Unbalanced – What Lies Behind The Conditions You’re Medicating
We often talk about alcohol abuse as a symptom of poorly managed anxiety, dysthymia, boredom, loneliness, and other personal issues. These respond well to CBT, motivational enhancement, diet, exercise, and assertiveness training, as do other personal conditions that you are medicating rather than addressing.
Looking at your life from a somewhat different perspective, it can be said that underneath the loneliness, anxiety and so on, your life is basically out of balance, and therefore, so are you.
For example, you may not have the types and degrees of personal, family, or professional relationships that you need and are capable of. Your affectional and sexual needs and wishes may be unfulfilled. Your “significant other(s)” may be incapable of the sort of intimacy that you are, and crave. You may find parenthood, especially in the early years, to be a largely unrewarding amount of scut work.
That all adds up to an imbalance between your abilities, expectations, and reality that results in the aforementioned loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and so one that leads us to wrap up the day in a mind numbing bottle of whatever.
Then there are the other “unbalanced” areas that may be driving you to drink. This area is the one that affects many couples and a lot of extended families. This involves the differences between your responsibilities and your authority.
Domestically, this means that whatever areas you are responsible for, you have the authority to decide how it’s done. A simply, and very common example, is the husband who has agreed to help out more at home by doing the dishes. But then the wife decides she still has the authority to dictate when, where, how, and so on. No, that’s not how equitable relationships work. If he has the responsibility, he also gets to decide the when, where, how.
From another and larger angle, even though money is community property, they one who earns the most often decides that they get to control family finances and keep spouses and other family members in the dark. This particular problem often results in a very rude awakening for the “controlling” spouse when a divorce court begins dividing “his,” or increasingly “her,” money in two.
Again, these out of whack relationship issues can easily lead the one whose stuck with the sole responsibility for raising children, or earning money, or unreasonably doing without various basic needs being met, to retaliate passive-aggressively, and self-soothingly, with a lot of excessive drinking.
Some imbalances, of course, aren’t easily addressed. Professionally we may just have to suck it up and endure until a better opportunity, promotion, retirement, or other event changes bad circumstances for the better.
Personally, however, assertiveness works pretty well whether it fixes the problems or at least tells you that the unfairness is unresolvable. Either way you can at least make decisions based on established and tested reality, not alcohol fueled resentments, depression, and anxiety.
Yes, You Will Have Fun Again
One of alcohol pernicious traits is its kudzu like ability to work its way into nearly every aspect of our lives until it feels like that without alcohol we’ll have no life.
The operative words here are “feels like.”
As Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) notes, this “never have any fun ever again” is an irrational belief that allows us to continue a self-destructive behavior under a false premise. It also means that we have cultivated this belief and the supportive feelings in order to continue drinking.
And the myths are pervasive and reinforced as usual by the AA mythology – you’re a powerless and diseased loser who can never again have normal friends, spouses, or colleagues. You must hide out in an isolated group of other cult members.
First of all, plenty of people have a great deal of fun without drinking at all. For many many others a drink is simply an adjunct, not the end all, be all.
Some people do actually like to ski, fish, travel, have sex, and enjoy 10,000 activities that are not either compatible with, or enhanced by, alcohol.
We have had clients, as a somewhat extreme example, who have never had sex sober. And they are terrified by the idea.
Two weeks later they, and their delighted spouses, are reporting that they are having the best sex of their lives. Might have something to do with the fact that they are actually present while it’s happening?
Think too about all of the activities that can’t be done – or shouldn’t be done – when combined with alcohol. These include any sort of competition from card games to scrabble. Then there are those dangerous pursuits where you need to pay attention: driving, weight lifting, motorcycling, rock climbing, and the usual zillion others (including sex).
We assume that you have engaged in a fair number these activities while drunk or at lease seriously impaired. Do you suppose you might consider trying some of them sober over the next few months?
If nothing else, you’ll discover whether or not you actually like any of them.
And if you can’t think of anything to try – we have a list.