Alcoholism is an addiction just like any other drug..
When I was growing up, my only concept of an alcoholic was a homeless wino on the street sipping out of a paper bag. Little did I know at the time, how wrong I was. This is my experience with an alcoholic loved one.
Usually there is a parent or a relative in the family that is an alcoholic too..
A Family Affair-Most alcoholics come from a long genetic background of alcoholic forefathers. I don't know if I would call it a physical disease or a disease of inheritance. That is for the experts to figure out. I do know that more often than not, you don't have to look far in a family tree to find the link. My alcoholic loved one had a parent that was an alcoholic, and like most suffering from this, a dysfunctional family to boot. If you have an alcoholic with this kind of a background, you will literally feel outnumbered by the past influences, and you are.
A Pattern In the Chaos-In my own opinion the most difficult alcoholic to deal with is what they call the "functioning" alcoholic. These are the ones that continue to remain gainfully employed, continue to conduct their affairs, pay their bills etc. The reason they are so difficult is because they fly under the family radar for years. They usually don't drink every day, but have designated drink time that usually starts on the weekend. It takes a long time before you may feel this is a problem with this individual, and by then, you are well into the pits of hell. Look for the repeated habit of drinking. If they let very little interfere with their drinking ritual this is a red flag. If you notice a big reluctance on their part to "not drink" on these designated days, you will know you are dealing with an alcoholic. You will hear them downplay their addiction with "I only drink on the weekends", and " I just drink to relax after a long hard week", or "I'm not hurting anyone". Early on, they may agree to drink less, but believe me, this is a ploy to get you off of their back. When the weekend arrives, if they have to, they will hide it. Look for this pattern in their behavior.
Pick Your Battles-If you are lucky enough to have sober time with your alcoholic loved one, this may be the only time you have to talk to them on any rational level. Surely you have figured out by now that any argument you have with them over the drinking whilst they are "under the influence" is a waste of time. Not only will they not "hear" you, you also risk verbal assaults, physical assaults and the alcoholic will use the "fight" as an excuse to drink more. Despite seeming to be oblivious to their immediate surroundings, the alcoholic has complete control, over YOU. They know how to manipulate, downplay, wield guilt, and work on your sympathy. Keep in mind, trying to reach them when they are sober is better, but chances are, they will shut you down and out. Functioning "alkies" can always use the fact that they work and take care of their responsibilities as justification and validation that there is nothing wrong with them.
Keeping It in the Closet- You will find that you spend a good deal of time either lying for this person, or making excuses for them. Because you love them you may try your best to protect them from outsiders, and other family members. You suffer silently in this secret world your loved one has imprisoned you in. You find yourself using the same excuses to others that your loved one uses on you. "He's not a drunk, he just likes to relax on the weekends"..You become your alcoholic loved one's enabler and ally. The question is, ultimately are you protecting them? Or are you hiding from reality, because you aren't prepared for what may mean an end? Through the countless arguments you have probably ascertained that this "loved" one will probably not give up drinking for you. Your love, or the loss of your love is no longer a threat to them. They can let go of you, are you prepared to possibly let go of them? Most of the time it's our own inability to let go of the alcoholic that compels us to keep hiding their dirty little secret.
One is the Loneliest Number- Alcoholics, even weekend drinkers, and functional "alkies", will eventually find themselves isolated from their family. They drink alone, and spend hours doing it. They don't seem to mind the withdrawal. They never seem to know the hurt they cause. There is a huge invisible wall between you and them. They chose one side, you have chosen the other. Look for isolation and withdrawal from everyone. Do not be pulled into their world by drinking with them and do not allow them to tell you that "you are pulling away from them". They have pulled away, only its right in front of you. When you are able to get them to come to family functions, you will notice they disappear a lot, are usually seen walking around with some unknown beverage. You will at some point notice they are acting differently. You find yourself whisking them away before they make a scene. Now, you are isolated from everyone too.