I see a lot of posts about how to live with your own mental illnesses or how to live with a partners anxiety or depression. Today I want to talk about living with a mental illness in the family that is still heavily stigmatised. Alcoholism.
My mother is an alcoholic. She always will be, even if she is now several months sober, it’s an illness that can be put into remission but not cured sadly. I lived with her for 16 years, and not all of them were bad and me learning to live with this, but I want to talk about that today. There are some things I have learnt during my time that others may find useful if they are ever in a similar situation.
- The loved one is not their illness. It’s hard to see sometimes, especially when they are becoming consumed by it but at heart they are still there. Your loving mum is still there behind the thrown glasses because you wouldn’t get her another glass of wine. It can be hard to separate them but it must be done, otherwise it’ll be hard to process the whole thing.
- You are not the problem. Sometimes they can come out with spiteful stuff, when you’re ill you lash out at everyone around you. It’s like being on your period or having the flu, you’re hurting and that makes you want to hurt others as they don’t understand how you feel. Even if your loved one tells you you are the reason they hurt themselves, you’re not. If they tell you you’re the reason you drink, you’re not. Sadly they are hurting and projecting.
- Tell someone. I know this one is hard and sometimes people wont even want to listen but they need help and if they can’t make that first step themselves then sometimes you need to help, even if you know it will make them mad. I once called social services on my mum to give them an idea on what was going on, of course they didn’t listen at first no one wants to believe a parent is an alcoholic, but when she was admitted to hospital only a month later then it helped. Having that first line of input will help them get support as they won’t be able to cover things up.
- Have a support group. Find friends you can talk to, or even see a counsellor if you must as otherwise these thoughts and feelings will build up inside you for years and then you’ll just explode and it’ll be bad. You have to be there to support your loved one through their pain and their is nothing wrong with seeking help for your own.
- Get out. If you know the situation is bad for you and will only cause more harm then good as they refuse to seek help sometimes all you can do is run. The space between you be it metaphorically or literally will help. You’ll be able to believe that they are doing better and without the constant contact and hardships it can do wonders for your relationship in the long run.
There are so many more things people living with illness learn, and need to learn. I’m thinking of changing conspiracy Monday to a series about Alcoholism and it’s effects on the sufferer and those around them. It’s a subject that’s very close to me, and I feel like people need to understand about functioning alcoholics more.