Alcohol can affect all types of relationships and an addict will not necessarily “feel” the results they are leaving behind them. Even small statements made by families can seem accusatory rather than explanatory by the addict. This is why interventions by a group of loved ones, each calmly explaining how the alcohol has affected the behavior of the addict and affected themselves, are so informative. This is also why treatment centers focus on separation from regular alcoholic social cues and encourage small, actionable steps, one step at a time.
Emotional Rollercoasters are Created in Otherwise Stable Family Interactions
Your loved one is experiencing widely swinging emotional variables which they are numbing with alcohol. Instead of understanding that a smaller, more controllable emotional range is healthy, the extremes of their emotional rollercoaster are seen both in drinking and in the withdrawal afterward.
The Highs and Lows of the Addict are Higher and Lowers than Normal Relationship Ranges
This is NOT something you need to “get used to.” This will keep your own emotional range swinging wildly from high to low, instead of helping your loved one to get and keep the help and support they need. Part of recovery is understanding that you alone cannot solve this problem for them. They will need help and support from a group and from qualified professionals who are not as emotionally invested in them as you are.
The “Escape” is Not Seen as an Escape from Stress: It is Seen as an Escape from Loved Ones
You may feel as if your loved one is withdrawing from you and your family. This can be hurtful and painful as you try to interact with them in a normal manner, or even a deeply emotionally supportive manner.
They are not withdrawing from you, specifically. They are numbing their own emotional turmoil and feelings of being out of control of their lives. They do this by “escaping” into the alcohol. It feels better to them, but it’s obviously very hurtful to you and to the relationship between you, which relies on a standard range of emotional closeness and everyday interactions.
Alcoholism Prevents the Light, Stable Emotional Connections which are Necessary for Healthy, Stable Relationships
In normal conditions, people (even close families) interact with each other in light, stable emotional and personal interactions. It’s not at the lightness of public politeness, but it is courteous and mild in nature. When these interactions swing from public stiffness to deep emotional angst, it puts pressure on the interaction between two people.
While In Recovery, What are Some of the Expected Results?
Distrust will Gradually Melt into Light, Stable Interactions
What had been distrust (which may continue for a while) between family members will gradually become a normal, everyday range of interactions between loved ones. This may take time and both you and your addict must realize that time and steady application of small steps will begin to even out the distrust into a functional relationship.
Simple, Basic Daily Habits are Encouraged
Recovery involves avoiding two extremes: 1. Biting off more than you can chew, and 2. Becoming listless to the point of inaction.
Instead, recovery encourages your loved one to commit to simple, basic habits which are practiced day by day, one by one, until they start feeling control and authority over their lives again.
The False Mask of Pretending is Gradually Replaced by Small, Achievable Emotional Goals
The biggest step for your recovering alcoholic will be to use their emotional range in a healthy sense without narrowing it down to a stiff, manipulated point or expanding it to induce the extreme highs and lows of yesterday. A healthy emotional range is a mid-range in between the very limited and the very expressive.
Small, achievable emotional goals help your addict to practice moving around in and eventually flourishing in this mid-range. When they feel competent at these steps, their need for their mask of pretending will eventually melt away. Only interact with them in this emotional range and you will help them to feel comfortable being themselves around you and recovering in trust and gratitude for life.
The Relationship Gradually Returns to Normal, Everday, Action Steps
All relationships are a series of normal, non-manipulative social contracts. When one party feels insecure and tries to control (or manipulate) themselves or the other party, the normal social contract is broken. Only healthy, stable interactions are long-term relationship practices. When the relationship is marred by the need for controlling the other person (whether you or your addict), then a small, healthy social contract or interaction cannot be maintained.
As your loved one is recovering, they will begin returning to small, achievable interactions with you. While you may be angry, bitter, hurt, upset, or disillusioned by their past behavior, forgiveness is necessary for both of you to be able to move forward with these little daily interactions.
Give Yourself and Your Loved One Time… Plenty of Time… to Build a Normal Relationship
Even time, one of our best friends in the world, cannot solve everything in one month. You and your loved one will have to practice healthy, non-controlling behavior with each other, speaking calmly and supportively about each of your thoughts and feelings, and being careful to focus primarily on ways each of you can contribute to success, instead of requiring the other one to do all of the heavy lifting.
Every day, your angry or sadness will get smaller and their comfort with their emotional world will become more defined. Get a friend or two so that you can have a source of venting without having to pour it all on your recovering loved one. Their progress will be slow, as will yours, but both are possible if time is given and respected.