Once you’ve given up drinking you expected smooth sailing in your marital and other personal relationships. After all, everyone agreed that your drinking was the problem.
The reality is that your drinking is symptomatic of other problems and when you stop drinking, and begin correcting the underlying problems, you start rocking the boat at home and elsewhere.
Phrased another way, everyone who was affected by your drinking is now affected by you stopping, sometimes even more.
That was not what they had in mind. They expected that their lives would go on as before, except you wouldn’t be drinking. Possibly that they would finally gain control of the only part of your life they hadn’t managed to dictate.
Now you’ve gone from passive and passive-aggressive to assertive. Now spouses and other family members have less control, not more. Now other’s problems begin to rise to the surface, no longer obscured by your drinking.
We always ask you to list not only the benefits you get from drinking, but the benefits your spouses, partners, families, friends and others get from your drinking.
That’s a completely new, and revealing, perspective for most of you – and for them.
This sort of new reality can result in either greater intimacy or sabotage aimed at getting you back to drinking.
The former is great, but the latter is very difficult to resist, especially in the early going. It usually takes the form of acting as the “alcohol police,” false accusations, increased drinking on their part, complaints that “you aren’t any fun anymore,” and other obvious or covert snipping away at your resolve.
Sometimes it even rises to the level of demanding that you cut off all contact with us and other supportive people, personal as well as professional.
What’s one to do?
Mostly decide what you want, what’s best for you, and assertively continue until you begin to wear down the opposition. You can request that others leave you alone, that they focus on their own adjustments and problems, and you can resist the temptation to argue, or to reward them by drinking.
Take a good look at all of the benefits others have been getting from your drinking and decide who you wish to reward, yourself, or them.
Like drinking, that’s also your choice, and you can enforce it.
You Are Powerful, Not Powerless!
For some of us, there is no “cruise control”…
Most folks go through life on “cruise control” – doing what the culture, families, and advertisers dictate. They drive a Ford, drink Coors, root for the Packers, and go to church or temple or mosque, and vote as their parents or neighbors do and so on.
That’s an easy way to get through life, one that requires little thought, self-awareness, or choices.
Some of us, on the other hand, remember Thoreau who said:
“I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”
Stated another way, some of us spend our lives “on the deck” where we sometimes get washed overboard – another definition of alcohol abuse.
Lacking “cruise control” we also tend to find ourselves yo-yoing between being productive and being self-destructive. Enhancing your life tends to fall into those two categories.
The upside is that we actually live our lives and do not, as Thoreau feared, “Discover that I had not lived.”
Unless, of course, we decide to sideline ourselves with our alcohol abuse. That’s the self-destructive life diminishing choice.
Instead, opt for being productive, or for being life enhancing self-destructive. What’s that? Think mountain climbing, sky diving, scuba diving, surfing, and other risky but exhilarating choices.
Think actively engaged – don’t settle for being a passive spectator in your own life.
Remember, whatever the arena or stadium, only a couple of dozen players are actually engaged in whatever the sport or activity. The multitude are living vicariously.
Do you want your epitaph to read “I lived a vicarious life?”
Or that you so besotted yourself that you didn’t even do that?
Your life. Your choice.