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10 CEUs Substance Abuse: Growing Beyond 12 Step Program Dependency
Substance Abuse: Growing Beyond 12 Step Program Dependency

Section 7
Addiction and Relationships

CEU Question 7 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Addictions CEU Courses
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed the six steps of making an effective choice. These steps were 1. paying attention to internal and external clues, 2. using both intuition and practical reasoning, 3. evaluating options and their short- and long-term results, 4. making a choice, 5. committing to the choice, and 6. adapting to the unexpected.

On this track we will discuss the importance of an addict taking risks in a relationship and the three main risks that an addict may need to face. The three risks are the risk of letting the other person know who the addict really is, the risk of being honest about personal desires and preferences, and the risk of being honest about what works for the addict.

Because the only relationship currently experienced by many addicts is a relationship with the substance he or she is abusing, the addict may not have the experience in taking risks necessary to form a functional and normal relationship. Have you noticed the same lack of risk-taking in your addicted clients?

Newlyweds Randy, age 33 had been drinking since he was 15, and Melissa, age 30, were having a problem because Randy had forgotten Melissa’s birthday. Melissa was hurt. Randy had little experience in celebrating birthdays because he had forgotten them so often due to his drinking. Leading up to Melissa’s birthday, Randy avoided the topic, and pretended to forget her birthday when the day came.

Randy said to me, "I didn’t know what to do because I just never did anything for anyone else for so many years because of my drinking. I was afraid to ask her for help about what to do for her Birthday, so I just didn’t bring her birthday up, and acted like I forgot. God, did she get mad!"

Like many addicts, Randy was afraid to take risks, especially in a relationship. As you can see, his relationship with alcohol had altered his perception of what was appropriate in a relationship.

To create a relationship that would actually be functional in Randy’s life, I told him that he would have to take a number of risks. In my experience, there are three main risks an addict will need to face in creating healthy relationships with people, not objects, as mentioned at the beginning of this track,
-- 1. the risk of letting the other person know who the addict really is,
-- 2. the risk of being honest about personal desires and preferences, and
-- 3. the risk of being honest about what works for the addict. 
As I explain these consider if playing this track in a session might me beneficial to a client you are currently treating.

Risk #1 - First, let’s talk about the risk of letting the other person know who the addict really is. For Randy, this meant talking to Melissa about why he had ignored her birthday. Randy stated, "I didn’t want to bring up her birthday because it meant talking about my alcoholism and I was uncomfortable with a party.  I mean my god what if she wanted a party. Even though I am trying to stay sober now, I was afraid she would leave me because of my addiction."

I have found, like you, that in many cases, an addict lives under a façade, in fear of being discovered and with the fear that the other person in the relationship would reject the addict if he or she only knew who the addict truly was. That fear, as you know, can destroy the addict’s self-esteem and allow resentment to build, which may eventually explode and destroy the entire relationship. Randy’s fear of Melissa’s rejection over his addiction may have destroyed their relationship if he didn’t confront the issue.

Risk #2 - Second is the risk of being honest about one’s own desires and preferences. Randy needed to risk talking to Melissa about his preferences in birthday celebrations. He stated, "I’m just not used to celebrating birthdays without drinking. In addition to a slip, I guess I was also afraid that if I planned something big for her, she would think I wanted the same thing on my birthday and I’d start drinking."

I encouraged Randy to be more direct with Melissa about his preferences. I told him that addicts can then benefit in two ways. First, they then know what the other person wants, and second, they allow the other person to know what they want. I stated, "A direct approach regarding what you want will eliminate the guesswork for both you and Melissa."

Risk #3 - Finally, the third risk is regarding stating honestly about what works for the addict. Randy asked, "What if I had asked her what she expected before her birthday and found out it was something I couldn’t handle? I mean, sure, it’s easy enough to get a cake and a card, but what if she expected a big party with a lot of guests?"

I told Randy that in that case he would have to be honest with Melissa about what was within his ability and what was not, in short, what worked for him. To illustrate, I asked, "Why wouldn’t a big party work if she had wanted one?" Randy answered, "Besides my fear of drinking, I wouldn’t be able to plan it, let alone pay for it." I told him in that case, he would probably need to be honest with Melissa regarding his inability to handle, plan and pay for a large celebration.

'Tapping Your Individuality' Exercise
Randy still seemed hesitant to believe the importance of the risk-taking. To help Randy better understand the risks and why they were important, I asked him to try what I call the "Tapping Your Individuality" exercise. This exercise encouraged Randy to consider what his own needs and wants were and decide how to best approach  those needs and wants. For this exercise, I told Randy that it would be helpful if Melissa participated too. At this time Melissa agreed to come in for a session. 

-- Step 1 - To do the "Tapping Your Individuality," exercise I first suggest each ask themselves their own opinions about the forgotten birthday situation. I asked, "What do you expect on your birthday? What would you expect to have to do for someone else on their birthday?" Melissa stated, "I expected special treatment on my birthday and would give others special treatment on theirs." Randy said "I don’t really expect anything on my birthday, but I know that other people usually want something special on their birthdays."
-- Step 2 - Second, they each were requested to listen to their own answers. I asked them to consider and weigh each angle of their opinions.
-- Step 3 - Finally, I had Randy and Melissa share with each other their personal desires and expectations. Melissa realized that she could  have made clear to Randy what she wanted regarding a birthday celebration. She stated, "I guess I could have been more honest with you about my birthday and what I expected." In addition, Randy realized that he needed to have been honest about his uncertainty regarding how to handle the birthday. He stated, "I didn’t realize they really mattered to anyone." 

In summary the Tapping Your Individuality exercise consists of first asking opinion of the event, second listen to the other answer, and third share individual desires and expectations.  Would the "Tapping Your Individuality" exercise be beneficial with a client your are currently treating?

Do you have a client like Randy who needs to realize the importance of taking risks in a relationship? Would he or she benefit from the "Tapping Your Individuality" exercise?

On this track we have discussed the three main risks addicts need to face in creating healthy relationships, the risk of letting others know who they really are, the risk of being honest about their wants and preferences, and the risk of being honest about what works for them. We also discussed the "Tapping Your Individuality" exercise.

On the next track, we will discuss the three main causes of relapse in addicts.

- Peiser, K., & Martin, S. (2000). In The Universal 12-Step Program: How to Overcome Any Addiction and Win! Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Papp, L. M. (2010). Prescription drug misuse among dating partners: Within-couple associations and implications for intimate relationship quality. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 24(3), 415–423.

Rodriguez, L. M., Øverup, C. S., & Neighbors, C. (2013). Perceptions of partners’ problematic alcohol use affect relationship outcomes beyond partner self-reported drinking: Alcohol use in committed romantic relationships. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 27(3), 627–638.

Walters, G. D. (1996). Addiction and identity: Exploring the possibility of a relationship. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 10(1), 9–17.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
What are the three main risks that addicts deal with in creating healthy relationships? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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