The Game Alcoholics Play


When I was younger I would play games with a kid in the neighborhood who always wanted to play, but never would play by the rules.

In fact, he was real good at changing the rules to fit his circumstances. Of course, it always was in his favor and generally resulted in him winning the game.

It really wasn’t very nice to play games with him when I knew what was going to happen.

What are the rules?

Even though I was pretty good at most games, I would have to admit when the rules were changed it became very difficult to win.

I’m sure your alcoholic seems to change the rules all the time by drinking and the behaviors that follow.

You have ideas of how it should be and then out of the blue there’s a twist in what happens. Your plans then are all upset.

How can you win?

I believe the only way you can win at the game your alcoholic plays is to begin to understand the rules.

What are some of them?

See if any of these seem to be the one’s your alcoholic plays by:

  • If the choice is between you or alcohol…alcohol wins
  • When asked a direct question, the answer is stated to protect opportunities to use alcohol
  • As drinking becomes a problem, it’s someone else’s fault
  • Family and friends who don’t drink like your alcoholic are not nearly as welcome to come around
  • When confronted by out of control drinking, promises of reform are cheap, but there’s always something wrong with treatment, therapist, AA or support groups, not your alcoholic
  • When liquor seems to result in problems, a switch to only a few beers is the cure (and it doesn’t work)/

This list could go on and on, but you get the point.

These are your alcoholic’s rules.

They’re not the rules you thought you were going to play the game by for a the future.

Why do you play the game?

The burning question has to be why you continue to play the game?

I’m not telling you to leave. The suggestion is to know you don’t have to play the game.

Just because your alcoholic doesn’t want to spend time with sober friends doesn’t mean you can’t.

When your alcoholic goes through a litenay of reasons why treatment or support won’t work you don’t have to accept it.

It’s amazing how the game changes when you put forward the truth.

When you hold to what you know to be true, persistently put it before your alcoholic, it at a minimum allows them to know your not playing their game.

End the game

I’ve always said it takes two to play the game.

When you learn how to not enable your alcoholic and decide to end your part in the game…it’s over.

The game ends. It becomes a game of solitare played only by your alcoholic.

You don’t need to participate in the game. It doesn’t change your alcoholic or make it easier to cope.

In fact, when you quit playing the game it puts a lot of pressure on your alcoholic to do something.

The responsibility for alcoholic behavior is finally put where it belongs.

It may not be easy to stop the game but it is a critical step in your alcoholic reaching the bottom where recovery becomes the best option.

In what ways have you played the game with your alcoholic? Let us know in the comment section below.


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Here’s What 20 Other People Thought...

  1. Robin

    all ways imaginable why say less namely less beer as an answer and yeah it doesn’t work …He came back from working out of town with a four carton plus smoking habit and the increase in beer consumption equals or passes this. does it matter what it was when he left? no, god alone knows when and how it will change from this new increase.but I can let the responsibility for what becomes of us because of it be all on him. the day we cant pay rent I hope we can get a tent and a couple of sleeping bags…

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      There’s no telling, Robin, where the illness will lead. I agree with you about putting the responsibility of his drinking back on him. You might want to save a few dollars along the way for the tent, just in case.

  2. Dee

    My husband is aware that he “drinks like a fish,” (his words) and he doesn’t blame others for his drinking. He knows he has the same drinking patterns his father used to have. He only drinks at home, so we don’t go anywhere or have many friends. He always makes it to work. He really worries about the price of gasoline, but doesn’t give a thought to what he spends on booze and cigarettes. Or rather he realizes what he spends on gasoline cuts into his “fun” money, I’m not sure which. He rarely wants to have a serious discussion unless he’s already got a good buzz on, and I won’t have a serious discussion then. If I do, he might get ornery, and he probably won’t remember what was said the next day. He’s not remembering a lot of ordinary discussions we have. I feel like he has cut me out of his life. I don’t know what his game is, but I don’t want to go on forever like this.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Clarification… I believe the fish would AVOID the alcohol. I believe you have it right, Dee. Your husband is probably more concerned the high gas prices might eat into his booze money.

      I’m sure you’ve figured out the ONLY time you can have a meaningful conversation with your alcoholic is when he’s sober. All of the other conversations are just talk.

      Have you told your husband you’ll not live this way forever? I wonder what he’d say. It sounds like your on your way to ending this game.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Jen

    My Alcoholic will say beer is just a beverage, it isn’t alcohol. I remind him that you must be 21 to buy beer. He won’t work and complains that he drinks because he’s bored and lonely when I’m at work. I used to defend my reasons to work and apologize for my long hours. He is now in a recovery home Pathfinders; it is saving our lives and he is 60 days sober. I stand firm with him that he cannot come home until he has completed all 12 steps of AA, at which time we will re-evaluate. I’ve stopped trying to take care of him, doing things to keep HIM happy to avoid a fight. Don’t do things that you will later resent.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Beer is ALCOHOLIC. I do think he has fried a few cells if he doesn’t even know beer is alcoholic. I’m so glad he’s in a recovery home. There’s a chance he’ll get it through the program.

