I Quit Abusing Alcohol, and Allowing Myself to Be Abused, and Now I’m the Bad Guy?

As we have noted before, all of our relationships are essentially dances that we have developed with partners, spouses, siblings, friends, colleagues, and so on. In many cases, a silent – or not so silent – partner in these dances has been alcohol.

Then we quit drinking and all of the dances, to a greater or lesser degree, change as well.

Most of our dance partners are ill prepared for having to adjust to a new dance. To them, nothing was supposed to change except you weren’t going to drink anymore.

That is, really, what happens when people join AA. The only difference is that they are now hanging out with the same losers as before, except now they’re doing it in meetings instead of bars.

But suppose you actually change? Suppose you fix whatever you’ve been medicating? Suppose you no longer tolerate the manipulation, controlling, demeaning, and exploitative relationships that have come to define your life?

Many of us find ourselves in this Kafkaesque world where we’ve moved from being “the problem” because we drank, to being “the problem” because we’re disrupting the status quo.

An Example? You drank because it was the only thing that made your spouse’s abusiveness tolerable. Now you don’t drink, nor do you tolerate the abuse. But your children, who’ve grown up internalizing your spouse’s abuse as their “normal,” are now castigating you for being unreasonable and breaking up the family!

All of this is really hard to accept. Knowing that “killing the messenger” is as old as messengers doesn’t help much.

Learning that you can’t fix others, especially when they are close family members, is painful at best.

Living with it, productively and happily, takes some doing.

Which brings us back to last week’s comments on creating “new normals” and recognizing that we can’t force others to adopt a new dance will usually see us through. Eventually, when it seems safe, those who actually care will also follow our example and return.

In the meantime, dust off those long deferred interests, hold onto those who are still there for you, add a few new people and activities, and discover that you can let the rest go. Life is too short to beat yourself just because you quit letting others beat you.

You escaped. Celebrate. Though probably not with a bottle of Champaign.

Time to Consider Proactively Addressing Your Alcohol Abuse?

In the book “Changing For Good” Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente note that there are 6 well-defined stages in the process of altering a behavior we no longer wish to maintain:

  • Precontemplation;
  • Contemplation;
  • Preparation;
  • Action;
  • Maintenance;
  • Termination.

Now that you have found our website, signed up for our Newsletter, and read it, you’ve clearly have managed the first 3 stages. And that’s also when things get sticky – moving along to stage 4, Action!

You won’t be shocked to learn that most people stay stuck in the familiar Contemplation and Preparation Stages. These stages allow you to pretend that you are doing something about the problem without actually addressing it.

Examples of how this works? Think about how many people buy reams of diet books without ever losing a pound.

Closer to home for those of us with counter-productive drinking habits, we could join AA and/or have partners who join Alanon and it’s the same model. Pretending to do something. Avoiding the Action Stage.

This issue of the Newsletter marks the beginning of our 7th year of weekly publication. A few of you have read every one of the 312 issues. You are the champion Contemplators.

Many of you are current and recent clients for whom it is a part of your newly developing Action Stage as you spend the time and effort it takes to create a new alcohol free “normal.”

Others of you are former clients who simply read it as on-going support and reminders and bits and pieces of useful, I hope, information. We, in the form of the Newsletter (and possibly as voices you can’t always get out of your head) have become part of the Maintenance Stage.

Finally, at some point, neither we nor the Newsletter are needed. Like alcohol abuse, we’ve moved into the “been there, done that” category and you have reached the Termination Stage.

Whether you are acting, maintaining, or have terminated, we congratulate you on a difficult life change successfully navigated. That is no small accomplishment and you did it without washing ashore and being marooned on the barren 12 Step Islands.

For those of you still contemplating and preparing, why wait? Why not find out what life after alcohol is like? You can always go back to drinking if that turns out to be preferable, and for some it is. But how can you know? How can you make an informed decision until you know?