You stopped – your spouse didn’t

My friend Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind, emailed me with this question, which I answered since I have direct experience. Here’s the question:

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Here’s Annie’s (my) answer:

My actual answer:

That was one of my biggest concerns at the thought of stopping (little monster really likes that kind of concern… :-))  

I needed to make sure I had the right attitude.  When I told Jim I was stopping, he made it clear that he was happy for me, but that he had no intention whatsoever of ever stopping, and I understood that.   He is a much better controlled drinker than I ever was, and if he chooses to drink, that’s his business.  So, especially during those first few weeks when I was starving the beast, I was really careful to not push my agenda on him. I was especially careful to not make him feel guilty or defensive, which he kinda did anyway in the early days.  I did not want to be a bitch or try to change him.  I especially did not want to be some humorless sober (hate that word) bitch.  I was the one who was changing; he didn’t need to. 
I was consciously upbeat.  If I did bring up my not drinking it was to exclaim how great I felt, or how much funnier things appeared, or how much more fun I was having, or how delicious my latest non-ethanol drink discovery was.  Even when I’d get depressed, I could say how I was amazed at how clear my feelings were, even when they sucked, and how I now understand what I was doing with the drinking.
I made it a point to have regular cocktail time, same as we always have, only I make and drink my switchflippers instead of having gin.  And BTW, I am so happy to have my Q tonic with juniper extract and a lemon squeeze, or my seltzer and elderflower and ginger drink. I’m a gourmet drink-maker, and I make and drink the same compulsive way I did with booze while making dinner and such. Still schmooze, just no booze. Fortunately I never liked beer… If he drank my drink, it might have been harder. After the first month or so of my not drinking, his drinking lessened and now he seems to drink less overall.  
So here’s the deal with somebody else’s drinking inciting the monster. And it is exactly that – just another excuse your brain will use to try to get a fix. Awareness of that fact is key.  Who’s in charge here? You or the monster?  If my spouse chooses to drink, that’s his business. I can even feel a little smug about the fact that I’m enjoying freedom while he’s still a slave to Bud. Though I’d never point that out; I don’t need to.
If you are absolute in your resolve, and recognize that little voice for what it is, then anyone else’s drinking shouldn’t bother you.

3 thoughts on “You stopped – your spouse didn’t

  1. Heidi, great response. I especially could relate to the part about using your spouse’s drinking to validate or continue your own. My experience has been quite a bit different. My husband continues to drink, but his drinking has decreased remarkably, mostly in an effort to support me. He even had coached his parents, who typically drink wine everynight with their meal, and sometimes an afternoon cocktail, to boot, to not drink when I was visiting…which I actually found to be very awkward and made me feel responsible for their abstaining. I didn’t like it one bit. You are right, this is my own deal, my own journey and my own responsibility. So, while I am thankful for my husband’s support, (and I get why he is going the extra mile, my drinking had really caused marital problems, legal issues etc…)I don’t want the burden of him not drinking on my account or anyone not drinking on my account. I even give him a beer on occasion and I too am working on making my own switch flippers…where can I find that elderflower and bitters stuff!

  2. For here in the US, the best place I’ve found for switchflipper ingredients like Jack Rudy’s elderflower tonic and orange bitters is which is located in NY. I buy the Q tonic and Kombucha at my local Stop & Shop. The Belfour elderflower cordial has to be shipped from UK, and is really expensive, as is the Seedlip. I prefer Jack Rudy’s elderflower tonic. Creating new switchflippers and finding ingredients is an adventure! Cheers!

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