Practicing Restraint With An Alcoholic


This video on having restraint when interacting with an alcoholic is a lesson from our new video series to be released at the end of January 2013. Within this teaching you will find methods of breaking old behavior patterns that are only causing the insanity associated with being in a relationship with an alcoholic to increase.

Video Transcription:
Hey, JC here. After this introduction, you’re going to watch a full length teaching called Practicing Restraint. This comes from our new video series that’s going to be released at the end of January 2013, possibly at latest mid-February 2013. The video series is going to be over two hours long. So keep an eye out. It’s coming your way soon and enjoy this video…

When I first started going to alcoholism support group meetings to help me learn how to deal with alcoholics and addicts, I learned early on that my lips were the big problem. If I could learn how to zip my lip, I would say a lot less and that way I would have a lot more peace and serenity in my life and so will the alcoholic.
sealed lipsI’ve talked about those buttons that the alcoholic would push and how it would react in a negative way. Once I began to learn what those buttons were and I began to guard myself from reacting whenever the alcoholic would try and push them, I started to step back and shut up and smile and I had time to process what was happening.

Now I could respond in a more self-disciplined manner. Now there are a lot of things that we use in practicing restraint. We run things through a filter. How important is it? Some things are not so important for me to address. I can just let go of those things and I let go of those things through going to support group meetings, journaling, talking to friends, exercising, doing things that I love to do.

That’s not so important. So I set it off to the side and I get focused on something else but then there are other things that are important and I need to set a boundary.

I practice restraint through learning how to say things that I mean without saying them mean and that’s a part of responding in a self-disciplined manner rather than reacting in the moment.

So if I can get self-control over the things that come out of my mouth, I have more time to process what it is that I would really like to say in a loving way rather than just reacting in a very negative way and blurting out a bunch of negativity on top of the alcoholic.

So the promises of practicing restraint means that I’m going to have more peace and serenity in my life and this comes about through not arguing and fighting. When I step into that ring with the alcoholic, I’m going to say things that I don’t want to say and I’m going to come away feeling guilty. They’re going to come away feeling bad as well.

Then I may have to make an amend and when I make the amend, here I have to practice restraint again knowing that I’m making amend to keep my emotional well-being intact to get my side of the street clean and I have no control over how the alcoholic is going to respond or react to the amend that I’ve made.

So I have to practice restraint if they react in a negative way and they throw it back in my face. I have to be self-disciplined and zip my lip and pull out these tools where I can say to the alcoholic addict, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve told you that I’m sorry for what I did and I will do my best not to do it again. I love you and what I did was wrong.”

So we practice restraint from reacting to defend ourselves through pulling out these communication tools: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” “That’s your opinion.” “I will try not to do that again.” But we’re on guard that we may get the stuff thrown back in our face by the alcoholic.

I could practice restraint through not being the private investigator, not checking their phone messages, not looking at their text messages, not going through their mail, not calling them at work just to see if they’re really at work or calling them at their friends or where ever it is that they said that they’ve gone.

Practicing restraint in this area will help me have more peace and serenity in my life because generally when I’m the private investigator, I get very obsessed with the alcoholic and their behaviors and inevitably I find this little needle in the giant haystack of insanity. And I try and put together some puzzle that just cannot be put together out of the pieces that I have found and I drive myself absolutely insane trying to figure out something that I have not a clue of what’s going on in the alcoholic’s life, who the telephone number was from.

I start looking at their phone records and just trying to figure out why they were over here at this time or who they were talking to and it’s just insanity. If I can break the old patterns, I will have a lot more peace and serenity in my life and that’s what all this practicing restraint is about.

It’s about breaking old patterns. All of those old things in my life that I’ve done over and over again to try and control the alcoholic and manipulate them, to try and get them to stop drinking, once I recognized that those things have had no effect that the alcoholic has continued to drink regardless of all of those things that I tried to do, then I can begin to see the reality of the situation and to practice restraint in more areas of my life.

Things like not getting in the car and going around to look for them whenever they’re not home when they said that they were going to be. I remember going into a bar one time and confronting the alcoholic when they were two hours late. They said they were going to be home. We were supposed to do something and I drove by the bar and I saw their car there and I walked right in the bar just full of irritation.

Now mind you, I have purposely gotten in the car to go look for them and found them and I walked in there obsessed with rage and anger and got into it and argued and right there in the bar. And they screamed and hollered at me and called me every name in the book.

I went storming out of there angry and upset and said things that were mean that I didn’t really want to say and I came away and my whole evening was just shocked and upset and so practicing restraint. Just don’t get in the car. There’s nothing I can do about it. They’re not home. Maybe they are down the street. Maybe they are not.

Regardless, they are refusing to answer their cell phone and they obviously don’t want to spend time with me. So I need to change my focus and start doing something that I like to do. Let go of the alcoholic. There’s nothing I can do about the situation and practice restraint from calling them on the phone.

I called them once. I left a message. Don’t continue to call them over and over again. Practice restraint. Only call them once. If the alcoholic calls back, great. Answer the phone and talk to them.

Now if the alcoholic calls, you’ve had a heated discussion with them and they’re calling you back, you know that they might be leaving you a nasty phone message. You can listen to the beginning of the phone message but you don’t have to listen to the whole thing if you know that they’re just keeping a bunch of junk on top of you. Just delete it. Practice restraint and protecting yourself.

