Monday, May 23, 2011


I had a really good weekend and even decided to stay on the boat last night as well.  It was very relaxing.  We laughed, talked about a lot of things, and slept soundly both on the boat and at home. I really like these weekend getaways that we have.  It really provides some much needed time for intimacy and communication.

It was meant to be that tonight's meeting topic was on communication.  Communication can really deteriorate in relationships with an alcoholic.  I can remember when I thought that she was funny and sexy during the drinking days of our courtship.  But eventually, the blush on that rose wore off, and I saw that her drunken conversations were a source of embarrassment for me, especially at social gatherings. There was a lot of sarcasm and thinly disguised anger from me.

Over the last few years in Al-Anon, I have come to understand how destructive our old way of communicating was:  I used to badger and manipulate to get my point across and get my way.  I tried arguing which was a failure especially when the alcoholic is drunk.  I think that I wanted to pick a fight.  Not a single thing was accomplished by my getting angry, hostile or being a martyr. 

Now, I realize that she is an individual in her own right with her own ideas.  I don't need to tell her what to do or how to run her life.  She has a program and her own Higher Power.  I cannot be either to her.  So I treat her and most people I encounter with the courtesy they deserve.  Reading about how we communicate from the Al-Anon book, The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage, has helped me to understand a lot better just how destructive alcoholism is with communicating.

I can speak my truth without condemning the other person.  By tiptoeing around a situation and keeping silent, I am making it seem that I agree.  I have learned that it is important for me to talk about what I want and what my needs are.  I have a right to an opinion today and can express myself without fearing some kind of reprisal.  We may not agree but I am not afraid to speak up.  If we disagree, then that is okay because I have learned to be courteous and not take things personally.

Strange and very typical that I had no trouble speaking up when she had been drinking. I had lots to say then.  And the next morning, I could play the hostile martyr role well.  Thankfully, I know not to harbor resentments or dump my feelings on another.  This is especially hard for the alcoholic because my feelings can often overwhelm her.  No one can handle my emotions and feelings.  That was an unrealistic expectation that I had of my partner being able to take care of my emotions.

Our life today is much less closed than before recovery.  We are patient with each other,  we tell each other how much we love each other every day,  I know that she is the same person that I fell in love with years ago.  We both are evolving to explore new ways to communicate. And as I find out more definitively who I am,  I am also finding that love and closeness we had at the start.  I do not have to allow this disease to take that from me.  I can choose to control how I think and act and talk, I can choose to be the loving person I was.  And I find in doing so, I am getting better and we are getting better together.

"You know that no improvement can be accomplished unless we're consistent. If we haven't the courage to speak up when the drinker is in a sober phase, he'll just go on believing that there's no limit to what we can tolerate. But we have to know what we think before we can say it convincingly. We can't just bury it and hide our heads under a blanket of hope. Our husbands have a right to know what we expect from them. It's up to them to decide whether or not they want to live up to our expectations. Not letting them know how we feel is dishonest. It's just another way of pretending we accept the situation when we don't. It's a cop-out. If we want the alcoholic to face reality, we must face it first, and not be afraid to share our feelings. "
from The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage


  1. this is good stuff..communication in general will make or break a relationship...not just what we say but how we say it...

  2. Love this! The disease has everyone tip toeing around the obvious, and playing passive aggressive games. Life is much happier when we express our needs, and don't expect others to be mind readers.

  3. This is a great post. I don't have that book, but will order it right away.

    Communication when the alcoholic is drinking is nearly impossible because they are not hearing you with open ears. Now that my husband has returned to drinking, I have to remind myself daily that he is not really there. But, it's difficult to keep the words in check when he becomes angry about whatever pops into his mind.

    My sarcasism and manipulation is done out of a sense of superiority because I'm not a drunk -- but later on I just feel small and upset with myself. I'm not superior -- just sober.

    I'm just a frustrated and angry woman yelling into a vacuum. That's not communication.

  4. Syd. I thank you for putting into words the growth I have made in my marriage. Communication is such an important aspect of marriage and GOOD communication can be hard to find. Speak my truth without condemning, speaking intimately without taking things personally. This is huge. Thanks.

  5. I have missed your posts. i love your insight and how much i can relate to what you put down. it is good to stop by today. thanks for sharing syd.

  6. I can't post comments. Or can I?

  7. Syd,
    I am so glad you have such a good relationship with C. It's such a blessing.

  8. Oh boy am I seeing so many wonderful things in the blogs today. Awesome experience shared! Thanks Syd!

  9. This is good information and advice for ALL marriages.

  10. Syd,

    I was in such denial. I took acceptance to new levels, I turned my head to the problem and focused on my career. I knew the day that I stood up for myself my marrage would end. It got real bad, but when violence entered the relationship I hit bottom and stood tall. In the year of my divorce I was promoted to a Vice President of a billion dollar company. Talk about bitter sweet! I'm healing by working the Alanon program.

  11. I like the quote but it rings of false threats for me sometimes when I speak my truth in the moment.
    Often I need to sit with what I really feel before I speak up. How important is it? This sits at the tip of my tongue these days.

  12. Communication is sometimes gnarly even with two people in recovery, because at times it is WORK to speak your truth respectfully or mind your side of the street only, or use any of the myriad other grown-up, responsible, generous communication tools.

    I find that is especially true when I'm SENSITIVE, ANGRY, & TIRED, like I was tonight when Dear One didn't practice his good communication tools and said a silly thing that set me off. So I was a turd, but HE started it!

    So thanks to you, I'm going into the bedroom and wake him up to say I was wrong and am sorry. I'm looking forward to the part where I wake him up. Hee hee.

  13. Very inspiring post Syd...Good communication in a marriage takes hard glad to see you & your wife's hard work in recovery paying off! I struggle with fear in being heard & validated..but I am learning how to trust & validate MYSELF first, which makes it easier to be more open with my husband :)


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