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"Sober Living, Can LEARN to Live WIth ANY PAIN!"
by Toby Rice Drews
by Toby Rice Drews
One often hears from newly-sober persons that they "hurt no one but themselves". And they usually think that will help quickly end the pain of guilt that they think they cannot stand.
Most people in early recovery have still to learn that they CAN 'stand the pain'..... as a matter of fact, what they must learn to internalize, in order to stay sober, is that they CAN "sit still and hurt" through any kind of pain.... AND THAT IT WILL PASS!
But there is another piece as to why most people in early recovery (early recovery is wisely defined by the oldtimers in A.A. as the first 3 to 5 years of sobriety) do not believe that the damage that their disease has done has had much effect on others: They usually partly DO believe it was a limited damage because they don't remember much of it at all ---- because of blackouts.
Now, why is this damaging to the alcoholic and to the family .... this not-remembering?
Along those lines -- in the last week or so, on the discussion bulletin board on this website, there was a posting that still haunts me: A woman posted that her alcoholic husband, when in blackouts, walks into her adult child's bedroom and urinates on the bed. She asked if others have experienced this.
Another posting stated -----that her husband, too, had been urinating (again, in a blackout) on the corner of their infant's crib for years, and she stated, "thank goodness that our child is now six years old and I don't have to worry so much anymore." (I took it that the child now awakens and can get out of the way, as opposed to the mom needing to constantly watch to see if her husband sometimes misses and hits the infant in the face, and maybe would seriously hurt the infant.)
(Now, many of you probably are wondering why she "let it go on".... that is a separate question..... the question of "why do we stay?"...... and the brief answer is we are often too terrified to leave..... too scared of "losing him".... and it does NO good to chastise the spouse for staying.... that only adds to shame and makes her run from getting help......
People leave when and if they are ready to -- and if they do, it is when they have basically either lost the fear of the alcoholic or the violence scares them more than being alone scares them. (There's a lot more on this subject in "Getting Them Sober, volume 4" book in the chapter called, "It's YOUR decision whether or not to separate -- it's not your counselor's decision").
But back to the newly-sober alcoholic who would prefer (understandably) to think that the damage to the family was little or nil:
a.) since so much was probably done in a blackout, it is very helpful to find out the facts (in a moment when both partners are feeling ok together) by asking the partner about "what happened over the years"....... and making a list you can refer to.
b.) WHY would the newly-sober person even want to do this? For a very selfish reason ----- to help him/her realize the extent of what this disease can do...... because usually, in early sobriety, one of the reasons that relapse is such a danger is because one can so very easily slip into thinking "it was just a little drinking problem" AND NOT EVEN KNOW THAT ONE IS THINKING THAT.
One often, at that time, thinks that because the DISEASE WANTS YOU TO MINIMIZE THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE, SO THAT YOU DRINK AGAIN.
And one often thinks, at that time, that since your life is again 'doing well' and life seems "manageable" ..... that going to A.A. meetings is 'a part' of your life, now..... in its place.... and does not have to be of primary importance.
This disease loves to get people to feel that "whew..... I can get on with my life now ...... I am SO busy..... I can get by on a couple of meetings a week (then it will be one meeting a week in my 3rd year of sobriety and a meeting every 10 days in my 4th year........etc etc etc)...... and then, after 5 years, I'll not need any...... oh, I'll stay in touch with A.A. people........ I'll "work my program"...... "
This disease is very patient.
SO----- what does this have to do with the subject at hand? How does knowing the full extent of the damage the disease has done, help one to stay sober?
By realizing how very very powerless one has been over this disease..... by hearing all the daily, weekly, monthly actions one has done....... that one cannot usually remember at all..... one can begin to realize how awfully much this disease has PERMEATED one's body, mind, and soul...... i.e., HOW MUCH IT HAD YOU.
Internalizing how much it had you------- that alone, and writing it all down to be able to refer to it....... can be "very sobering"........ can help you when your mind tells you at some time in the future, "it wasn't that bad".....
c. And of course, listening to the family tell you the facts of your behaviors will help SO much to validate them...... to help heal them..... and help heal your relationships with them.
Even if the two of you do not want to stay married, this is an important step to help you -------- learning to face the immediate pain of hearing the facts, in exchange for the long-term gain of a more solid sobriety ----- this helps heal the old drinking-mode thinking of "wanting short-term gratification" and be able to go for a mature long-term gratification mode, and this so much will help one stay more comfortably sober.
And even if you and your spouse do not like one another at all anymore..... it is very important to let your children know that you want them to tell you what you did when drinking, so that it "gets out" and so your children do not "keep it in"..... because "keeping it in" sets them up to unconsciously repeat old dysfunctional behaviors when they grow up..... and you will of course want to help them heal and not have to go through it all again. This is tough.... but this is love. And your children will know that you are doing this because you love them.
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