Are you constantly being baited by the alcoholic/addict?

I have written a previous column on the baiting and punishment that the alcoholic/addict has mastered to an art form when dealing with their friends or family, but it is such a consistent disposition that I felt compelled to write about it again.

I have been working with Maggie, the wife of an alcoholic for a few months. She has reported many conversations where she feels trapped into a dialogue with her husband that seems to go round and round with no conclusion. At the end of the conversation, she often feels guilty, stupid, confused or frustrated and nothing has been resolved or accomplished.

So what are some of the dispositions of a first rate bait? Here are 3 classic “dance moves”:

1) The most common is the merry-go-round of words. You and the alcoholic/addict in your life are having a discussion and it’s just not going the way the alcoholic/addict wants it to. Instead of trying to see your point of view, taking a time out to examine the situation later, it is easy for them to revert to some of the following:

• “You aren’t being supportive, or you would do this or that”.

• “You are selfish in your thinking as usual, or you just don’t want to be in this relationship”.

• “I guess this is what you want, right?”

• “You call yourself a friend? A friend wouldn’t treat another friend like this.”

• “I did this or that for you, why can’t you do this or that for me?”

• “It’s obvious; you just don’t love me anymore.”

2) Another trap that you can easily fall into is what I call the martyr bait. The old “woe is me”. Here are a few that can suck you in as the alcoholic/addict seems so crest fallen and the world is just falling apart around him:

• “I’m always letting you down”.

• “I guess I’m just a bad person”.

• “You deserve someone better”.

• “You have already done so much for me, I shouldn’t ask for anything else”.

3) The third trap is what I call “putting on the charm”. For example, if the alcoholic/addict has always put your business acumen down, it might be easy for him/her to say:

• “Wow, that’s a very professional letter you wrote or you really are smart and handling this situation very well”.

Or, maybe you have been trying to lose weight or try a different hair style. How easy it is for the alcoholic/addict to say”

• “You look great! How much weight have you lost?” Or “that hair style is very becoming. You look 10 years younger”.

We can’t help but melt or soften a bit when someone compliments us regardless if it’s the alcoholic/addict in our life. However, take the compliment from the alcoholic/addict a bit more with a grain of salt, a bit more cautious; though they may mean it, the trust factor is not 100%.

I have counseled my clients in finding a few key words that are fairly universal and can be used as a response for many of these comments. Here are a few that will halt an uncomfortable or the charming exchange:

• “I’m sorry you feel that way”.

• “I’m not going to engage in this conversation again.”

• “Thank you. I appreciate the compliment. I have been working hard on my weight or I like the way my hair looks as well.

It takes lots of practice to swim away from the bait. We get concerned that we will anger the alcoholic/addict and they will do something that we might feel responsible for. If their thinking is “

well, I’ll show him/her, they’ll be sorry”; all because you are not acting the way they want, then so be it. Don’t lose yourself to the alcoholic/addicts baiting techniques. No is a complete sentence and if you stay neutral and don’t engage you will always keep your dignity and self respect.

If I can be of service, please visit my website and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.


About the Author

Carole Bennett M.A.

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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