3 Tips To Quit Rescuing


A phenomenon occurs when your alcoholic takes on the victim role.

There is a strong urge to respond by efforts to rescue.

The only problem is that usually this is followed by your alcoholic taking on the role of persecutor or worse…

You become viewed as the persecutor.

This is all a dysfunctional triangle.

There is hope.

Here are a few ideas on how you can stop the madness.

Recognize the victim role

The three roles in this triad of dysfunction are victim, rescuer and persecutor.

No doubt the most important thing you can do to stop this process is to begin to recognize when someone around you is playing the victim role.

It could be your alcoholic when they rant about how the world is so unfair and no one understands.

It may be friends or relatives who look at your alcoholic and make him/her out to have such a hard life (victim of circumstances).

It could even be you, when you actually believe you are the victim of your situation and need someone to rescue or take you out of the situation.

The reason I say this is the most important step in making the madness stop is that you must recognize it to begin to apply a change strategy.

The victim role is much easier to recognize than the persecutor or rescuer.

All three of these roles will be played out if the dysfunction continues.

Sometimes two people will simply trade roles between themselves.

The key here is to learn to not participate in any of the three roles.

That means you need to…

Stay neutral

This is not easy to do.

In order to not be drawn in you must be willing to take on your own responsibility for what you choose.

Along with this you must let go and allow your alcoholic to have the responsibility for themselves.

This means whatever your alcoholic thinks, says or does is his/her responsibility.

The same applies to you.

So when your alcoholic begins to sit on the pity pot you don’t rescue them. If they choose to think as a victim you still must stay neutral.

When you recognize you may have been drawn into one of these dysfunctional roles you need to move to a neutral position and stay there.

Don’t take on the job of fixing things.

Don’t believe you’re a victim.

Don’t be a persecutor of your alcoholic.

Let it go. Stay Neutral.

Empathize vs Sympathize

The best way I know for you to stay out of these dysfunctional roles is to learn to empathize versus sympathize.

When you empathize you are understanding where your alcoholic may be coming from but you are not taking on responsibility for fixing it.

When you become sympathetic you may choose to take on the burden of your alcoholic as though somehow it what what you need to do.

It’s not.

You actually hurt your alcoholic and yourself when you show sympathy.

Empathy is the place of neutral yet caring.

These three tips are very effective. They are not always easy to do.

When you find yourself caught up in the middle of the dysfunctional triad of victim/rescuer/persecutor know you can move to a neutral position and the dysfunction has to stop.

Stay neutral through empathy.

In what ways have you been part of the triad. Let us know in the comment section below.


Did this article help? Get more advice (it's Free)

Your Addicts First Name

Your Email Address


Here’s What 19 Other People Thought...

  1. Ross

    Thanks you for this article, first and foremost…I have run the gammutt(excuse spelling) on this one. It’s no surprise. I am a codependent, and although i have been working on myself for 6 years, last year i was thrown for a loop through many crisis’and am now finally getting my mind back enough to work on myself- more effectively.You have shared spot on the dynamics of this triangle..Karpman Drama Triangle, isn’t it? Despite my dedication to my recovery.After the many traumatic events last year, id lost my compass.i just did the best i could and what my mind would allow. I made it through my God and my recovery that i had been able to retain and support groups.I am so thankful to have the progress ive gotten and for people like you on here, who so generously offer your knowledge and help.Thanks for being one of the beacons to the weary travelers. God Bless..Guess i got off the subject somewhat, but feeling grateful today..

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Thanks Ross, it is for you and others who journey through these rough roads that we are here. I’m glad you’re making progress.

    • kat

      Love it Ross, my husband to went threw an angry part of life’s blows, he turned to drink that numbed him ,in his action he one time got violent with me and he is now reaping the punishing God we have , But I love Gods punishing He does it with love ever so gently, fore the most people understand its an illness, even the courts, but they will not tolerate it the same of Our Father in heaven, God will say enough is enough ,My husband finally got it, IT IS NT THE END OF THE WORLD, with God its the beginning

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Thanks for your support of Ross. Violence must never be tolerated or excused away. If it’s the alcohol it’ll happen again. If it isn’t it’ll happen again. Only when there is an end to tolerating it will it stop.

  2. Kathryn

    Recently I left my alcoholic twice. Overnight once & a week the second time. Even though I am in a fight for my life circumstance (chronic illness) I gave in to his pleas for “one more chance” though he has had several one mores. My position about ending the marriage has not changed yet I have found myself again where I don’t want to be. He quit drinking when I left thinking that is the fix all cure. Years of verbal abuse & two physical things cant be fixed by his decision to now care about the marriage. Marriage counselor has put the burden on ME to work to fix this. I obviously bring my own issues to this, my 2nd alcoholic marriage. However, trying to give more respect than he deserves, I have allowed my sympathy for his well-being to overrule my need to save myself. WHY DO WE DO THIS? Is this really love??

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Why do you do this isn’t a fair question. There may be many potential explanations however the fact is you are with an alcoholic. The question now is what will you do about it.

