Or a drinking but not yet drunk alcoholic.
It's almost the 4th of July, and those of us in the states know that means lots of alcohol-filled barbecues and fireworks displays. After all it's the celebration of the birth of our great nation! Let's all get wasted in the name of patriotism! So as the day approaches, this post feels timely, and I hope it will help some of you out there avoid any heated (and potentially dangerous) incidents.
Like I said in my previous post, there's absolutely no utility in arguing with a drunk alcoholic. There's a saying in AA & Al Anon that alcoholics have "a thinking problem, not a drinking problem." My urge to convince my husband of my perspective (read: I'm right) and the fallacy of his logic (read: he's way wrong) is still my first instinct, and each time it wells up to my lips I still struggle to pause before I protest.
I know. It's so easy to say "Just don't argue with them." Oh. That's all? Okay. I'll just turn my Rational Switch (along with my ears) off and turn my Insane Patience Unknown To Humankind on. I KNOW the pure skin-crawling frustration of feeling that you have to accept what the alcoholic is saying as if it's fact, or giving up, exhausted, after trying to make them understand. So many times I've thought, "If I can just get him to understand what I'm saying..." Two hours later, no dice.
Then one day I finally got it - I heard the Blue Refrigerator story.
So you're on the phone with someone, and they start talking about your blue refrigerator. "My fridge is white", you say.
"No, it's blue."
"No - it's white."
"I think I know what color my fridge is."
"Hmm, apparently not. Because it's blue - it's blue!"
There you are trying to convince the person on the other end of the line that your refrigerator is white. I mean, you know that it's white - they're not even there. They don't know what color it is because they can't see it. And you don't have the sense to realize "Wait a minute - they can't even see my fridge, so how would they know what color it is? It doesn't matter what they say because I know the truth."
In the same way, the disease clouds the thinking of alcoholics; it can prevent them from being able to see things as they are, to see things as we see them or to appreciate our thoughts, feelings or perspective.
If you were talking to someone with dementia or Alzheimer's, and they thought it was 1950 and your name was Pearl, chances are you wouldn't sit there arguing with them that nope, Gladys, it's really 2013 and no one's named "Pearl" anymore. And if they had schizophrenia and wore tin-foil hats because the CIA was spying on them from Mars, you probably wouldn't even attempt to go there.
So the next time your son or daughter or wife or husband tries to accuse you of something, calls you names, insults you, tries to manipulate you or can't see why what they did/said upset you - just remember that they just can't see it, they are not able to get it.
And if you feel like you're going to lose it, do what I do and say this under your breath:
"My refrigerator isn't blue, my refrigerator isn't blue."
In recovery it's said that "alcoholics act and we react." In general and in specific situations, over time a dynamic takes shape, and slowly our own power, proactive choices and assertive behaviors slip away; we start surrendering our own thought creation and soon responses are knee-jerk and off-base.
Prior to Al Anon, this was my completely instinctive method of communication. Example:
Him: "Oh we're out of lettuce, I guess that's too much to ask"
Me JADEing: "Uh no it's not to much to ask - do you know how hard it is to keep up with all of our grocery needs? I'm at the store almost every day! I'm doing the best I can here, geez." (Progress not perfection - this exact exchange was actually 20 minutes ago).
Me Not JADEing: "Well let's have (x) instead."
This is a pretty mild example. But traditionally when confronted with an accusation, snarky comment or an invitation to an argument (and remember: we don't have to attend every argument we're invited to) we end up justifying our position, arguing back, going on the defense or explaining ourselves. All very passive, reactive ways of communicating.
Why do we do this? I imagine a lot of us (myself included) grew up in homes in which we felt our feelings weren't validated, we did not feel heard. And this probably made us terrified to state our needs, wants or feelings. Because what if that upsets them? What if they don't accept our needs, wants or desires? At some level, we just don't feel entitled to them.
After living with an alcoholic for so many years, so afraid of upsetting him, any question or statement of his that pings off that fear in me causes me to react, almost as if I am trying to calm him down before things go sour. JADE is a defensive, knee-jerk reaction that we develop from feeling that at any moment we may be under attack. It's the hyper-vigilance of the Al Anon world.
Personally I used to (and sometimes still do) repeat myself 1,000 different ways to try to get through to my husband. And like I said earlier - totally never worked ever. "Worked" meaning creating any kind of lasting change. He may sit there and appear to be listening, and in the end placate me and say "okay." But sure enough when the dust settled everything would be as it was before. And as the disease has progressed, this kind of JADEing usually ends up pulling me into an argument that may not have been there had I just not engaged.
Something to also remember regarding JADE and not arguing with a drunk alcoholic - "No" is a complete sentence.
So everyone have fun, be safe, and enjoy the fireworks.