Tired of Being the Single Parent of Two, Three, Four, or More?
Unbalanced personal relationships are one of the most common underlying factors in alcohol abuse. You may recognize it whether you are the one who’s medicating or the one living with a “missing in action” spouse or partner.
Because our clients, usually, are the drinkers, I’ll explore things from that perspective, but the same factors do also operate in reverse.
It’s not uncommon for couples to have the same drinking patterns when they first meet. But as the relationship matures and circumstance change these habits may also change. It’s not unusual, for example, for the woman to stop drinking when the first pregnancy occurs and the first baby arrives. Neither pregnancy nor breast feeding are compatible with drinking and, after all, becoming a mother can be a “maturing” event.
Unhappily it’s not uncommon for husbands to be oblivious to this change process and continue on as though nothing important has changed.
The wife/mother now finds herself being the “single parent of two.” If she is also somewhat passive, and assumes that he will grow up eventually, she’s in trouble. Increasingly she will find herself taking on ever more responsibilities while receiving no support.
It’s not uncommon then for the overburdened parent/spouse to turn to drinking as respite, passive-aggressive retaliation, and other self-defeating benefits.
That‘s right, benefits. We always ask clients what benefits they get from drinking since these are what need to be replaced if the alcohol abuse is going to stop.
However, an even more important question is, “What benefits are your spouse getting from your drinking?”
Spouses will deny any such benefits, but the list, especially for the immature, is frequently lengthy:
The drinker loses their vote in family decision making;
The drinker is “the problem,” masking the real problem, namely the other
spouses irresponsibility and immaturity;
The drinker becomes the scapegoat for all manner of things;
The “primary” drinker obscures the “secondary” drinker’s alcohol abuse.
This is a short, and certainly not inclusive, list but it does include the most common factors that incite sabotage on the part of spouses who “suddenly” decide that fixing the problem isn’t in their best interest at all. Imagine that.
For the drinker, on the other hand, the unexpected benefits of quitting can be extremely motivating.
How do these benefits emerge? That’s known as Assertiveness Training and, not too surprisingly, it’s the last thing AA and 12 Step programs ever want you to receive. Cults do not want to engender strength, personal development, or anything else that empowers you.
And your irresponsible spouse will agree with that approach – they weren’t, after all, planning on stepping up. They were expecting that life for them would stay the same except you wouldn’t be drinking and you’d, therefore, have even more time to take care of them!
You? You cannot yet imagine how much better you will feel when you do step up and insist that your “oldest child” become an actual partner, parent, and spouse. Yes, sometimes they will leave rather than grow up. But will that actually be much of a real loss?
Drink and lose yourself or stop and possibly lose them? At worst, you can be freed from being a scapegoat, slave, and demeaning yourself, while giving yourself the possibility of finding a real, supportive, mutual, and intimate relationship.
Forget Counting “Days of Sobriety”
If ever AA came up with a bad idea, it’s collecting continuous days of not drinking. If that in and of itself wasn’t a bad enough, then the awarding trinkets, medallions, and other “rewards” for doing nothing exacerbates the problem.
Think about it for just a moment – how do you build an actual life around not doing something?
I’m sorry, but real lives are built around doing stuff (and, no, attending meeting doesn’t count as either doing stuff or having a life, attending meeting, like drinking, is just a way to avoid getting a life).
We note that for you, drinking just becomes another of those things you move into your “been there, done that” collection of things that no longer contribute to your lives.
For my part that pile is pretty big. I no longer smoke, drink vodka, ride Harleys, work in Alaska as a commercial salmon fisherman, teach school, shoot guns, hunt, live in the cabin I built on the west flank of McKinley (oops, Mt. Denali now, sorry – the name Mt. McKinley also moved to the cast off pile).
A weight loss analogy may help to reinforce the point. Suppose you decide to lose 15 pounds by January 1 to get 2017 off to a good start. Up until Christmas you do well and lose 12 lbs but over the holidays you regain 2. According to AA you’ve “relapsed” and all is lost, you should binge eat until you regain it all since you have to start over in any case.
How much nonsense is that? What you actually do is say, well, that was the holidays, I’m still 10 lbs to the good and I know how to lose the regained 2 and the other 5 as well. Now it’s just February 1 as the goal line.
Perfection isn’t how change occurs in life. IT’S A PROCESS!!!!
So how about facilitating that process by keeping track of what you are doing, not what you aren’t?
That’s how you, to quote a former client, “Get a grip and get a life!”