Posted by fxckfeelings on November 12, 2012Share This Post
The problem with drug addiction isn’t just the physical toll of chemical dependency (although that’s problematic, to say the least). On top of the negative effect drugs have on your body, there’s the corrosive effect addiction has on your morality and judgment, which means damage to both body and spirit. It’s addiction’s endless quest for feeling good, despite doing bad things to self and others, that turns you into a bad person. So don’t think that quitting is just a matter of quitting; it also requires getting stronger and caring more about who you are, so being good means more than feeling good ever could.
My husband never credits me for the way I try to stay sober, he just focuses on the things I do wrong. He claims I trash his things when I’m drunk, and maybe I do, but I love him and I can’t stand the way he’s always angry at me, because his anger makes it very hard for me to get sober. He says I’m always lying but it’s just that I can’t stop myself from saying whatever will stop him from getting angry. My goal is to stop drinking, of course, and I do better when he’s away, but I don’t see how I can do it when he’s around and always angry.
As understandable as it is to care deeply about how your spouse feels about you, it’s dangerous to care more about such feelings than about what’s right or wrong in what you’re doing. In other words, while you may want him to be happy with you, trashing his things isn’t likely to get that result.
That behavior would cause most people to think, not that you’re a caring wife, but a terrible drunk who does bad things to your husband when you’re under the influence. At the same time, you’re more upset about the pain you feel from his anger than about the way your drinking hurts him or compromises your pride in yourself.
Lying and drinking are quick, irresistible reflexes for avoiding pain. Unfortunately, they often make life more painful, which leads to more lying and drinking. In the end, your drinking isn’t your biggest problem; it’s the way drinking has damaged your character.
Caring a great deal about how people feel may make you appear affable and appealingly vulnerable and, indeed, you are vulnerable to hurt. What you aren’t vulnerable to, however, is real remorse, which suggests you’ve lost touch with standards of what it means to be a good person and partner. As a result, you can’t rely on those standards to help you get sober and turn your life around.
So stop telling me and yourself that you want to get sober while what you want most is simply to feel better. Instead, examine closely the benefits and drawbacks of quitting, understanding that you’ll need to find some major benefits in order to justify the effort and pain of stopping such a powerful, biologically satisfying habit. Getting your husband off your back won’t be justification enough, nor is it reasonable to put your sobriety on his shoulders; there’s a reason the first of the twelve steps is admitting that you have a problem and that you’re out of control.
Begin by asking your husband to describe in detail what he dislikes about your drinking, and, in listening to his response, don’t give weight to his anger or disappointment. Instead, pay attention to the times you’ve behaved like a schmuck, endangered your life or health, or placed a burden on him that you can’t ever repay— call it your “asshole metric.” That’s what you want to focus on, not to make yourself feel bad, but to identify reasons to quit that are stronger than the wish to feel good or avoid feeling bad.
You’ll find nothing but weakness in your desire to be loved; but you can find the strength you need in your desire to win self-respect. If you care enough about being a good person, that strength can help you avoid being a drunk schmuck and trashing your marriage.
“After my husband reams me out, I feel an almost unbearable urge to drink, but I know I’ve got to find motivations that don’t depend on how I or he feel but rather on who I want to be. If I force myself to look hard at how well I measure up, I will gain the strength to be that person.”
I told my girlfriend I loved her but I couldn’t see her again because her drug use is destroying both of us. I believe she can be a wonderful person and I wish I could help her be that person, but her addiction makes her sick and violent. I get worn out trying to deal with her, and then fall back into bad habits that I’ve worked really hard to overcome. For my own sake, I’ve got to keep away, but I want her to know I believe in her and that I’m not rejecting her, I just can’t see her again unless she gets sober.
Congratulations on rescuing yourself from a dangerous relationship with an addict, and on doing so without anger, which is a powerful motivator at first until it evaporates and leaves you without an emotional reason for staying away. Instead, your reasons for ending the relationship are solid and positive, because you know you’re doing what’s best for you and her.
Your self-rescue isn’t complete, however, until you take into account your girlfriend’s character problems (see above), in addition to her drug use. By that I mean her tendency, whether sober or high, to put her feelings first rather than getting her work done, giving equal time to your needs and concerns, and managing her life responsibly.
I know, she couldn’t help acting like a monster because she was high. You shouldn’t be surprised, however, that many people who get clean still act like schmucks, just sober ones. Sobriety gives them a chance to get a grip on their selfish, self-centered reflexes, but it takes a while, so don’t imagine that your girlfriend is likely to become a good, solid decent friend right away; the aforementioned first step is one of twelve, and for most people, it’s not a short journey.
Be clear about the standards you set for her or any prospective partner; she should be able to stick to her work despite boredom or frustration, share with you without making you responsible for her feelings, and get through tough times without doing negative things. Not using isn’t enough.
It’s good to offer her encouragement, but don’t make yourself responsible for getting her there by making her feel good. The essence of your requirement is that she needs to stay decent and responsible when she’s not feeling good, and especially when she feels you’re making her feel bad, because that’s when her motivation must come from her own self-respect and values.
In any case, you’ve done the right thing, regardless of needing her and needing to help her. You’ve got standards for your own life and behavior, and you’ve helped her more by standing by those standards, and showing her how it’s done, than by standing by her while she gets high. You have to make it clear, however, that just getting clean isn’t enough to get you back.
“I yearn to see my girlfriend save herself from self-destruction, but I know we’re both better off if I stay away and let her know what she needs to do to become a person I can respect and count on.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname