommend that others attempt to do. The pain of watching someone I loved succumb to alcoholism was nearly more than I could bear. So in his last, most desperate days I turned my back on him and walked away.

Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving him in his darkest hours, but ultimately I had to save myself. Alcoholism is an insidious illness. It affects everyone in the family. It had a devastating effect on my daughter and devastating effects on my health.

Initially my anger towards Richard’s unwillingness to stop drinking was through the roof. I blamed him for the stress in my life, my health problems, my unhappiness, my frustration over his refusal to get help. But then I realized that he was not hurting me on purpose. His drinking was not about me. It was about him trying cope with life and keep things together while hanging on by a thread. I couldn’t understand why he simply couldn’t stop drinking. He just couldn’t. To a non drinker like me, making a choice to stop drinking seems like such a simple thing to do. But alcohol was Richard’s lifeline and the substance that ultimately took his life.

I think it’s important for me to stress that while I chose to stay with Richard until nearly the end of his life, nobody forced me to stay with him. Nobody forced me to take over his responsibilities that he could no longer carry out. These were choices I made on a daily basis. There were plenty of alternative choices I could have made, like end the relationship the moment alcohol became the center of his life. So looking back now, whom should I have been angry with? A man who was spiritually, emotionally, and physically ill or myself for my own refusal to change? It was much harder for me to look inward at myself and make the necessary changes than it was to blame my problems on Richard.

So, why have compassion? Because the majority of alcoholics are not able to make the choice to stop drinking. Without treatment, alcoholism in a terminal illness. Is it Richard’s fault that one day he crossed the line from a social drinker to an alcoholic? That he made a wrong turn and wasn’t able to find his way home? I think in his case it was simply too great an obstacle for him to overcome. He did try.