For people who are wanting to quit their drinking habits, the easiest approach is to isolate oneself from the substance. When there is no alcohol around – or available – it is easier to resist the temptation to imbibe. This reasoning is what prompts those of means to retreat to sober living homes or distant recovery centers. Out of sight can often mean out of mind.
For those who are in a relationship with a substance abuser, this handy method of changing behavior through lack of exposure is not an option. Not only does the offending substance remain forefront in the picture, the recovering person is likely to be dealing with continual hurt and frustration over the actions of their loved one. Having access to the substance of choice, while being continually upset and stressed, is the ultimate test of a person’s resolve to stay sober.
While simultaneously battling the temptation to give in to drinking, you are probably searching for ways to help your significant other to recognize what you have already recognized about the habit.
You have recognized that the continued use of alcohol as a coping mechanism is a destructive – and dead end – road. Thoughts of how you can help your partner to realize this as truth may even become your main obsession.
Constant thoughts of how to help someone else can end up pushing your own needs to the background. This is dangerous territory for the recovering addict to dwell in.
When deciding your best course of action for the situation, keep the following factors in mind.
Your Well-Being Comes First
If you have ever flown on a plane, you know that, during an emergency, we are to secure our own breathing mask before helping others. You may have also encountered the concept that we are not able to properly love others until we first learn to love ourselves.
These concepts are quite similar in nature. We need to make sure that we are in a healthy position, ourselves, lest the distressing position of others drag us down.
When we are in a relationship with someone who is still drinking, we are at risk of becoming codependent. In a codependent relationship, only the needs of one person are being met. While the drinking partner may be demanding understanding, patience, and funding for the habit, the non-drinking partner is relegated to the role of selfless caretaker.
This selfless position can result in all thoughts being turned toward how to navigate the drinking partner’s experience, leaving no time or energy for the caretaker to think about his or her own needs.
The implementation of self-care is deemed critical to the process of recovery and maintenance of sobriety. Allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed or run-down by the demands of others puts us at risk for seeking relief from the stress through returning to the alcohol.
If you become aware that your own needs are not being tended to while interacting with your partner, a change of relationship dynamics is in order.
Remember What Didn’t Work For You
While the practice of moving forward, and not looking back, works well in many situations, it is also beneficial to draw on our own, past, experiences when attempting to work with others. For many former addicts, there is a tendency to only focus on the benefits of sobriety when encountering those who are still addicted.
As well intentioned as these approaches may be, they do not often produce the desired results. For proof of this, one need only consider how many times that you were told, by others, that you needed to get sober.
Rather than attempting to change the behavior of your significant other, take some time to ponder what it was that finally resulted in your own change for the better. It is possible that you were finally able to see the harm that your addictive behaviors were causing, or that you were finally able to see some hope in a future which didn’t involve the alcohol.
It is highly unlikely that any one person was the linchpin in your decision to change.
If you are tempted to take on a role of badgering, pleading, or bartering with your partner toward changing, take a step back and remember that those same tactics did not work on you. The decision to become sober is a highly personal one, and has to occur from the inside.
Taking the pressure off of yourself to cause this change from the outside can result in greater peace of mind, and more success toward maintaining your own recovery.
Tough Love is Still Love
In consideration of your own needs – and in consideration of the fact that no one else can lead us to sobriety – it may be the case that you need to implement some tough love tactics.
It is sometimes the case that loving our partner from afar is the healthiest option for all concerned. Allowing ourselves to be the constant source of our partner’s support may be the exact thing which is preventing him or her from reaching the bottom from which they will seek change.
Much as a parent who supplies junk food to a toddler is contributing to the child’s battle with obesity, a partner who supplies support to a substance abuser is likely to be contributing to the continued substance use. This situation is known as enabling.
The partner, like the child, are likely telling you that you need to continue to supply the conditions for his or her indulgence. It is your role, as the more equipped individual, to deny the request.
Tough love requires that we develop the skill of suspending emotional impulses, and of making rational decisions toward our future. Invoking the power of tough love requires that we have the ability to look past the immediate, and to turn our focus toward the long term.
In our quest to do the best thing for our partners, it may be the case that leaving them to their own devices is what will produce the best, eventual, outcome for all.