How can I cope?
What you can do to help yourself
There are ways to cope better when someone close to you is drinking in a harmful way. Building your coping skills and asking for help will make a difference.
Looking after yourself can help you to support the people who rely on you.
It may help to remember:
- You can reduce the harm from the drinking
- Things can change and get better
- Your wellbeing, needs and feelings are important
- You cannot change or control the person who is drinking
- You are not to blame
How to take care of yourself
Look after your own needs
Family members living with dependent drinkers often neglect themselves because they are so busy looking the other person or taking on extra responsibilities.
Put yourself first sometimes, without feeling guilty. Make sure you and others affected get enough sleep, eat well and take time away from the problems, even if it just means going for a walk or visiting a friend.
Recognise that harmful drinking affects you too
Did you ever stop to think about the effect your loved one’s drinking is having on you? It may be something big like violence or financial problems, but there may be less obvious effects on you, like missing sleep or feel worn out, afraid, anxious or resentful. Try to recognise and express your feelings. It may help to read about some of the effects that harmful drinking can have on people.
Know that you’re not to blame
The burden of guilt can be hard to bear if someone you care about has a problem with alcohol.
You may blame yourself for the problem developing or for not being able to solve it. You may feel responsible when their drinking affects your children, other family members, or causes other problems, for example financial worries.
Don’t feel you have to solve the problem
It is very sad when alcohol affects the person drinking and their loved ones. But as much as you may want to, and as hard as it is to watch, you cannot make someone stop drinking.
There are things you can do to help and support your loved one, but in the end, the choice try to change the harmful drinking is theirs.
Talk to other people
Living with a dependent or problem drinker can make you feel isolated. You may feel ashamed to talk about it or feel that you are the only person going through these problems.
You do not need to feel ashamed. Alcohol dependency affects many thousands of families in Ireland, from every social class, race, and culture.
It can be a great relief to talk to other people, particularly people going through the same thing.
You can also turn to trusted friends, a therapist, or other resources in your community. Talk to your GP or see our services section for help with finding support.
We also have information on Support services for families
'It was such a relief to talk to someone who was sympathetic to my situation and who didn't judge me for having the feelings I had. Talking to someone about how I was feeling gave me the strength to cope with things better.'¹
Learn about resilience
Resilience is when you can recover and ‘bounce back’ from difficulties. It acts like a suit of armour, which protects your emotions and your sense of self.
If you are living with an alcohol problem, you may feel powerless, vulnerable or that you are failing.
If you accept that you can’t change the drinking behaviour but you can change your response to it, little by little you can recognise your strengths and learn ways to be more resilient.
Read more about resilience
Family Support Handbook: Helpful information for families affected by someone's alcohol or drug use, including understanding dependence, ways to cope and practical advice.
Parenting positively. Helping teenagers to cope with a parent’s problem drug or alcohol use: Guide for parents of teenagers who are affected by a parent's drug or alcohol abuse, from Tusla / Barnardos
Taking the Lid Off: Resource for families living with addiction and problematic substance use, including understanding of addiction and its effects on others and advice on what helps, based on the evidence.