For Those Who Care About Another

Guidance for Concerned Significant Others

Things To Do If Your Loved One Is Addicted To Drugs And/Or Alcohol

1. Don't regard this as a family disgrace. Addictive behavior is something all humans express to some degree or the other. When it it "Gets out of Hand"... Humans Can and DO make Changes.

2. Don't nag, preach or lecture to the person. Chances are he/she has already told him or herself everything you can tell them. He/she will take just so much and shut out the rest. You may only increase their need to lie or force one to make promises that cannot possibly be kept.

3. Guard against the "holier-than-thou" or martyr-like attitude. It is possible to create this impression without saying a word. A person's sensitivity is such that he/she judges other people's attitudes toward him/her more by small things than spoken words.

4. Don't use the "if you loved me," appeal. Since addictive behavior is compulsive...this approach will very likely increase counterproductive guilt.

5. Avoid any threats unless you think it through carefully and definitely intend to carry them out. There may be times, of course, when a specific action is necessary to protect children. Idle threats only make the person feel you don't mean what you say.

6. Don't hide the drugs/alcohol or dispose of them/it. Usually this only pushes the person into a state of desperation. In the end he/she will simply find new ways of getting more drugs/liquor.

7. Don't let the person persuade you to use drugs or drink with him/her on the grounds that it will make him/her use less. It rarely does. Besides, when you condone the using/drinking, he/she puts off doing something to get help.

8. Don't be jealous of the method of change the person chooses. The tendency is to think that love of home and family is enough incentive for seeking change. Frequently the motivation of regaining self-respect is more compelling for the person than resumption of family responsibilities. You may feel left out when the person turns to other people for helping stay sober. You wouldn't be jealous of the doctor of someone needing medical care, would you?

9. Don't expect an immediate 100 percent change. In this effort, there is a period of "convalescence." There may be relapses and times of tension and resentment.

10. Don't try to protect the person from using/drinking situations. It's one of the quickest ways to push one into relapse. They must learn on their own to say "no" gracefully. If you warn people against serving him/her drinks, you will stir up old feelings of resentment and inadequacy.

11. Don't do for the person that which he/she can do for him/herself. You cannot take the medicine for him/her. Don't remove the problem before the person can face it, solve it or suffer the consequences.

12. Do offer love, support and understanding in the recovery.

When Interacting With Others... Keep Your Goal in Mind

Many beliefs may create a feeling that tries to "drive" confrontation. Feelings of injustice, of unfairness, or frustration and a variety of other demands. Sometimes to win is to lose. So keep the goal In mind, and ask yourself before you say or do something...

"Is this going to help me obtain my goals?"

Look not so much for a resounding YES, since oft times the solutions are complex and elusive. Look more for the point blank " NO "...this will only anger or upset the other person. Then keeping in mind your goal...Stop and Don't!

It may have a feeling that this is somehow "not right"...however by placing your goal at the forefront of your mind, you will be able to correct that feeling to knowing that you are doing "what's best" at the moment.

Seven Guidelines for Great Relationships and Better Communication

1. Accept your partner 'as is.' Avoid blaming. Determine that you are in your relationship to enjoy yourself, not to try to fix, reform, or straighten out your partner. Be responsible for your own feelings. Allow yourself to influence your partner, but do not demand that he or she must change. Also, give her or him the freedom to influence you. Yes, to persuade and inform you.

2. Express appreciation frequently. Avoid steady criticism. Acknowledge your partner often for small things. Find, discover, or even create things you really value about your partner. Say them. Honesty is important here. Avoid the main relationship 'killer' - frequent criticism of your partner.

3. Communicate from integrity. Be honest regarding beliefs and evidence that conflict with your own views of what is happening. When your partner is right, admit it. Be both honest and tactful. Allow different perceptions to exist. Agree to stop penalizing each other for your honesty as you now often may do. Agree that both of you will be honest and let the other 'get away' with honesty.

4. Share and explore differences with your partner. Explore disagreements with your partner to move toward a higher resolution that accepts parts of both your views. Or, to agree to disagree. Additionally, be ready to compromise without pretending that you agree when you really don't agree.

5. Support your partner's goals. Don't surrender your own integrity and your own important desires and views, but go as far as you honestly can to support your partner even when you clearly disagree.

6. Give your partner the right to be wrong. Respect both of your rights to be fallible humans- your inalienable right to make mistakes and to learn from your own experiences and errors. Don't honor only your own right to be an error-prone human!

7. Reconsider your wants as goals that you may achieve later. (This is a guideline that enables you to work properly with the other six guidelines.) When you don't get what you want or desire, remind yourself that you don't have to get what you want, now or ever!

Note: Choose to practice the Seven Guidelines as a unilateral commitment regardless of what your partner does or doesn't do. Each time you have not succeeded, look to discover a mistake you may have made. You also may have something significant to learn about your way of talking or listening.

Tips for Learning and Using the Guidelines

To start you off, here are three simple tips:

Tip #1: Learn 'by Littles.' Take one small bite size piece to 'master' at a time. Don't overload yourself by trying to learn these Seven Guidelines all at once.

Tip #2: Test our assertions, one at a time. Test our claims to prove to you that the Seven Guidelines are valid. Or to prove them false. Be willing to rework our guidelines to make them more understandable or workable for yourself.

