How does alcohol damage my relationship?

BY: Rachel Jackson, MFTC

The Role Alcohol Plays

How does alcohol damage my relationship? Alcohol is getting in the way. Alcohol is playing a role as a person in your life. Stick with me. Alcohol is acting as a person in your life might act. Alcohol supports you (or someone in your life.) Alcohol lifts you up or numbs you on a tough day. Alcohol provides you the ability to retreat, for just a little while.

Alcohol brings you on a little mind and body “vacation” from life’s heaviness or pains. Alcohol can bring uplifting and fun energy, for the short term. It, also, may bring a deep reality at times. Alcohol may elicit the feeling of letting go of life’s troubles. Alcohol, sometimes, may surprise you. You may feel like you are on a retreat one minute; and the next, you feel the weight of the world just collapsed right on top of you, feeling reality in its fullness all at once.

Nonetheless, alcohol is playing a role – not only in your life, for you numbing, retreating, or letting go, but it is playing a role in your relationships. It is giving you the “gift” of distance. However, ask yourself: Is distance what you truly want – from the people you love and from yourself? Or is keeping a distance a way to protect yourself – from others and yourself?

The distance we create in our lives allows us to feel safe, unharmed by others, and in a bubble that is so far away that many people can’t get to it to puncture it and “pop” it. Nonetheless, how do you put yourself in a bubble? How is that bubble serving you? Is it providing you protection, comfort, safety or is it creating isolation, a lack of close connection, and an inability to be fully seen? Maybe, both.

The “bubble” and vulnerability are closely connected. When you operate from outside the bubble you are more vulnerable, and you potentially could feel less protected from the world and the people around you. Living openly, outside the bubble, can bring a sense of fear. That fear often can feel incredibly uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable feelings make us want to turn to something that will make us feel comforted. If turning to another person also brings the lack of comfortability and the fear of being vulnerable, we may look outside to someone that doesn’t take on “human form.” This is where alcohol and substance come into the picture.

Ask yourself how you use alcohol in your monthly, weekly, or daily life. Ask yourself who you use alcohol with. Ask yourself where you use alcohol the most. Ask yourself what alcohol does for you and your emotions. Ask yourself when you resort to alcohol.

Bottom line, alcohol is playing a role in your interactions with others and your interactions with yourself. There is a void alcohol is filling. There is a discomfort that alcohol is numbing for the present moment, and when it wears off, you’re left to sit with the discomfort.

Your Partner, Alcohol & You

As tensions rise, as they tend to do from time to time in a relationship, you have two choices: address it or avoid it. Which one is easier for you? Both options bring challenges. When you address the tension, you have to do more work. You may be required to share your heart vulnerably. You may feel emotions of anger. You may fear the conversation turns into a fight. You may fear you will not be heard accurately or understood fully.

Diving into the “darkness” of the unknowns of that tension may be scary and difficult – often more difficult and uncomfortable than avoiding it altogether. However, through entering that discomfort with your partner, you are growing stronger as a couple. You are learning how to sit in the tension and discomfort, enter it, untangle it as a team, and emerge renewed.

On the other side, you could avoid the tension. In avoiding, you could have a few tendencies. You may withdraw. You may project. You may numb. In avoiding, the tension gets stuffed, deeper, and deeper within you. Suppressed deep within you, it continues to try to climb up to the surface without you welcoming it. That tension is stubborn, and it will do whatever it takes to finally sneak to the surface. When it does, it may be ugly and angry, as it has been accumulating the energy within you and is just about ready to burst. Just like the bubble, it will continue to rise till it can pop.

In both of these options, addressing tension or avoiding it, alcohol may be your middleman and your side kick.

Alcohol as the Middleman

Alcohol stands between you and your partner’s ability to connect. It is building a wedge between your ability to fully see, hear, and love each other. It is that middleman that you use as a crutch – that shoulder to lean on. However, in doing so, your partner is not your shoulder to lean on. Your partner is one person removed. Your partner is kept at a distance, while alcohol stands in between you.

What do you want and desire to feel with your partner? How is alcohol and your personal, their personal, or your conjoint use of drinking standing in the way of fully accessing each other? Imagine alcohol as a substance that places a coating over your heart and your voice – making it duller and less susceptible to connection. Take it away and that coating disintegrates; you’re left with the raw, real opportunity to find and feel your partner’s presence and mend the distance that has been created by alcohol taking the space as your middleman.

Alcohol as the Side Kick

Sometimes, alcohol is also your sidekick – a little tool to push you. That coating I spoke of before can dull your heart and hold you back from connection; yet, meanwhile, it can give you a coating of courage and break down your sense of inhibitions. For instance, within your relationships when you’re feeling tension, it is difficult to initiate the conversations in order to find closure and communication.

Nevertheless, with the use of alcohol and that coating, it magically becomes less scary, right? Have you experienced this ability to “open” up about emotions while under the influence? While we may feel more confident to discuss difficult or emotional topics that are emotionally charged under the use of substances, it also holds less weight.

What I mean by that is, when alcohol is our sidekick, it gives us a nudge into what our soul and heart need. While it is beneficial that we let it out and get these emotions out of our system, there is one issue. We are letting alcohol do the work for us.

Rather, true connection and healing come when we grasp the courage within us to not need alcohol as our helper to openly express our thoughts, needs, emotions and desires with our loved ones. When we openly express without the help or influence of anyone or anything, that is when we start to change; and nonetheless, when we change, our relationships follow suit and change, as well.

Cheers to reconnecting with the hearts in your relationships. Cheers to grasping your own truth and power. Cheers to being your own helper. Cheers to stepping closer together again, mending the distance and speaking your truth. Cheers to saying bye to alcohol as your middleman and your sidekick and rediscovering the safety and comfort you can find in real people, not alcohol (aka the person who is getting in the way).

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