Are You Helping or Rescuing the Alcoholic?

As caring, compassionate people we naturally and instinctively
want to protect and help our loved ones.
There is a universal drive of both animals and human
beings that beckon us to stand between what we see
as a potentially harmful situation and the ones we love,
especially if we see those loved ones making poor
choices or heading 90 miles an hour for a brick wall.
But, there is a fine line between participating as part of
the solution- helping- or perpetuating what might be
part of the problem – rescuing.

Rescuing can make us feel wanted and needed. It is
a momentary adrenaline rush when for a brief instant
we might be the center of someone else’s world. Those
we rescue thank us and are grateful for our intervention
and since maybe someone else has said no to them, you
are their hero du jour. Wow; what a boost to ones ego!

So what does helping look like versus rescuing?

As difficult as this may be to witness, events pertaining
to our loved ones actions need to unfold as they are
meant to, not how we want them to. If enabled or rescued,
the alcoholic/addict is prevented from experiencing
the repercussions due to their decisions or that are
derived from irresponsible or out of control behavior.

A good, healthy example of helping and not rescuing
is my client Sloane. Sloane was married to an alcoholic
who bounced between living a clean and sober lifestyle
and relapse. Soon after their marriage, Sloane’s
husband became quick to anger, was easily provoked
and their relationship developed a very poor, eggshelllike
walking communication.

Sloane never stopped loving her husband, but had
come to the end of her rope in the relationship, as she
could not live with his instability or impatience anymore.
They had no children and were only married for
a few years, so Sloane requested a separation. Her husband
relapsed, and one day came to admit that he had
hit his “bottom”.

After a week clean and sober, he called Sloane and
asked for a second chance as he wanted to try and
salvage the relationship as well as save himself…from
himself. He realized many of the things that had gone
wrong during the marriage and his relapse opened his
eyes to what he needed to do to put the pieces of his
life back together.

He felt that if he could have a goal in trying to not only
rebuild himself, but their relationship, he might be able
to really commit to a clean and sober lifestyle. Sloane
reiterated that she did not want to continue a relationship
with him, his addiction and the responsibility that
seemed to go along with it. She viewed this as helping
the situation and not enabling it to his terms and would
be open to seeing if what they once had could grow
some new respectful and healthy roots.

There had been some emotional and financial wreckage
that had accompanied this last relapse and it would
have been easy for Sloane to write a check for the financial
problems, provide transportation and even housing
to support and encourage her husband toward sobriety,
and not expect anything in return; yet she knew
that would be rescuing and not helping.

Instead, she proposed her participation as more of a
friend. Listening empathetically, gently offering advice,
encouraging his goals and dreams, and presenting
personal, healthy objectives for the two of them to
strive toward. Rebuilding their emotional relationship
slowly as well as implementing new plans and objectives
for payment plans and other specifics. Sloane felt
confident she was helping in a confident, loving way
grounded in stronger boundaries and guidelines.

It was understood that her husband was solely responsible
for the wreckage incurred due to his relapse and
that Sloane would remain part of his cheering section
and not calling the shots from a play book on the field.
Sloane’s husband appreciated her fortitude, was grateful
for her help and in realty didn’t want to be rescued,
but preferred picking himself up by his own boot straps.
He could prove to Sloane and himself the commitment
he had to his recovery, and it would mean more in the
long run and hopefully stave off the relapse itch knowing
that he had worked so hard to rebuild his life his

Ask yourself…are you helping or rescuing? If you are
coming up with all the answers, bailing out your loved
one with cash, or shouldering some of their legal ramifications,
then your crown of rescuing is polished to a
blinding glow. If you are standing back and allowing
incidents to play out as they may, yet presenting emotional
and specific guidelines of support than the report
card for help will be A+.

If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.
com and I invite you to explore my
new book Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcoholic/
Addict at

I am pleased to announce that I am offering a winter
counseling special to chat about boundaries for the alcoholic/
addict and the family during the holiday season.
Please contact me Carole@familyrecoverysolutions.
com for more details.