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January 30, 2007

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.

Comments

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Just broke up with my partner after nine weeks of living with me.
He told me at the start of our relationship that he had an alcohol problem and that he had attended a AA program in the past and realised his problem wasn't that bad.
This was delusional in every sense, whilst he is a functioning alcoholic, his weekend binges has led him to receive a final warning from his employers for Monday morning no shows and he ended up financially dependent on me. The aggression just built and built through out the relationship until I kicked him out.
He acknowledges he has a drink problem but refuses to address it.

I have been in a relationship with a man whom I love very much for 5 years. I have become erratic and frustrated with his drinking and am continually kicking him out (verbally) for his behavior/drinking. He moved out yesterday which in many ways I am sad about but also relieved to not have to be around it. He drank every day mon - thurs maybe 6 cans of lager. On the weekends he was starting to drink between 1-3pm and would continue until he was passing out. I have had many chaotic incidences with him when he has been drunk. Arguments, verbal abuse to strangers, disrespectful behavior in front of my friends towards me when drunk.. to the point of them not wanting him to come to their parties because of how he changes when drunk. He has punched my brother's wall and dented it twice at 2 Xmas parties, violent to me in a very bad way when drunk. I am very sad that our relationship has come to this but I think people have to look after themself when it comes to someone with an alcohol problem otherwise you feel as though you are being dragged down into their depths. I started to think last winter that people only have one life and therefore we have to do what is right for us.. I keep in mind this mantra ' Get busy living or get busy dying'.. I know which one I had to choose.

My husband wrecked and killed someone and injured another person. He spent almost 3 years in prison, after getting out he continued drinking, and driving, wrecking cars, being violent, etc., Does he have a rock bottom, I made him leave, is there anything I can do to help him?

How do you stop drinking after years more than 10 years of drinking and youvw already gone to AA gyms and tried everything!

It is not advisable to drink whiskey when you are in the age of elders- age ranging 60 and above. There are many old people who were not able to maintain the health of their body.

my daughter is a alcoholic it hurts to see her in such a mess. She is living back home with me and I am helping look after her and my grandsons. its very stressfull and im so very tired. I work full time and can't be there 24hrs a day to help assist care of the boys and my daughter. she has a alcohol worker, made attempts to get other services involved they all say they will help but never contact to provide the help not just for my daughter but for my grandsons and myself. I have begged for help but nothing I have in return I daont know what to do or who to turn to my house and my garden is a real big mess my daughter also suffers with depression. Its so painfull to see her like this I cant fix her and make her better.

Dear Anthony: Get into treatment with a substance abuse/alcohol specialist. You need to get sober before you can work your relationship. Also, there are many different AA groups--you often have to try many groups until you find the one that is a good fit for you. Stop excusing your lack of sobriety and start truly getting sober. Doing that will be the best sign to your girlfriend that you are truly sorry and are going to do whatever you can to mend things.
Take Care-Lisa

I been with my girlfriend for almost 6 yrs. And the relationship started off good but as time progressed I started drinking more and more. Now we got into an argument and she said something about her ex and I blacked out and hit her. It really hit me that I did it. I don't know what to say to her to explain myself or even if I can. I tried to get help before but I don't like the A.A meeting in my area what can I do? Help me please...

I have been with my fiance for 5 years and he drinks everyday and says he's going to only drink on weekends but I come home some days and he's drunk at 5pm. I have currently moved out of the house and told him the only way I would ever come back is if he gets help and goes to AA. I do love him very much but our relationship is awful he fights with MY son that is seventeen and just is not kind. We have no relationship. Pretty much he spends more time with his best friend drinking then with me. I know I need to take a stand no matter how much it hurts but he needs to realize on his own he has a problem. How do I help him through this process? Or do I leave him to figure it out for himself?

Dear Heather: Follow through with your words--that is the best way to help him. you said you would not come back unless he goes to AA so--DON"T GO BACK. Let him sit in the discomfort of knowing his alcoholism is killing his relationship. I suggest you personally attend Alanon to help you learn about addiction and to get clarity on how to proceed from here. In the meantime--nice job! The moment you set this limit, it was the greatest gift you could give to your son and your fiancee (regardless of whether he sees it as a gift or not).
Stay strong-
Lisa

Me and my boyfriend have been together just over a year now and at first he would drink alot and take stuff that is bothering him out on me. He truly believes in karma and when he gets drunk his fears come out and he say things he doesn't mean. He is a different person when he drinks. He says hurtful things he wouldn't say if he was sober. He tells me he cant change that he has tried but everytime we get to a stage in our relationship that is another step his drinking starts almost as if he is scared and feels he doesnt deserve me because of things he has done in the past. Because of his past he doesn't trust me. He knows I haven't done anything for him not to trust me but that its his own insecurities..i don't want to leave him because I know this isn't him. I've seen the real him before..I need some advice please!

Dear Michelle: It sounds like he has a drinking problem and as long as that is in the picture it IS a part of who he is. He's been honest with you that this is a part of his life. He's said he hasn't been able to change it. You now have to decide if it's okay for this to also be a part of your life. you may love him when he's sober, but that's only one aspect of who he is. Can you live with him also when he's drunk?
My suggestion is that you stop telling yourself that this isn't him and begin to be honest with yourself and acknowledge that it absolutely is who he is choosing to be. Get into Al-anon groups and learn more about addiction and co-dependance and then make a more healthy decision about what you want to do.
Warmly-Lisa

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