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Carole Bennett, MA Headshot

The Aftermath of Hurricane Addiction

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Most everyone has lived through some kind of aftermath from the devastation of mother nature. After the rains stop, the wind subsides, the fire is put out or whatever, we often walk around in a state of shock, shaking our heads and wondering what happened and how are we going to pick up the pieces and start again.

The aftermath of a relationship with an alcoholic/addict can often be parallel with that of a natural disaster. At least it has been for me when I've ended relationships that were toxic, or my clients have made the painful decision to move on.

I have a client that I've been working with for some time. She was married to an alcoholic, then separated and now divorced. Each step was frustrating and painful for her to go through as she loved him and wanted their marriage to work, but the constant parade of broken promises, self sabotage, irresponsible behavior and ultimately more relapses than recovery time led her to call it quits and live life on her own.

Her ex-husband had a difficult time accepting the finality of her decision and hoped that with yet another promise or 30 days of recovery under his belt, maybe they could try again. It was hard for her to say "no" to his requests for coffee or a hike with the dogs, but she stood her ground and knew that it would be harmful for her to do anything other than stay clear. What kept her own recovery intact was the fact that her ex kept peppering her with a barrage of insinuations that she had something to do with the failure of their relationship and why won't she look at her part.

We discussed that though there may be issues between them as couple, I don't believe there are any issues that a partner has when it comes to their loved one's alcoholic disposition. As Al-Anon's 12-step recovery program states at every meeting, "You didn't cause it, you can't cure it and you can't control it." So in my opinion, my client's side of the street is clean in any participation toward her loved one's decision to live a clean and sober lifestyle -- or not -- regardless of what she does or says.

A week or so ago she received an email from him saying that he missed her and their friendship. Could they please, just one more time, give their relationship a shot? She didn't want to communicate with him as she was truly done with this chapter in her life; but she felt that she needed to explain her decision one final time.

We worked together on her response and with her permission I have included it in this blog below:

I hesitated answering this email as I don't want to start communicating. However, I want to make clear where my head is and my thinking. Yes, it's too bad that we can't enjoy things like you mentioned, but that's the way it is.

I know you think "Well, Jennifer* will get over being angry at me and we will pick up where we left off." I am not angry at you anymore; you are poisonous in my life and therefore I can't have you in it. I will be specific as to the reasons why:

  • We have nothing in common really, other than animals and a few good times.
  • Your words and intentions mean nothing.
  • Your anger toward me and at me is more than any person should allow from another.
  • I have no respect for you as you have no respect for yourself.
  • You have no respect for me because I do have respect for myself.
  • I am totally emotionally and physically turned off by a man that works so hard to self sabotage everything that is good in their life.
  • I would be ashamed and embarrassed to return to a relationship with you as it would be only out of desperation and I will never go down that road.

Jennifer slept on this email for a night or two and then when she felt comfortable with her decision, she hit the "send" button. We ascertained that there could be three different responses.

  1. Nothing. No response at all.
  2. A response that agrees with everything and realizes that his addiction has probably caused the bulk of this thinking. A humble person owning up to their issues might express hope for another time, that he might be in contact again in another six months or so when his sobriety is more concrete.
  3. A posture that defends and justifies the actions and continues to place equal blame on the other person as well for their current state of being.

It wasn't long until she got her response, and not surprisingly, it was #3. In true fashion from previous communications with him that hadn't gone according to his plan, he stated that she was stubborn, angry, self-involved and had entitlement issues. He dodged the sabotage comment, blaming the fact that he had a disease that the American Medical Association recognized, and saying she should be more understanding about his malady.

As Jennifer and I processed this, she realized this was an ongoing, continuing soap opera of what's been played over and over again in their lives -- seeking another chance, more counseling, the myriad sober living homes, and more meetings and different sponsors. Yet frankly, one day it was enough, as it was this day as well.

In an odd way, she was relieved that his response was true to form and came from a place of anger, resentment and denial. Everyone hits their bottom at one time or another, and Jennifer had hit hers. She wasn't a bad person, friend or wife; she just couldn't go one more day living in the world of addiction and iffy recovery and the hopeful attempts that maybe just one more time it would stick.

Like any disaster in one's life -- whether personal, property, financial or whatever life throws in our path -- it takes time to regroup, lick our wounds and decide the better, healthier path to now take. If one lives in a flood zone and year after year they white-knuckle the thought of losing everything again, it might be a good time to consider moving to another part of town or even another state. The same is true for the family member that has endured years and years of unstable, irresponsible, out of control behavior, or promises made of quicksand from the their loved one, the alcoholic/addict.

Move to higher, more stable ground, my friends... The view is much healthier and much more pleasant to the heart, soul and eyeballs.

If I can be of service, please visit my website, and I invite you to explore my new book Reclaim Your Life -- You and the Alcoholic/Addict at or on Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio on my website only.

*Name has been changed

For more by Carole Bennett, MA, click here.

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