My friend asked me for help

Old 01-23-2009, 08:31 AM
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My friend asked me for help

An old and dear friend contacted me recently. She knows I've been a member of Al Anon for many many years, she knows the life I used to live and has seen the life I enjoy today. Her husband has been abusing pills and alcohol for awhile and she's really worried about him. Here's what I sent to her...

Here is what I know from my experience and the experiences of others I know who are in a relationship with someone who is using drugs/alcohol to excess:

Weíll call that person ďAĒ and use the word ĎhimĒ although many times itís a ďherĒ

Most often, the substance ~ be it alcohol, drugs, glue sniffing ~ is used for recreational purposes first. Some people want that good feeling all the time, especially those people who have some pain or discomfort in their lives. For some, itís easier to mask their pain etc, cover it up rather than feel those feelings. Along with that come feelings of inadequacy, depression, worthlessness, powerlessness, being undesirable, unattractive etc. As those feelings get stronger, certain things happen: (1) the use of the substance increases ~ he wants to feel better and itís a quick fix (2) the bad feelings increase in intensity, meaning more use of substance (3) often the A reaches out to others. The reaching out isnít necessarily a good thing because itís a 2 edged sword. ďAĒ may reach out to someone outside the relationship for some positive reinforcement that ďAĒ is still a good, desirable and worthwhile person. ďAĒ may seek more attention from his partner, but often itís in the form of picking a fight or starting one of those conversations where you just canít winÖ. All that does is reinforce to ďAĒ that he is not the person you wish for him to beÖ. And not the person HE wishes to be.

Some people (a few out there) can just STOP the drinking/using and make positive changes in their lives. However, they need a fairly good support system so that they can use and continue to employ other tools when they get those negative feelings again. Without that support and newly acquired knowledge ~ combined with a healthy big dang dose of will power~ they will slip back to their tried and true ways of dealing with pain Ė drugs, alcohol etc.

Itís like a downward spiral Ö. A vortex. Youíve seen it and you know how scary it is, and the worst part is that you really canít help him. The drugs and alcohol numb the feelings and contribute to the depression. The depression worsens and the only thing he knows to do is to mask the feelings with drugs and alcohol. Itís a dark, scary, lonely place and many people donít know how to find their way out. The truth is, some die either by overdose or suicide. Itís the sad and stark realityÖ and itís tragic for all that it happens.

The people I know who have been able to get out of this had to have help. Some get it from their family doctor, but that only works with brutal honesty and a strong commitment. Otherwise itís just another way to get medications to dull the pain and fill the void. Others get help from 12 step groups Ė NA (narcotics anonymous) AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) etc. There are a lot of 12 step groups out there, all based on the original 12 step AA program. From what I hear, AA is pretty strict in their literature and meetings that they help alcoholics, while NA presumes that the problem is with a substance and they consider alcohol to be just another drug.

Some people have been using/drinking for so long that they will experience some pretty scary withdrawl and will feel it physically, mentally and emotionally. Detox is good, longer term treatment is better. AGAIN, those only work if the person is committed to doing the things required and making the changes. Otherwise you might as well take your $$ and go on a really nice vacation as youíll probably end up right where you were before ~ spent $20k and had a few weeks of bliss but now weíre right back here again.

I read it and hear it many times every day:

I love him, I donít understand whatís happening
Doesnít he see what heís doing to our family?
Why wonít he tell me whatís really wrong?
Doesnít he see that his using/drinking is hurting our relationship?
Heís not the man I married.
Why wonít he stop? Isnít his family important to him?
How can he do this to me and to our kids?
How am I going to make the house/car/whatever payment when he is spending the $ on drugs/alcohol?
I canít talk to him about money because he gets so defensive about what/how he spends. He wants ME to cut back on the things I need for our home and family so he can keep doing what heís doing
Whenever I try to talk to him he turns it around so itís all about me and what Iím doing wrong Ė not supporting him or believing in him etc.
We end up fighting about something else and I end up being defensive and apologizing and we never did talk about the topic I wanted to talk about.

So hereís what I know:

You can offer him help in finding a solution, but you canít BE the solution nor can you do the work for him. Some people "help" by finding phone numbers of detox or shelters or treatment centers or meetings, but the truth is he is a grown up and he can use the computer or phone book just as well as you can. If heís ready, heíll look for it. If heís not, heíll let you spin your wheels while he does something else.

Itís helpful to set boundaries and be ready to back them up. I had to learn to set boundaries I was ready to follow thru with Ö. Instead of saying ďif you do that again, weíre thru and Iím leavingĒ I was able to say ďI am not going to have a conversation with you when youíre drunk/high/whatever. If you start one, I will walk away. I am happy to talk to you when youíre clean/sober/out of your rageĒ etc. In my particular situation, I had to say ďwhen youíre like that, I am not going to ride in a car with you.Ē So that meant we took 2 cars and I had to drive myself certain places and be ready for the argument and ugly words that would come along with that decision. Backup plan included having a friend I could call for a ride home if the problem presented itself after we got where we were going. I also had cash/credit on hand if I had to call a cab. Bottom line? I felt safer in the car and was more relaxed when I got where I was going.

Your A will most likely argue more with you when you set boundaries, especially if itís new behavior for you. Again, you get to decide what action youíll take, what you will tolerate and what you wonít. Heís going to have to find his own ďbottomĒ and then he has to decide if he wants to get help. Be ready for lip service , he may just say heíll go to a meeting or a counselor or whatever just to ďget you off his backĒ. Iíve learned itís best to watch the actions and not the words.

I found help, support, love and understanding in the rooms of Al Anon. I learned that other people lived a life very similar to mine, and nothing I said surprised or shocked them. It was in Al Anon I learned about boundaries and I learned what was and was NOT my problem to fix. I also learned a lot more about the diseases of alcoholism and addiction. I learned I could love someone almost to death if I didnít get out of the way and let him experience his own consequences.

There arenít any easy answers here, and itís really really sad. I love you guys so much and I want you to be happy and healthy and whole. My prayer for you is that he finds help to deal with his pain and goes back to being the man you fell in love with and married. If he doesnít choose to get help, you have some difficult decisions to make. And Iíll be here for you, whenever you need me.

Hugs and love,
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Old 01-23-2009, 12:49 PM
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Thank you so much for this post! At my last therapy session I mentioned a family member who leans heavily on my mom and I. She was going to a therapist but stopped when they hit a place she didn't want to work through.

The bottom line is I can't help her any more because it's compromising my serenity, and she's not doing anything for herself. There's a CodA meeting within a couple of miles of her but she refuses to go there, too. So I've been struggling for the words and you just gave them to me:

I can offer you help in finding a solution, but I canít BE the solution nor can I do the work for you.

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Old 01-23-2009, 03:20 PM
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Cats, thanks for sharing about your friend, for showing us your approach to her by sharing your experience, strength and hope. I can only do the work for me, if someone else needs some help my job is to show how it works for me- not to tell them what to do. Thanks for being such a good example of how to share in a caring and loving way with proper detachment from outcomes.
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