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"Drinking Problems, It is so very baffling! "
by Toby Rice Drews
by Toby Rice Drews
It still amazes me how extraordinary and lifelong-lasting is the alcoholic's deep unconscious need to protect the alcoholism. And it does not necessarily look like it is doing that ----- but that is exactly the main purpose of the alcoholic's unconscious. (And people wonder why they need meetings all their lives!)
It is so very baffling when an alcoholic/addict can piddle away the family's money for 20 years..... can have 7 drunk-driving arrests..... can verbally threaten the life of his or her family...... and if the spouse gets angry and doesn't give a Valentine's Day card..... she/he is accused of being mean! Now, an "outside" person (one who has never lived with alcoholism) just bypasses the alcoholic's bluster and goes right to "why ARE you staying with him/her?!" (this outsider is assuming correctly that the alcoholic/addict is just nuts and doesn't even listen to their nonsense).
Our problem is that we cannot really hear the underpinnings of the alcoholic's behavior/words -- nor the underpinnings of the outsider's words -- because we are so caught up in our very-irrational and deep-seated guilt about our anger with the alcoholic's behavior and their justifications. What are these underpinnings?
The outsider's words are based on an immediate and profound knowledge of the unacceptability of the alcoholic's behaviors. Outsiders know " no WAY this is at all acceptable..... one strike of this horrible stuff and you're out." We, on the other hand, start out with "one hundred strikes and maybe I should still put up with it because you partly convince me so easily that I am a bad, crazy, overreactive person for calling a spade a spade and saying your behavior is absolutely terrible."
Why are we so easily so convinced that maybe we're wrong for getting angry when we do? And why are we so easily convinced that when we do get angry, we shouldn't get THAT angry.... after all, aren't we making a big deal out of those 20 years of abuse? (And there we go: bringing it up again!) (Recovering alcoholics who are really recovering do not get angry or defensive when they hear family members speak of their pain. But often, there are recovering alcoholics who are generally doing well...... but who, off and on, get really ticked off when they hear the family pain.
When I encounter that in a counseling client who usually is understanding of the old pain caused to his/her family, I know that the deep-to-the-bone-marrow unconscious alcoholism in that client, is kicking up its heels again....) And when the family gets hooked into that very-irrational guilt when expressing so terribly little anger (like when we don't get a birthday card for someone who just came back after disappearing for two weeks!)........ and we 'bite' into it when the alcoholic says that our not-buying-the-card is ROTTEN!......... what can often get us back on the family-recovery track the fastest is remembering one of the main the facts about this DISEASE: that one of the functions of alcoholism is to PROTECT ITSELF.
And one of the ways it does so, is to baffle and attack the family, so that they back-off and feel guilty when they see/state the truth about alcoholic behavior and call it the way it is. AND UNTIL FAMILY MEMBERS GET ENTIRELY RID OF THAT TO-THE-MARROW IRRATIONAL GUILT ABOUT SEEING THE TRUTH ABOUT EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND CRAZYMAKING -- AND NOT MINIMIZE IT -- WE ARE SITTING DUCKS FOR ALCOHOLISM..... AND SITTING DUCKS TO WIND UP WITH YET ANOTHER ALCOHOLIC OR ABUSIVE PERSON, IF WE ARE 'OUT THERE' DATING AGAIN. (And if we cannot get entirely rid of it --- then we must at least vigilantly remind ourselves of this particular kind of denial that we carry, so that we can effectively deal with it when it comes up. Because it will.)
I think that this is probably the most awful symptom of family alcoholism that there is. But we can get healed.
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