The Sober Person’s Perspective in a Drinking World

The Sober Person’s Perspective in a Drinking World

[This post is a continuation of this post: Drinking Is Not the Problem: It’s the Emotional Exit that Wrecks Relationships.]

I was going to Al-Anon as part of my healthy living strategy. Al-Anon’s do not have a substance addiction problem, we have an emotional addiction problem. As a drinker is addicted to drinking. An Al-anon is addicted to feeling the feelings. And sometimes, those feelings are unhealthy, unproductive, and can be, outright destructive. But we’re somehow led to believe that “feeling the feelings” is the height of mental health. That idea is old. That idea is wrong. And I’m going to show you that your feelings are not always real, and they are not always worth paying attention to.  Continues now…

Fuck the Feelings

As the sober person in a relationship with a drinker, you go through a lot of mental gymnastics trying to make sense of what is happening. Rationalizations. “If I do this, they will slow down their drinking,” you think. For me, it was all the damn time. I was happy, optimistic, and hopeful. Every night, the person came home and announced “Cocktail time!” I would join in for a beer or a hard cider. And our rejoining would begin. “How was your day? Tell me about it. Here’s what happened to me.”

As an Al-Anon, I was always a great listener. I was listening for the solution. I was listening for how to fix the drinker. Of course, I’ve learned, it’s not about them. It’s not even really about the drinking. The problem is about me. Yep, that’s the first lesson of Al-Anon.

The problem is not the drinker. The problem is my reaction to the drinker.

Okay, so as I sobered up from the emotional aftermath of losing a most-beautiful partner, who happened to drink, I began to hear the wisdom of the 12-step program. As an Al-Anon, we apply the same 12-steps, but they are not about staying sober, they are about remaining focused on our own shit, and keeping our judgment to ourselves. The drinker is not the problem. Our reaction to the drinker is the only thing we can control. It wasn’t that my partner had a drinking problem, it was that I had a problem with my partner’s drinking. Simple. Elegant. And hard as hell to believe, and harder still to practice in my own life.

She was not the problem. I was the problem.

[read the rest of the story in The Third Glass –  Available Now on Amazon.]


The Third Glass - By John Oakley McElhenney

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