      One thing you can do is take responsibility for your choices and let your alcoholic have responsibility for his choices. Another is to NEVER accept physical violence as okay or tolerable. It’s NOT. Zero tolerance for violence intoxicated or not.

      No doubt you love him but you didn’t bargain for the abuse.

      • kat

        Kathryn, it sounds like you take him back because you lack the ability to be alone out of your own fears , Get rid of the fears, God will do this, get yourself all prettied up, you r a good person, you are a woman, You have good habits , you have a wonderful life, so make it a good one, take some notice in yourself, you can help fix him later but its you who needs fixing, if you left him and came back its because you had it good with him but y9ou hate the bad, SO GET RID OF THE BAD, when he gets in moods do not confront them leave , wait ti out, or go to bed, there is more then one way to skin a cat

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Thanks for your support of Kathryn. I would suggest Kathryn has the ability to be alone but chooses to tolerate what happens to prevent it from happening. This can come at a very high price.

        Once Kathryn decides being alone isn’t as painful emotionally as the abuse in the relationship things will change.

  3. Kat

    I have to say how can you not be drawn into it right before you, you eat sleep and intertwine with them, so where does that leave you a zombie don’t take notice, how does that give you a life , u cannot fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed so don’t punish yourself . I think it would be better to leave and let them fall, and not take you with them, the alcoholic is a slow death to all around them, some can be cured but only if they choose it, I mean after all you didn’t marry them when they were acting like this, God will sustain, you but only if you chose His way and sometimes that out away from your alcoholic

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      There are two things you said that are really true. You can’t fix them and some can be cured if they choose it.

  4. Love this line – “Let it go. Stay Neutral.” I’m a parent of a recovered addict and can so relate to your post. As parents, it is especially challenging to hold back from rescuing your child from their self destructive behavior. We feel that we can fix the problem, but the reality is that the addicted person needs to come to this conclusion themselves. Thanks for sharing. Wonderful website!

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      So many times family members care about the alcoholic’s recovery more than the alcoholic does. This is a recipe for heartache. One thing I learned working with people who are addicted, they have to want recovery more than any coach, counselor or caregiver. If this isn’t in place addiction still reigns.
      This is in no way a reason to give up on your alcoholic, it simply puts the responsibility where it belongs…with them.

      • kat

        well said on both accounts

      • FreeMyAddict Team


  5. kat

    1.Don’t take on the job of fixing things.
    As mothers , or husbands its what we as humans do fix things, to make life easier, but it will take professional help, there are substance abuse classes for 25. per class, its a start
    2.Don’t believe you’re a victim.
    You are a victim of circumstance there’s no way around it, but if you look at it as an illness its easier to deal with .
    3. Don’t be a persecutor of your alcoholic.
    Agree, they wouldn’t do it if they could stop
    4 Let it go. Stay Neutral
    this is easier said then done, the thing to not do is always think about it, get hobbies, try to make it impossible for them to drink by offering a restaurant or place with out alcoholism doing things together in hobbies he or she likes , lone time for them is the worst time remember they are ill no one wants to be alone when their ill
    4.You actually hurt your alcoholic and yourself when you show sympathy.
    This is not total true, loving them is a better answer but I believe in my heart that a person turns to drink because they are feeling lack of love the drink loves them and takes them away , so do what you can to love them love does cure caring does cure i am living proof of 25 yrs of it love till you die , grass is not greener on the other side

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Well said! I think you’ve made sense of FreeMyAddict. Thanks Kat

  6. KJ

    Hello, I am new to this site and this is my first post. I have been with a man for 3 years now. It took me about a year to figure out that he was an alcoholic. It may seem silly that I didn’t know, but I didn’t grow up around alcohol so I didn’t know the difference between social drinking and alcoholism. At any rate, I am having a tough time. I know that I fear being alone. There are some wonderful qualities that my partner has and these two reasons are why I am still around. However, I am very driven to succeed and build a wonderful, prosperous life. He, on the other hand, is supported by a trust fund. So, he will never have to work, thus, has nothing to lose, but me. How do you deal with this type of situation? Normally, someone has to worry about feeding the kids or paying rent and sometimes sobers up, but this guy doesn’t. I look forward to your comments.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      There are many reasons an alcoholic uses to explain why they drink. The truth is they drink because they’re alcoholic. Addiction compels them to continue to use. Sure he has access to alcohol because of the trust fund but alcoholics always find a way to get their supply. I think you would be greatly served by evaluating what it will take for YOU to build a wonderful prosperous life, even if he doesn’t quit. 1 in 4 alcoholics recover. 3 in 4 don’t. When the cost of using out weighs the benefits, he will start the journey into recovery. I trust it will be soon. Thanks for your comment.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Alcoholics use because they are addicted to alcohol. The disease of alcoholism includes cravings that lead to use. If your alcoholic doesn’t do something to deal with the cravings he will continue to use. You may find it beneficial to focus your attention on making a wonderful and prosperous life whether he sobers up and finds recovery. Thanks for your comment.

Leave a Comment

Talk With Someone