Living with an alcoholic or problem drinker, either currently or in the past can mean we experience losses in many areas of our lives which stay with us over time. It is only by acknowledging, understanding and accepting these losses that we become able to move forward to a more fulfilling way of life.
The losses experienced can range from a marriage falling short of our expectations, relationships with friends or family members that have broken down, financial hardship or even the loss of not having the happy childhood we would have wanted or thought we had. We learn to cope with the painful reality of these losses in different ways by perhaps minimising our problems, ignoring our feelings or creating a fantasy in our minds.
Grief is not just about death it’s a natural response to the losses we suffer as the result of a loved one’s alcoholism. Initially we may not recognise our feelings of grief and loss for example a mother couldn’t understand the way she felt when her daughter left home until it was suggested to her that she may be grieving. Initially when her daughter moved out she felt a sense of relief but at the same time guilt and shame for having those feelings. Through counselling she came to identify her own loss and grief as she came to realise how her daughter’s years of alcohol abuse had taken her away emotionally long before she moved away.
The losses we encounter living with alcoholism can leave us feeling ashamed, depressed, isolated and alone. By finding a safe and supportive space where we can start to gain awareness of sometimes hidden thoughts and fears and recognise the truth behind our feelings we can begin to move forward to a better future. One to one counselling can provide such a space where we can gain the inner resources to see our lives more clearly, recognise and name our losses helping us to face our grief and move onto a better life whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.
A support group such as Al Anon (http://www.al-anonuk.org.uk/) is another place where we can find solace alongside people who understand. By listening to other people’s honest sharing, we can gain insight into our own situation and no longer feel so alone