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He’s Gotten in Trouble but Still Won’t Admit There’s a Problem

Conversation on couch, papers scattered

AiR member palm springs co wrote in about their partner's drinking problem, and how he refuses to acknowledge the problem.

"My partner refuses to acknowledge there is a problem, even though he has been arrested for DUI and has been written up at work for intoxication. I know you encourage me to allow natural consequences to happen, but I fear if he loses his job things will only get worse. Can you recommend a strategy for getting him to open up about his problem?"

When pressed, people with addiction issues 1) defend their right to drink or drug or 2) deny there is a problem. In short, they Defend or Deny.

I can assure you, however, that somewhere in the recesses of their mind is a belief that a problem does exist.  It may be intermittent and it may not take in the severity of the problem, but it’s there.

Confronting them directly about the problem is rarely productive

Directly confronting them with the problem rarely succeeds in getting them to express vulnerability.

A better strategy is to learn the skills for communicating laid out in Module 4. By being empathic, respectful, and learning to actively listen, you encourage your partner to come towards you and to say when it hurts. This may sound like the long way around but it’s not. The shift in your manner can quickly signal to your Loved One that you are no longer foe, but partner.

Being a respectful partner is the stance we suggest. You are there to listen and to partner with your Loved One to help them get help. You become an ally.

It's not as hard as it sounds

Changing how you communicate will have immediate rewards for you. You’ll stop chasing after them, pointing out what's wrong. You’ll be doing what you can, and that reduces frustration and worry.

The DUIs and the trouble at work are natural consequences, as you point out. It may happen that the job is lost. You can’t control that directly. Indirectly, though, you can change your end of the dynamic, by communicating and responding better so as to move your Loved One more quickly towards treatment and recovery.  In this way you help save the job.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)