We don’t have to own everything that the alcoholic says about us. Everything they say about us is not true. So we put up that shield. We practice restraint from falling into the old patterns of obsessing and just wilting and withering over everything that the alcoholic projects on us. We practice restraint in that area. I’m not going to let that affect me anymore because I know the truth of who I am. I’m a good person regardless of what it is that they say about me or how they treat me. I know that I’m a good person. I love myself and whatever it is that they have to say about me, maybe some of it is true; but most of it, that’s just their opinion and maybe it’s not true.

So, all of these things help in the practicing part of the restraint. Remember this is progress and not perfection. The battleground for me was learning how to zip my lip. The battleground for me was learning how to not get in the car to go look for them.

The battleground for me was not calling them over and over and over. The battleground was breaking those old behavior patterns that I have been caught up in for such a long time, the insanity of this alcoholism, this disease and breaking that cycle through practicing restraint, from stepping into the old behavior patterns.

OK. So you continue to get a lot of tools. You can continue to get a lot of different scenarios in different ways that you can begin to change your behavioral patterns as you interact with the alcoholic. Now these things are not easy to do. Even though we practice restraint, we still have to deal with emotions and thinking patterns and we wrestle with these things. But the good thing about practicing restraint is that we do have more peace and serenity in our life because we cut off the opportunity to have more guilt and shame in our life because of our actions or the things that we communicate in this whole area of dealing with the alcoholics and addicts in our life. So there’s a little bit about practicing restraint.

7 comments to Practicing Restraint With An Alcoholic

  • Sharlo

    Am just getting started here, but listened to the “Restraint” video this morning. It is all so true! Thank you for some pointers on how to get the anger under control.

  • I just read about practicing restraint and it couldn’t have come at
    a better time..I have been struggling a lot with my feelings and wanting to express them, probably not in the best way. This is the hardest thing to learn because I am still dealing with my anger, hurt etc. over what was done to me by my husband and the WHY? So, as hard as it is I have to believe that this is the right thing to do because I hear it all the time from my friends..thank God for them and this website.

  • Karens

    This article hit me right in the forehead. It is amazing
    to realize how we fall off our own wagon as spouses of
    an ah. We try hard not to aggravate our AH, yet, during
    times of outside stress we slip a little and maybe a lot.
    I have aging parents in their nineties, a step-daughter learning about life with out meth, the AH is to have another hip replacement. Then a granddaughter with cancer. I am running around trying to do what ever it takes to keep my life train on the tracks. In the end of it all, I have no control over any of this. Wearing my emotional self
    to exhaustion and the physical tole depleted. This is so
    unfair of me to myself. Not often do I think of myself.
    I was taught that the idea of looking out for your self is
    selfish. Coming around to focus on what is best for me,
    should be foremost. Thanks for the article JC. I have
    a lot to think about.

  • Debbi

    I am reading a book that is not about handling addictions but just handling your reactions to people and things in general.

    I receommend it to everyone: “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” by Lysa Terkeurst.

    So far her words are so true and the 1st suggestion in the book is still ringing in my ears:

    “Remember the one who holds their tongue is the one who holds the power. . .Don’t transfer your power to someone else by yelling, flying off the handle or making snappy comments”

    Boy did I find this to be true the few times I practiced it (actually by accident during my marriage to an alcoholic). This book is excellent and might help others as it is now helping me. My Ex Alcoholic Husband is now out of the picture but his words and actions still haunt me and now I am dealing with a co-worker who has stopped her recovery and is now drinking and causing enormous problems at work for many of us. So, I have started putting some of these principles from this book to work at once and with amazing results.

    I highly recommend this book–right now helping me sort things out and cope with a new alcoholic in my life.

  • Ross

    I agree with this video, thanks.
    What I am struggling with is…I am resentful.I understand he is sick and that i am aloso a codependent.
    He not only had bad behavior while actively drinking, but now that he says he is sober for about a month,I see that I am resenting the way he is trying to manipulate me, blame me,and almost bait me into a merry-go-round scenario that seems awfully familiar to when he was actively drinking.We are not in the same home.

  • Joyce

    I have purchased your CDs and find them extremely helpful. The situation I face is that my daughter is 13 years sober, however, she continues with the same behavior. I am disabled and find it difficult to get to meetings. Is there anything available for me regarding my daughter and the way she treats me regardless of being sober?

  • I have a loving wife, who is an alcoholic. She is different, in the fact that she is always loving to me and even when she is intoxicated she calls out for me, just to be near me. I do not condone the problem with alcohol, but I am confused about how to handle the situation. I refuse to be her bartender and so far she manages to procure her alcohol when she is sober. She avoids the fact that she has her own car and she won’t drive while drinking. She rides with me to the grocery store and while there she picks up her alcohol. I have no control of this. so far I have refused to purchase alcohol for her. I have a unique situation where we both love each other very much and I do not wish for that to be any different. I wish to be of more help to her in the recovery from this problem, but I do not know what else to do. She has been voluntarily to the three day detox. Which did not work. She has spent 4 weeks in a recovery center. This also did not work. I guess, at this point I am reaching out for the: How oh How or the Where oh Where, from here.

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