Friday, September 23, 2011

Using "normal relationship" terms when alcoholism

Just read in a posting, that 'compromise is what we do, in a marriage'.

Got me thinking about the difference between marriages without abuse or alcoholism ------ and marriages with alcoholism.

In the "April, 2006, Recovery Tip of the Month" (on that section of this website), there is this paragraph -------

"We subconsciously feel like we should be like that new trash bag that is advertised on tv now------- the one that stretches and stretches --- to way beyond what other trash bags have been able to do ------- to accomodate more and more garbage."

That's akin to us, and the idea of "compromise".

When WE compromise------it goes way beyond the pale.

When counselors see couples, we of course help them to learn to compromise --------so, what kinds of things are typical?

We teach him to maybe go golfing one day a week, only, since he watches sports on tv (and does not want to be interrupted except for emergencies), three nights a week.

We teach her (when he has been travelling for work, 5 days a week for decades---------and he is now retired) to 'catch herself' when he is wanting equal input into how things, large and small, will be managed in that home. In those years of his travelling most of the time, she of course had to make all those decisions, and grew used to it.

What is different in homes with alcoholism? It's like there is one partner who is normal-------and one with alzheimers. And we're trying to teach them how to make judgments about life, together.

Why say 'alzheimers'? Because it, too, is a disease where the brain does not function properly, and one cannot rely on their judgment about matters. Oh, sometimes, while the disease is in earlier stages, the alzheimers patient will be very lucid and fool everyone------but it is progressive, and that is less and less, over the years.

In marriages with alcoholism, we, of course, focus so much on how he behaves toward us------that we sometimes forget------and think he 'just needs to learn how to behave right'.

He has, if he is alcoholic-------a toxic-brain disease.
A toxic-brain disease that is progressive and will either kill him or lead him to the back wards of a psychiatric hospital, with no more memory and no more ability to make more memories.
Alcoholics who reach that stage have "wet brain"....... a blank brain with no knowledge of who you are------or who they are.
When an alcoholic reaches that stage, it is irreversible.

There are literally millions of alcoholics in the back wards of hospitals, with wet brain.
The V.A. hospitals are filled with them.

No, we do not "compromise" with alcoholics in a marriage.
For, 'compromise' means that two sides of a discussion make joint decisions about how to BOTH 'give in' to make things work out well.

We, instead, adapt.
Adapting is done by the non-alcoholics in a family, to make the alcoholic 'happy', for a time.

And we do learn ways to make that happen, in the short term.
But, we also need to keep that 'trash bag stretching' ------- to accomodate to what they demand.

And those demands not only grow larger.
Our 'rewards' get smaller.
And occur less often.

We reach the point where we "really feel we know them"...... where we are pretty vigilant about 'reading them' to see what they want-------to anticipate what they want------ in order to 'head them off at the pass'.

To be sure to meet their 'needs'/wants -------- hopefully, to make sure we reach our goal-------to stop them from hurting us-----to make them at least temporarily half-way-nice to us.

We stretch and stretch and stretch........ to be able to 'do' for them...... so we can have a modicum of a relationship....even if it is a pretense of a they will want to be with us.

No, we've gone way beyond the pale about 'compromise'.
That word is not even within sight of what we do, to keep an alcoholic relationship going.


One of the MOST important ways to heal ----- is to "watch our language".

HEAR ourselves when we use terms that make it seem that we 'have normal relationships' when it is alcoholism.

Saying, "I compromise" SEEMS like it is what is done and expected to be done, in marriages.
Compromising IS what is done in 'normal marriages'.
But it is NOT what we are referring to, when we talk about what WE do.

Part of our healing is to pay a LOT of attention to our terminology------for, our terminology is the language of denial.

The language of SUBTLE denial that keeps us locked into the craziness of alcoholism.

P.S........ We often say to ourselves, when we don't want to hear all this, "oh I know what I mean when I say xxxxx".

Even though we 'know' what we 'mean'------- when we keep using 'normal relationship' terms when referring to what we do in an alcoholic situation, it is a subtle way of minimizing what is going on.

And when we 'fight for our right' to continue to minimize ------- we OF COURSE are just not wanting to face the whole kit and kaboodle entirely.

And that is understandable!

But we if we want to heal MORE QUICKLY------ way down deep------ we need to tell ourselves the truth and face the truth------NO MATTER IF WE STAY OR LEAVE.

For, if we skew the truth to ourselves, with all kinds of justifications.......
we still are thinking, then, that it will be easier for us to stay in the relationship if we don't tell ourselves the entire truth as it is.

And that is just not true.

The devastation we feel when the crises happen------- when the INEVITABLE crises happen------ are LESS devastating to us when we "kept one foot out of the circle" all along.
When we did not let ourselves forget the truth-----even when we are enjoying the moments when it is good.

Yes, we can---------AND SHOULD------- stay in 'one day at a time'.

But staying in it realistically is one of the things that attendance at Al-Anon, on a regular basis, is so good at.

Going to those face-to-face meetings does help so much to learn to keep a balance....... to learn to enjoy the moments when he is nice......and to learn to still be self-protective.

And to be really self-protective, we cannot tell ourselves half-truths.

Why say 'self-protective'?

Because when we do not want to face the alcoholism and the fact that it is progressive------ when it does progress------if we've let our guard down, so to speak (i.e., tried to 'forget' that there is alcoholism when it is good for a time with him) ------- we get hit like a tidal wave.

This happens mostly with people new to family recovery.

When we've been around recovery for a while, we each learn, in our own way, to find ways to enjoy the moments------without entirely forgetting what is really going on.
That as long as he is drinking, it is of necessity-------not of his choice------that it will get worse.
But it "hits us" not at all as much------when it progresses----- when we expect it.
We can then deal with it SO much more easily.
And how to "expect it"?
By not forgetting that it is inevitable as long as he keeps drinking.
From Toby Drews, the author of the million-selling "Getting Them Sober'' books, endorsed by 'dear Abby', Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Melody Beattie:
phone 410-243-8352

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