09 July 2004

If only he would stop drinking

Are you lying awake at night worrying about someone else’s drinking or drugging? Do you find yourself constantly making excuses for this person you love?


Are you lying awake at night worrying about someone else’s drinking or drugging? Do you find yourself constantly making excuses for this person you love?

Is your relationship characterised by constant fighting, blaming, anger, promises, disappointments and occasional violence? Do you feel like a failure, because nothing you do seems to work?

If this sounds familiar, you have been drawn into the world of someone else’s substance abuse. But what can you do?

Addiction is a disease. Firstly, it is important to accept that addiction is a disease, over which the addict or alcoholic has very limited control. Your love can never be strong enough to make them stop what they are doing. Addiction is a powerful driving force and the body can suffer serious withdrawal symptoms when an addict or alcoholic stops drugging or drinking. These can include shaking, nausea, headaches and severe depression.

Whose problem is this anyway?This person needs to acknowledge and take responsibility for the problem. This is a tough one, because denial is often a characteristic of addiction. Remember that while you are taking responsibility for the problem, he or she does not have to.

This is where I draw the line.You can set the limits of what you will tolerate. This does not mean that you have to stop loving this person, but you also cannot put your own life on hold for ever. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is not to help and to let someone feel the consequences of their actions.

Addictions are life-threatening. Remember that all addictions are potentially life-threatening. Cirrhosis of the liver, brain haemorrhages and heart failure are some of the serious diseases that can result from an addiction. At some point, most addicts will have to choose between living and their addiction.

There is help at hand. Take comfort in the fact that there is help available. You are not fighting a lone battle.

Organisations that you can approach for help and support include:

Nar-Anon. This is a support organisation for addicts and family and friends affected by someone else’s drug problem. Their Helpline number 088 1296 791

Alcoholics Anonymous is a support organisation for people who have a problem with alcohol. They provide ongoing support and have regular countrywide meetings. Their Head Office in Johannesburg will give regional telephone numbers. They can be reached at (011) 452 9907

Al-Anon. This organisation provides support for families where drinking is a problem. They can be reached at (021) 418 0021.

Lifeline countrywide will be able to give details of regional support organisations. Remember you do not have to fight this battle alone.

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