I get a lot of clients wanting to find the line between abusive drinking, alcoholism and what is OK. It's almost like getting permission, but the truth is, often when I share what I know from reading or from experts in the field of addiction, people don't like it. I get that. All of us want to justify our behavior in some way. Maybe it's as simple as I yelled at my child because it was the tenth time I told him/her no, or, I "slipped up" and cussed at my spouse because he/she made me so mad. Either way, we justify our behavior so that we can feel OK, or at least sort-of OK, by our response. It's like that with abusive drinking, and it's magnified by addiction. I hear, "well, I never drink hard liquor" or, "I only drink beer" or, "I only get drunk on the weekends" or, "No one else complains about my drinking except for my spouse." Listen, if any substance causes a disruption in your relationship(s), you have a problem. Period. If you only cuss him/her out when you've been drinking, there's a problem. If you only fight/spend extravagantly/cheat/lie/criticize when you're under the influence, you have a problem. You might think I am being harsh or judgmental. OK. And watch me take this to another level: If I think I am being nice to my husband but he thinks I am being mean--then, you guessed it, I have a problem. Life is about relationship. It is about the dance we do with the people we love. Addiction destroys those relationships. I have a colleague who says that addiction is a dragon, and to not get support and learn new skills is like standing still while the dragon breathes down fire. The sad thing is, the dragon also destroys the relationships and the lives of those around the addicted. If you are hearing from someone you love that your drinking/pot smoking etc is causing problems in the relationship, you deserve to get healthy. In fact, your life may just depend on it.
I have been thinking about choices lately. Everything we do has to do with choices we make. Sometimes we are afforded time to make a decision, others are split second decisions. I am particularly interested in the split second decisions. Take for example a time when your spouse does something that he/she knows irritates you. At least we think he/she knows it. We think we have about a nano second to decide how we are going to react. The problem is that most of us don't even give it a thought. We just react! But what do you suppose would happen if for just that moment you thought two things. The first one is, "Do I honestly believe that he/she is doing this to irritate me? Is is possible that perhaps it's not the case?" and the second one is, "If I react the way I usually do, do I honestly believe that we will have a different outcome than the usual one?" Now add one more thing to the mix: just shut up and breathe for a moment. We don't have to be in a hurry to react. In fact, maybe we don't need to react at all. Maybe we just need to stop and breathe and take a moment to choose how we will respond. I am convinced that if everyone took a moment to stop, breathe and think about what they were going to say when their spouse did something that bothers us, we would be a lot less reactive, and much more proactive. The key here is don't wait for your spouse to do it--you be the grown-up. But the choice is up to you.