“May I Have This Dance?”
We do a lot of work with couples and what neither spouse nor partner understands is that they are really dancing together.
That’s right — it isn’t just the drinker’s problem, but a problem they have created together. It’s a dance they join into automatically and whenever either of them thinks about changing the other one pulls them right back in.
The easiest version of the formal dance is the AA/Alanon 12 Step. The “alcoholic” doesn’t want to give up drinking. The spouse loves complaining about it. And they’re both using alcohol to avoid intimacy. Works great. Guaranteed to last a lifetime.
The less obvious version is the “Okay, I’ll quit!” in response to the “You quit or I’m out of here (or you’re out of here)!” version. We’ve seen many many couple who have been dancing to this tune for 10, 20, even 40 years or more. The drinker stops — or goes to treatment — long enough to placate the spouse, the spouse relents, then the same old unresolved problems recur and the drinking resumes.
Of course the real problem is that neither spouse really wants anything to change and neither has a shred of credibility. The drinker isn’t going to stop, nor is the complaining spouse going to leave. Both are too afraid, or angry, to risk changing.
Funny how that works.
Interestingly, we have clients from either side of the dance. Usually it’s the drinker who signs up, sometimes to placate again — though we’re pretty good at screening out those folks — but mostly because they’ve decided to change. Same goes for the drinker’s spouse who signs up first, and then is surprised to find the drinker trailing along.
The message? Either of you can end the dance. It’s just a matter of who goes first. But you are equally responsible for continuing the dance if that’s what you decide to do. And the one who goes first has the power over the process.
If you really want to end it, and get a life, not the same old dance, then give us a call. We do know how to help you do that.
It’s not the alcohol…
We often note that alcohol itself isn’t the real problem when it comes to quitting. In fact, that’s usually the easiest part. The really hard part is giving up the associated habit patterns, irrational beliefs, and the other trappings of a life created around drinking.
Clients often worry about what other people will say when they learn that you’ve quit drinking. Frankly, most don’t care, and those few who do probably have a worse problem than you. Besides, how much time have you spent worrying about what they are saying about your drinking?
Funny how that works.
Still, drinking fills time and now you’re going to have to find something else to occupy yourself, and that’s going to take some effort. Of course you’ll be far less depressed and feel more like actually living, but still….
Then there are simply the established patterns that your life falls into: good, bad, or indifferent. Alcohol may have become a part of most — or all — of your social, recreational, and family routines. Quitting is going to mean creating new patterns and that can be uncomfortable for awhile.
But just how comfortable are you now?
These are all considerations we address with you in considerable depth and detail. These are the issues that will allow you to succeed and feel good about your life.
Actually, this is how you get back to having a life. It helps to remember that alcohol abuse is the opposite of having a life. It really is just “killing time until you die.”