What About Spouses?

Perspective clients often ask what role their spouses might play. We’re sure that you won’t be surprised to learn that, once again, we don’t work like anyone else.

First, what’s the usual role rehab assigns to spouses (and/or other family)? It’s usually called family day(s) or some variation, and it generally involves a crash course in 12 Step mythology. As “The Program” focuses on brainwashing clients, it’s equally necessary to brainwash spouses and other family members.

Happily, since we aren’t interested in turning you into a diseased and powerless 10 year old, who will “relapse” as soon as possible, our process is very different.

We begin by assuming that you are the one who knows best as to what your spouse’s involvement should be. Over the years we have seen the following:

  • Clients whose spouses never knew they were seeing us or working with us – ever;
  • Spouses who attended every session and took shorthand transcriptions of every word uttered by all of us;
  • Every level of involvement in between;
  • And a different paradigm altogether when you are both clients (a model we’ll discuss in a future newsletter).

In general, we like to spend a little time with spouses, usually on the first day and last day of the 5 day intensive portion. The Monday time allows us to get their perspective and also to see how the two of you compare on Dr. Jane Loevinger’s Washington University Sentence Completion Test.

Friday’s time is used to explain what we have determined needs to be done and to help them understand how to be supportive through the process of change.

This latter point is important. Ending your alcohol abuse, like losing weight, is a process not the “did it work?” question many spouses – and others – ask. This too needs to be explained and it’s also why we stick with you for another 3 months instead of cutting you loose to founder on your own like everyone else does.

Addationally, using our analogy of the relationship “dance,” the two of you have developed a dance in which alcohol is a full partner and changing that dance will affect both of you. Many, most even, spouses assume that life will go on, unchanged, except you won’t be drinking.


Just as your drinking affects both of you, so will the changes that go along with not drinking. It’s best for spouses to be aware that they too are going to have to adjust and step up to new realities that will lead to a new “dance,” a new “normal.” This goes better when we are able to explain it rather than it just being sprung on them unprepared.

But all of this is your choice and you know best what role, if any, your spouse or partner should and could play. Will they be supportive or will they sabotage your efforts, for example?

We will, of course, work with you regardless, and help you to accomplish your goals no matter what awaits you.

As always, while we will suggest, we never dictate, and we fully support that you know best.

Progression, Not Regression!

AA and other cult based programs “work” for people who, for whatever reasons, were arrested emotionally and psychologically before the age of 12.
That said, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a “regressant” and that alcohol abuse causes us to think and behave at an impaired level which may appear as immaturity. AA programs are design to keep you arrested at this level for the rest of your life, whether you belong there or not.

The trick is to stop the alcohol abuse, allow you to return to you fully adult status and to understand how this all fits together.

This means that you will benefit from learning that you probably do not interact with the world, and others, in exactly the same way most people do. Most of us make the mistake of assuming that people of similar age, education, background, and other characteristics also share the same values, abilities, and decision making processes.

They don’t, for the most part.

Part of the allure of drinking “regressively” is to allow ourselves the illusion that we fit in when we don’t – and to quell our anxiety over why.

Alcohol also provides a buffer between us and the realities of relationships that would otherwise be intolerable – another way of regressing to a temporarily safer place. Give me my blankie.

Really ending alcohol abuse will always mean coming to terms with ourselves and what that means with, and for, the people around us. There is no pat answer such as, “I’m a powerless and diseased alcoholic who can only be around others like me.”

The real answer is more complex, and in some ways more difficult, but will be uniquely yours and will be freeing and empowering, not imprisoning and demeaning.

So what choice to you prefer? Stay drunk so you can fit in with the other drunks, whether at the bar, club, or AA (because you will have to continue drinking to stay in AA, as most people do)?

Or, as a long ago client said, and chose, “I see. It’s a 2 Step Program, get a grip, and get a life.”

Therefore, let us help you, as Oscar Wilde said, to “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”