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Tips for Salvaging a Relationship with a Recovering Alcoholic

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Alcohol means different things to different people. For some, it’s a fun indulgence to be enjoyed with friends and family, a brief respite from everyday life, fun on occasion. For others it’s a necessity, an obsession, a crutch, and a debilitating addiction. Alcohol has claimed countless relationships and caused unspeakable heartache for many. Not all relationships have to end because of alcohol, in fact there are several ways to salvage a relationship even if it was severely damaged because of drinking.

However, none of these tips will work if the drinker doesn’t want help or won’t acknowledge that they need help. As the non-drinker, or at least the one without an addiction, after you’ve decided the relationship is worth salvaging, here are a few techniques you can use to begin putting your lives back together.

  1. Set Boundaries – This is by far the most important step. Your partner has to know what you do and don’t consider acceptable. Give them the opportunity to think about it and see if they are willing to respect these boundaries, if they do, proceed with extreme caution. Do not let your boundaries down. Stick to what you have set up as requirements for the relationship to continue, make it clear that you aren’t afraid to walk away if your boundaries are being violated
  2. Be Compassionate – Most alcoholics have psychological or emotional reasons that caused them to become so dependent on the booze. A huge part of their recovery will have to focus on solving or at least coming to terms with these issues they face. It’s imperative that you show them compassion and empathy. They absolutely need to take responsibility for what they’ve done, however, whatever led them down that path was likely out of their control, and you need to be there as they work through it.
  3. Be Considerate – This one should be easy, don’t drink around a recovering alcoholic, at least for the first several months. Even if they say they don’t mind, it’s a temptation that is best avoided.
  4. Be Willing to Let Go – No matter what happened in the relationship during the alcohol abuse, even if it was infidelity, mental, emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, you must decide if you can forgive your partner and let it go or not. If you simply can’t you shouldn’t be trying to salvage the relationship. If you can, have one last conversation about the past, things that were done, how they made you feel, get everything out into the open with your partner and then let it go. Promise not to bring it up in arguments, write it down on paper and then burn it if you think it will help. This is your new fresh start, leave the past in the past where it belongs.
  5. Be Supportive – if you can tell your love is having a rough day and suspect they may be tempted to take a drink, support them, distract them, do whatever you have to do to help them through the rough times.

Remember, alcoholism is a disease, it requires proper treatment and follow up care. Treat it that way and you might be able to turn painful memories into distant snapshots while you have a healthy, loving, stable relationship because you were both willing to put in the time and energy to make it work.

~Aimee B.


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