By Dr. Ed Wilson

Where did it all go wrong?

Looking back, you know there wasn’t any particular point in time when your wife began turning to alcohol instead of you. In reality, there usually aren’t any dramatic shifts or major events, just a slow erosion, distancing, and change. The drinking increases in amount, it starts earlier in the day and lasts longer, she’s no longer “present” even when she’s physically next to you.

A Coping Behavior That’s Out Of Control

You’ve probably heard that alcoholism is a “disease”, that it’s incurable, and that your wife is “powerless over alcohol.” If that were true, there wouldn’t be much point in treating it. Happily, research and experience both show that alcohol abuse is a symptom, not a disease, and that people recover from it all of the time.

You’ll want to stop thinking that your wife has an intractable and terminal illness, and instead think about her having a coping behavior that’s gotten way out of control. That’s a far more accurate diagnosis, and one that is subject to effective treatment.

The real research – not the marketing hype – is clear: motivated people with good short term counseling and supportive spouses have an excellent chance of fully recovering (all without “programs,” meetings, or life-long recovery, all of which promote relapse and even more alcohol abuse).

Talking And Doing Are Not The Same Thing

You won’t be surprised to learn that the majority of our clients – women and men – are smart capable people who alcohol abuse frequently grows out of boredom, depression, loneliness, and anxiety.

Alcohol is an extremely effective drug that provides very effective short-term relief from these problems. Unhappily, it doesn’t do anything to fix them. On the contrary, it ultimately makes the problems worse while preventing anyone from addressing them.

Historically, women’s treatment has just amounted to watered down men’s programs, programs that rarely helped men, much less women with their differing issues, physiology, and solutions. Knowing that, you can at least not make the mistake of looking for or expecting help in that direction.

You can probably see why recycled men’s programs aren’t an answer, but it’s less obvious that most “women’s programs” aren’t either. The problem here is women’s tendency to think that talking about a problem is the same as doing something about the problem. Quite simply put, it isn’t.

True Behavioral Change Is Progressive

Research on changing behaviors, whether drinking, smoking, weight loss, gambling, or any other behavior, shows a progression from awareness to contemplating change to taking action to actual change to permanently cementing the changes into place. While men are inclined to take action before they’ve even figured out what they
need to change; women usually sit in “contemplation hell” for years on end
before taking any action at all.

As you may have suspected, women are also frequently kept stuck by therapists and women’s groups who also think that talking about problems is somehow doing something about them. It isn’t. Like many husbands, you too might have been happy to farm out the problem to therapists, counselors, and programs that don’t help. She keeps slipping further into the bottle and her husband dives into work and the downhill dance continues.

Don’t Sabotage, But Don’t Fix, Either

Getting her back involves a bit of balancing. She’ll benefit from some short term counseling to sort out the real problems and some long term support for whatever plan is put together. Your role isn’t to fix the problem – admittedly a normal male response. It’s also not your role to sabotage her, a common response from spouses of either gender.

Your jobs is to stay out of the way, provide what help she asks for, and consider the life changing options the two of you have available. That’s the hard part.

Everybody Needs to Adjust For Recovery To Work

By now you can see that her successful recovery will require a joint effort. That doesn’t mean that she isn’t responsible for stopping her drinking, or that anyone else is to blame if she returns to the bottle. It does mean that her changes will affect you and require adjustments on your part too.

You and your wife have reached a crossroads. Many couples part at this point, others find renewal and escape from the loneliness through each other. Others, uncomfortable with the uncertainty of change, continue down the same familiar destructive path.

You, on the other hand, want a better life all the way around. That’s what we’re here to help the two of you build. Call now, before the chance slips away 888-541-6350