Category Archives: steps to a better life

loving an alcoholic

Respect for Yourself

When you live with an addict you can find yourself doing and thinking things that are alien to the person you believe you are. You may have hateful thoughts, become bitter and resentful. You criticise and mock the person you once loved with all your heart. You roar, rant and scream in ways and words you never thought possible. You do things to spite the person …  ‘I’ll show them!’

Your confidence becomes low and you find it hard to recognise the person you have become.  You do everything in your power to change loved one’s unacceptable behaviour.

Changing someone else is not possible. Change must come from within them.

The same goes for you. You must change from within and become the person you were or want to be. This needs work. You need to change your reactions to their unacceptable behaviour. You need to be true to yourself and learn to love yourself again.  The first step towards this is taking care of your reactions and knowing and respecting your own limits. Telling your ALO (Alcoholic Loved One) what you are going to do the next time they drink does not make a difference, instead decide what your limits are, decide the course of action you are going to take and then act  if the time comes. Do it for you, not for them.  Start respecting your own reactions and establish behaviour that reflects integrity and the person you want to be.

“He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

listen

The 10 Minutes Could Save Your Relationship

For two years after my partner went to rehab we went to ‘aftercare’. This was a once per week group meeting with others who had been in rehab and a partner or friend or family member.  It was mostly couples with an alcoholic husband or an alcoholic wife who had been through rehab. It was here we really learnt to listen  to each other.

So when I found this exercise I thought I would share it as some of you may find it helpful. Try to get to do this with your partner once a week, obviously not when they have just drank or are hungover. Remember to listen and not be judgemental.  Ask that they listen to you too with out ‘stonewalling’ or interrupting.

Background

Often we’ll listen to a conversation partner without really hearing him or her—in the process, we miss opportunities to connect with that person. This exercise helps you express active interest in what the other person has to say and makes him or her feel heard—a way to foster empathy and connection. This technique is especially well-suited for difficult conversations (such as arguments with a spouse) and for expressing support. Research suggests that using this technique can help others feel more understood and can improve relationship satisfaction.

Time required

At least 10 minutes. Try to make time for this practice at least once per week.

Instructions

Find a quiet place where you can talk with your partner without interruption or distraction. Invite him or her to share what’s on his or her mind. As he or she does so, try to follow the steps below. You don’t need to cover every step, but the more you do cover, the more effective this practice is likely to be.

1. Paraphrase. Once the other person has finished expressing a thought, paraphrase what he or she said to make sure you understand and to show that you are paying attention. Helpful ways to paraphrase include “What I hear you saying is…” “It sounds like…” and “If I understand you right….”

2. Ask questions. When appropriate, ask questions to encourage the other person to elaborate on his or her thoughts and feelings. Avoid jumping to conclusions about what the other person means. Instead ask questions to clarify his or her meaning, such as, “When you say_____, do you mean_____”?

3. Express empathy. If the other person voices negative feelings, strive to validate these feelings rather than questioning or defending against them. For example, if the speaker expresses frustration, try to consider why he or she feels that way, regardless of whether you think that feeling is justified or whether you would feel that way yourself were you in his or her position. Youmight respond, “I can sense that you’re feeling frustrated,” and even “I can understand how that situation could cause frustration.”

4. Use engaged body language. Show that you are engaged and interested bymaking eye contact, nodding, facing the other person, and maintaining an open and relaxed body posture. Avoid attending to distractions in your environment or checking your phone. Be mindful of your facial expressions: Avoid expressions that might communicate disapproval or disgust.

5. Avoid judgment. Your goal is to understand the other person’s perspective and accept it for what it is, even if you disagree with it. Try not to interrupt with counter-arguments or mentally prepare a rebuttal while the other person is speaking.

6. Avoid giving advice. Problem-solving is likely to be more effective after both conversation partners understand one another’s perspective and feel heard. Moving too quickly into advice-giving can be counterproductive.

