Could someone I love have a problem?

Do you tell yourself the truth? Are you truly honest with yourself? 


Most of us have some difficulty telling ourselves the truth – 

or knowing the truth about ourselves – at least some of the time.


Most of us have some difficulty telling ourselves the truth – or knowing the truth about ourselves – at least some of the time. Many times it’s not really that big of a deal. After all, you may think you look fabulous in that new outfit, but many people would say you look ridiculous. You may think you have all the moves on the dance floor, but your friends are too kind to say that you look like a turtle trying to tango. If you knew what others were saying, you might be a bit embarrassed, but that would be the end of it. No real harm done to you or others.


When it comes to addiction, to alcohol dependency, 

not knowing, avoiding, or denying the truth can be a much greater problem.


When it comes to addiction, to alcohol dependency, not knowing, avoiding, or denying the truth can be a much greater problem. Just think of the things you may have heard, or even said, about someone who consistently drinks too much.


Mother to Child: “Your dad works hard. He deserves to relax when he gets home.”


Spouse re: Spouse: “They’re just feeling a little under the weather. They’ll be better in a few hours or tomorrow.” 


Dependent Person: “I know I drink more than I should sometimes, but I’ve never missed a day of work and when I know I might be needed (e.g. on call for an emergency of some sort) I don’t drink.”


In the previous blog post we talked about some questions you might ask yourself based on the CAGE acronym. Here we’ll discuss a few more questions where it’s helpful to know and hear the truth about yourself. It may be uncomfortable, but admitting there may be a problem is the first critical step toward recovery and being true to your best self. 


Consider the following questions taken from the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test.


  • Have you ever awakened in the morning after some drinking the night before and found that you could not remember a part of the evening?


  • Does any near relative or close friend ever worry or complain about your drinking?


  • Can you stop drinking without a struggle after one or two drinks?


  • Has drinking ever created problems between you and a near relative or friend?


  • Do you feel you are a normal drinker?


There are more questions, of course, but those above help you get to the heart of the problem. 


It’s usually pretty easy to see that the person who drinks too much is either clueless to the severity of the situation, or has an exceptional ability to rationalize his or her behavior.


As a therapist, I’ve asked many folks these kinds of questions and others like them. If two people are present, e.g. a husband and wife, I play close attention to how one answers or reacts as they listen to the person with the suspected problem answer. It’s usually pretty easy to see that the person who drinks too much is either clueless to the severity of the situation, or has an exceptional ability to rationalize his or her behavior. 


If you’re really brave, if you think you’re strong enough to hear and accept the truth, ask three people closest to you, e.g. a spouse, older child, or close friend, to answer the questions as well. How would they answer? What would they say?


Persons who attend AA or Al-Anon say that having an addict in the house 

is like having an elephant in the living room that no one talks about.


Persons who attend AA or Al-Anon (the group for family members of an alcoholic) say that having an addict in the house is like having an elephant in the living room that no one talks about. The house stinks; there’s elephant poop everywhere; and the place is a mess, but family members act as if this situation was perfectly normal and ignore the huge, gray, lumbering beast creating all kinds of havoc in the house.


Over time, this level of denial, rationalization, and minimization creates all kinds of problems for children.  They each develop their own set of behaviors and coping mechanisms to deal with what all of them can see, hear, taste, and touch – but never actually speak openly and honestly about. They think they are protecting the person who drinks too much. They think they’re caring for their family. They believe it’s the best thing to do. 


In next week’s blog, we’ll learn more about why learning and living the truth is so important to everyone in the family. It’s something a good dad would want to do.


About Author

Dr. Jennifer Baker is a clinical psychologist and the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She can be reached for question or comment at jennifer@gooddads.com