From Heartache to Hope

Life with the Alcoholic/Addict

The Passive-Aggressive Nature of the Alcoholic/Addict

It is difficult to have a normal conversation when watching the bouncing ball.

Communicating with the alcoholic/addict is one of the most difficult things as well as a creative challenge. If the alcoholic/addict is in an addictive statem, communication is worthless and one should not waste their energy. They will only hear what they want, ignore you all together, walk away, or veg out.

However, dealing with someone that is working a clean and sober program, but is still angry, feels resentful, or hasn’t dealt with the other issues that come with a clean and sober lifestyle is substantially more frustrating to communicate with then the zoned out addict.

I rarely write about my own personal experiences with the alcoholic/addict, but this column is about a passive-aggressive dialogue (via e-mal) I had with my ex-husband. After it was all over, I was reminded that this was one of the many reasons I’m not still married to him anymore.

So what is the passive-aggressive nature of the alcoholic/addict?

• The alcoholic/addict wants something that you have. They start out very nice almost sugary sweet to set the stage for what they are seeking.

• You respond because maybe you are feeling generous even though you know in your heart and from past experience you shouldn’t be engaging with this person as the outcome has always been so unsatisfactory.

• All of a sudden the dialogue is going way off course from the initial intent and the good intentions and communication is out the window as the initial passivity of the alcoholic/addict (Dr. Jekyll) has now turned into the aggressive person (Mr. Hyde).

In order for you to get a clear picture of this, here is some recent dialogue I had with my ex-husband whom I have no idea if he is or is not working a clean and sober program.

Some background: Before we were married we rescued a young Golden Retriever from the Humane Society. He is now much older and of course like any good mother, I have custody.

Ex-husband Scott’s first e-mail to me:

Scott - How is Dylan? I miss him very much.

Me - Dylan is fine and in good health. However I don’t know how long that will be, so if you want to visit him, just let me know when so I can make arrangements.

Scott - First, it is comforting to know Dylan is fine, healthy and I'm sure happy. Second, thank you for your offer, it is very kind. However, I believe the "devil is in the details." I'm not sure what "arrangements" can be made, what form or shape they would take. I lead and live a very drama free, quiet, simple and peaceful life now and would like it to remain that way. I will not go to your home and I hesitate to ask you to bring Dylan to me, as I assume we have no desire to see each other. What options remain? Dylan will always be my second favorite dog. My eyes are full of tears now as I type this. I do not know what to do. My only suggestion is, do you have a friend willing to bring Dylan to me? Maybe meet me downtown somewhere and meet me again in two or three hours, while I spend time with him? I am off work on Tuesday and Wednesday's currently. If you have any other suggestions, I would open to them?

Me - Jack (my young Golden) has an hour obedience class at Petco on Milpas Wednesday’s from 2 to 3. I can bring Dylan there and leave him in the car while we are inside if you want to see him then. If not this Wednesday it goes for another 4 weeks. Other than that, I don’t know anyone that can bring Dylan downtown and then come and get him a few hours later.

Scott - Ok. I will let you know which Wednesday. Feels very sad. Like I have an hour, to say good bye. Guess, I'll take it. Thanks.

Me - Why goodbye? He’s not on his last leg.

Scott - I understand. But, I see him now, then what? Am I missing something? There is no feasible way to do this on a regular basis, so it feels sort of.... final. No?

Me - I offered you the opportunity to see him. I have given you an alternative instead of coming to the house. If it’s too painful for you to see him then maybe you shouldn’t see him. I don’t know what else to say.

Scott – Aren’t you just a wonderful person. So thoughtful as usual. Ya know what…thanks, but I think I will pass.

So, let’s analyze this a bit. In the first long paragraph from Scott, I believe a normal response would be, ”Great, what works for you?”, but instead the passive-aggressive alcoholic/addict puts as much drama into his answers as if he were Shakespeare. Also, I find it galling that he would ask me to seek out someone that would schlep my dog downtown for a visit and then pick the dog up three hours later. Words are twisted and turned around as they don’t coincide with what he wants and when he wants it. It really is a lose/lose situation and almost no matter what I say or offer it won’t be good enough.

Ultimately, this dialogue gets off course from a simple, caring offer to see an old, wonderful family pet, to it’s not going the alcoholic/addicts way and winds up being turned back on me because I’m a not a very nice or caring person; and yet I was the one that offered a visit!

Conclusion: Dialogue with the passive-aggressive alcoholic/addict is a freeway with lots of pot holes and the best advice I offer is take the quickest off ramp back to sanity.

If I can be of service, please visit my website or call (805) 695-0049. In addition, I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcoholic/Addict at, PayPal or on Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio on my website only.

Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.


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