Our member’s loved one has been abstinent from alcohol for several weeks. With Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and steady recovery inputs, he is doing better. However, he recently adopted a deeply confrontational stance, which leaves our member feeling hurt and lost, and wondering how to address these new challenges.
This question originally appeared on the Allies in Recovery Member Discussion Blog, where experts respond to members’ real-life questions and concerns.
“Dear CRAFT helpers, for several weeks my loved one does not drink and benefits a lot from the Campral (Acamprosate) he says. It makes it a lot less hard to stay sober. So that’s very positive. We see each other every weekend and more often. He goes to therapy and is on a waiting list for a much more intensive therapy in about 6 months. So, he takes it seriously not to use. I do my best to live a healthy and happy life to reward both him and myself in our relationship.
There are some things that I find difficult in this moment. The first one: he does not have much patience with me when doing something wrong (clumsy) in his eyes. He will raise his voice and sound bossy and resentful, a narcissist trait. I don’t know how to react, it triggers my immediate hurt and angry response. It makes me very unhappy and surprises me every time he does this and I’m afraid he will not change.
I often disengage and go for a walk, but often I don’t feel like taking a walk and feel like a fool to be outside when I would rather be in the house but send myself away.”
Wow! I have to say you and your partner really have some positives to report. It sounds like he is dedicated to his recovery; seeing a therapist, waitlisted for more intensive therapy and taking his prescribed medicine. Taking care of yourself is also incredibly positive, given how difficult it is when you’re in the midst of chaos.
Your partner is early in his recovery and the behavior you describe in your post is something I hear over and over again from so many families who I work with. I can also share that my son exhibited much of the same behavior. Being confrontational, irritable, and short tempered for a while (and not a short while either), came with protecting his territory. Unfortunately, we are not usually prepared for this type of behavior and often get thrown off guard.
Something positive that you shared with us is your recognition of your own feelings of hurt and anger and of your being triggered into a response. As soon as you have these feelings, would you be able to give yourself a moment to relax? Maybe take a deep breath and start to have an internal conversation? This small but critical step can help you move forward in this process. Even if you snap at first, you can always back it up and start again.
You talk about disengaging and going for a walk. I suspect that maybe you find communication with him difficult and are unable to sufficiently express how you are feeling. Do you feel as if you are relinquishing power when you are the one to leave and not him? Could this be a “power struggle?”
How to end a power struggle
It may be turning into a power struggle that neither party is aware of. One of the best ways to end a power struggle is to not give it any power.
Here are some action items that might let some steam out of the situation:
- modeling how to calm down in a tense moment,
- labeling how you feel,
- alleviating any feelings of abandonment with a promise to return, and
- addressing the subject later might let some steam out of things.
It might sound something like this:
“I see that what just happened upset you. This situation is tense, and I need to calm myself down. I am going for a walk and would like to address this when I come back.”
“I know I struggle with (insert whatever he finds your fault), I can see that this angers you. I am going to go to the other room and meditate for a moment, that’s how I calm myself. Could we address this in a few minutes?”
He may be surprised at first and not react the way you would expect. But anticipating his response without, as a good friend once said to me, “being married to it,” can help prepare you even further into the conversation. Maybe he won’t want to address it later and will just want to drop it; then it becomes something like this:
“I hear you; I just need some time to take a break and take care of me.”
Boundaries are laid down not to define the other person’s behavior, only our own.
Remember, you leaving the situation = setting down a boundary. It is NOT you relinquishing power. It’s setting up your limits and letting him know that you’re not going to accept his negative behavior. You are not trying to change him, but you’re also not there to be his target. You’ll return when things are better.
You will become empowered by not letting him trigger you emotionally. Even if he is explosive and irritable, you are in control (or at least you’re able to calm down and manage your emotions). You are teaching him how to treat you.
And remember, self-care IS part of CRAFT
You might also benefit from going back over our self-care suggestions in our Training Module #7 “How Do I Care for Myself When Negative Feelings Get in the Way?”
Here at Allies we like to emphasize that taking care of yourself IS an integral part of the process of CRAFT – if you aren’t doing well, you can’t effectively help your loved one on their recovery journey.
I hope this helps. Know that almost all families experience something similar when their Loved One is in early recovery. You are not alone. Please keep us updated. Wishing the best for you and your Loved One!
Allies in Recovery provides support and guidance on how to identify and cope with the flood of emotions you are feeling. The CRAFT method teaches you the strategies and skills to engage your loved one on a path to recovery. At Allies we provide you with information critical to understanding your loved one’s alcohol/drug addiction, and train you in the important role you can play in guiding them to recovery.
A membership at Allies in Recovery.net brings you into contact with experts in CRAFT and the field of recovery and treatment for substance use. Our unique, award-winning learning platform introduces you to CRAFT and guides you through the latest in evidence-based techniques for unblocking the situation. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery.
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