I think my husband is an alcoholic but he disagrees. We had a really great conversation last night about our relationship and what we want. Of course the subject of his drinking came up, because I always bring it up. He told me he drinks the way he does because he’s in a lot of pain. He was in a bad car accident and he has neck and back issues.
I said “What about before we moved here?” And he said “I was depressed then.” I asked “Well what about after we moved here… before the accident?” And he said “Well, I was no longer depressed but I only drank on the weekends.” And I know that isn’t true.
It really bugs me that he can’t see that his drinking is an issue. He’s a smart guy, you know, it’s just in this particular area he just won’t see it! It’s just bizarre that he can’t see it. When I think about it, it bugs me. If I stay in my own business, life is good.
Karen: Yep. Yep. And that’s okay, cause we know it’s not always that easy to stay in your own business.
Karen: So what’s the emotion? Are you able to tell me how you feel when he’s talking about it and he’s telling you that he only drinks on the weekend, and you know that’s not true, you see it happening more than that, and you have this thought “He can’t see his drinking is an issue.” What are you feeling in that moment?
Me: Really, really deep frustration and confusion.
Me: Yea. Really confused, like it just doesn’t make sense! I just don’t understand. I’m very, very confused by him.
Karen: Alright. So when you sit with THAT feeling, that feeling of the total confusion. Not being able to understand something… at all. What’s the image that you get?
Me: Like there’s a huge elephant sitting in the room and I go “Oh, look at that elephant!” and he says “What are you talking about?” (groaning) It’s like…
Karen: Something from your childhood. Something from interactions with your parents, grandma, somebody else at school, somewhere else. They’ve done something, said something… You can see the elephant. They can’t see the elephant in the room. And you’re feeling so confused. It just doesn’t make sense.
[Karen has helped me find times in my childhood where I have had similar thoughts and feelings to a current situation. When I work something from my childhood, it seems to affect all my current relationships. That’s where a lot of my beliefs first took root. We returned to the original situation later in the session.]
Me: (a full minute passes) Okay I got it. When I was in Catholic Grade School, I had done something bad and was sent to the principal’s office. And a nun spanked me and I cried. Then the same exact nun handed me a Kleenex. That REALLY confused me.
Me: I couldn’t match up the hitting with the being nice.
Karen: What are you believing or thinking in that moment?
Me: That you hit somebody when you’re mad at them.
Karen: Yea. We’re after a statement about her. What are you thinking about her in this moment? You’re looking at the nun. She’s spanked you and just handed you a Kleenex.
Me: (long pause) I don’t remember having… thoughts about… her. I mean, I was confused by her because I didn’t know if she was my friend or foe. I thought she was my foe, but now she’s acting like a friend.
Karen: Right. Yea. So she shouldn’t be nice to me?
Me: Right! She shouldn’t hit me and then be nice. She should pick one. (chuckling) She’s either mean or she’s nice. It’s just too confusing when she does both.
Karen: Yea, so if the statement we use is “She shouldn’t be nice to me.” and you know that that means “after hitting me”… it just makes it easier to work, does that work for you?
Me: Uh-huh, yea.
Karen: So is it true “she shouldn’t be nice to me” in that moment?
Me: (long pause) No.
Karen: How do you react and what happens when you’re believing the thought “she shouldn’t be nice to me after she’s hit you”?
Me: I don’t understand what’s going on. I can’t connect one with the other. I don’t know if I’m good or bad. If I’m bad, why would she be nice to me? There’s like a mixture of a bunch of different emotions of being ashamed that I got spanked. (sigh and long pause) I’m suspicious of her. I don’t remember… It’s like… I’m no longer there. It’s like I left my body.
Karen: Yep. Yep.
Me: I mean… I’m sure I went back to class and that things continued on… I just don’t remember.
Karen: How are you treating her in that moment, when you’re believing this thought “she shouldn’t be nice to me after she’s hit me”?
Me: I’m sure I looked at her like… What the…?!? Oh, and I remember I was glad she gave me the Kleenex. Uh. (mumbling to myself “there’s something else there”) I just couldn’t trust her. Couldn’t trust really anything that was going on, it was just too bizarre. I couldn’t see where I fit in, everything became very uhm… disjointed and… (long pause) It was just a mixture of shame and just total confusion and not understanding who they were and who I was. I felt really lost. I didn’t know how to be with her, I didn’t know how to be with anyone. Things were just out of place for a long time.
Karen: So who would you be in that same moment without the thought “she shouldn’t be nice to me”?
Me: Well I’m glad for the tissue cause I was crying really hard. So I’m glad she handed it to me. It was nice that she handed it to me.
Karen: What are you noticing about your body in that moment?
Me: I can feel my body without that thought. My eyes feel hot. My face feels hot. Kind of slumped, you know, deflated. Kind of like after a good cry, you feel a little calmer. It’s actually kind of nice that she handed me the tissue. I needed a little bit of niceness in that moment.
I’m glad the spanking is over. Glad that’s done with. I don’t feel confused!
Me: Without the thought that she shouldn’t have, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It’s just… you see someone crying, you hand them a tissue. (chuckling) It’s just a nice thing to do. I’m physically more comfortable, I feel back in my body and just a little tired.
Karen: Turn the thought around “she shouldn’t be nice to me”.
Me: She should be nice to me. Yea. That’s actually more true. (laughing in amazement) when I think about it. You just hit a kid, maybe it would be good to do something nice for her. (more laughter) For me, and for herself.
She should be nice to me because it would be better if everything doesn’t feel so heavy and bad walking back into the classroom. That feels more true. She should be nice.
