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When you have an alcoholic friend or family member blaming you, it can be very difficult to know what to do. You might feel angry, frustrated, and even scared. You could also feel like everything you’ve done to help, just isn’t working. Even with all of your help and support, the alcoholic may still blame you. Thankfully, our many years of experience with alcoholics and their close relationships have taught us what to do when an alcoholic blames you for their problems. We have compiled a few steps that we believe are helpful when dealing with this situation. With these steps, the goal is to diffuse the situation, to let the alcoholic know you are there for them, and to keep yourself safe and sane throughout the process.
- Your Feelings Are Valid – Dealing with an alcoholic blaming you for their struggles can create anger, fear, and confusion. Many times, you may even feel like you are going insane, but you are not. It is very difficult to deal with an active alcoholic and coping can feel impossible at times. However, there are many tools and support groups, such as Al-Anon, available to help you. Furthermore, with someone so close to you in turmoil, it can be difficult to acknowledge your own feelings and hurt. They are not the only ones dealing with pain. Your feelings are valid too.
- Lean On Al-Anon’s 3 C’s – Remember the 3 C’s from Al-Anon if you are ever in a situation where an alcoholic is casting blame on you. The 3 C’s are “You didn’t cause it”; “You can’t cure it”; and “You can’t control it”. Taking these statements to heart will help you detach from any negative feelings the alcoholic may try to place on you.
- Create Empathy – While it is important to stop any enabling behavior, it is also important to create a space of empathy for the alcoholic. They are sick and are suffering from a disease. Be supportive and empathetic, without enabling alcoholic behavior. Offer supportive statements, such as, “I know this is difficult for you.” or “I understand that this is a struggle.”
- Learn More About Alcoholism – If you don’t know much about alcoholism, there are many available support groups for friends and family members of alcoholics. Attending support meetings will teach you more about alcoholism, which will help you better understand why the alcoholic behaves the way he or she does. It can help you utilize healthy tools and stop enabling behavior.
- Stay Safe – If you are in a situation where an alcoholic threatens to hurt you, themselves, or someone else, the best thing you can do is leave. Stay with a safe friend or family member if the alcoholic becomes violent. If you are worried that the alcoholic may do something to hurt themselves if you leave, you should still find another place to stay. The alcoholic could still hurt themselves with you there, and having yourself and your family around to witness that helps no one. Basically, you can not control the situation by staying. Remember the third “C”, “You can’t control it”.
- Don’t Carry The Blame – The alcoholic is sick because they have a disease, not because you caused it. The alcoholic may try to place blame on you and say that if it weren’t for you, they wouldn’t be sick. But that is not true. Alcoholism is a disease and no one can cause alcoholism.
- Don’t Buy Into The Manipulation – Alcoholics are great manipulators and often times they are able to convince other people that they are the problem, not the alcoholic or the alcohol. Really, the alcoholic’s relationship with alcohol is what is the problem. Remind yourself of this if the alcoholic says that you are the crazy one, and remember that the disease is the bad guy, not anyone else in the room.
If you find yourself in a situation where an alcoholic is blaming you, remember that you are not to blame. The disease is to blame. Create empathy with the alcoholic and protect yourself and your feelings. Your feelings are valid and dealing with an active alcoholic can be a painful one. Seek more support and education through meetings and groups. And always stay safe. If the alcoholic becomes violent, remove yourself from the situation, find a safe place to stay, and contact the appropriate authorities for help. The best thing you can do for the alcoholic is to receive the support you need to deal with the situation in a sane and healthy way.