Dear loved ones of an alcoholic,

It doesn’t matter if you are entrenched in this war today or if as a child you grew up in a home where alcohol made all the rules. It doesn’t make a difference whether your body carries those traumas in memory form only or if it is your day-to-day reality.

It is a wound that may heal with the grace of God or may continue to scab over only to re-open at an unforeseen time.

I get it. I know the soles of your feet are sore from walking on eggshells. It is a terrible way to live.

I know you have kept quiet for too long. You are so tired of worrying about saying the wrong thing, looking the wrong way, or using the wrong tone of voice. You are tired of trying to guess what might set him off. There is no way to accurately predict anything.

I know you are tired of trying to keep it all together. Keep the finances afloat. Keep the kids quiet. Keep the secrets from coming out. Keep your husband or father or brother from losing his job. Again. Keep the beer hidden and the liquor poured out. Keep the nightmares away. Keep the insanity at bay.

After all, he is the sun. Isn’t he? His sunshine, when he sobers up, can warm a thousand planets.

But when he drinks, his disease keeps everyone orbiting around him.

It is his mood that matters. He makes you believe his anger is justified.

His depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, mania, anger—he self-medicates it all. He has convinced himself alcohol is the answer to every problem that ails him.

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His excuse for drinking, as if he needs more, is a bad day at work, an argument with his wife or child, a way to relax, an outlet for fun on the weekend, a way to celebrate any big or small occasion, necessary on vacation, or a baseball game, or a neighborhood grill out, or a random Tuesday.

His opinion overrides all sound logic.

His alcoholism keeps his loved ones small.

His disease controls us all. It rules our days.

Relationships with family and friends are strained because we feel compelled to lie. Compelled to cancel social engagements. Compelled to polish the cracking facade that thinly veils our rotted foundations.

No one could possibly understand. Right?

He yells. He lies—to everyone and himself.

He manipulates and pleads and guilt-trips.

He over apologizes.

But his greatest love is a habit he trades his integrity for.

He begs for forgiveness. For love. For loyalty. For compassion.

For one more chance. A drop in the ocean of a million chances, days and years of broken promises.

Sometimes, when he’s sober, we get a glimpse of the man he once was or could be.

Instead of filling us with hope, this drowns us in despair. Because we don’t dare imagine him being that way all the time. We don’t dare hope for normal.

We’ve forgotten what normal looks like anyway.

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We lose ourselves in him, in the disease, in the chaos. We give up everything for him. Morals, boundaries, passions, serenity, dreams, security, safety.

We keep quiet. We feel if anyone knew what was going on behind closed doors, they would shun us. They wouldn’t understand.

They would ask, “Why? Why stay? Why don’t you just leave? Why put up with it? You’d be better off without him.”

We don’t have an answer to that. “I love him” seems like a silly response because really, what is there to love? An illusion? A fantasy of how things could be? A hope for something better even though the past is a sure indication that things will not change?

Who would stay for that?

You.

And me.

We stay.

Friend, I am here to give you a glimpse of the other side.

Things can get better. Our alcoholic can get sober. As long as he has breath in his lungs, it is possible. I know because mine did.

Recovery is possible. Reconciled marriages are possible. Healed families are possible. Restored relationships are possible.

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Even if your alcoholic never chooses life, never chooses help, never chooses to put the bottle down, YOU can get help. Whether you stay in the situation or leave, you can get support for yourself and begin to heal.

The disease of alcoholism will try to take it all and sometimes it does, but it doesn’t have to.

There is always hope.

There are always miracles.

We are just one example.

Melissa Neeb

I'm a Minnesota native and lover of nature, WW2 memoirs, rescue dogs, photography, and thrifting. My husband and two teenagers are the great loves of my life. I am passionate about advocating for addiction recovery, writing about parenting, life, faith, and everything in between.