Monday, February 15, 2010

Are Alcoholics More Argumentative?

In my (admittedly limited) experience, yes, absolutely. Alcoholics can be champion arguers.

One example: out walking the dogs with an alcoholic, and I made the offhand comment, "I should keep a sketchbook and pencils in the car,  because I always seem to find something worth drawing when I'm out walking."  I was immediately and firmly told that I "...didn't need to do this,  because it's better for you to go home and draw from your imagination, yada yada yada."

This from someone who has never had the slightest interest in drawing, knows nothing about it, but since I mentioned it, they were going to argue with me about the best way to go about drawing - "...imagination being far superior to just copying reality."

I fell silent. What communion can there be between two people when even the smallest, most casual of remarks is challenged and demolished in this way? Not much. I find it exhausting, mentally and emotionally. I begin to withdraw, and just want to escape their presence, feeling bullied. The more I want to get away, the more they feel stressed and isolated, the more they argue, the more I want to get away.

When I've tried to speak to them about this, they ask incredulously if I want them to agree with everything I say, are they not allowed their own opinion? At that point, I realise they are choosing to play the alcoholic game of "I don't know what you're talking about!" and I know any further discussion is pointless, so I quietly excuse myself, and leave them to it.

It's exceedingly frustrating, and demolishes intimacy. And that is their choice. At one time, I may have believed that they didn't understand how this felt from my end, but I've told them enough times now, that saying it again is merely singing an old song they aren't interested in hearing.

All I can do is look after my own recovery, and if that means leaving them alone to stew in their misery, well, that's an unfortunate consequence of their having chosen to behave that way. I don't want to be around them when they're like this; that's my right and my choice. I'm far better off to accept that they are in the argumentative mode, let it go, and at the first opportunity, excuse myself nicely, and go spend my time doing something pleasurable - like drawing.

"Many things must thou pass by with a deaf ear, and think rather of the things that are for thy peace. It is more profitable to turn away thine eyes from such things as displease thee, than to be a slave to contention."
     Thomas A'Kempis


  1. Yup. :)
    I hear your frustration, sister.
    Sometimes I have to remind myself that if everyone had to behave according to my standards, I'd be one lonely bunny.
    And sometimes that lonely solitude seems quite attractive.

  2. I soooo totally get that! (I think we're married to the same man!)I've wasted so many hours stewing over the fact that he argues, pokes, shuts me out, doesn't see my view, blah, blah, blah.
    I'm learning slowly to accept that most of his attitude stems from fear and lack of control, the two things that got him hooked on alcohol in the first place. They won't go away in sobriety, are just better managed.
    You're brilliant in walking away and focussing on yourself. When my spouse starts down this road of arguing and nitpicking, I look at him brightly and say,"I love you." He stammers and usually demures. Then I walk away and leave him to his thoughts.

  3. I thought this was a most excellent post. A strong post. As people-pleasers, so often we in Al-Anon spend a lot of time thinking of what is best for others. It is definitely ok to take care of ourselves when our alcoholic wants to be disagreeable, argumentative, and manipulative.

    Sometimes we may feel we can change the tone of the conversation by being loving. Sometimes that is the perfect thing and sometimes that leads down the merry road to nowhere:) We can trust ourselves to know when a little separation is in order and excusing ourselves nicely is a great option. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for this post. I have often felt bad for wanting to be away from the arguing alcoholic. Now I don't feel bad about that anymore. I take care of myself and let her go about her own pity party. I won't be the hostage anymore.

  5. Yes. We do tend to have opinions on everything whether or not we have any experience with it. It's part of that "I have to know everything about everything or something will go horribly wrong and I will look like an ass" syndrome. We hate that being wrong and looking like an ass part. So instead, we spout whatever and look like an ass anyway.

    I wonder, though, if he was praising you for your imagination. I'm assuming he's seen some of your drawings.