When Someone You Love is Still Drinking

Caring for someone that has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol can be extremely difficult. Navigating your relationship with them can at times be painful. If you do decide to get sober, the relationship can suffer.

It has taken me almost a year of sobriety before I could begin to write on this subject. This topic touches close to home for me, and in all reality, I'm still learning how to navigate it.

In my early sobriety, I was followed by a pink cloud wherever I went. I wanted to scream from the rooftops about everything amazing in a life without alcohol. I was seeing such a transformative shift in myself, I wanted to help other people experience the same shift.

To some extent, this is still true. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be so dedicated to writing this blog. But in the beginning, I admit that I was a bit naive. Here's why...

I have a close relative in my life who has a problematic relationship with alcohol. They aren't the stereotypical drunk you see in the movies. They hold a steady job, have reliable housing, and have more than enough money in the bank. Yet, the amount of alcohol they consume and how much they rely on alcohol is concerning.

Throughout my life, I desperately wanted to feel emotionally close to this person. Alcohol made that impossible. I couldn't connect with them when they were drinking, because it wasn't authentic. I couldn't even connect with them when they weren't drinking, because alcohol was still flowing through their system and running the show.

Evidently, they have used alcohol the majority of their lives to numb their feelings. They don't know how to deal with their emotions on their own. That makes it almost impossible to connect with them emotionally. Since they've never learned how to deal with their own emotions, it's unreasonable to believe they can show up for mine.

This has left a strain on my relationship with them, but I could never put my finger on what the strain was. Now that I was recently sober, I came to the conclusion that the distance between us was ultimately because of my arch nemesis: alcohol.

With every fiber in my being, I wanted them to quit drinking with me.

It was almost obnoxious how much I tried to glorify sobriety around them. I'd secretly hope that they would read my blog posts and ask how my recovery was going. I thought that maybe seeing my progress would make them want to quit, too.

This took up a LOT of mental and emotional room in my life. I was devastated every time I would see them drinking on my Snapchat stories. I was angry at them for choosing a life that didn't serve them.

Time went on, and they still continued to drink. After plenty of crying, venting, and therapy sessions, I decided it was time to let go of the belief that I could influence their decision to quit drinking. It was weighing me down too much, but I still grieved the fact that I couldn't make the decision for them.

I had to swallow the hard truth that if they decided to quit, that would be a decision they would have to make on their own. If they did want to quit, they had to want it for themselves. Otherwise, it would never stick. As much as I wanted them to see the beauty of a different life, they had to want to see it for themselves.

There is nothing easy about loving someone with a drinking problem. Moreover, there is nothing easy about the fact that there is nothing that you can do about it.

One hard lesson that I've learned is that the only thing that you can do is to choose to accept them for who they are. You don't have to love their drinking, but you can choose to love them despite of their drinking. Who they are at their core is not someone who drinks to hurt other people, but someone who drinks because they themselves are hurting.

It's hard to accept someone for who they are when you've been hurt by their drinking. I've learned that sometimes it's best to love and accept someone from afar. You can accept the fact that you have no control over their drinking, but you might need to set some boundaries before that can happen.

It has taken me a long time, but I've come to terms with the fact that I haven't nor am able to get my emotional needs met by this person. I'm working on accepting them for who they are, but that means that I've had to make tough decisions about keeping my distance. Their burden is not mine to carry, and their hurt is not mine to bear.

The only burdens to bear are my own. Slowly and surely, I am releasing my burdens and past hurt by working through them in sobriety. I can work through my own trauma, but that is it. They have their own trauma to deal with, and if it never gets processed or dealt with, the blame does not fall on me.

I was naive, yes. But my naiveness eventually taught me how to stop carrying other peoples burdens for them.

I know that it isn't my responsibility to save anyone other than myself. I'm entitled to the hurt that I feel caused by their drinking, but I am not responsible for it. I can heal from the pain as much as I can, but I do not have the power to choose their actions for them in the future.

Loving someone with an alcohol problem is hard. Knowing you can't do anything about it is even harder. The only way forward is to continue down your path of sobriety, and appreciate it for what it is. If people want to change, they will. If they don't, there is still beauty on the path that you chose.

In the beginning, I wanted to drag my close relative to the other side of the river into sobriety with me. I wanted to show them how beautiful it was. But they didn't want to come. They knew what to expect on the side they were living on, and they chose to stay.

Later, I grieved their absence. I was angry they hadn't decided to join me. I was resentful they made me carry their burdens for so long. I pitied them for choosing the wrong side.

Today, I look across the river and wave. I send them my love from the other side. I silently wish them the best. I still miss them and hope that they will someday choose to cross the river, where the sun shines brighter and the air feels lighter. I acknowledge that they can choose their own path, but if they do decide to cross someday, I will welcome them with arms wide open.

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