Posted by fxckfeelings on October 13, 2016
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People who aren’t drinking are technically sober, but, like our reader’s ex-husband described in a post earlier this week, many have not developed or just lost the ability to put aside selfish needs for the sake of long-term goals, values, and making relationships work. They’re often good at pleasing you in the short run, which makes you feel things are going well, but you must look closely at how they handle frustration and painful emotions before you know whether they’ve overcome the negative impact of alcohol on character. Here are five ways to evaluate the dry drunk before you get too close and find out the hard way that his sobriety is only booze-deep.
1) See How He Handles Hurt
Because drunks are blind slaves to their needs and impulses, a dry drunk still feels entitled to get back at you when he’s hurt or, at least, to find immediate relief the way he once did from booze. What you hope is that, instead of pouting or sulking, he’ll assume that hurt feelings are sometimes unavoidable, suck up his pain, let the bad feelings pass, and continue to act like a decent human being. If he instead acts petulant and feels entitled to have a good time with his buddies or new girlfriend because you’ve let him down, then he still has a drunk’s habits, just without the bar tab.
2) Mind the Money
Thanks to the same impulse control issues, a dry drunk can also have problems saving money; he means to be financially responsible but winds up spending more than he intended on various virgin ways to feel good and stop feeling bad. Ask yourself whether he really can stick to a budget and save money or whether he can’t stop himself from getting you a flashy present when he worries that you’re mad at him or losing interest. If he can’t, then he’s likely to act twice as bad when he’s the one losing interest in you.
3) Assess Kill-building
Since learning new skills or taking on a new challenge is often a frustrating process, it’s one dry drunks often lack the self-discipline and pain threshold to deal with. Note whether he can make himself take on difficult projects, stick to unpleasant routines involving errands or exercise, and do other boring activities for the sake of a good cause. If he has values of his own, he’ll stay busy even when you’re not there. If his motivation is to make you happy, he’ll look busy when you’re around, but not do much more. That speaks poorly for his ability to learn (or relearn) the skills needed to stay sober, like patience and acceptance.
4) Look for Lies
Of the average drunk’s propensity for dishonesty, Stephen King once said that, “Ask an active alcoholic what time it is, and 9 times out of 10 he’ll lie to you.” Similarly, a dry drunk will also lie with ease, usually to avoid conflict, regardless of whether the lie is easily discovered and the consequences are much worse than if he told the truth. Don’t avoid checking on the facts because you want to show him you trust him and build up his confidence; look for honesty as a sign of real sobriety.
5) Track the True Source of Blame
In the absence of morals or values, the main belief held by any addict, aside from the importance of getting high, is the absolute importance of quid pro quo. As such, a dry drunk also feels you should make him feel good if he made a good effort to make you feel good, and any unwillingness to hold up your end of the bargain is the ultimate betrayal. So, whether he’s bored, angry, or hurt (see above), he’ll find reasons to blame you for his bad feelings. Don’t think that expressing such blame will improve your relationship; instead, recognize it as a sign that a good relationship may be impossible, at least until he realizes that he’s got a lot more work to do on his sobriety beyond staying sober.
Posted by fxckfeelings on September 27, 2016
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There are many ways to be hurt by an alcoholic partner, even if he’s in recovery, but figuring out who’s responsible for that hurt can be a lot more complicated. That’s because alcoholics, be they sober for ages or still steadily soused, are well-practiced in victimhood, which makes them very good at explaining hurt in terms of what you’re doing to make them unhappy and very bad at taking responsibility for their actions. So if you consort with addicts and want to avoid undeserved blame, you’d better know how to tolerate hurt, tell right from wrong, and stand up for your own convictions. Otherwise, you’ll also end up with a lot of unnecessary heartache.
I married my recovering alcoholic ex after he’d been sober for three years. We went through hell and back together and I stuck by his side through it all, but our marriage only lasted six months— it took that long for him to tell me he isn’t attracted to me anymore and kick me out. Of course, I smelled the booze on him as he said it, because he’d actually relapsed. I’ve moved on somehow, but still feel angry, especially since I just got off all my anti-depressants. My goal is to figure out how to get over this massive, mind-blowing disappointment.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2015
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Despite all of our attempts to make our lives secure—wearing protective gear, creating a savings account, building a Y2K+X shelter—we’re all subject to nature’s whims. Most of the time, we’re just scrambling to maintain life’s delicate balance between order and chaos. Of course, there are certain, non-weather related natural disasters that can create disorder; namely, those we’re naturally related to. That’s why, in particularly unstable families, any interaction must be planned with a map of the likely fallout and that Y2K+X shelter stocked to the gills. Later this week, we’ll see how shaking things up can sometimes make the family balance stronger.
