When one partner has a drinking problem it inevitably impacts their partner, and working together to overcome the problem, can often be the best chance for success. In Overcoming Alcohol Problems: Workbook For Couples Barbara S. McCrady and Elizabeth E. Epstein provide a 12 week program that involves a couple to participate in their professional treatment. Below is an excerpt that shows a common pitfall of supportive partners.
Partners often try to protect the drinker from the consequences of drinking.
The result is that the drinker does not experience negative consequences that would help motivate him or her to quite. The protection helps maintain drinking. For example, you may shield the drinker from the embarrassment of having the children see him or her in a drunken condition. You may call your partner’s boss and make excuses for absences. You may lie to family and friends to hide the drinking problems.
One common type of protection is to give comfort to the drinker who is suffering from the effects of a drinking episode. Many partners will care for the “sick” person. Instead of suffering the full consequences of the drinking, the drinker gets special attention.
Partners protect the drinker for many reasons. Out of love, they do not want the drinker to suffer. They also do not want the drinking to affect other family members, particularly children. In many situations, the partner wishes to protect the drinker’s job because it is an important source of income for the family.
The partner who protects the problem drinker is denying the drinker a full and true knowledge of his or her own problem. When you protect the drinker, you are not giving these powerful negative consequences a chance to work. The protection unintentionally helps keep the drinking going.
You should agree together as a couple not to protect the drinker. If your partner has a future slip, you should refuse to do any special favors for him or her when he or she has been drinking. This means no hiding, making excuses, or caring for the sickly drinker. It was your partner’s responsibility for drinking and it is also your partner’s responsibility to cope with the consequences.
Make an agreement about what you will do if the drinker has a slip. The agreement should say that your partner is responsible for the consequences if he or she drinks. You should not try to make the consequences any easier.
Plan and practice for the possibility of a slip. Thin of possible situations that may occur between you. Talk about how you will act.
You should imagine how you will handle the situation. Think of a likely situation. Go over in your imagination all the things that would happen. Imagine how you will firmly tell your partner that you will not make things easier. Rehearsing will make it easier to act at the right time.
Not protecting the drinker shows you care by getting your partner to face his or her drinking and the problems that result. Protecting your partner may lead to continued trouble.