7. Take turns. After the other person has had a chance to speak and you have engaged in the active listening steps above, ask if it’s okay for you to share your perspective. When sharing your perspective, express yourself as clearly as possible using “I” statements (e.g., “I feel overwhelmed when you don’t help out around the house”). It may also be helpful, when relevant, to express empathy for the other person’s perspective (e.g., “I know you’ve been very busy lately and don’t mean to leave me hanging…”)

Evidence that it works

Weger, H., Castle Bell, G., Minei, E. M., & Robinson, M. C. (2014). The relative effectiveness of active listening in initial interactions. International Journal of Listening, 28(1), 13-31.

Participants had brief conversations (about their biggest disappointment with their university) with someone trained to engage in active listening, someone who gave them advice, or someone who gave simple acknowledgments of their point of view. Participants who received active listening reported feeling more understood at the end of the conversation.

Why it works

Active listening helps listeners better understand others’ perspectives and helps speakers feel more understood and less threatened. This technique can prevent miscommunication and spare hurt feelings on both sides. By improving communication and preventing arguments from escalating, active listening can make relationships more enduring and satisfying. Practicing active listening with someone close to you can also help you listen better when interacting with other people in your life, such as students, co-workers, or roommates.

Source

Instructions adapted from: Markman, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S.L. (1994).Fighting for your marriage. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers.

New life

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY THIS WEEK

You love your alcoholic and you want to make your relationship work. You can’t stop him/her drinking, you can’t change them or control them but you can change your behaviour.

Sometimes they do something that triggers us and we completely over react. We know them so well that we know the thing that starts the chain of events that leads them to drinking. It could be a look, a day of the week, a sigh, a movement. And we react. Sometimes they then use this as a reason to drink and you are blamed.  We don’t like our reactions, it’s not the type of person we set out to be.

Have a think about your triggers, what does the alcoholic  do that makes you fight, blow up, freak out, break down, what triggers you to feel so annoyed or upset that you can’t hide it? Think back and identify the common triggers and your reactions. Write them down. If you don’t know what they,  then the next time you have a reaction take notice of what just caused it.

Now think of a different way you could react to this trigger in the future, maybe it means biting your tongue or ignoring certain behaviour or being somewhere else when the time of day comes that they starts drinking. This week put it into action, react differently. Know the trigger and know yourself.

Weight Loss Is the Same as Living With An Alcoholic

I’m overweight. I have been for about 15 years. I used to be thin and flexible, and a couple of months ago I realised I couldn’t touch my toes.

Dealing with my weight issue is how I used to deal with my alcoholic husband.

When I walk by a full length mirror or glass window and catch my reflection I look in disgust and think what a shame or get angry at myself for not doing anything about it. I used to look at my husband the same way.

I think to myself – I have to loose weight because it will make me feel better, my quality of life will improve because I will feel more confident. I will be proud of myself, I’ll be able to go to places, socialise and enjoy myself better because people won’t be judging me. I used to feel the same effects would happen if my husband would give up drink.

I see my weight as being the thing that is stopping me from living the life I expected – being fit and healthy, hiking, being able to run, acting like I used to. The same way I blamed my husband for years.

It takes up all my head space, everything I do or look at reminds me of it somehow. I give out about it to those who listen, it’s like my weight is not part of me, instead I loath it and hate it.

I used to do the same about my husband.

Every now and then I get determined to do something about it – I am determined that things are going to be different – I do something huge I join a gym, do crash dieting, this lasts two weeks or maybe until the next meal.

I buy books about how to get skinny in 10 days. I read them while eating a chocolate bar usually. My last one of course because I will do it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and I have another excuse why I am not taking action to achieve the results I want. Living the norm, even thought I didn’t like the way it was making me feel, is so much easier than doing something about it, right? Determination takes energy, and sometimes I just don’t feel I have the energy to follow through so I go on the way I am – overweight and unhappy about it.

