Detaching From the Alcoholic

Ask Angie: Hi Angie, I was reading your article titled “Do You Love an Alcoholic – Setting Boundaries for You”. I’d like to follow these suggestions, but I have some questions. How long should I detach myself before I should move out? We have two kids (3 and 5). How do I go about detaching when we all live together? Should I move me and my kids out for a while? How do I explain to them what’s going on?

Marriage Guidance:

How Long Should I Detach Before Moving Out?
Detach for as long as you need to. Detaching is not for the alcoholic but is for YOU and your spiritual and emotional well-being. Scripture clearly tells us to class=”scripture”>“Bear with each other Colossians 3:13 and “share in each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and I believe that this extends to a sick spouse, whether alcoholic or diabetic.
We BEAR with each other by detaching with love. We are able to detach because of God’s love for us and the Holy Spirit within us. We would not be able to detach properly if it were not for Christ protecting us and giving us the peace within to continue in the suffering that comes with living with and loving an alcoholic.

We certainly cannot BEAR with each other or CARRY each other burdens if we do not make use of the spirit of Christ within each and every one of us. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

Too many times spouses and loved ones of alcoholics become just as emotionally and spiritually sick as the alcoholic. This is not right! This is not going to help you or the alcoholic. It is important to ALWAYS remain close in heart and mind with Christ, always praying… so He will intervene for you and give you the peace you need as you live with an alcoholic.

“In the same way, the spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27

We do not advocate moving out or divorcing the alcoholic, unless there is physical and or ongoing mental abuse from the alcoholic, and then you may have to separate yourself from the alcoholic. But scripture reveals that God intends marriage to be permanent and in that case, we do not advocate divorcing an alcoholic spouse. Marriage is a lifetime commitment, through the good as well as the bad times.

We realize alcoholics can be verbally abusive and this is why we like to explain to the loved ones of alcoholics how to detach from that abuse, and it usually ends up subsiding because of the new reaction and treatment to the alcoholic when they get abusive. In other words your detachment, whatever that may be, will actually help the alcoholic too.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and no one is there to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4: 9 Who is going to help the alcoholic — who will he be accountable to if you move out? It is never a good idea for an alcoholic to live alone for an extended period of time because may feel they are not accountable to anyone and may never get sober. Even so, even unbelievers will be accountable to God one day and in marriage, a husband is accountable to his wife and a wife is accountable to her husband.

How Can I Detach When We All Live Together?

The article you read Do you love an alcoholic has describes some ways in which you can detach but is more for setting boundaries for yourself in the home when living with an alcoholic. Detaching from the addiction is not enabling the alcoholic in anyway. You must learn to stop rescuing and enabling the alcoholic when it concerns anything at all to do with alcohol. This requires discernment from you because alcoholics can manipulate you when you least expect it.

Every circumstance is different for each family member, so you have to evaluate your situation and then do what you need to do for yourself and any children in the home. As the sober parent you will need to protect young children in the home from the abuse. First it is a good idea to let the alcoholic know what you are going to do, so they will not be surprised at how different you react to their abuse.

Explain to him that you will be staying out of his way when he is drinking because you do not like being around them when they are drinking; you need to protect yourself and children from any verbal abuse. Let your husband or loved one know that you love them but, you do not like what the addiction does to them when they drink. In other words you love him but hate the disease!

Our book How Do I Detach From an Alcoholic Spouse? specifically goes into detail about detaching, and not enabling or rescuing and setting personal boundaries in the home. This book also offers much encouragement for the alcoholic. I recommend this book to those who love and or live with an alcoholic — it will give you the peace you need and the faith to continue doing what is right for yourself and for the alcoholic.

See: Talking to Children About the Alcoholic Parent