Even though most of my family are crazy and a pain in the ass to be around, I still love them and have found a way to keep them in my life without letting their bullshit make me miserable. I’m worried though that, if they come to my wedding, then our relationship is going to fall apart. I can’t not invite them, because they know it’s happening and will show up with or without an invitation, but if they do show up, it’s going to be a shitshow. My father is a nice guy but a mean drunk, and there’s no way he’ll be sober. My oldest sister is a compulsive klepto who would probably disappear the wedding gifts, and another sister is well along in following our father’s staggering footsteps (my brother moved far away to get away from them, and I can’t blame him). I’ve told my fiancée I don’t want to spoil the event for her parents, who are very nice, but I’m afraid of what my family will do to create chaos and ruin what we’ve paid for. My goal is to have a wedding that doesn’t blow up on me and hurt innocent bystanders like my wife and her family.
Whatever you decide to do about inviting your family to your wedding, it’s clear that you accept them for who they are, but that acceptance is dependent on certain factors, i.e., where they are, and for how long. When it comes to family, especially awful relatives, better living through boundaries is often the rule.
Even if you’re not interested in punishing, hiding, or changing them, and you can talk about them honestly with your wife-to-be (who is not asking you to disown them), you’re also not interested in inflicting them on the public or your new in-laws. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015
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Most of the time, you don’t want to try to pay attention to two things at once—the TV and the oven, the road and your texts, your kid and your moody pet alligator, etc.—but other times, it’s more dangerous not to. It’s a problem for those people who pay too much attention to the reaction they have to other people and ignore their own actions, as well as those who pay too much attention to their own actions and ignore how it impacts others. If you’re a single-minded person and want to avoid being blind-sided, learn how to divide your attention and pay it at the same time. That’s the only way to be mindful of relationships and your own priorities (and hopefully oncoming traffic).
I like to be close to people and I tend to fall in love really easily, so, while my relationships are often intense and fulfilling, they never last very long and never end well. Anyway, my life has been going reasonably well, and I’ve been dating a girl I really like who I think would be a good wife, but my roommate is also my best friend and, since he’s started dating someone, he’s stopped being around very much. Neither one of us is gay, and we’ve never technically hooked up, but we’ve always been really comfortable with each other physically, and our bond is really close. Maybe that’s why I really resent his relationship and find myself being very angry at him for no reason and jealous that someone else has his attention. I really don’t think I’m gay, and I love my girlfriend, but I’m freaked out about my feelings. My goal is to figure them out and get back to having a happy relationship with my best friend.
For those who are prone to powerful emotional reactions, having strong feelings can be a lot like getting blackout drunk; you’re very certain where you are now and what you think about it, but can’t seem to remember how you got there. You lose the part where you keep falling into intense relationships and only focus on the fallout when they come apart.
The intensity of your post-entanglement emotions not only blinds you to the pattern of needy behavior and faulty decision-making that repeatedly puts you in these situations, but to the more important reality of how he or your current girlfriend fits into your future partnership plans.
So, instead of focusing on your anger and jealousy, give serious consideration to what you really want from your roommate; better to take a moment to assess your priorities than follow your feelings to another destructive conclusion. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 27, 2015
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Obviously, accidents are, well, accidental, but if we purposefully avoid identifying relative responsibility, then we risk putting ourselves and others through them again. After all, if we don’t take responsibility for accidents that are not largely accidental, we miss an opportunity to prevent them. And if we do take responsibility for accidents that are entirely accidental, we compound the misery unnecessarily, which may make more accidents happen. So, instead of getting swept up in shame or guilt, add up the facts and seek second opinions. Accidents happen, but if you don’t learn from them you’re deliberately setting yourself up for more mistakes.
My sister drinks because she says it’s the only way to make her anxiety go away—her anti-depressants don’t do it—but she’s been hospitalized three times now because of blackouts caused by drinking and taking extra medication. She gets mad when they try to keep her at the hospital for observation because she always says that she didn’t want to kill herself, she was just trying to get some relief for depression and screwed up by drinking, and being at the hospital makes her more depressed and then she signs out as quickly as possible. She’s mad at me and the rest of the family for insisting that she has a problem with alcohol and needs help, because she thinks we’re just freaking out over a few stupid mistakes and we’re doing this because we like to make her feel worse. My goal is to find her the help she needs.
