Dating a Normie and Family Recovery Coaching.
So you’re in recovery now. And you probably have by now, figured out that we have a lot more to work on than just taking alcohol out of our diet. If you have a sponsor, I’m sure you, like me, have heard the suggestion not to get into a relationship until you have truly worked on yourself for at least 1 year. There is a great reason behind this. Even after 2 years of sobriety, I am struggling to practice boundaries that could benefit both myself and my significant other. For some, including myself, this is very difficult, due to the fact that the majority of my life, I have drunk away. I am 34 years old, and out of that time, my first drink being at 13 years of age, presented me a 20 year period of never dealing with my feelings, the past, or my mental well-being overall. Even though my current relationship is a struggle, there are some things that I know I have to work on if there is even the slightest chance that it can be something that will last. Otherwise, I will still have the issues I have never dealt with in the right way; ultimately causing me to handle things in a horrid manner and destroy everything I love, like I have done so many times before. There are a few things I have needed to learn how to handle when being in a relationship with someone who has never allowed alcohol to impact their lives in such a negative manner, and here are 3 that I feel are the most important.
#1: Perspective – As alcoholics, especially those of us who have lost things most of our lives due to our illness in particular: We have to know, that someone else, who has never been addicted to alcohol likely does not have most of the underlying mental / emotional issues that we do because they have been able to deal with things of this nature in the appropriate manner. We, on the other hand, tend to hit the bottle when we don’t want to face life on life’s terms. So the first thing to consider is letting go of our old ideas on how a relationship would work. For example, I tend to think that if someone tells me they need space, that an end to the relationship is imminent. This is far beyond the truth in most situations. Having abandonment issues especially, we fear the worst, no matter what. Then we tend to push people away by smothering them, clinging to them so we can try to make sure we don’t lose them when our actions in this instance will cause that fear to come true. We have to stop being so co-dependent on others’ company, and let them breathe, give them time to miss us a bit and crave our company again. We have to for once, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, rather than thinking the entire relationship revolves around our needs. If they need some time alone, give it to them. If they have friends of the opposite sex, don’t allow our jealous, negative mindset to plant those seeds of insecurity and cause us to lash out in any way. Accept it all, be grateful you are even in the person’s company and do not try to control them in any manner. This will only push your partner away even faster. We have to realize that with most of our ways of acting and thinking being unsuccessful for most of our lives, we have to try something different. Try working on YOU more than anything. Take YOUR personal inventory rather than pointing out impurities or faults in others. Ultimately, if we do not work on ourselves, we will continue a cycle of everlasting self-pity and loss. We have to realize that alcohol is a problem, but not the only problem. WE are the biggest problem of all until we own up and work on all of our defects of character.
#2: Monkey See, Monkey Don’t: So we’ve established 2 things. We are powerless over alcohol, and our lives have become completely unmanageable, but who’s to say our partner is powerless or that their life isn’t on solid grounds? Now, we are dating someone who has a great head on their shoulders and a great track record to prove it. Say your new significant other has wine or another alcoholic drink of their choice when you are out for dinner with them, or at home, relaxing. Let’s also say that most of your partner has ever drunk is 1/10th of what we would do on a daily basis in the past. We know what happens when we drink. We can’t stop at 1 or 2 like a normal, occasional drinker. I have tried countless times to use the
“Beer experiment”, and have ALWAYS worked my way back up to 30+ beers a night. So I simply can’t drink anything containing alcohol. But of course, it would not be fair for us to judge, or say this other person isn’t allowed to drink. My girlfriend, in fact, actually has offered to never drink anything in front of me containing alcohol. But the simple fact is, if I drink, I will ultimately lose everything I have finally gained through the 2 years I have worked on myself, and I refuse to start from scratch again. With this mindset, I am able to keep my composure internally when someone is having drinks around me, whether it’s at a restaurant, family gathering, or celebration of a holiday of any kind. It did take a lot of time for me to be able to feel like everyone else has a glass of tea just like I do, for the fact they are drinking doesn’t matter to me. As long as there is no problem with the other person, such as erratic or violent behavior, or notice of similar patterns that coincide with our own alcoholism, this can usually be an okay situation. The key here is being up-front and honest. We let our partner know of our past alcohol abuse and the fact we are in recovery from the very start. This can usually bring forth great consideration from our partner, avoiding unpleasant surprise situations later on.
