Alcoholism("alcohol dependence" in the
official diagnostic language) is a serious, chronic, usually progressive mental
and physical illness characterized by:
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
and often other drugs
- Inability reliably to control the
quantity of alcohol consumed and the duration of drinking
- Continued attempts to drink despite
increasingly severe negative consequences
- Loss or impairment of
insight with denial, rationalization, blaming others
The non-alcoholic spouse of the drinking alcoholic is
often exposed over a long period of time, continuously or intermittently, to the
destructive effects of the alcoholic's drinking, thinking and behavior. The
result of this prolonged exposure to active alcoholic addiction may be(and often
is) a spousal alcohol syndrome characterized by:
- Chronic activation of the fight-or-flight
stress response with resulting physical symptoms and/or exhaustion
- Confusion, bewilderment, fear, anxiety,
depression, anger, despair, shame, guilt and other negative emotions
- Learned helplessness and demoralization,
feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, self-blame
- Progressive social and psychological
isolation, withdrawal from friends and family
The wife of the drinking alcoholic believes herself to
be in a troubled relationship with the person who drinks too much. But, at least
in the more advanced cases, she is actually in a relationship with the
addictive process itself. And because the single and absolute goal of the
addiction itself is sheer survival of the addiction, no matter how high the
human costs may be, her emotional involvement and influence are hopelessly
one-sided. Addiction is a natural, biological and fundamentally inhuman process
that responds poorly, if at all, to common sense measures aimed at ordinary
human rationality, compassion and concern.
The first step to an effective coping strategy is an
accurate understanding of the problems being faced. Because most people are not
acquainted with the true nature of alcoholism and other addictions, they
therefore attempt to cope with such problems, either in themselves or in those
close to them, in a manner that is either ineffective or actually
injurious to the healthy goals they desperately desire.
The books and websites listed below are good sources of
basic information for wives(or husbands) of active alcoholics who are just
beginning to learn about what is wrong and what can be done about it.
Perhaps nowhere else in human relationships is Francis
Bacon's famous observation that "Knowledge is power" more apt. For
those who understand alcoholism and addiction are in a position to do something
about one of humanity's oldest and commonest scourges; but those whose
understanding of such matters is false or incomplete are destined to remained
helpless victims of its blind and terrible destructive energies.
Pat Jones, MS, RN, CS is an
experienced psychotherapist with over two decades of experience in women's issues and the
dynamics of the alcoholic marriage. She can be reached at (770)442-9100 or
via her Email address.
For your convenience we have linked the book
titles below to the Amazon.com website, from which they may be purchased if you
desire. Although we have been pleased with their service and therefore have used
them extensively, our site is not affiliated in any way with Amazon.com, nor do
we receive any remuneration for purchases made there. The books below are
available at any major bookseller, including Barnes
and Noble and Borders.
Relationships: Reclaiming Your Boundaries, by Joy Miller.
Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach, Florida. 1989.
Betty Ford Center Book of Answers: Help for those struggling
with substance abuse - and for the people who love them, by James
W. West, M.D., F.A.C.S. Pocket Books. New York. 1997.
Them Sober, Volumes 1, 2 and 3, by Toby Rice Drews. Bridge
Quit Tomorrow: A Practical Guide to Alcoholism Treatment.
Vernon E. Johnson. Harper San Francisco. 1990(revised).
: How to Help Someone Who Doesn't Want Help : A Step-By-Step Guide
for Families of Chemically Dependent Persons. by Vernon E.
Johnson. Johnson Institute. 1989.
is a Choice: Recovery for Codependent Relationships, by Drs.
Robert Hemfelt, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier. Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Learning to Care For Yourself as Effectively as You Care for Everyone
Else, by Alice D. Domar, Ph.D. Viking. 2000.
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