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Loving an Addict

answered 10:22 PM EST, Wed September 14, 2011
My uncle lives with now us and he is a very nice guy and I love him but he has a real drinking problem. He is on disability and does not work. My mom also drinks. There’s like an unwritten law in my family that YOU DO NOT DISCUSS anyones drinking. It was easier to love him when he lived 600 miles away.

He is a nice guy but he can get kind of aggressive when drunk, which is a lot of the time. Last weekend he picked a fight with some people I know outside of a bar and I had to get involved to help defend him from the ass kicking he was about to get. Now I’ve got a problem with these people and the truth is if I were in their shoes, I’d have wanted to fight him too, he was totally in the wrong.

I don’t know what I should do anymore. I can’t leave him to get beats and I can’t always be fighting his fights, especially when he is wrong. Am I enabling him by defending him from people that want to hurt him…since he’s going to go out and pick that same fight a few nights later? My mom doesn’t want to hear anything about my doing anything but fighting on the side of family. To her, he can do no wrong.

Dr. Ari Hahn Says...

Dr. Ari Hahn A. Hahn

Loving a person with a substance abuse problem is really difficult. It gets worse when the problem is ignored or taboo in the family. You surely feel between a rock and a hard place.

But saving people from their own irresponsibility is the job that a parent has for a young child. Once the child matures enough to be responsible the parent needs to let go so she can learn to be an adult. When you save your uncle from his own drunken behavior you are treating him as if he were your six year old child. If that were true then your statement that  "I had to get involved to help defend him from the ass kicking he was about to get" would make sense. So your conclusion that you are enabling him is 100% correct.

You are going to have to make a choice. You can go on saving your uncle from himself or let go and force your uncle to be responsible for his actions. In the first instance you will feel in the short run like your are doing the right thing, but you will always realize afterwards that your life has become controlled by his addiction. Also he will have no reason to change his behavior since he will never hit bottom. You will be the safety net. And that gets very tiring.

In the second instance you will feel terrible each time he gets hurt by getting himself into trouble. But you will be able to understand that leaving him to fall when he gets drunk is exactly what happens in the natural world. Adults reap the rewards of their actions. If you do not pay your bills and you are an adult, you will suffer the consequences.

If you stay co-dependent two lives will go down the drain. Yours and his. If you let him fall, yours won't go down the drain, and his stands a chance of getting out of the gutter.

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Page last updated Sep 15, 2011

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