Five Challenges the Partners of Alcoholics in Recovery Face

1.  “I am still not the priority?!” When one enters recovery, their partner is usually feeling a great sense of relief and gratitude. Possibly believing some “normalcy” will return to their lives. Time together, evenings out, no more fighting the booze for attention. Over time; however, the truth reveals itself. No, it is not the alcohol that consumes their time – now it is their recovery. AA meetings, coffee afterwards, meeting their sponsor, doing step work. All of these things take time. It is often difficult for the partner to now have to share their spouse with the program. “How do I come second…..again??” The truth is, making recovery the priority IS making you and your relationship the priority. The program of recovery is one that must be attended to as often and as frequently as the alcoholism was. There is a saying “everything you put before your recovery you will lose”. So remember, you are the priority – now more than ever. “I don’t recognize you….” In the early stages of recovery the alcoholic is learning a new way of life – a new way to be – a new identity is forming. Perhaps while drinking your partner was passive, compliant, had a dependency on you. Perhaps while drinking your partner was upbeat, outgoing, life of the party. Now, who is the person before you who has lost or changes the personality you knew? In recovery the alcoholic is discovering who they are without alcohol. In turn, you as the partner, may be learning new things about them. Very often a new set of beliefs are developed and...

Learning to Fight Right

You and your partner (P1 & P2) are sitting on the couch after dinner and one asks the other – P1:“did you get the dry cleaning like I asked?” P2 “what dry cleaning?” P1 “what dry cleaning? The dry cleaning I asked you to get!” P2”why are you yelling? Its just dry cleaning” P1“BUT I ASKED YOU TO GET IT” P2”AND I WILL GET IT TOMORROW!” P1 “You never listen to me!” P2“you are always yelling at me!”………………………………….and so it begins… the “fight” In my work with couples the “fight” is often the tip of the iceberg and the couples are unaware of what lies beneath. There is a conflict over what appears to be a minor issue, however based on the escalation, quite possibly is about something else. The difficulty many couples have is their inability to “fight right”. There will be conflict in almost every relationship…but with conflict comes the opportunity for conflict resolution – that place where each may have a better understanding of the others needs and make attempts to meet them. In the work I do with couples, this resolution is the missing piece – leading to the belief that “all we do is fight”. In my work with couples I have come across different “styles” of fighting. I have labeled them below and how they ultimately lead to brick wall. All talk no listening In this style each individual in the couple has something to say, wants to be heard and needs to be understood. If we look at the example above – there are two issues that have been identified but remain...

We Are All Teachers…

What is your very first memory? Who does it involve? What is the emotion you feel when thinking of it? Is there a message you internalized from this memory? Chances are that you can answer each of these questions when you sit to think about it. Our memories hold the script in which we developed our beliefs about the world we live in and ourselves. If we examine our memories closely, we can see the messages that were given, the lessons that were taught – the very things that we recreate in our own lives, every moment of every day. One problem with this for some, is that many of these messages were harmful ones, ones that can lead a person to have low self-worth, negative self-image, low confidence, and possibly engage in self destructive behaviors. In my practice I see it every day – men and woman who come into therapy with an internalized belief system that they developed from others in their life that had their own unresolved issues. Parents, teachers, friends, caregivers…any influential person or experience can help to shape our internal belief systems. If you are a parent and you are engaging in self destructive behaviors such as alcohol or drug addiction, eating disorder, rageful outbursts, abuse to your spouse the list is endless – think about the messages you are giving your children. If you are unable to properly parent your child – what must that child learn about themselves? There are some who take on the responsibility for your neglectful behavior. They believe if they were somehow “better” then perhaps you would love...

The Grieving of an Alcoholic

 The process of grief is not only about losing a loved one to death. You can grieve any perceived loss in your life. A job, a relationship, and opportunity, a house……an addiction. Yes, it is true alcoholics can and many do, go through the grieving process when it comes time to say goodbye to the active alcoholic life. Alcoholics develop a true relationship with their booze. Their drinking becomes something they look forward to, they think about and they carefully plan to do. Their alcohol is their confidant, their best friend and is always available. Many alcoholics reach a point in their life where the alcohol is the only thing they believe they can depend or rely on. It is through the progression of the disease that this relationship turns abusive and it is time to say goodbye. Alcohol eventually turns and betrays the alcoholic no longer giving them the promises they once believed. The unfortunate part is that for some that day does not ever come and they end up dying at the hands of the disease, leaving all of their loved ones to do the grieving. There are five stages of grief, each necessary to ultimately get to a place where the loss is not so much forgotten, but rather better understood and accepted. If you examine these stages, you can see how they can apply to the relationship between the alcoholic and their alcohol. DENIAL – During this stage the alcoholic simply lives in their own fantasy world –“I don’t think there is a problem, so there is not a problem”. This stage is where the...

An Alcoholic in Denial

“Don’t worry about me…I’m fine!”  “It is really not a problem at all.”  “Stop making such a big deal out of this!”  “Would you just leave me alone?” Sound familiar? If there is an active alcoholic in denial in your life, then I am sure you are nodding your head. Denial – the action of declaring something to be untrue. Have we all used denial at some point in our lives? Have there been times in our life that it seems as though others are seeing something we simply cannot or will not see? We kind of push that little voice of reason and truth to the side and go ahead with the behavior anyway? Sure for some denial is a defense mechanism that serves a very important purpose, it protects them perhaps from what they are not ready to see. In the grieving process, denial is the first stage for some. This defense needs to be there in order for that person to function. The problem for many is that there comes a point where the defense mechanism of denial no longer protects the individual from harm, but rather healing. For addicts and alcoholics much of the drive to drink stems from the feelings they are experiencing in the moment or the anxiety created by anticipation of the feelings they are trying desperately to avoid. Many of the alcoholics and addicts that I treat are intellectually intelligent people. They appear to have the ability to understand things, to make sense of things…as long as those things are not about their drinking or the impact their drinking has on...