A month ago I found a track near where I live. Seven laps is 5 km. I decided it was now or never – My aim was to jog the 5km within 8 weeks and by that time I would have lost lots of weight.

The first day I did three laps, walking – I was breathless, sweating but it was a start, I felt positive. The second time I did 6 laps – the following day I was sore all over. My body was rebelling, but I was determined. The third time (in week one), I did the seven laps and even jogged a bit of it. I felt that was progress. The scales went down two strokes (-2 lbs = Progress). “Ha ha body take that!”.

The second week I went out four times to the track – each day took effort to go, but I stayed focus – my end goal to loose weight. The same way I used to do things to get my husband sober because if he got sober my life would be perfect.

By the end of the second week – I was jogging 2 sides of the track each lap. I was making progress. At the end of the second week I stood on the scales – I was UP 4 lbs – what the f***k?

I was so upset – all this effort and nothing, no progress, it was like I was worse off than when I started. What was the point in continuing? I might as well just sit down and accept my lot – I was a fat and it was something I just had to live with.

But then I thought about it – I had gone from being breathless and sore after 2km. To jogging part of 5 km without being breathless. The time out away from the house gave me time to think or not think! It gave me, me time! And I could touch my toes again! So even though the end result wasn’t happening (yet) the journey to the result was having positive side effects – I was feeling healthier and stronger and better in myself.

It was the same when I stopped trying to control and change my husband. I started working on what I wanted by taking different routes.

I wanted my kids to have a good childhood, so I started to take them out to places at the weekend and do things with them.

I wanted to have a social life, so I would arrange for my kids to have a sleep over with friends and I would go out for a night with my friends.

I wanted to see a movie, I’d go to the movies without my husband.

I did all these things without my husband because he was too drunk or too untrustworthy to partake but I stopped letting his actions stop me taking actions.

Yes I wanted him to get sober, but I realised this was not the only way to my life being fulfilled and happy. It would help of course! But it was not the only solution. I needed to take responsibility for my quality of life. When he saw what he was missing and compared the quality of his life to mine, he became sick of being sick and did something about it. He took action because he saw me taking action. It didn’t happen over night but I eventually got the end result by taking little steps.

The same way loosing 20 lbs is not going to happen overnight. By taking little steps forward it will happen but in the mean time I am going to enjoy the side effects!

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Anger Management

If My Alcoholic Husband Died It Would Be A Relief

When my husband was an alcoholic (correction: my husband is an alcoholic still but not an active alcoholic) I went through a stage of thinking of myself as a victim, that these things were happening to me. Then I finally realized that things don’t just happen to me – they are a result of me not taking action or were a result of me repeating actions that didn’t work. This was my comfort zone and it took a hell of a push for me to step out of it and say “No More!”

Not Caring Anymore

The same way your body fights infections, your mind creates coping mechanisms, ‘barriers’ to protect your mental health.

Many times when I felt strong and my husband was drinking, I thought to myself, “If he just got on with it and died now, I could get on with my life.” This was my mind’s defense system kicking in.

When living with an alcoholic, your own mental health hits all-time lows. Repeated disappointments make you numb. Think about it -the human mind is strong enough to make someone crave a substance so much that they are willing to risk everything for it and likewise, it is strong enough to develop an invisible barrier to emotion to stop us from being hurt over and over again – to survive.

You may feel the alcoholic knows what he’s doing to you and that he’s killing what love is left.  You may feel you don’t care if there’s help for him anymore or if he becomes well or not, or if he lives or dies.

This is not a natural way to feel about someone you love; it is your mind protecting you.

Alcoholism is a mental illness which affects those living with the addict also. Illnesses are nobody’s fault, not yours and not theirs. Your negative thoughts and feelings are normal.

It is possible ,however, to hate the problem of alcoholism and love the person who is drinking – both at the same time. This is called detachment.

You can learn more about how to detach with love at free Al-Anon meetings in your area or in my book ‘How To Live With An Alcoholic And Still Enjoy Your Life‘.

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