Although there are many ways of ‘Rescuing’ an alcoholic, some ways are typical. Here are ten of them:
1. When three or more suggestions to an alcoholic have been rejected you are Rescuing. Instead, offer one or two, and wait to see whether they are acceptable. If they are not, stop making suggestions. Don’t play “Why don’t you… Yes, but…”
2. It’s O.K. to investigate possible therapists for an alcoholic, but never make an appointment for him or her. Any therapist who is willing to make an appointment with an alcoholic through a third person is probably a potential Rescuer and eventual Persecutor.
3. Do not remove liquor, pour liquor down the drain, or look for hidden stashes of liquor in an alcoholic’s house, unless you’re asked to do so by the alcoholic. Conversely, do not ever buy, serve, mix for, or offer alcohol to an alcoholic.
4. Do not engage in lengthy conversations about alcoholism or a person’s alcoholic problem while the person is drunk or drinking; that will be a waste of time and energy, and will be completely forgotten by him / her in most cases when he / she sobers up.
5. Never lend money to a drinking alcoholic. Do not allow a drunk alcoholic to come to your house, or, worse, drink in your house. Instead, in as loving and nurturing a way as possible, ask to see her again when she / he is sober.
6. Do not get involved in errands repair jobs, cleanups, long drives, pickups, or deliveries for an alcoholic who is not actively participating in fighting his / her alcoholism.
7. When you are relating to an alcoholic, do not commit the common error of seeing only the good and justifying the bad. “He’s so wonderful when he’s sober” is a common mistake people make with respect to alcoholics. The alcoholic is a whole person, and his / her personality includes both his / her good and bad parts. They cannot be separated from each other. Either take the whole person or none at all. If the balance comes out consistently in the red, it is foolish to look only on the credit side.
8. Do not remain silent on the subject of another’s alcoholism. Don’t hesitate to express yourself freely on the subject, what you don’t like, what you won’t stand for, what you think about it, what you want or how it makes you feel. But don’t do it with the expectation of being thanked or creating a change; it’s not likely to happen. Do it just to be on the record. Often your outspoken attitude will be taken seriously and appreciated, though it may not bring about any immediate changes. Just as often it will unleash a barrage of defensiveness and even anger, which you should staunchly absorb without weakening.
9. Be aware of not doing anything that you don’t want to do for the alcoholic. It is bad enough if you commit any of the above mistakes willingly. But when you add to them the complications of doing them when you would prefer not to, you are compounding your mistake and fostering an eventual Persecution.
10. Never believe that an alcoholic is hopeless. Keep your willingness to help ready, offer it often, and make it available whenever you detect a genuine interest and effort on the alcoholics part. When that happens, don’t overreact, but help cautiously and without Rescuing; doing only what you want to do, and no more than your share.
Remembering these guidelines about Rescuing will be helpful regardless of what else is done. You can’t fix the problem, the alcoholic has to do the work. By rescuing and reducing the painful impacts of the alcoholism you are allowing the alcoholic to continue to drink. Often it’s only when things hit ‘rock bottom’ that the alcoholic will decide it’s time to change. That is when you should be there for them to support them through the process.
Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behaviour is.
Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviours or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
Adult children of alcoholics often isolate themselves and have few meaningful personal relationships.
Adult children of alcoholics often have feelings of powerlessness.
Adult children of alcoholics may strongly fear abandonment or criticism, retaining an abnormally strong, essentially unmet, need for approval and affection.
Compiled many years ago by Dr. Jodi-Anne M Smith from:
Ackerman RJ, 1987, Children of alcoholics – a guide for parents, educators & therapists, Simon & Schuster, Fireside
Geringer Woititz J, 1983, Adult children of alcoholics, Health Communications Inc.
Jorgensen DG & Jorgensen JA, 1990, Secrets told by children of alcoholics – what concerned adults need to know, Human Services Institute