To leave or not to leave the alcoholic, that is the question. I have been in this situation several times, even in sobriety. It can be one of the most difficult decisions to make, because while staying in the misery seems impossible, leaving feels just as unlikely. I know I experienced extreme guilt just considering leaving. I felt like I had a responsibility for that person; I thought that by leaving that made me a bad daughter/friend/girlfriend. That is not the case! (But that is a totally different blog post; let’s get back to the point of this one.)
In the beginning stages of alcoholism, there are some annoying symptoms, but nothing that might make you actually want to leave the relationship. But addiction is a progressive disease, and it can only get worse, never better. Below I have listed symptoms of alcoholism. Some are beginning stage, and some are middle and end stage. Try to be open-minded: the alcoholic/addict in your life may experience only some of these symptoms, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem.
- Occasional binge drinking and abuse
- Drinking to alleviate stress, boredom, sadness or anger
- Frequent to daily binge drinking and abuse
- Increased depression and anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping; insomnia
- Obvious sickness and health concerns from drinking, but won’t stop
- Drinking and driving
- Trouble with the law and police
- Increased relationship strain and issues
- Infidelity, lying
- Decreased social activity because of insane behavior
- Sudden change in friends
- Difficult talking with new people
- Drink large quantities but can’t get drunk
- Withdrawals after a period of not drinking: nausea, tremors, sweating, unreasonable irritability
- Liver damage, brain damage, heart disease, malnutrition, mental health disorders (just to name a few)
Sound familiar? I know it does to me, and it’s actually making me a bit sad just reading over the list. It reminds me of myself as well as other people I know.
In fact, just recently I was able to finally cut all contact from my abusive ex-boyfriend. It has taken me a year to actually stop getting in touch with him and continuing the pain and dysfunction. It was one of the saddest, hardest things I’ve ever had to do, even though I have a new life in another state and a boyfriend that treats me with respect and love.
It took me so long because, firstly, I thought that he needed my help, and that it was my duty to take care of him. I reasoned that I loved him, and to say goodbye to him and our relationship would mean that I was a cold-hearted person. This is one of the many symptoms of the disease of codependency.
Every single person on this planet has their Higher Power looking out for them – to think that another adult NEEDS us is just plain arrogant. It perpetuates a lack of faith in God and the goodness of the universe. The TRUTH is that our first and foremost duty is to take care of ourselves, because if we can’t help ourselves we can’t help anyone else either.
Sometimes I am still sad when I think about the relationships I have had to let go of because they were bringing both of us down instead of lifting us up. Sometimes I wonder if I had tried harder or done that differently, things would be better.
But the fact of the matter is, we can only do the best we can with the knowledge that we have in the moment. And our first priority is to stay in closecontact with our Soul, our Higher Power, with God, whatever you want to call it. We have to stay close and intimate with who we truly are, and the sad reality is, sometimes we can’t do that if we’re involved in a dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship.
So if you’re still deciding whether to stay or go, take slow, deep breaths, close your eyes and go inside. Ask for help from the God of your Heart and listen closely for an answer. Call a trusted friend and try out an Al-Anon meeting or a Codependents Anonymous meeting. Those two 12 Step groups have changed my life and relationships.
Remember that you are not alone, and everything is going to be okay, for you and for the alcoholic.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.