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Couple Recovery: Looking Ahead

I remember as a kid we would be on vacation. At scenic observation areas on the way sometimes there were those coin-operated binoculars. I remember being absolutely fascinated with those things thinking how cool they looked. They were all metal and indestructible. Those beauties, made by Tower Opticals, could swivel to move the viewing area vertically and horizontally. All it took was an available binocular and 25 cents (it was cheaper then – inflation has no mercy).

Somehow, I couldn’t seem to appreciate the view until I was able to take a turn. If they were all being used I would feel impatient, scanning for the one that seemed to have the shortest line. Except, there weren’t really lines typically, it was more like people milling around either not interested in using the binoculars and simply standing close to one. Or (yikes) people actually waiting for the next opening. I must defeat them!

It’s All About the Strategy

Even as a kid I knew  it was good to have strategies when hoping to get some coveted time with the viewer on a popular vista. I would scout for the people looking for change. I looked for men digging deep in their pockets and women opening their purses, then I would find something away from where they were standing. Next, I would check out where the kids were. They always wanted to use the binoculars.

I would be on the lookout for people hitting the binoculars and yelling out something like “Hey, what’s the matter with this thing? It just ate my quarter!” Somehow losing 25 cents to a machine becomes very important to our sense of injustice in those moments. Hitting the thing didn’t really help. But I guess it made the offended person feel better. Well anyway, avoid that machine.

Finally, when I would actually get my cherished time on the binocular, I would really want to make good use of that time, zooming in on every area within that view. You never really knew for sure just how much time you had, so every second counted.

Looking Back

It turns out that about the same time Tower Optical began producing their viewers theories about alcoholism began to emerge. As early as 1930, long before the advent of family therapy as a field, treatment concerns for the alcoholic focused on the importance of family interactions in influencing drinking patterns.

In the 1940’s and 50’s psychoanalytic theories focused on the wives of alcoholics, speculating a relationship between the wife’s personality functioning (usually described in negative terms) and her ending up in a relationship with an alcoholic husband. This negative and harmful legacy still has elements of blame for the partner in many current addiction treatment models.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s when family therapists again began applying concepts and theories to alcoholism treatment specific to families impacted by alcohol and other drugs.

When I look ahead at recovery I see us rediscovering what the theorists started with in the 1930’s. Relationships should be considered as a core issue when treating addictive disorders. Looking at the impact of addiction and recovery on the couple and family relationships is essential in a more holistic approach that has, unfortunately, separated and compartmentalized recovery.

Looking Ahead

What do you see with couple recovery on the horizon?

Looking at addiction as a “family disease” should mean treating the whole family. There is a circular relationship between the person with an addictive disorder and the family, each impacts the other. Recovery means so much more than not using the substance. Abstinence means not using. Recovery includes abstinence AND the quality of life. Developing new patterns for healthy individual and relationship patterns is a bigger picture in the viewer.

Imagine that you are standing with other people at an interesting vista. Let’s make the vista the future of recovery and trying to figuring out what’s helpful to you and to others close to you. Further imagine that we all have a viewer available.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could share what we see? What part of the scene jumps out? What is the vision we can share with others. Looking out, what do you hope to see? I’m betting couple recovery is out there, ready to be seen and rediscovered.

Tower Opticals Trivia

The Tower Optical website states that this company has provided outdoor binoculars dating back to 1935 across the United States and Canada. The basic design has never changed. Average time for viewing ranges from 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes. And no, I don’t date back that far.


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Dr. Robert Navarra

Robert Navarra, PsyD, LMFT, MAC, is a Master Certified Gottman Therapist, Trainer, and Speaker, and an author. He is is certified as Master Addiction Counselor and specializes in treating and researching couples in recovery from addictive disorders. Dr. Navarra created "Roadmap for the Journey: A Workshop for Couples Embracing Recovery" and "Couples and Addiction Recovery: A Gottman Approach for Therapists, Counselors, and Addiction Professionals".

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