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Jerusalem Dateline 06/22/12

"But I'm Not Drinking..."

"But I'm Not Drinking..."by Yvonne Ortega
Licensed Professional Counselor
Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner

“What can I do with my husband, Yvonne?” Renee threw her arms in the air and sighed. “He’s gained more than sixty pounds and as a result has high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

I asked if she had talked to him about his weight gain. She nodded and rolled her eyes. “All Phil says is, ‘But I’m not drinking.’”

She stared at a book on my desk and twisted the shoulder strap on her purse. “I’m thankful he’s not drinking, but he might die of a heart attack and leave me and the kids alone.”

“Do you understand what’s going on?”

With raised eyebrows, she said, “Of course I do. He’s eating himself to an early grave.”

Renee was looking at the external circumstances to understand her husband’s internal struggle. “Phil stopped drinking, but he’s switched one addiction for another.” I paused to allow her to process that information. “He hasn’t worked at the core issue. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong battle.”

“But I know he’s not drinking,” Renee said as she shook her head.

I nodded and said, “An addict can and will become addicted to any mind or mood-altering substance, even if it wasn’t his first drug of choice. He’s substituted food for alcohol.”

“So what can I do? I have to do something before it’s too late.”

Step by step, I explained she couldn’t change Phil, but he could do plenty. He could start by being honest with God and admitting he is powerless over addiction. He could attend twelve step meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and/or Celebrate Recovery at a local church. He could find a sponsor and meet weekly with him to work the twelve steps. A counselor who specializes in addiction could also help him, and a therapeutic group led by a counselor would provide another method of assistance.

“But I have to do something,” she screamed.

I suggested she attend Al-Anon, not nag her husband, and read the Al-Anon literature. She could also obtain a sponsor and work the Al-Anon twelve steps.

At this point, Renee screamed again, “I’m not the one with the problem. He is.”

“He’s your husband, and your challenge is to find out what works and what doesn’t. Al-Anon will help you do that.” After a moment’s pause, I said God still answers prayer. She could ask God for wisdom, discernment, and strength.

She shrugged, hesitated, and said, “OK, I’ll tell Phil what you said. I’ll go to Al-Anon and pray too.”

After Renee left, I prayed for her, her husband, and the children. The journey would be a long one, but not an impossible one.

Psalm 40:1-2: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm” (NAS).

Copyright © by Yvonne Ortega June 18, 2012 

Yvonne OrtegaYvonne Ortega is an eleven-year breast cancer survivor, Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner, Clinically Certified Domestic Violence Counselor, and bilingual speaker. She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Revell) and a contributing author to The Embrace of a Father(Bethany House) and Transformed (Wine Press). She has also been published in several magazines online and hard copy. Her website is http://www.yvonneortega.com/. Her blog on addiction and domestic violence is at http://www.yvonneortega.blogspot.com

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