I was reading The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage and thought that the following excerpt was good. I suppose that learning to communicate would apply to an addict as well.
"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 chapter on "What Manner of Communications are These?"
I don't think that it is easy to communicate when someone is drunk. In fact, I would communicate a lot of anger because that is how I felt--angry, frustrated, and bitter. And during the sober times, there would be the passive aggressive kind of communication--sighs, rolling eyes, muttering under my breath. What is the right kind of communication to have with someone who is actively drinking?
It certainly isn't about nagging and repeating the same stuff over and over about hurting me, hurting others, hurting yourself. The communication then was basically one way, with little in the way of acknowledgement or reciprocation from my wife. Sharing feelings was difficult and the moments when we had a real conversation based on honesty were few and far between. It's amazing how much love I felt, but I had a hard time communicating in a loving manner because I was so angry about the drinking.
Alcoholism makes all those associated with it lonely. For me, it is a lot easier to be alone and lonely, than be with someone and still lonely. Wanting to communicate and get the other person to understand was a huge need. Sometimes I would be overwhelmed with my feelings. They would come out, and she would either sit and say nothing or get up and walk away.
I know now that I was spewing out my emotions, and it was too much for her to process. And it was too much for me to contain all the feelings. In Al-Anon, it is a good idea to process a little at a time. Start slowly and work through the steps. Take baby steps, a little at a time, one day at a time. This is true for me and for the alcoholics in my life as well. I don't think that any of us can handle all the emotions thrown together all at once. It's a jumble that needs to be sorted out.
What I have learned to do is to work on one thing at a time. It may take a long time to be able to communicate honestly and without fear. I am not wanting to air every emotion and feeling like I did before. I can sit with what I feel and not look to blame it on someone else or pass the hot potato to burn another.
I am grateful that I am looking at what we can give each other, rather than what we aren't able to give at this time. We have made a lot of progress in learning to communicate with love, concern and respect. I know that both of us are much happier. It is true that "changed attitudes can aid recovery". I'm getting better, we're getting better.