Wednesday, July 1, 2009
When the drinking stops....
At the meeting last night, a lady shared that the problems in her relationship with her husband got worse when the drinking stopped. She said that "When a drunken a**hole sobers up, he's still an a**hole."
Unfortunately, quitting drinking can take away some behaviors, but basic personality traits are still going to remain. And then there's the added issue that brain dysfunction has been documented in 75-95% of recovering alcoholics.
I have found that living with my wife is much better than it ever was when she was drinking. Neither of us was without faults. We both needed to inventory our shortcomings. And coming out on the other side, I've found that taking care of my own recovery has been such a great gift to our relationship.
A major step for me has been to establish healthy boundaries. As one fellow shared, "My boundary was that I wasn't going to have anything thrown at me anymore." Some in the meeting laughed, but the reality was that it is a painful topic. I can remember a stack of plates being smashed to the floor. Thankfully none were thrown at me. My inventory showed that my role was to carp and provoke until the alcoholic had enough and went into a tirade. For some sick reason, I got satisfaction from provoking her to that point. So definitely I played a part in how I was treated by her.
I have heard shares from those who live with long-time sober partners who are still extremely self-centered, arrogant, and manipulative. Self absorption is indeed a big part of the alcoholic issue. But if I turn the tables, I can see that my own maturity needed a tuneup. I was often reactive, overly sensitive, and lost.
A solution for me is to ask for a pat on the back or for what I need when it doesn't appear that I'm giving or getting it involuntarily. I have also learned that cleaning myside of the street means giving before I receive. I ask myself "am I doing to others what I want done to me?"
We are now willing to discuss our feelings, rather than letting things fester. I am usually the one who brings up my feelings of rejection. I realize that I am sensitive about that. Yet, there are times that I need to discuss it. I am grateful that we can communicate on these issues.
Fortunately for both of us, we can be happy doing those things that we like to do. Not all of them are "together" things. I stay involved in those things that I like to do. I do my best to not rely on another to fill the hole within. If my wife would like to join me, that would be wonderful. If not, that's okay too.
Bottom line: I do not rely on her to fulfill my needs. That is my job. I rely on God to be there when all else fails. I also am striving to calmly convey my wants and opinions. It comes down to this: the alcoholic is going to do what they are going to do. It's what I'm going to do that holds the key.