Having someone close to you, whether it is a friend, a romantic partner, a family member, or even a parent who struggles with addiction, is challenging.
The family and friends of the alcoholic are often on the receiving end of the lies, deceit, and manipulation from the very person who claims to love them. This behavior is very confusing for the people who love the alcoholic the most as they hurt in often cruel ways.
As targets of abusive behavior that often manifests as rage attacks and violence in general, the objective is often left asking why?
What did they do to cause the addicted person to hate them so much? What did they do to create the addicted person to feel they deserved such punishment and cruelty?
Here is the hard truth, the family, the friend, the significant other, the child, the one experiencing the outbursts hasn’t done anything wrong.
So, why are alcoholics so mean to the ones they love?
When someone is addicted to alcohol, it alters their behavior in predictable patterns.
An alcoholic, when intoxicated, will often feel a sense of grandiosity and entitlement, as if they are better than everybody else. They feel as if they can do no wrong, and it is everybody else who is at fault.
This idea that it’s “everybody else” is also why alcoholics deny that they have an addiction. They cannot look at themselves as the problem, because often they are still trying to run from whatever is causing them pain. If called out, they will insist that they don’t have a problem, because acknowledging this root issue is too scary, shameful, painful, or overwhelming.
The easier route is to make other people responsible for their moods and overall emotional well-being.
They will often blame innocent bystanders for provoking them to anger and meltdown into fits of rage over the smallest things because they demand that everything be their way. Alcoholics do this because they are trying to self-regulate by controlling their external world to make up for their internal turmoil.
Understanding alcoholic abuse is a vital part of answering the question, “why are alcoholics so mean to the ones they love.”
ADDICTION AND THE BODY
When someone becomes addicted to a substance, in this case, alcohol, it becomes something they physically need.
The body adapts to having certain alcohol levels, and after a while, if the level of alcohol is not maintained, it is physically painful. In the case of alcohol addiction, withdrawal can be deadly if not medically assisted.
In the view of an alcoholic, nothing matters more than where they are getting their next drink. The following fix will remain the most essential thing in their life until they enter recovery because their body quite literally needs the substance for them to function.
Also, for many, the idea of going into withdrawals, especially if someone isn’t ready to face the reality of their addiction or the truth of their root issues, creates lousy behavior because they are desperately trying to stay numb.
The physical dependence on the alcohol and the scramble to remain numb often leads alcoholics to blame, manipulate, or bully family members and loved ones until their, now physical need is satisfied.
LOVED ONES AS SAFE TARGETS
Alcoholics, most often, are using alcohol to suppress having to feel the fullness of negative emotions. Rather than face the feelings, they are using the substance to “regulate” themselves.
The distress may be a myriad of things. Their current job is overwhelming for them; maybe they grew up rough and are suffering from the wounds of childhood. Maybe something traumatic has happened in the recent past, or they are lonely.
With all these bottled up emotions when an alcoholic does drink since alcohol naturally lowers inhibitions, loved ones often find themselves caught in the torrent as the emotions re-surface most often as anger.
These outbursts are akin to a volcano blowing out sideways rather than straight-up, as the emotions will always find a way out.
Because you are a trusted loved one, the addict knows that you will not hurt them in their pain fueled rage. The alcoholic knows that, most likely, there will be minimal to possibly no consequences for them becoming violent ( which happens far too often) and feel free to unleash all of their pent up angst on a loved one in that moment of drunkenness.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
You can’t. All addicts, alcoholics included, must help themselves. They must be the ones to choose to recover.
Until they do so, you cannot help someone who does not want to help. You cannot.
If you try, you will only be putting yourself in harm’s way and possibly end up fueling their addiction by being coerced into enabling it. You mustn’t allow yourself to get sucked into the abuse cycle with the alcoholic.
The longer you stick around to “help” the longer the person will have opportunities to use you, because their world is only about them and ensuring that they get their fix and nothing more, when they are dependent on a substance.
STEPS TO TAKE AS A TARGET – HANDLING THE MEANNESS
Walking away is difficult for many targets, but if the addict is hurting you, you must distance yourself. Often these episodes will only escalate as the problems in the alcoholic’s life will only grow worse as they try harder and harder to avoid the root cause.
DO NOT ACCEPT POOR BEHAVIOR
If they are violent towards you or their behavior is otherwise inadequate, you must contact the proper authorities. Do not get sucked into their pleading with you or guilt-tripping you about “getting them in trouble.” You do not accept a stranger throwing things at your head, and that goes double for someone who claims to care about you.
You must be consistent with refusing to accept poor behavior; this includes emotional and verbal abuse.
BE AVAILABLE IF THEY CHOOSE TO RECOVER
Once you have distanced yourself and been consistent in showing them that you will not put up with their bad behavior, you can support them from afar by telling them you will help them in their recovery.
If the addict chooses to seek recovery, knowing that they still have people who care about them and want to see them recover is crucial for their journey into sobriety.