An alcoholic is a human being afflicted with cyclical violent thinking and behavior which they sedate with alcohol. A “dry drunk” is a human being with cyclical violent thoughts which they numb with violent words and behavior. Both the active alcoholic and the dry drunk believe – and pretend – that they are normal, even if they are president, and that everyone else is crazy. The cyclical nature of their thinking is a long, downward spiral.
When there is an alcoholic or dry drunk in the house, every dramatic moment revolves around him or her. Their active disease (or fake presidency) continues due to the enabling behavior (denial, minimization or rationalization) of the people with whom they have contact.
When those enablers change their focus to their own self-care, the alcoholic (pretender) is suddenly faced with the natural consequences of his behavior. He will “hit bottom” emotionally, and is forced to choose between recovery or death. Sometimes the enablers, out of their love for the suffering impostor, will perform an intervention to accelerate the arrival of the bottom. These are usually only successful when a professional expert is consulted well in advance to coordinate the precise tactics of the (nonviolent, hint, hint) strategy. Plan B needs to be in place in the event that the intervention fails to move the person of concern into recovery.
The denial, minimization or rationalization that alcoholism (pretense) is the problem, the avoidance of self-care by the enablers, the refusal to carefully plan an intervention — those are the REAL problem!
When we have the expectation that someone will be violent, and we brace ourselves for the worst, they will probably fulfill our expectation. When we expect that someone has the capacity to be nonviolent, even when they are in the midst of their irresponsible violent behavior, and we prepare ourselves for that possibility in a visible way, the violent person who sees that possibility has the opportunity to make a run for it, to escape the consequences of their own violence. Without that opportunity, the cycle of violence will NOT change.
I still freeze when anyone starts yelling or pounding on the table! I’m only able to think of what I coulda-shoulda-woulda-said after the fact. That post-event rehearsal is part of the learning process, and can provide pre-event rehearsals of what to say or do “the next time.”
I believe it takes focused practice and training to un-program our old reactions, very much like martial arts training in which the goal is to become always present, always in the moment, and always united with whatever-whoever is happening in a very soulful, compassionate way. Easy to say, hard to do, and yet still possible. I find self-acceptance to be very key to the un-programming of my old reactions. Group training and mutual support is very helpful.
I am preparing such a training via a workbook titled “The Work of Love: re-discovery of connection and belonging,” which will be freely distributed electronically under a Creative Commons license. Printed copies will be priced to cover the costs of printing and shipping.