Tip #3: Work for small improvements in your understanding or use of the Seven Guidelines every week. Aim for improvement, not for perfection. Persist!

Taken from the book, Making Intimate Connections, 7 Guidelines for Great Relationships and Better Communication by Dr. Albert Ellis and Ted Crawford

Forgiving and Acceptance

Forgiving is extremely important in eliminating anger toward yourself and others. If you think forgiving means doing something only for someone else, you are mistaken. Forgiveness turns down the heat under your pressure cooker. If you don't turn down the heat, you'll eventually cook yourself. Heart attack and stroke are strongly correlated with continuing anger. Endless anger poisons every relationship. If your anger doesn't actively drive others away, it prevents intimacy from growing. Forgiving is the best thing you can do for you.

The obstacles to forgiving others are exactly the same as the causes of anger. You either think they did what MUST NOT be done to a star like you, or they didn't do what MUST be done for a star like you. In any case, they are worms. They well DESERVE whatever harm can be sent their way. By applying these same ideas to yourself, you'll be unable to forgive even you.

In saying this, I do not intend to condone even the smallest harm that people have done to each other, not to mention the major atrocities History clearly shows that humans are fully capable of hurting each other in brutal and cruel ways. You may deplore these acts. You may do everything you can to prevent them. But, no matter how inhumane you rate harmful acts done by humans, they are hardly inhuman. As history clearly shows, humans can act very, very badly. Therefore, you have no sensible reason to believe that humans MUST not act badly toward you. This same point holds true for the universe in general. The badness of any event does not serve as proof that it MUST not happen. Clearly, the universe is capable of doing whatever it, in fact, does. The universe is not out of whack because you get harmed.

Acceptance Versus Approval

One reason people have so much trouble with this point is they confuse acceptance with approval. Just because you accept that certain things happen with the universe, in general, or people, in particular, does not mean that you approve those things. If you're going to get yourself to buckle your safety belt, you had better accept that you could be in an accident. You don't have to approve of people being hurt in accidents, but you had better accept it. If you don't accept this fact, you have no reason to buckle up. Refusing to accept that auto accidents can happen to you doesn't reduce the probability of accidents. Such refusals may actually raise your chances of being in an auto accident because you drive less carefully. If you don't buckle up, you are just that much more likely to be hurt should an accident actually happen.

The same point holds true with the universe, in general, or people, in particular. While you cannot change everything, you can certainly change some things. But, even the things that can be changed must first be accepted. Otherwise you will never be able to effectively deal with them. If you forget that acceptance and approval are not the same thing, you will not only find it difficult to accept some things, you will find it almost impossible.

Forgiving Versus Forgetting

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. People learn from experience. If you touch a hot stove, you can learn to be more careful around hot stoves in the future. You can't learn this lesson if you forget about the hot stove you touched. Remembering the way people have behaved in the past doesn't mean throwing it up to them at every opportunity. Such behavior is only an attempt to hurt them now for the pain they brought you in the past. Remembering means using what you learned from the past to make better predictions about the future. If you forget the past, you cannot learn from it. People often experience pain when they don't get what they want. In any close human relationship, you won't always get what you want. So, it's only reasonable to predict some pain. However, there may be some ways of being hurt you especially want to avoid. People who have hurt you once in these ways may not necessarily do it again.

But, before you take another risk, you are wise to look for evidence you won't be hurt in that way again. A promise not to hurt you may be enough. But, if a person has a history of breaking promises, you are wise to look for additional evidence. People can change. But, unless a person's environment has been greatly altered, or the person has been diligently and persistently working on change, the chances are the person will keep right on doing what they have been doing up to now. This is true for all humans including you.

It is correct to assert that we should never forget the six million Jews murdered in the Nazi death camps. Neither should we forget the five to seven million non-Jews who also died in these same camps under the same thoroughly nonsensical idea that some people are super-humans while others are sub-humans. If you forget the past, you cannot learn from it.

Forgiving Versus Excusing

Forgiving doesn't mean excusing either. I can see two sensible reasons to excuse what someone has done. The first reason is that making restitution proves impossible or undesirable. An eye for and eye may make some people feel better but it's none the less stupid. Doubling the blindness in the world will hardly make humanity see the good more clearly. In many cases, something actually can be done to make restitution. If a person can make something better, which they have made worse, it usually isn't good to excuse them from doing so. Ask them to make better whatever it is that they can, indeed, make better.

The second reason to excuse what someone has done is you don't think anything further need occur in order for the person to learn from his or her experience. People can often learn quickly from their first mistake. Unfortunately, people sometimes try to evade responsibility for what they have done. No one can learn from their behavior if they insist they are not responsible for their actions or that what they did was not an error.

Excusing a behavior is a bad idea if it encourages evasion of responsibility, and prevents people form learning from what they have done.

What's To Be Done?

The most difficult part about overcoming anger is getting you to work at it. Righteous indignation is the drug of choice for many people. The addicting properties are powerful! Learn to distinguish your anger from your annoyance. There's a big difference between a great deal of annoyance, and just little bit of 'gut busting' anger. Learn to recognize the difference. Keep working to remember that acceptance doesn't mean approval, and the differences between forgiving, forgetting and excusing.

Copyright 1998 (c) Hank Robb

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