As you already know, the only problem your sister will admit to having is the one she has with you and your insane overreacting, and maybe also one with your family, who should love her the most but are making her difficult life even more excruciating. You almost can’t blame her for turning to the bottle.
What’s hard for you to accept, of course, is that you can’t get through because, from what you’ve described, her mind is focused entirely on the way she feels in the moment, and in most moments, it’s lousy.
She might have even felt suicidal at the time she almost died, but since she doesn’t afterwards, what was a suicide attempt is now, in her estimation, a silly mistake. As such, she’s not lying, she’s just incapable of seeing the big picture. Shrinks call people whose depressed and angry feelings distort things this way “borderline personality disorders” and, when their distortion is as severe are your sister’s, there’s nothing much that can help them, at least not for the time being.
So don’t try to argue or tell her how much she needs help. Instead, simply trust yourself and act according to what you see and believe. You can’t promise her that she’ll feel better if she stops drinking, particularly not at first. You can promise her, however, that treatment and sobriety can help her think more positively, act more carefully, and reduce the risk of accidental overdose and death if she truly wishes to build a better life.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 2, 2015
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People often try to drum up motivation in the disheartened by repeating the old saying about how even the longest journey begins with a single step. Remember, however, that, whatever your destination, you must also find the right way to get there; there are bad ways to do good things and vice versa, but if your goal or method is off, you’re going to end up stuck. In other words, don’t set out for righteousness in ill-fitting shoes or take a speed-hybrid on the road to ruin. Instead of assuming that the quality of your motivation determines the effectiveness of your methods, evaluate them on their own merit. That’s the true first step you have to take before the journey even begins.
I’m well established as a leader in my department with an impeccable sales record, so I was shook up when our VP suddenly told me he wanted to redistribute some of my accounts to a guy who’s junior to me, and then later promoted him over me to senior administration. While I’ve always gotten along well with my co-workers, I’ve also felt that I’ve been treated a little differently at work because I’m a woman (and one of few), but I’d never been able to put my finger on any specific discrimination until now. I met briefly with someone in HR to ask about this guy’s promotion over me, and he immediately got defensive and accused me of being difficult. Realizing that even approaching the subject of possible sexism would probably make things worse, I instead put together a detailed report for the VP on how taking me away from my regular accounts may decrease sales, but that did nothing but reinforce my “difficult” reputation. I’m clearly being discriminated against, but I’m more helpless and angrier than ever. My simple goal is to be treated fairly.
Getting fair treatment is always a dangerous goal, particularly when you have very good reason to believe you’ve been treated unfairly; even in battles over basic rights, victories are rare, hard-won and sometimes require involvement by the Supreme Court.
No matter how black and white your dispute may seem, you still have little control over how others treat and react to you; most administrators regard accusations of unfairness as a personal insult and potential legal attack. Sometimes, love wins, but more often, fear does. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 29, 2015
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Your brain’s ability to identify problems is a lot like that of a drug-sniffing dog, which is to say, despite its training and experience, it still occasionally confuses flour with cocaine or gives the OK to a cargo ship packed with heroin. In order to avoid overreacting to a non-problem or writing off something dangerous, think carefully about the consequences of problems and your intuitive response before deciding whether you need to act or sit on your hands. That way, you’ll be a more effective problem-assessor (and possibly problem solver) and more than earn a treat.
Since my husband and I divorced, I feel like my daughter is slipping away. The divorce wasn’t bitter, but my daughter has the same sensitive temperament as my ex-husband and just generally takes after him more, so she seems more comfortable with him than with me. She and I love one another, but we don’t have the same natural rapport that she and her father have, so, all things being equal, it makes me feel a little on edge when we’re together. When I try harder to show I care (buy her clothes, take her to concerts, etc.), it seems to make her more uncomfortable. I feel like I’m losing the most important relationship left in my family, and I should encourage her to tell me why I make her nervous. My goal is to find a way to make our relationship work.
