August 2, 2021

How To Help An Alcoholic Spouse Consider a Life in Recovery (Part Two)

To contribute to recovery is to know that addiction to alcohol, drugs, eating, sex, gambling, are all treatable maladies. As a person in long term recovery from alcoholism once shared with me, “When I was drinking, I told everyone I was choosing to drink. In reality, I had no choice at all. Once I initially ‘chose’ alcohol, it chose me, over and over and over again, until I was able to stop. “

In his case that stop came after 16 years, when his wife let him know she would no longer share her life with alcohol. The declaration, followed by actions to back it up, helped him make a decision to live his life with her, rather than with alcohol as well.


Principle One

Principle One introduces five tips a family can follow to help their loved one make a decision to get help:

  • Drop expectations. When you drop expectations, you commit to dropping the shock factor. In other words, stop being surprised by every drink, every drunk binge, every incident of face dropping in a soup bowl. Know that a person with an alcohol use disorder drinks and, until in recovery, can’t stop. So stop being shocked, and simply observe the facts of what is going on, without judgment, shaming, blame, or resentment. It is what it is.
  • Focus on yourself. Often, in the throes of a loved one’s alcohol or drug use, a family member will be so upset by the situation that they neglect themselves. Now is not the time for self-neglect. Rather it is the time to ‘go all in’ on self-care. Take long relaxing baths, enjoy the company of friends, focusing on your lives, rather than your woes. Go for walks. Take a bike ride. Whatever YOU enjoy, do it! LIVE your life and let your loved one live theirs.
  • Use Leverage. Leverage is a form of negotiation that BALM families use to motivate their loved one to pursue recovery. It is a powerful tool to help a loved one open their eyes to the possibilities of life without their addiction. Best done together with your or your loved one’s coach or treatment team, you first figure out what you have that your loved one wants and then what you and the team feel would truly help your loved one progress in their recovery. Then, you negotiate what they want in exchange for what you want them to do. It is not manipulative, but rather is a rational exchange that can result in a win-win. Use it discerningly and with professional help, at least at first, for best results. A BALM coach can help you figure this and all of the other tips out and the details for implementation are all included in the BALM Program.
  • Set Boundaries Families of loved ones with addiction are often told to set boundaries and that their ability to set boundaries or not is what is helping or hurting their loved one. At best, this is a half truth. First of all, boundary setting is one of the most difficult things for a family member to do and there are many other recovery behaviors, taught prior to boundary setting that families in the BALM master before being ready to set boundaries. Second, the word boundaries has a very distinct meaning in the BALM program: it is whatever you do to protect yourself from the impact of other people’s behaviors. You do not set a boundary to change or control a loved one’s SUD, rather, you set a boundary as the limit of what you are willing to tolerate. But more on that in the BALM…
  • Get Support - As you can see, contributing to recovery is not the easy path, but it is the path of love, when properly applied. To ensure this occurs, it is best done with support. You can find pieces of this support from many sources. To put them all together in one place, you may want to consider the BALM.

Be A Loving Mirror!

Be A Loving Mirror (or BALM) is actually the core of the BALM program. It means to practice building your reservoir of inner peace (yes, even in the storm of your loved one’s challenges) as you learn how to break through your own denial of how bad things are or could get and begin to loving tell your loved one the objective facts of what you are seeing them do and hearing them say. This must be done in a planned, skilled fashion, as doing it incorrectly can contribute to the addiction rather than the recovery. The 7 Steps to BALM Course, which is part of the BALM One Year Program, will teach you the step by step process of how to work the BALM effectively and your BALM coach will guide you to apply it in your specific life situation.

About the author

Beverly Buncher, MA, PCC, CBFRLC, CTPC, known as the "Foremost Family Recovery Life Coach in the Nation", is the Founder and CEO of Family Recovery Resources, LLC, and the BALM® (Be A Loving Mirror®) Institutes for Family Recovery Coach Training and Family Recovery Education.