Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015Share This Post
Most tough decisions involve competing risks of the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t variety; tougher still are those that factor in someone you care about, so now they’re damned if you do or don’t. In evaluating risk, however, we often over-fear threats that cause pain but aren’t dangerous and under-fear true dangers because they won’t hurt until they happen. So if you’re realistic about rating risk, and don’t overreact to the risk of emotional hurt, your decisions will often become clearer. That will make it easier to damn your doubts and do the right thing.
I can’t really get into the specifics of my job (for reasons that are about to become obvious), but I work in a partnership with another woman at a job where a mistake could cause serious injury, and my partner is always drunk. I’ve tried to talk to her about it, because I’m an alcoholic myself (two years sober, in the program), but she denies everything and changes the subject. I don’t want to bring it up with the higher ups, however, because, even though her being drunk puts us both in danger and scares the shit out of me, I know she’ll lose her job, which will just make her drinking worse. My goal is to figure out what, if anything, to do about it that won’t get her in trouble or both of us in a dangerous situation.
While Alcoholics Anonymous believes that there are no “former” alcoholics, there are many different kinds, e.g., active, in recovery, functioning, possibly just French, pickled, etc.
As an alcoholic in recovery, you should know that AA also says that we’re only as sick as our secrets. And your secret, about her secret, could make you both very sick indeed.
So now you’re facing two kinds of danger; one from her working while inebriated, and the other from her getting angry or fired. Whether you protect her because people are wired to respond to relationships more than to abstract ideas of possible risk, or because you relate in an unhealthy way to her need to keep her addiction private, your protection is putting both of you at greater risk. Your urge to keep her secrets is just as dangerous as her urge to drink.
Luckily, you’re smart enough to see the bigger risk of what your partner’s drinking is likely to cause, given the dangerous work that you and she do together. Now you just have to push yourself not to avoid that risk, simply because it might piss her off or get her to call you a snitch.
Instead, find a way to express that risk without anger or fear and avoid any invitation to defend, argue, or accuse. Write it out first so you can edit your message. Begin with all the positives, whatever they are and without bullshit, e.g., how much you enjoy working with her, how skilled she is, and how much she has helped you.
Then tell her she appears to be intoxicated and, whether it’s true or not, you’re worried about the trouble she can cause if she’s not 100% alert and aware. If you’ve seen it, others will too. Whether they see it or not, however, you think she’s not as good as she needs to be at handling emergencies and protecting herself properly, and this puts her and you in danger.
You’re ready with advice if she needs it, but regardless of what she wants to share with you or whether she wants to share at all, the problem must be solved. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to take steps you don’t want to.
Don’t be drawn into defense or further discussion; you want what’s best for both of you, and your opinion is what it is. In insisting on safety, you have a better chance of protecting yourself and her and also getting through to her about her problem.
If she doesn’t talk to you or maligns you to others, it will hurt, but you’ll know you did what was necessary, that you now need to get another job with a safer partner, and that your work in the program to evolve into a wiser alcoholic is paying off.
“I feel like I’m betraying my partner by accusing her of incompetence, but I know it’s dangerous to tolerate her impairment, so I’ll do what’s necessary and hope for the best.”
My son gives me a hard time for spending too much of my late husband’s inheritance, but he doesn’t realize how suicidal I felt after I was widowed, because I felt so powerless and alone. Spending money makes me feel powerful, and when I donate to charities, there are usually social events involved where I’m appreciated and feel like I’m making a positive difference. He says the grandchildren could use some help with braces and tutors and whatnot, but that’s his job. I don’t think I’d be alive today if it weren’t for the fruits of my late husband’s labor and love. My goal is to get my son to see that my charitable giving is necessary and doesn’t mean I want to neglect my grandchildren.
You have a right to put your own priorities ahead of your grandchildren’s; they have your son to take care of them, whereas you have a fixed income to carry you through your remaining years. If you’re overspending, however, you may be endangering your own security, because if you spend all of your money on fancy charity dinners, you might not have enough money left over for much-less-fancy cat food dinners when you’re much older and all that attention (and good will from your grandson) has vanished.
Sure, shopping is a surefire, instant antidepressant, but the trouble is, only wealthy people can indulge without inducing a subsequent poverty hangover. Even for them, spending to feel better can interfere with more deserving priorities and damage important relationships as a result.
Ask your financial advisor how much you can afford to spend (and if you don’t have one, now would be the time to seek one out). Then list other ways of fighting grief and depression, including exercise, work, relationships, and treatments that put you at a lower risk of poverty.
Don’t give to charity in order to feel better, because that opens you to manipulation. Give to charities because giving reflects your values. While you’re at it, do a needs assessment of your grandchildren; they might not be your responsibility, but just as you would evaluate any charity, give thought to what they need, the priority you would give that need, and your son’s earning potential. Remember, you’re the administrator of family charity, and there’s no overhead.
Before you congratulate yourself on your discovery of the antidepressant power of charitable giving, beware its side effects and short term success rate. Then explore less dangerous options, considering whether your grandchildren’s needs are legitimate and how good you may feel contributing to their future, especially since they’re one charity that has the potential to reciprocate with good will and attention when you may need it the most.
“If I stop giving to charity, I’m afraid I’ll lose my social position, feel abandoned, and sink back into depression, but I know there are better ways of fighting those feelings. I want to control the charity I give and not let it control me.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname