There was one common denominator present during every heart pounding serve and volley.
And the answer was staring me in the face.
I would stop drinking, the arguments would end, and we would live happily ever after.
So it’s with a sense of irony that when I quit, she filed for divorce.
Here is my attempt to try and help the millions of people who quit drinking and where they expect to find happiness, smiles and sun-kissed afternoons, they find frustration, frowns and grey rainclouds of doom.
The headline refers to ‘marriage’ and the inspiration for this piece comes from this corner of my life, but this advice applies to any relationship damaged as a result of a decision to quit drinking.
If you have decided to stop drinking, but your partner hasn’t, then get ready for a confusing and desperate time.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I let things happen.
Don’t make the same mistake.
Use this advice, and I promise, your transition will run a lot smoother.
Here are 10 reasons your marriage fails after you quit drinking alcohol.
After the umpteenth attempt, you finally believe you have cracked it. You feel different. There is some trepidation, but also a buzz.
You are excited and looking forward to a future without alcohol.
You walk into the front room to speak to your partner about this life altering change, and they crack open a can of lager and take a swig. They’ve heard it all before.
Why will this time be any different?
What’s the big deal?
There was nothing wrong with you in the first place.
Days ebb away, and you’re feeling better about your decision. It feels stronger this time. The cage containing the beast is sturdier than before. You watch your partner drink. To them, nothing has changed.
EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED!
You notice how loud they are. They repeat the same sentences. Their breath reeks of the very poison you tried so hard to cleanse from your life. Their eyes look lopsided. Like someone has taken them out and not put them back correctly. A frown starts to form over their eyes. Their face looks worn and aged.
The judgments rise.
They are waiting for it; expecting it; willing it.
COME AND HAVE A GO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH!
They have full riot gear on; waiting for your charge.
You don’t disappoint.
The only thing worse than an alcoholic is a recovering alcoholic. You fire off the advice – after all, you hold the keys to their prison – but they don’t hear you.
You are Mr Self Righteous.
You know you are right, and they are wrong. You don’t drink; your partner does. You defend your need to be right with all your might. You have an image to project to the world, and it will not crack; so we impose this way of thinking, not just on our partner, but on ourselves.
You pity them and their slow suicide.
Stop feeling sorry for them.
You are trying to change them. You know it, and your partner knows it. You don’t own that right. People change because they want to; if you persist, then people will just resist.
People choose to change after making a decision to stop suffering. You made that choice. Good for you. They haven’t and so instead of your judgment offer support. Let them be who they want to be.
Your behaviour during this period is vital. If you get it wrong, it can create a chain reaction that becomes insidious.
Suddenly, your partner realises they are not what you want them to be. They want to be authentic, but it creates anger and madness in you. Then they start to lie because they don’t want to find themselves in the same old funk. You sniff out the lies and attack. They defend. You are both getting cut to ribbons.
Your judgment appears in the dark like a clown bearing fangs to a 6-year old hiding in the closet. They know you will blame them, find them guilty and hang them. It’s worse than that. It’s hanging with no death; just pain in stillness. Each time you remember what I am you punish me AGAIN AND AGAIN FOR THE SAME MISTAKE.
You are looking in a mirror.
You are your judgments.
You resent them for drinking because you secretly desire to do the same. If only you could have found the strength to control the monster.
You are no different than the person hanging from the ceiling. You were them only days ago.
How did it feel? Why were you lost? How much pain did you carry? Why did you spend so many years trying to quit? How miserable was it?
That’s the picture you see.
It’s only the judgments that are about us that feel like a kick in the balls. If they are making you sick, then think back to the way you once was.
How would you have liked to be treated?
Feel compassion and discernment, instead of scorn and judgment.
Be the person you so desperately needed when you were feeling this pain.
They resent you because you are not like them, have compassion with that. Your partner is scared of losing you.
Try checking in each night. Afford time for each of you to speak while the other one listens unconditionally. This way you can keep tabs on judgments, and snap them before they form like stalactites that have the power to pierce your heart.
Don’t let judgments fester. They will tear your house down. Speak freely, authentically and often.
You are not an accident. You are a by-product of your thoughts and desires.
You created yourself.
There is great power in this understanding because it means that whatever we believe will come true. This simple truth is the same for over 7 billion people just like you.
So love and accept yourself.
It feels good, doesn’t it?
Now love and accept your partner. Do not project upon them the need to change, or to be different, because this means they will start creating the belief that you want them to change, and this is what they might start doing against their will.
If you want someone to change and they don’t want to change then, they will resent you. Your partner will bottle it up like lava stored in a dormant volcano, and without warning, they will spew it all over your face. It will hurt, it will burn, and you will melt.
It doesn’t matter how much you love someone you are never going to be what that person wants you to be.
So stop trying.
If you try to change them fear will creep into every cell in their body, and the joints will all sing out in unity: WHY ARE THEY WITH ME?
So they drink alcohol. Big deal. So do most of the Western world.
Remember, you are in the minority.
If you can suspend judgment, then acceptance will surely follow like rats chasing after a silly man wearing a hat blowing nonsense out of a flute.
In Plato’s, The Symposium, he has Aristophanes tell a story of how humans used to have four arms, four legs and two faces. Humans had tremendous strength at that time, and it threatened the Gods.
Zeus decided to split the people in half as punishment for humanity’s pride and cast them around the world to live in misery as they spent their lives trying to find their ‘other half’.
It’s where the expression ‘My Other Half’ was born.
If you are angry with your partner for continuing to drink, while you do not, and are determined to do something about it, then you might have found your other half. You have come together, and Zeus and all his trickery will find it difficult to tear you apart once again.
However, Zeus is cunning. He sends clouds of judgment, fear and dependence into your lives and it’s an invisible, odourless mist.
If you don’t want Zeus to win and once again send you in search of your other half, then you need to learn that you are only one-half of a relationship. You are responsible for your half; you are not liable for the other half.
You believe you are superior because you don’t drink. You feel your partner depends on you. Or perhaps, you are scared that drinking will drive you apart because you rely on them?
It doesn’t matter if you think your love is stronger than Romeo and Juliet’s. There is no way on earth that you can be responsible for what goes on inside another person’s grey matter. It is there’s to own, and if you try to take ownership of that then, your ship will start to leak more water than the Mariana Trench.
I understand you.
You feel an overwhelming urge to be responsible for them because you believe your happiness comes from within them. That’s why the humans were miserable when Zeus cut them in two. You believe your heart is inside their ribcage.
Whatever happens to them hurts you, and you want to avoid pain, so you try to take charge. You need to understand that everyone has his or her vision of a life well trodden.
You don’t need to depend on your partner. His or her drinking does not reflect on you. Similarly, they don’t need to rely on you.
If you are going to move forward, then you need to trust that your partner will be who they say they are going to be.
They have the right to be free. Don’t clip those wings. Let them fly.
4# The Role Model
Drinkers want you to be on their level, and you want them to be on your level. It’s what the fight is all about.
One of the primary reasons that people drink is because of societal proof. We see people head to the bar to drown their sorrows and nobody dies before your eyes. Everything seems OK or else why would everyone do it. So you drink, and then you get hooked.
If you are in a relationship with someone who continues to drink when you have stopped, then the best thing you can do is to be a role model. Continue to behave the way you are. Don’t drink but allow your partner to continue to act in the same way that they did long before you buried your last bottle of WKD.
Your partner won’t rebel. They won’t drink more just to prove a point. If anything they will drink far less because your social life will change when you decide to abstain.
Drinking alone is not much fun. Two people in a bar having a good old-fashioned swig is a bit of a laugh; three is a lot better, and four is a party. If you are not drinking like you used to, then the parties don’t happen as often as they once did.
Perhaps, they start to notice a little change on the scales? In the heaviness of their pocket? Maybe they feel a little better in their mind, body and spirit.
This is social proof in action.
One sober person can have fun, two is a bit of a laugh, three is a lot better, and four is a party; and remember it all began with you.
If you don’t create healthy boundaries, then people will invade. They will trample all over your garden; rose petals covered in mud, and nothing will grow in the desolation they can cause.
When you give up drinking people will want to know why?
Do not make this conversation easier by declaring that you are the ‘boring one in the party because you don’t drink.’
You don’t believe that so don’t you dare say it. By saying it, you allow your partner to think it’s ok to do likewise. You have set the boundary, and he or she is well and truly inside the walls.
Do not make yourself the butt of the non-alcoholic jokes. Do not allow others to believe it is ok to do likewise. Be very clear on this.
Your partner cannot be allowed to belittle you. Set an example. Be at peace with your integrity. Set those lines, and if they love you, they won’t pass.
You need to understand what it is that you want, how you want it when you want it, and what your mind and body need to keep it rocking in the free world. When you have the answers to these questions, you have the materials to build your boundaries.
Then make the boundaries clear to your partner. Let them be seen from the moon. There is no room for mines and trip wires. They are the devices of sheer destruction.
Also remember that you don’t have to be unhappy just because your partner is unhappy. They have their crap to deal with, and you have to keep in mind that it wasn’t that long ago that you also used to use alcohol to deal with yours.
Let them deal with their crap. Let your loved one be unhappy and provide support through a radiant smile.
When you look at your partner what do you see?
Perhaps, you see them sitting on a seat that is slightly lower than yours? Maybe they are even lying in the gutter?
Do they cast you an envious glance, or is an angry stare?
How do they make you feel? Do they make you feel inadequate, small, and stupid? That your decision to stop was nothing more than a New Years Eve resolution written on a list just above the words, ‘must lose weight.’
Do not allow this feeling to transfer into your soul. Do not be ashamed of your choice. Do not look at the might of the masses and want to shrink into the safety of a stomach like a testicle on a cold winters morning.
You live a joyous and happy life. Do not repress these feelings. They will touch your partner, and you will see the weight lift, and a smile break out on that beautiful face.
Don’t be afraid of being you. It’s all too easy to allow assumptions and judgments to sway the way you act. Do not pretend to be something you are not.
You are a non-drinker. Be proud of that fact. Grab hold of Mary Poppins and sing it from the rooftops.
Don Miguel Ruiz once said, ‘if you take your happiness and put it in somebody else’s hands then sooner or later they are going to break it or take it away.’
You cannot give someone else your happiness. Happiness never comes from outside of us. It germinates from within. It’s that warm tingly feeling in your belly. It’s the skin’s reaction to the rays of the sun. It’s the flutter of the butterflies wings when you set eyes on your loved on for the very first time.
If your partner believes their drinking makes them happy then who are you to judge? You probably thought the same thing not that long ago.
You cannot replace their bottle with your happiness.
It doesn’t work that way.
The best you can do is to continue to work within yourself to find eternal joy and happiness. It will stick. It will be inspirational. They will love you for it. They will be encouraged to look within themselves, and one day they too will find it.
Aretha Franklin asked people to ‘find out what it means to me,’ and it won’t do you any harm to take heed of that advice.
Do you know what respect means from the mind of your partner? Do they know what it means to you? And how does this relate to the drinking of alcohol
You have to communicate. You need to talk. Put bums on seats, pin those ears back and let words flow. Let each other in on your little secrets. Sing like Aretha Franklin has done hundreds of thousands of times before.
We all have our view of the way the world works. Sometimes this changes – as it did with you when you stopped drinking alcohol. People once thought the earth was flat, so don’t get too carried away with your sudden change of behaviour around a vodka and tonic.
You need to respect the way your partner believes the world works and vice versa. But allow each other to see what it looks like.
One of the biggest problems created by relationships, once one person stops drinking and the other doesn’t, occurs when the non-drinker starts to make choices for the drinker. At this point, you are telling them that you no longer respect them, and you might as well put that gum shield in your mouth because the bell is about to go DING, DING!
The fight starts because if you don’t respect a person you start to try and control that person. You don’t believe they can come through. You don’t believe they are a man, or woman, of their word.
Nobody likes to feel controlled. Why do you think you hated large parts of your childhood?
It’s because everyone kept telling you what to do. They had no more respect for you than you have for your drinking partner.
Respect the other half and there will always be peace, not war.
Perhaps one of the reasons you quit drinking is because you used to have blackouts? Great chunks of time when you can’t remember anything you did, only to have your peers, children or partners fill in the details with as much subtlety as a dentist filling in your teeth with a jackhammer.
Maybe you used to fall over a lot, maybe you were violent, perhaps you had sex with anything that moved, perhaps there was more than one of them, perhaps they filmed it and shared it with their friends.
Or was it a car?
Did you get behind the wheel and risk the lives of everyone that you passed. Women, men, dogs, children…oh the children.
You project that shame upon your partner and you do so before he, or she, has even lifted a pint glass. It’s an expectation. It’s a belief.
It will come true.
You are ashamed of them because they are not what, or whom, you want them to be. They no longer fit into the image that you once carved out of your heart. They are a triangle and your heart only has room for a square.
They embarrass you, annoy you, and irritate the hell out of you. You have no patience with them, and any show of kindness is nothing more than a charade. You have hated everything they have become because the way they act projects all over your face.
Remember this used to be you.
Don’t show them shame.
They already feel it. They know it. They own it.
Show them compassion. Love. Be bigger than that.
Remember who they are.
So what if you cannot manage this?
What if you judge them, cannot accept them, hate their dependence on you, cannot create strong boundaries, cannot express yourself, cannot find happiness in their presence, do not respect them and always look upon them with shame.
Well, life’s tough.
Your other half is somewhere else in the world because it’s not the person sitting in front of you with a bottle of Budweiser in their hand.
Accepting that a person is not right for you and moving on is one of the toughest things to face in a lifetime of lifetimes.
If you cannot love someone the way they are, then you need to let them go. Afford them the respect to find someone who will while at the same time provide yourself with that same respect so you can find the right person for you.
Are you making the right call?
Well you don’t know. Life is all about taking risks. So I suggest you try a period of separation before severing your bond with one fell swoop.
When you make a choice to stop drinking magical things happen in your life. Suddenly you can see life. It’s everywhere. Time exists where before there was nothing but darkness. Ideas flow as freely as alliteration of the letter S.
Your life has never been like this before, and suddenly you need to find a community of like-minded people. It’s the natural progression of life. Nothing can stop you and if it does then you need to chop off its arm and release the grip.
A partner should be someone who wants to take the same walk as you, someone who has similar views and values, both emotionally, physically and spiritually. Is that the person holding the bottle? If so then embrace the bottle. Learn to live with it in your life.
It’s your partner’s bottle, not yours.
The right person for you is someone you love for being just the way they are. If they were a sketch, the eraser wouldn’t leave your easel. But if you need to use that eraser and start smudging that drawing then you need a wake-up call.
Don’t be selfish.
If you love this person, then let them find someone who can love them the way that they are.
Don’t let their image be rubbed off that pad.
Don’t waste your time or their time.
Show them some respect.
Now it’s your turn…are you having problems with your marriage since quitting alcohol? If so please share your experiences with the group.
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They may just help you find your answers.
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