Connie emailed to say that her husband, David, had presented her with a contract. As you read it in the following paragraph, keep in mind that David has struggled with alcoholism all his life.
"I have decided to go back to drinking. But this time it will be different. I will drink only from Friday night to Sunday night. I will not drive while I'm drunk. If I've been drinking, I will not drive with the kids in the car. When I'm drinking, I will not be unkind or abusive to you or the kids."
Connie told David that if he chose to drink, she would take the children and leave. He thought that was quite unreasonable. "If I had cancer, would you leave me?" he asked, and then he added several other comparisons designed to make her feel guilty and to excuse his choice.
I responded that Connie might suggest to David that he call me—not a wild stretch since I've known him for a long time.
He called and tried to use some of the same arguments he'd used with Connie.
After a minute or so, I interrupted: "David, people don't choose to get cancer. You're choosing to drink. See how that metaphor doesn't work?"
"I guess," he said.
"In all the years you've drunk alcohol, how many times have you driven while you were drunk?"
"I'm not sure."
"Okay, fair enough, but probably hundreds of times, wouldn't you agree?"
"Have you driven drunk with your kids in the car?"
"When you drink, do you tend to be unkind and abusive?"
I smiled. "When you're drunk, you lose your ability to even know if you're abusive. When you're drunk, you're too impaired to know whether you can drive, whether you're abusive, or—on many occasions—even to remember whether your kids were in the car when you drove drunk. Following me so far?"
"So how could you possibly promise not to drive drunk, not to drive with the kids, or not to be abusive when you're drunk? Once you start drinking you don't even know what you're doing. Why would it be different now when you drink?"
"I don't know."
"No, you don't. So we've established that for you drinking would be crazy. And your wife is willing to leave you because of the effects your drinking has. And we haven't even mentioned that you'd be emotionally unavailable for about one-third of every week."
"But it's the only thing that makes me feel good."
"It's the only thing that eliminates your emotional pain?"
"How can you know it's the only thing?"
"I've tried everything else."
"Really? Like what?"
"I've read the Real Love book."
"All of it?"
"Well, the first couple of chapters."
"Great, but even if you'd read all the books, books don't love you. You drink to eliminate the pain of not feeling loved. How many calls have you made to actually feel loved by the people who have it to give?"
"Probably fewer than five."
"So the truth is that you have not tried everything. You've tried a few things, but you've never really done any one of them enough to see a significant effect. It would be like practicing every instrument in the orchestra for an hour per month for three months. You could say you'd 'tried' a lot of things, you wouldn't have done anything effective. Same with your trying to find love. You haven't tried the one thing that tends to be most effective."
"I don't reach out to make phone calls very well."
"Understandable. Most people don't. Each time you think of making a call, you think of a reason NOT to make it, right?"
"You're afraid to be a bother, you're afraid the other person won't give you what you need, and more."
"So what if we simply decide that you'll call me every single day for the next thirty days. Would you be willing to try that?"
"I guess so."
David made a call every day for thirty days, and he became more peaceful and happier than he'd been in a long time. In the process, he lost his need to drink, which is the usual result of feeling loved.
Many of us are discouraged that we'll never find the happiness we want, and discouragement comes from the belief that we've "tried everything" without lasting effect. In most cases, however, we haven't really tried. Half measures just don't work. If we want to find the love and happiness we need, we have to throw our entire hearts into the effort.
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