2.1 Introduction

In the same way as the alcoholic cannot understand him or herself, the mystery of alcoholism makes the family and friends sucked in to his or her alcoholism likewise confused. Responding to alcoholism is difficult. Alcoholics do not understand what is happening to them, why it has happened, what their response is supposed to be. They inwardly struggle with the question of whether they personally are guilty for what has happened. They are often embarrassed and with few they feel they can confide in. Self-understanding is needed, to see themselves as part of a bigger picture...rather than the woman who lives in apartment number 42 in the block called 98 Nevsky Prospekt...who has a seriously alcoholic husband and no money for the bills this month and no clothes for the kids and who might soon lose her job too and who gets beaten up regularly and and and and... She has to see herself from outside of herself. Anger with the alcoholic and with the situation generally is a common feature of those who live with them. Lev. 19:17 says: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him”. The implication is that if we don’t have transparency with our neighbour, if we don’t rebuke them openly and specifically, then we will end up hating them. Just saying nothing about the alcoholic relative will only drive you to hate them in the end.

Take some comfort from a sister who has lived with an alcoholic: “It is painful to watch the alcoholic, before the 'bout' (as they get into a state, emotions are all over the place but generally heading down, as they get more and more cut off emotionally and depression hits), when you can see the harm they are doing themselves, and afterwards, when the feelings of failure, shame and wretchedness hit them. And feeling helpless to stop the downward spiral at that point in time. It is painful to watch the constant struggle”.

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