      It’s really great you’ve stopped trying to take care of him. It’s HIS issue and he needs to have full responsibility for the drinking behaviors and his recovery.

      Thanks Jen, I hope your alcoholic gets it together and you both can be okay.

  4. Ross

    my husband threatens divorce or less money if i wont let him move back in.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      I wonder what would happen if you called his bluff? If you were to prepare for alternative income sources and then let him do what he thinks he needs to do. If you insist on recovery as the only option, I wonder if he just might give in and go. Right now he knows he can use financial security to get his way. How much longer? This is a tough choice.

  5. Charlene

    I have been to counseling for yrs… I have been to A.A.
    I protect myself with my walls… Boundaries…. I am not a bitter person…. I have grown threw his problems…..
    Yes I have gotten depressed… I have always sought help
    and I stay around positive people… prayer with our Lord is my comfort… You don’t allow them to bring you down you stay tough within….

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Charlene, it appears like you’ve learned from counseling and AA. They don’t change the fact of your alcoholic’s illness just how you relate to it. Thanks for being part of FreeMyAddict and for your comment.

  6. j tolle

    I am at the end of this game. Nothing seems to work. He refusing treatment…yes saying treatment programs are no good! He admits he has a problem but unwilling to do anything about it. In the last 5 weeks he has been taken to the ER 3 times and to detox by police 2 times. When he is on a runner he keeps me up all night trying to fight. I hide in my bedroom to avoid him. He is also bipolar I am told. I have told him I am going to move to a new place with no forwarding address unless he gets help. He doesn’t reply…will not talk about the problem. Seems he doesn’t understand that I pay the bills and rent since he can not hold a job and will be on the streets if I move. Yes I do worry how he will make it…yet, not sure I can make it much longer like this. I have some major health problems of my own to deal with. I don’t drink at all and hate alcohol. So do I move on?

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      I wonder from what you’ve indicated if you might want to let him know if he wants to STAY in your home he might want to go through treatment like it or not. You did indicate YOU pay the bills. Where does he get booze money from? There are choices to empower you along the way. I would think about getting tough and let him know what you need from him. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Donna

    Well my husband says he like the way beer taste and he’s not going to quit drinking. I will only talk to him about this issue when sober. He gets irate when his dad drinks to much but when I bring up the fact that he does the same exact thing he doesn’t see it. I have learned just to go do what I want to do with our 4 children and not worry about inviting him because he is embarrassing to me and the kids because of his need to drink!
    This website has helped me look at things differently. I love my husband dearly but I will not play his games! Thanks!

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Thanks Donna, I’m glad we can be here for you and your family. It’s amazing how readily an alcoholic can see the illness in someone else but not in themselves.

      About the TASTE excuse. There’s Zing or Near Beer with .05% alcohol. If it’s the taste why not drink those???? It’s because he wants the EFFECTS of the beer.

      You hang tight and don’t play the game.

  8. LorriT

    I like this article a lot. Really helpful. My husband has had a relapse or at least the beginning of one. I see it slowly going back to where he was before. Sad about that part because he just started a new job and bought another car about a month and a half ago. His first vehicle was taken due to a DUI. GRRRRRRR! Ehemmm…just needed to vent.

    Only difference this time is because of what I have learned from you guys and Alanon and going to counseling I am much stronger and able to deal with it this time.

    Thank you guys for being here to support and help.


    • FreeMyAddict Team

      And what a difference when you have support! Sometimes it’s not as much about the relapse as it is how quickly they return to recovery. Hopefully, your husband will find his way back soon.

  9. kelly

    Reading Dee’s and Donna’s comments hit close to home. My husband laughs about his drinking,complains about his father[an alcoholic w/ severe depression] and is unable to do anything unless he ‘s able to have a beer in one hand.He never has money to go places or help with our daughter’s activities, but there always seems to be money for the next 30 pack! Am trying to keep moving forward and stay positive, hard to do when there’s always another beer and argument down the road!

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      One of the hardest things to do is to stop the game. When you’re no longer a participant in the game…it ends. Thank you for your supportive comments to Dee and Donna.

  10. diane

    my son has just relapsed again, following a recent detox, each time he gets worse. I also relapse as I build myself up thinking he will make it this time, then it all just crumbles around me. He is so ill and I am afraid he is going to die. i have left him on his own as i am unable to watch him, continue to kill himself. he is 30 years old and has been an alcoholic for 15 years, he rarely eats, all he does is drink, fall over and sleep. I am trying not to play the game, as he blames me all the time for the way he is, but it is taking its toll on my health and my other family members. I dread the phone ringing as i fear the my worst nightmare is that he is found dead.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Diane, alcoholism is a serious illness. As an early alcohol researcher Jellinek suggested there are three paths alcoholics take in the end, insanity, death or recovery. Only your son will decide which it’ll be. Hopefully the next time he’s goes to detox he’ll decide to go through a full course of treatment.

      You can’t fix him. It’s clear you need to take care of yourself and speak truth to him along the way.

      Thanks for your participation with FreeMyAddict.

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