It’s natural to think you can get closer to your kid by being more like the person she’s close to. Unfortunately, trying to be like someone you’re not is like a dog trying to walk only on his hind legs; it’s hard work, curious and awkward for everybody nearby, and eventually, you’ll be unable to resist returning to a natural/quadruped state.
That’s why a major requirement for partnership is finding someone who can accept your temperament the way it is, which might also explain why your partnership with your husband wasn’t sustainable. Either way, you can still have a successful partnership with your kid, even if you aren’t 100% compatible. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 11, 2015
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Humans have long struggled to control strong emotions—to put limits on our heart’s desires or angry thirst for justice—but those emotions can become even more dangerous when they push us to try to control other people. You may want to control someone because you love him, or you may hate someone because she’s trying to control you, but in any battle for control, be it over passions, loved ones, or central Asia, there are very few victories. If you can tolerate those urges without allowing them to drive your priorities and control your mouth, however, you can avoid an epic struggle. You might not be in control, but at least you’ll be free.
My stepfather recently went to the doctor and got diagnosed with pre-diabetes and some other things. This means that he would have to stop drinking and smoking. It’s been a month or two since then though and he hasn’t done a thing. I feel so angry and scared for him whenever I see him making a drink or smoking because it’s like he’s just pretending it will go away. Some of his logic is that some people smoke and drink for years and they live to be 90, but his parents deal with some pretty life-threatening health risks. I think to myself, “doesn’t he realize how serious these issues can get?” I talked to my mother about it and she says that he said he won’t give up drinking entirely, if at all. I feel so incensed because he is making us watch him ruin his body and his health. I know it would be hard for him but I feel like he should just suck it up, because if he doesn’t want to do it for himself, shouldn’t he be doing it for us? We’ve talked to him about it and he just blows us off. I think he is an alcoholic and I don’t know what to do. I can barely look at him but I want to help him. I don’t think he will ever admit to his problem and he won’t ever go get help for it. My goal is to figure out a plan because I can’t stand to see him kill himself like this.
When you share a strong bond with someone, you don’t just have feelings for them, but with them; it’s hard to watch someone you love suffering because, when you really care about him, you’ll experience his suffering, as well. The pain you feel if you lose him, however, will be yours to bear alone.
Trying to steer him away from possible distress, however, often makes your own distress worse, because you can’t control his decisions, addictions, or decisions about addictions, and pushing usually causes push back. You can share each other’s pain, even if it comes from accidentally hurting each other. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 7, 2015
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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. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015
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Of the many things out there that people can be afraid of—spiders, heights, gays—the one thing that truly scares the shit out of all of us is change. Whether it’s good or bad, change is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar is inherently frightening. Sometimes, particularly when it’s forced on us, we think change will turn out badly and it doesn’t, but when we really don’t want change, we try to prevent it, and that can be at our own peril. Don’t let neediness or fear control your view of the future (or marriage). Whether you’re facing or adapting to change, think through what’s good for you, and you’ll become better at forecasting its impact and taking pride in your brave response.
After hip surgery, I felt like I was in a fog…it wasn’t just the physical adjustment, but there was a freak complication during the procedure, and my brain might have lost oxygen for a bit. I came out of it with no energy, and my memory was shot. The doctor said that was normal, but now it’s a year later and I still don’t have the energy or mental sharpness that I used to depend on. My husband says I’m different but that he likes the new me just as much as the old one, if not more, because he thinks I’m calmer and a better listener. I think he’s just being sweet, so I’m still afraid to spend time with old friends or co-workers so I don’t frighten them and humiliate myself since I just feel slow and stupid. My goal is to get my old self back and stop being a pale imitation of the smart go-getter I used to be.
When you lose something great about yourself, whether it’s the ability to strike out the side in the big leagues or make it as a supermodel or just remember the names of everyone at the party, it’s hard not to dwell on everything you’ve lost and search desperately for a way to get it back.
Unfortunately, change is inevitable with age and it’s always uncomfortable, even when it’s welcomed. You can find the courage to withstand a career-salvaging Tommy John or Tummy Tuck. When the changes are more mental than physical, however, there’s almost nothing you can do, even though you’d give anything to turn back time.
You’re right to try to get back to your old self, at least at first; that’s what rehabilitation is about, for a limited time. Almost always, however, when there’s a permanent component to an injury, your goal needs to shift from total recovery to management of a permanent impairment. That’s when you transition to becoming a sportscaster, a trophy wife, or, in your case, someone slightly different. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »