Dealing With Alcoholism
Sometimes clients will come in to that first appointment wanting strategies to assist another family member with their problems especially when addiction is involved.
I remember a client of mine, Rod, who was a father of four. He came to my office because his wife had been “getting drunk a lot” and he could no longer tolerate her drinking binges. It was jeopardizing the safety of his children. He explained that he put up with it early in his marriage because she had been involved in treatment and AA and she was trying to stay sober. He understood the relapse process and knew that “falling off the wagon” could be a part of her lifelong struggle with alcohol.
Now the situation had become more complicated. His children were directly involved. His wife had endangered the children by taking them on errands while she was intoxicated. His oldest daughter had confessed that she was scared of her mother. Rod knew that he could no longer deny the seriousness of the problem..
He was in my office for options, but secretly he was hoping I might be able to come up with ideas to help his wife. I explained to Rod that he had many options. He had fallen in love with a woman who was outgoing, nurturing, loving, kind, and always doing for others. Now, eleven years later, he was dealing with a woman who was actively using. Although his wife had been involved in AA and therapy, she was not using the skills to stay sober. She was choosing to drink and was lying to him daily to feed her addiction.
He had been in a state of denial for many years, and it was time for him to see the situation realistically. If Rod wanted to protect his kids, he needed to get healthy. I recommended Al-Anon meetings because they offer support and information on how to stay healthy despite your love for someone with an addiction. (Al-Anon is available on all sides of town–morning, noon, and night.) I explained to Rod that he too had made poor choices and he needed boundaries to help him make clear decisions about how to keep his kids safe.
Rod needed to decide what he would tolerate in his marriage and with his family. Then, he needed the tools to make that happen. His children were his top priority and so he decided he would attend counseling, go to Al-Anon and begin a recovery workshop. He realized that his life was totally unmanageable and he began to use the steps in Al-Anon to get back on track. He learned that alcoholism is a progressive disease. He recognized that his wife had been drinking on and off for over 30 years and she would likely need an intensive program to assist in her recovery. He recognized that SHE had to make those decisions on her own. He stopped pleading with her to get help. He separated from her and went to Court and insisted on supervised visitation because he HAD to be assured that his children would be safe.
After many months of counseling, he admitted that he had initially come to my office to make all of this “go away”. Now he realized that he had to fix himself instead. When you love an alcoholic and you’re in recovery you realize that you don’t always get what you want but you’re able to learn how to make healthy choices that are in the best interest of your own recovery.