How to Forgive an Alcoholic
How the Disease of Alcoholism Hurts the Alcoholic and Those Around Them
When someone hurts you emotionally, physically, or financially, it can be hard to forgive them. Alcoholics can hurt those closest to them easily and frequently, not because they want to cause pain, but because they will do anything to protect the substance that possesses their life. When under the influence of alcohol, they are not entirely in control of their behavior and can say or do some very hurtful things. Even if you know the addict’s behavior was not intended to cause harm, it can still be challenging to forgive them, even after they have gone through addiction recovery and are remorseful for their past mistakes. Forgiveness can not only be healing for the addict but also for you. Knowing how to forgive an alcoholic can be very important for your own mental health and your overall wellbeing.
Most of us know how alcoholism affects a person physically, including cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and dementia. Alcoholism can also affect relationships or even total strangers. Alcohol abuse within a family can drive a wedge between members or destroy a romantic relationship, including the strongest marriages. Alcoholics can hurt those around them in various ways, including financially, causing fights, ignoring children or spouses, becoming physically abusive, and impairing child development.
Alcoholism is an expensive disease, and a person may spend between $300 to $1,000 or even more on alcohol each month, eating through a family budget. Legal issues associated with drinking, such as DUIs, can be costly as well. But the biggest hit to a family is when an alcoholic cannot keep a job because of their disease and cannot contribute financially.
Alcoholics are likely not acting like themselves and will often exhibit a lot of anger, taking that anger out on the people around them. This can range from saying hurtful things to loved ones to domestic abuse. Alcohol disrupts critical thinking skills and reduces self-control, limiting a person’s ability to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol makes the frequency and severity of domestic violence worse, whether physical or emotional.
People who abuse alcohol also are likely to neglect essential duties, including work, home life, or school. They cannot properly take care of children or be there for their partners. Effort and time formerly dedicated to taking care of their family are disrupted, causing life-long trauma to children and spouses.
There is also the case for people who have been hurt by an alcoholic who was a stranger. Alcohol tends to cause risky behavior, leading to dangerous activities like drunk driving. Sometimes they can cause car accidents that lead to people being severely injured or even killed. Losing a loved one or being physically hurt that causes a lifetime of pain can cause a lot of anger and resentment to the alcoholic.
How to Forgive an Alcoholic Who Has Hurt You
Forgiveness can be challenging, but it can also be very freeing. The pain caused by the family member or friend who constantly lied, embarrassed, and disappointed you can be very deep. There is also a loss of trust in that person. Being able to forgive an alcoholic doesn’t mean you accept their substance abuse and bad behavior or that you even need to continue a relationship with them in the future. The following tips can help you be able to forgive:
1. The first step is understanding that alcoholism is a disease that must be treated. Channeling the blame for the condition instead of the person can be a good start.
2. Realize how much that anger is disrupting your happiness and productivity. Decide whether you want alcoholism to continue affecting your life.
3. Let go of the resentment and pain you hold on to from the actions that have hurt you. Forgiveness frees you to live and enjoy your life.
4. Make a list of reasons why you love the person who has an alcohol addiction and read it every day.
5. You can tell the person that you love them but do not approve or like how the disease affects their actions.
6. Let go of your own personal guilt that makes you feel it was somehow your fault (i.e., “If I had been a better wife, husband, child, parent, sibling, etc., they wouldn’t be an alcoholic”). You did not cause the disease.
7. Saying “I forgive you” is not justifying the drinking and being okay with it or even forgetting about what happened. It is a way of letting go of negative feelings affecting your life.
How to Forgive a Recovered Alcoholic
Recovering alcoholics can tell you that forgiveness is a most treasured gift. They are painfully aware of all the hurt they have caused to loved ones and wish things had been different. Forgiving someone and letting go of the anger towards someone who is still an active alcoholic is very difficult, but it can be easier to forgive someone in recovery. Remember, you would not be feeling pain from this person’s actions if you did not love them. It can be helpful to think about that love for them and how forgiveness can strengthen their sobriety.
Forgiving a stranger whose alcoholism caused you pain and loss can be much more challenging. According to psychologists and medical doctors, forgiving has many health benefits. They also agree that forgiveness is primarily for the forgiving person and not the person who caused the pain. Not dealing with our blame, resentment, and grudges, those feelings fester and can lead to poor relationships and depression, or worse, to vengeance and violence, causing even more grief. But you have the power to stop that pain in yourself.
Rebuilding Relationships After Alcoholism
Behaviors exhibited during active alcoholism, such as lying, cheating, and stealing, can destroy trust. Rebuilding family relationships is very important to regain normalcy, and damaged relationships can be fixed. Most importantly, have patience. Immediate trust does not usually happen, and both you and the addicted person need to know that and take things one day at a time. Over time, when they have proved their dedication to sobriety day after day, the trust will come back.
Family therapy is an excellent way to truly heal from their past behavior, which can even start during rehab. During therapy, you can explain to your loved one how and why you are hurt in a neutral environment. A counselor can also give you insight into rebuilding trust and moving forward.
Encouraging and supporting the person to continue the work after alcohol rehab can also be helpful to see them be committed to changing. Even if they relapse, knowing that they were genuinely working and trying to stay sober can help keep the trust already built.
There can also be guilt about having contributed to the alcoholism by enabling them, but it is essential to forgive yourself as well. Remember, everything you did for this person was out of love and was not meant to hurt them or yourself. It would help if you realized that many things influence the development of alcoholism, and it was not your fault.
Alcohol Rehab at Muse Treatment Center
At Muse Treatment Center, we offer a broad and complete approach to treating alcohol addiction. We provide a safe alcohol detox program to ensure the beginning of your recovery journey is more comfortable with the close supervision of treatment professionals. Our alcohol rehab then continues with an ongoing inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program.
Each client’s treatment is individualized to their unique needs and situation. Therapies that may be used include cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy, as well as group therapy to help establish a support system. We also focus on having a family as part of the therapy process. Family can be a form of support, and it is essential to help our clients find forgiveness in themselves and help loved ones also forgive to help them fully gain their lives back. As we transition clients back to their regular lives, along with the tools learned to cope with alcohol addiction, we offer help in the forms of individual, family, and group counseling. They may also be paired with a sponsor to help them maintain sobriety.
Alcoholism is a disease that affects millions of people. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction or difficulty controlling your drinking, please call us now. At Muse Treatment, we have provided alcohol rehab for years and can help you or loved-on gain control of life again. Our experienced medical staff can walk you through the process and help you or your loved one start the path of alcohol recovery. Call us today at (800) 426-1818 to learn more on how to forgive an alcoholic after rehab.