Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Only ____ Because You _____.

"My alcoholic has always blamed me for the way she behaves - if I refuse to accept this blame, she gets enraged and will refuse to speak to me for the rest of the day. How do I deal with this?"

Alcoholics are are masters at evading responsibility, and one way they do this, is by assigning blame to another person, for their own behavior.  It's a large part of co-dependency, our accepting that blame, and trying ever more diligently to change, so as to effect change in the alcoholic. This doesn't work, and it doesn't work because we aren't responsible for how they behave, regardless of what they may have convinced us.

I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it. This goes for the drinking, and it goes for the other life choices, including how they treat us. When the alcoholic treats me badly, and then in all seriousness tells me that this only happened because I did this or that, and they had no choice but to treat me badly, it can be extremely difficult to maintain my own clarity of thought.

My first suggestion is this: don't get drawn into those conversations about why the alcoholic did whatever it was - those are sideroads and smokescreens, to evade the main issue. You can calmly state that the behavior is unacceptable and you'd like to be treated with respect, please. That's really all we need to say, because that pretty much covers all of it. If the bad behavior continues, excuse yourself - don't stay and provide the alcoholic with an audience. Go for a walk, read some Al-Anon literature, call a program friend, lock yourself in the bathroom and have a long relaxing bath or shower. Ask your Higher Power for guidance. Let it go, because you have zero control over how she behaves - don't stress yourself out trying to make her change. It's a hard pill to swallow when we first accept that  we are powerless over anyone but ourselves. 

I've been on the receiving end of this kind of accusation, and it's not easy  - not only are they treating us like crap, but when we protest, we are told we deserve to be treated like crap - and that is pure self-serving nonsense. I've learned not to get involved in discussions about why the alcoholic is doing this or that, because I will only become increasingly confused by the lightning-fast changes of direction, and ever-more frustrated by the continuation of the disrespect.  This is a fight we cannot win - so don't climb into the ring. Find a way to take care of yourself, and pray for serenity. Pray for acceptance, that helps me, even when I don't have any to begin with.


  1. My gawd, that's exactly what happened between me & my last partner (a practicing sex addict). As I twisted myself into more & more of a pretzel, doing things I didn't want to do in ways I didn't want to do them, in an effort to make him "happy," I lost myself and became more & more miserable. And helped his disease progress via my cooperation with its relentless, ever-changing, perfectionist, double-bind demands.

    And it's not like I didn't have multiple years of Al-Anon/CoDA under my belt when I did it, either... in fact I was still regularly attending meetings while this was happening.

    It's tricky, insidious stuff, this shame core & amorphous ego (not knowing how to parse what's mine & what's someone else's).

  2. Before the program I accepted the blame for everything. I didn't have the skills or the self esteem to face the many ways I was being manipulated and even humiliated. I thought it was all my fault it had to be because I was in charge and in control of everything, I thought. Cunning, baffling and powerful. I thought I was the master manipulator but I met my match in the world of addiction.

  3. I have experienced the same and know that I cannot beat the alcoholic at this. They are masters of control. And will do anything to avoid facing the real issue within themselves.

  4. My mother in law has alzheimers and is progressing quickly. My husband has been traveling to help take care of her. He still gets in arguments with her, then her mood changes in flash and my husband is left angry, confused and stressed. It took me right back to my life with my ex before Al-anon. Detaching is a learned process. I felt guilty for detaching but also felt a silent thrilling peace that I had done what is right for me. It take steps.