IS ALCOHOL IMPACTING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS?
Many couples seem to be dealing with a third party in their relationships…alcohol. One partner typically comes home from work and makes him/herself a drink to help “wind down” from a stressful day. It’s not uncommon for the person to drink two to three drinks, three to four nights a week. If there’s a party or an event on the weekend, they drink more.
This pattern can, and often does, go on for many months or even years.
Gradually the atmosphere in the home begins to change. The conversations seem to slow down, the interactions begin to center around what needs to get done rather than how each person’s day was, and the energy in the house becomes tenser. In some households, the person who has a few drinks becomes short, impatient, and irritating to be around. The rest of the family distances more.
When I work with couples in this pattern, often one partner is worried about the impact the alcohol is having in their relationship and the other partner is not. Guess who’s worried and who isn’t. You got it… the one not drinking is worried, and the one drinking is often certain their drinking isn’t a problem. The drinking partner will often say the alcohol isn’t impacting the relationship; it’s their partner harping on them about the alcohol that’s impacting the relationship.
I’m a firm believer in responsible, social drinking. In fact, I would like to be able to have a drink when I’m ninety years old while I’m soaking my dentures and holding my ninety-one-year-old husband’s wrinkly hand. I’m very aware, however, that in order to do this, I will always have to drink responsibly. I will always have to be in control of my drinking and not have my drinking be in control of me. I’m also aware that there may be a time in my life when I may not be the best judge of my drinking. If you’re drinking several nights a week, you may not be the best judge either.
Drinking is deceptive. Alcohol dulls our senses, it deadens us. Initially, it starts out as a part of a social experience. Next it moves to an enhancer of our experiences. Perhaps next we turn to it to “relax” us or even to help us reduce our stress. Finally, we just use it because. And before we know it, someone in our life is saying it’s a problem.
Alcohol provides a veil that clouds life; it distorts the picture. If you’ve developed a pattern of drinking several nights a week to “wind down,” you’re no longer a responsible, social drinker. You’re a person who’s using alcohol to handle your stress or to settle you down from a long day.
Don’t fight with your partner about whether or not you are an alcoholic—take steps to insure you don’t become one. Creating a weekly ritual around drinking will catch up to you. It may not catch up to you today or next week, but keep drinking several nights a week, and, I promise, it will catch up to you.
There are tens of thousands of alcoholics and substance abusers in this world, and I’m very confident that few, if any, intended to become addicted. It just happened somewhere along the way.
You never know when that one drink or that one drug is going to be the drink or the drug that turned your use into abuse and your desire for a drink into your need for a drink. It’s like playing Russian roulette--several drinks for several months may not do it, and then WHAM, all of a sudden that next week of drinking leads you to think you need another one.
Are you playing Russian roulette with alcohol? If so, are you prepared for the consequences should it be your day for that fatal bullet--that one drink that just turned your “social drinking” into a social problem: addiction?
Challenge: Find a moment sometime this week to objectively look at your drinking. Have you formed a daily or weekly pattern around drinking? If so, what story are you telling yourself about this level of drinking? Ask your partner if he/she believes your drinking impacts your relationship. If the answer is yes, have the courage to trust their answer and begin to take steps to reduce (or, if necessary, remove altogether) the influence of alcohol on your relationship.