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Recovery in Three Short Chapters – Chapter 1: Addiction

Chapter 1: Addiction

Differing Perspectives

John is 38-years old and loves his high tech job. He also loves Carol greatly, his wife of 6 years. If asked about alcohol, John would say that he drinks to relax. John has an alcohol use disorder, at the severe end. He has noticed that his drinking seemed to pick up over the last two years. Work pressures were mounting, he saw his increased drinking as temporary. Drinking was a way to relieve stress so he could be more effective at work he thought. Carol saw things very differently.

Unfortunately, John’s alcohol use was creating some major bumps in his relationship with his wife. Carol started voicing concerns, but as John became increasingly defensive she became increasingly apprehensive and fearful. The less Carol felt she could express about John’s drinking, the angrier she was becoming. He thought she was overreacting and that Carol just didn’t understand how much pressure he was feeling. Maybe he had been drinking a bit more recently. But the recent work deadlines were demanding all his time and attention.

I Am Not Your Father

John reminded her that he cut down considerably. Carol agreed that his drinking did get better soon after they were first married. However, it seemed to her that he was working his way back to when things were bad. His reassurances to Carol eased the tension between them temporarily, but he had also felt her withdraw more over the last year.

She always seemed angry, even though she had stopped complaining about his drinking. Carol claimed that alcohol was a long-standing problem, since before they married. John felt shocked and angry. He argued that for the most part he didn’t drink any more than the rest of his friends. Carol was exaggerating, after all, he wasn’t having problems at work or any place else because of his drinking.

John reminded Carol that her father had a drinking problem. He felt he was paying the price for that. She was reading too much into his drinking. Carol was furious at this comment. She alternated between anger, guilt, resentment, and fear. She didn’t like the person she saw herself turning into any more than John did. She was also sure that this wasn’t just about her father.

John was certain that his work had largely remained unaffected. Except for several occasions of drinking too much at work parties, his boss didn’t seem that concerned when she advised John to watch his drinking at the upcoming company barbecue. This was just a friendly reminder he concluded.

The Event

The evening after work started off just like countless evenings before. John had finished a number of rounds with several of his coworkers at the sports bar. He didn’t particularly feel that buzzed when he texted Carol to let her know he was heading home. John no longer called home like he used to. He settled on texting. At least he was letting Carol know when he was leaving the bar. He was late again, he was thankful he didn’t have to talk to her until he got home. John got into his car and pulled out into the street. Then disaster hit, at least at the time John felt it was disastrous. As time has gone by, he wasn’t sure he would still call the evening disastrous.

It seemed like out of nowhere another car pulled right in front of him and stopped unexpectedly. John hit the other driver’s rear bumper, leaving a small dent. As it turned out there was a police officer right there who happened to see the accident. At first John felt relieved, after all, the accident wasn’t his fault. The other driver changed lanes without signaling. Clearly he didn’t see John forcing John to slam on his brakes, but two seconds too late.

Tipping Point

At least this wasn’t a serious accident, just an inconvenience to work out with insurance companies. John was still in his car when the officer came over. The officer asked John if he had been drinking, which he admitted to. The officer then asked John to get out of the car and proceeded to do a sobriety check asking John to blow into the breathalyzer. No big deal, after all, John didn’t feel that intoxicated, so there really wasn’t any reason to worry. Moments later the officer arrested him. His blood alcohol concentration level was at 0.16, twice the legal limit.


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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