Yes, we work with couples. It doesn’t matter who has the alcohol problem, or who initiates the solution.
Why? Because successfully ending alcohol abuse depends on changing your behaviors in your day-to-day life and that means altering your relationship with your spouse. Remember, alcohol abuse is a “context” problem – it exists to fill a need within your daily life. Ending it means fixing the underlying problems so you no longer need to self-medicate for short term relief or avoidance.
Changing your activities and behaviors, however, is also going to affect everyone around you – especially spouses. Therefore, excluding your spouse from the treatment process pretty much dooms you to failure.
But there are other reasons, too.
If you’ve ever been to couple’s counseling you know that it almost instantly turns into a two on one event. With three people involved it’s almost inevitable that that’s going to happen. The result, of course, is zero progress, or worse, since any issues are obscured by this new triangle – him, her, therapist – and who gets the therapist on “their side” first.
We learned how to avoid that dynamic a long time ago – we work as a team with you as a couple. Makes it tough to hide behind the “you ganged up on me” excuse – and usually gives each of you an empathic advocate to boot.
But that requires skill and experience on our part – more things treatment programs with their para-professional, “in recovery”, counselors aren’t going to spend money on.
All of that aside, the most important part of our couples model is based on the fact that no one has to wait on the spouse with the drinking problem!
That’s right! Instead of calling us and demanding to know how you can force someone else to stop drinking – which is impossible – you can begin the process of changing your behavior in the ways that are most likely to motivate your spouse to end his or her alcohol abuse.
Frankly, we have never had a husband or wife call and schedule a week with us to begin detaching from a spouse, without the spouse in question “suddenly” deciding it was time to come along and get help themselves. Funny how that works.
Why does it work?
Einstein noted that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.”
When it comes to spouses (really, any family member) and alcohol abuse, couples become locked into predictable patterns. Both of you, more comfortable with predictability than change, engage in this endless “you’re the problem, you go first” dance that never goes anywhere except around in the same old circle.
Most of us have also, at some level, incorporated the idea that alcohol is the problem and that if the drinker would just stop then everything would be okay. It would be nice if that were true, but it’s just another of those treatment industry myths, designed to placate family members.
Instead, the reality is that alcohol abuse is a short term coping mechanism that sabotages ever fixing real problems – things like loneliness, boredom, anxiety, anger, and passivity. If these underlying, and fueling, conditions are not addressed, then one is indeed doomed to forever being “in recovery” (a catch phrase that readily translates into “your can’t make me grow up”) and spouses are doomed to either playing second fiddle to the bottle, joining in, or escaping to a real life of their own.
But before you decide on option #3, the escape option – and we don’t recommend option #1 or #2, don’t you think you should give actually fixing the problems a shot? That’s a lot cheaper and less disruptive than divorce – and usually leads to a far more interesting real marriage than our clients have ever known before.
Please! Don’t settle for coming second place behind your spouses bottle, or even worse in most cases, AA or Alanon, and don’t leave yourself wondering if your marriage might actually have been saved if you’d only invested that 5 days with us before you gave that lawyer a retainer for three times what we charge (and with many, many more billable hours to come).
The call is free! The consultation is free! And the odds are excellent that at the very least you can create a far better future for yourself without incurring the cost of a lifetime of nagging doubts as to whether or not you did the right thing.