Karen: Another turnaround “she shouldn’t be nice to me”
Me: I shouldn’t be nice to her?
Me: (long pause) Well, she DID just hit me. (pause) That’s the only thing I can find on that one.
Karen: What about when I’m feeling so confused. I’m confused about what’s going on in that moment, I cant…
Me: Yea, when I was believing what I was thinking, I wasn’t capable of being nice. It’s hard to be giving to someone else when you’re so lost. I shouldn’t be nice to her because I’m doing all I can just to take care of myself, and get myself back. You know what I mean?
Me: It felt traumatic, and I needed a moment for myself. I couldn’t be that giving in that moment.
Karen: (long pause) So what’s the other turnaround?
Me: I shouldn’t be nice to myself?!?
Me: I don’t like that one. (laughing)
Karen: Interesting turnaround, isn’t it.
Me: I shouldn’t be nice to myself because I was being bad. Whatever it was I did, I have no memory of it, but whatever it was, it was bad enough to get me sent to the principal’s office.
I shouldn’t be nice to myself for the same reason I shouldn’t be nice to her. I really COULDN’T be nice to me in that moment. (laughing) I wasn’t even in my body, how in the world could I be nice to myself? I was adrift in some big, huge ocean. I had no idea where I was, or something.
Karen: Yea, so when I’m not able to, I can’t. It’s not what I should be doing.
Karen: And I shouldn’t be nice to myself in this moment when it allows me to see how I’m blaming and shaming myself.
Karen: In a way, it allows me to see how I’m treating myself.
Me: Yea. (pause) Ohh! I shouldn’t be nice to myself because I was believing I was a bad person.
Me: At the time, I had no separation between behaviors and myself. I thought I was bad. I shouldn’t be nice to myself because I was not capable, at that time, to see that it wasn’t about who I am, it was about what I did. I didn’t have that language or understanding then.
Returning to the Original Situation
Karen: Mm. So can you go back to the situation with Sheldon last night when you were having a conversation with him? In that moment you were believing the thought “it doesn’t make sense”. If you were to look at that now… (pause)
Me: I feel a little bit more compassion for him right now than I did before. And for myself.
(long pause) I think I was trying to control the future. If I can make him see it, I can control the future. The truth is I can’t control this. I can’t make him see. He’s like… a separate entity from me. (chuckling) And I have no idea how it’s going to play out. Ahh, that’s where the rub is coming from with the confusion. This idea that, if he just saw it the way I saw it, then the future starts to get clearer.
Me: But as long as he doesn’t see it my way, the future is uncertain.
Karen: Yea. And it’s interesting cause when I sit with what you’ve said, I see a man who’s been open and honest with you about what’s happening for him and expressing why he drinks. He’s explained to you, at each different time, why he’s been drinking.
Me: (pause) Ohhhh! The reason it’s confusing is because his story isn’t matching what I think is happening!
Me: He’s NOT being open and honest with me. He’s in denial. Because what he’s saying doesn’t fit with my story. And the story is… he’s addicted to alcohol. So none of his stories are fitting with what I think is really going on.
Me: So I can’t even see that he’s being open and honest. I don’t believe him, because it doesn’t fit.
Me: It’s confusing comparing his with mine. Wow, I can’t just hear him. When I tap into my compassion. I’m like, wow, I have no idea the degree of pain he’s in. None. I can’t feel his pain. When I’m compassionate, I think, thank god it’s not prescription pain medication or something even worse. There could be a lot worse things. You know.
Karen: Mm-hmm. Yes, yes.
Me: And he doesn’t drink and drive, and he doesn’t go to bars, and he gets up every morning and goes to his job. The guy’s doing pretty well for being in so much pain. (long pause) Yea, it’s confusing because I’m not believing him. If I believed him, it wouldn’t be confusing at all.
Karen: So you’re not trusting what he’s telling you.
Me: Right. I think it’s all just a story in his mind to explain his drinking other than the real reason which is, he’s addicted to alcohol.
Me: And to be honest with you, I genuinely don’t know the truth. I don’t know if my story is right. I don’t know if his story is right. I just don’t know. But I know when I’m not believing him, I experience a lot of stress. (sigh) Feels good to admit I don’t know which is true, mine or his.
I don’t have a lot of experience dealing with uncertainty. I do a lot of things in my life to FEEL like I know what’s going on, or somewhat managing what’s going to happen. I have a lot of plan As and plan Bs. This is an important issue for me to feel so uncertain about. I love him. I want him around for as long as possible.
Karen: This might be a good opportunity to see if there’s an earlier situation where you’re not trusting what someone’s telling you.
Me: Yea, I can think about that one.
Karen: Something with your mom or your dad or school. An early time where you’ve been in a situation with this same sort of feeling of confusion where you’re not trusting what it is they’re telling you.
- My confusion around his reasons for drinking, come from my not believing him. If I believed him, there would be no confusion and it would all make sense. I don’t know how to believe him. My reason makes more sense to me, seems more logical, and fits in with the whole story I have around what I’ve witnessed.
- I feel confused when reality doesn’t match my story of reality.
- This issue is not resolved, but doing the work on it opened my mind a crack. I really have no idea the level of pain he experiences. What options does he have? Pain medications? People become addicted to those too. Which is worse, drugs or alcohol? If I had to pick, I’d pick alcohol, same as him.
- I’m addicted to certainty. I like to believe I know what’s going to happen. Maybe not the details, but at least the direction. If he wasn’t drinking, I see a future where we grow old together, laughing, enjoying, sharing and following our passions. With him drinking, I’m unsure how long he’s going to live. I believe if he keeps drinking the way he is, he’s going to leave me way too early and I’ll miss him for a very long time.