#3: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Let’s face it. Most of us live in fear of change. How far has refusing to change ourselves got us? When we are afraid of losing something, we struggle for power and control; in a drunken stupor, that struggle can turn violent, even when sober, depending on what issues we have not worked on. We can also have very poor judgment, make decisions based on emotion, rather than letting our intuition / logical thinking guide us. This can turn out pretty horribly if we don’t think well before we act. So there’s that. We have to get out of what we are comfortable doing. Especially when our comfort zone is full of selfishness and chaos. Time to step outside of that comfort zone, and try something else that could possibly work out far better for us and our partner. We are uncomfortable taking others’ ideas into consideration most of the time because we have never tried it before. When I was a kid, I didn’t know I’d like Brussels Sprouts until I tried them. Well, it’s time for us to grow up, something long overdue. When you look at the 12-Steps, Step 12. The last part of this step reads “…to practice these principles in all our affairs.” If you have worked through these steps, I can say without judgment that there is likely a pretty good reason you have done so, just like me. Most of these steps are based greatly on becoming a better person in general: putting others before us, making amends, admitting our wrongs, working on defects of character, following suggestions. One thing I am extremely uncomfortable with to this day is biting my tongue: keeping my mouth shut when I need to. Whenever my negative thoughts begin to take over, it becomes extremely difficult for me not to blurt out my irrational concerns, and I always feel like an idiot later. One of the best things I have ever done was suggested by my sponsor. Think it over first. Give it 72 hours. THEN talk about it, if you’re even concerned about it anymore at that point. See, the reason I feel like an idiot isn’t just because I acted out of hand, it’s a slew of things. One of those things is the fact I was even thinking in the manner I was. I’ve noticed even when I keep my mouth shut, I still feel foolish, simply for having those thoughts, but not quite as foolish, because I wasn’t so quick to lash out over them. We will have thoughts that tend to work against the grain, that’s just how it is for most of us. The best we can do is control our actions and reactions, and give things time, give people time, and keep our side of the street clean; rest assured that we are doing the right thing to comfort our significant other.
The greatest advice I can reiterate in my head to myself, for anyone; Never try “working” a program only to fix a relationship, or to make your children or family want to be a part of your life again. Work a program to get to the underlying issues that have caused us to land ourselves in the nightmarish mindsets and situations we have grown to know all too well. We have to control ourselves, never others. Do it for YOU, so that you can have something to offer others. Whether it be your partner, your children, or just your serenity alone.
How do I help a loved one with an addiction? If you suspect someone is in immediate danger you always call 911. If you suspect drug use or need help call 1.800.706.0318 ext 1 and they can assist you with helping your loved one. You can also set up an intervention, recovery coach, or sober companion to help them overcome addiction.
Is there help for the spouse of an addict? YES! Family coaches and family therapists specialize in helping the addict overcome addiction, mental health issues, and more. They will assist you in understanding addiction, what codependency is, and how to stop enabling. Your family coach should be a nationally certified family coach with the minimum credentials of NCFRC.
How can I become a family coach? The highest credential is a Nationally Certified Family Recovery Coach (NCFRC) and is a program that contains the family coach training, ethics, relapse prevention, and 10 weeks of supervision. You will need to be certified and insured to practice. Most NCFRC family coaches are international in scope and help families all around the globe.
Can an alcoholic drink? Depends on the person. Not all alcoholics can drink again and some can manage their use. If you follow AA the answer is no, but in recent scientific studies a newer model of harm reduction has surfaced and some alcoholics can moderate their use. There are also functional alcoholics that binge drink and can still maintain work, job, and relationships.