My husband was educated. He had two degrees. He was an attorney. He was an alcoholic. He was trained to win arguments and disputes. I was just a little stay at home mom with a couple of years of junior college. But that did not stop me from arguing with him or trying to control his drinking. No sir-ree! It did not stop me at all.
Why in the world I thought that I could make my husband understand anything when he was drinking was beyond me. But I argued with him many times when he was in an alcoholic stupor. I thought if I could just reach him, if I could just make him understand how what he was doing was hurting all of us he wouldn’t do it any more. For some reason in my mind I thought that if I did not challenge things that I thought were wrong it meant that I was agreeing with or approving of what was going on.
Even under the influence he was quick and sharp. I thought if I talked louder he would understand what I was trying to make him understand. He would talk louder too, but there was no way he was going to back down to me. Before it was all over I had become the bad guy. By the way, the only thing talking louder accomplished was that it made me feel embarrassed and out of control later. For some reason the hurtful words between us sounded meaner and uglier when we yelled them at each other. The hurt rang in my ears long after.
Arguing with him sober was another whole problem, after all he was an attorney. He would be calm cool and collected with an air of contempt and disrespect toward me and my viewpoint and that attitude really pushed me over the edge sometimes. I was right darn it! I knew that I was right and he was talking to me like I was being childish.
Until I got into recovery I thought that the reason I lost almost every battle was because he was smarter than I was and because he was a trained litigator. My sponsor laughed when I said that to her. She told me the reason he was winning the battles was not because he was an attorney, it was because he was an alcoholic and I was trying to change something that I was powerless over. It says in the big book of AA that alcoholism is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” The first word is cunning. An alcoholic will not let you say or do anything to come between them and their drinking. Dah!
She told me to sit, listen and observe at the next meeting and I would see people from all walks of life, all levels of education struggling with the same problems I was struggling with. This was not a formal education issue. This was a life issue. Only the names and faces change. The stories are pretty much the same. I realized then she was right.
I had to learn a totally new way to express myself with my alcoholic. First of all, educated or not, they are not stupid. Saying the same thing over and over will not make them understand any better. My sponsor told me to say what I mean and mean what I say, and most importantly of all to say once and shut up. Saying it ten more times was not going to convince him of anything and it would amp up frustration and show how desperate I was. No ultimatums unless I was willing to back it up if he challenged me because I had a 99% chance that he would challenge me.
She talked to me about the power of silence. Her next words of advice was to choose my battles wisely. Somethings were just not worth loosing my peace of mind over. Timing is important. There is a time to talk and a time to be quiet. Trying to have a meaningful conversation with anyone under the influence is not the time to talk. It is interesting to me that when I gave myself a little time to think about what I wanted to say how often I did not feel the need to say anything at all. Once the wave of emotion had passed over me I was over it. There is a phrase in my recovery program that ask How Important Is It? I must confess that it did take me a little while to separate the small meaningless concerns over really important issues. Tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now a year from now is this really going to be important? Am I allowing my frustration to push me into arguing over every little thing? Am I participating in my own chaos and misery by demanding to be right. If I am right I am right and arguing and trying to convince someone who refuses reality won’t change the fact that I am right. Just understanding that one thing helped me to say it once, shut up and walk away.