When we love an alcoholic, we may start off believing that with sufficient rational and careful thought, we will find the "right way" to explain to them, the damage their drinking is causing us and the family. We might think that because of our care in choosing our words and our tone, the alcoholic will be able to hear us.
Not so. We as humans all have the ability to deny, some of us to a level of what may appear insanity - that's addiction.
When we love an alcoholic, we may want to believe that what they are telling us is the truth this time - they won't ever behave like that while drunk again, we don't have to cringe in the face of screaming rage, because that was the very last time, it will never happen again.
But if they continue to drink, and rage is part and parcel of the intoxication process for that person, then we will face it again.
When we love an alcoholic, we may be stunned to discover that when we finally make up our mind to make the break, after perhaps years of suffering with the effects of their alcoholism, that is the time that they decide to stop drinking - once we are out of the picture.
I've seen that happen more than a few times, and the partner who has made the break may feel an overwhelming anger - "Why now? Why couldn't they do that when we were still together? I gave years to that man/woman, and begged them a million times to quit drinking, and they wait until I leave the marriage, and then they quit??"
When we love an alcoholic, we may hope that if we bail them out of a bad situation, provide them with money/ a place to stay/ groceries/ a vehicle to drive, they will be grateful, and will try much harder to get or stay sober. In Al-Anon, this kind of behavior is termed "enabling," because it makes possible the alcoholic's ability to maintain their balancing act for a longer period, before it all collapses around their heads, and they face the consequences of their own choices.
Enabling may feel loving and caring, but can often be more about us, than about the alcoholic. We may need to feel that we have "done all we can" or are "a good parent/wife/sibling" in the hope that our example will show them how their behavior is by contrast, destructive.
Perhaps we are caught up in a cycle of enabling, in which we believe that if we do not act to save them, they will be lost in their addiction forever, or even die.
The sad truth is that not every alcoholic is able to get or stay sober. Many of them are lost to addiction, and many die each year from the effects of drinking.
In Al-Anon we learn that we didn't cause it, we can't control it, and we can't cure it. This can be either a blow to our ego and self-image as a helper, or it can be a step towards freedom, when we understand that it is truly possible for us to have a satisfying, productive and serene life, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.
Detachment is not cruel or heartless; detachment saves us from continuing to labor at that about which, we can have zero effect. When we love an alcoholic, one of the kindest things we can do for them is to allow them control of their own lives. We may feel agonised by their choices and self-destruction, but when we honestly admit our own powerlessness, we have begun our own journey of healing.
I pray to continue to detach from the alcoholics in my life, and to be able to see without judgement, and love without blame.