When you are dealing with someone close to you who has a drinking problem it can be frustrating and painful knowing that you can’t stop their behavior. You might feel tempted to try to control the situation by giving them an ultimatum– “stop drinking or our relationship is over”. You need to be cautious about giving loved ones an ultimatum because addiction is complex and it can be hard to tell whether it will be effective in changing the situation.
Although it may feel like the right thing to ask an alcoholic to choose either you or drinking because you have had enough of their actions, it is important to understand that your demands may not be as realistic as you think. When a person is physically and mentally addicted to alcohol, their drinking behavior may be beyond their own control. They might try to quit at least temporarily to appease you or avoid the consequences of your ultimatum but it may not last permanently.
Ultimatums may not always be the best solution because it is impossible to control another person’s decisions and actions, especially an alcoholic. If your goal is to get a person to stop drinking then an intervention is usually the format that tends to get better results. The key is to help them realize for themselves how much their drinking affects others so that they make the choice to get help.
Quitting an addiction often requires the addict to come to the realization on their own that they need help. An ultimatum may only be useful if you want to give yourself space or improve your family life by staying away from addictive behavior. It is a legitimate choice to end a relationship because you are frustrated with a person’s addiction, but getting them to permanently change will require a more serious intervention.