Sabotage! The Unexpected Result of Leaving Alcohol Abuse Behind

Nothing is more discouraging in the process of ending your alcohol abuse than encountering sabotaging spouses, friends, children, colleagues, and others. But it’s a common reality it pays to be prepared for.

Common examples?

-The physician who welcomed his wife home from her stay with us by chilling a dozen bottles of her favorite wine;
-The wife who immediately upped her own alcohol abuse in response to her husband’s success in quitting;
-Children who began acting out themselves at previously unknown levels;
-Parents who upped their meddling into their adult children’s affairs;
-and so on…..

What’s going on here? First, not all of these examples stem from people’s conscious wish to force you back into abusing alcohol. Indeed, most of these people would deny that that’s what they are doing. What they are doing is attempting to re-establish the status qou. It’s the old “security of familiar miseries” problem – we like the “known” better than the unpredictable results of change – even when the “known” is pretty awful.

But there is also another factor in play here. Just as your alcohol abuse affected those around you, so does quitting. Most of the people impacted by your behaviors are unprepared for the reality that they too will have to adjust to your new day-to-day life.


-Adolescents who hated being embarrassed by your drunkenness now hate it even more that you actually remember what you said! They are so used to saying, “you promised….” and you not being able to remember and disagree.
-Spouses are so used to being the “good one” and you not having a vote in family decision making that they really don’t like giving up either the status or power.
-Many spouses also resent the fact that their problems are now bobbing to the surface – problems they previously ignored, problems obscured by you and alcohol being “the problem”.
-Parents may resent no longer being able to meddle in your life. Really, they may need to get a life of their own that doesn’t involve rescuing you, or complaining about it.
-Drinking buddies may also pressure you to revert. After all, if you can quit so could they. Besides you were the one they used to say, “Well, I don’t have a problem. Look at ——, s/he drinks twice as much as I do!”

Yes, quitting affects people around you and most of them will be happy for you and supportive but there will still be glitches – which is why we include spouses in particular – but, really, within a few months everyone, you included, adjust and wonder why you ever abused alcohol at all.

Remember, we address these types of problems with you and see you through them because we want you to succeed and for life to be better for you and those around you too. So give us a call and let’s talk about all of the possibilities, options, choices, and results. That’s the proven way to achieve success and a happier life.

© Copyright 2011 by Edward Wilson, Ph.D., MAC, therapist in Rolling Hills Estates, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Larry


    February 28th, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Come on. People know when they are setting you up to fail. If you are a success then where does that leave them and what role does that leave them with to fulfill? They whine and complain about having to take care of the abuser but then they whine and complain when they no longer have to take care of them.

  • Andre


    February 28th, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    I’m in college and yes I have observed this kind of a behavior among my peers…If one guy quits,all his trends try to convince him to drink again…I keep saying let him decide it’s his choice,but to no avail…

  • cody


    March 1st, 2011 at 4:12 AM

    why are people like crabs…? pulling back the one trying to get out of the bucket and towards safety…? it’s really sad that we humans exercise this negative trait…

  • sibi


    March 1st, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    what kind of shallow person does it really take to undermine one’s efforts in this way?

  • LOU


    March 1st, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    People who are close to and around someone who has a drinking problem or drug addiction almost have the responsibility to try and get the person to quit…To actually encourage the person to stay with the addiction is just immoral and irresponsible to say the very least.

  • Leslie


    March 2nd, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    Why does it feel like no matter what you do when you are drinker that someone is out to get you no matter what? Some people want you to drink and others freak out if you do. Why does it always have to be all about them and not what is best for the person who actually has a problem with alcohol? How did everyone get so selfish?

  • Charlene


    March 4th, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    I sometimes think that this sabotage can stem from revenge. If someone’s drinking ruined my life, I wouldn’t dare let them get themselves on track while I’m still a wreck myself.

  • Ruben


    March 4th, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I find it utterly absurd that people would pounce on a recovering addict who just got off alcohol like that. It’s like saying “You just got your infected leg cut off? Good, you’re cured, get back to the battlefield!”

  • Hazel


    March 4th, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Interesting. If it’s about power, it makes sense. Humans are primates, and part of primate instinct is to create “clans” and “tribes”. Groups need a leader, and it’s also a primal instinct to get and keep that power.

  • Shar


    March 4th, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Yeah, I get where the buddies would do that to divert attention from themselves and their own alcohol problem. When you point a finger, look at your hand and remember that the rest of them are pointing right back at you. Some buddies they are!

  • Danielle


    March 4th, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    I hate it when parents stick their noses in my life once I’m on my feet. Yes, I get you’re trying to help, but let me handle things my way for once. Sigh, in childhood, you’re controlled by your parents. In
    adulthood, you’re controlled by your boss. Where does it end?

  • abigail


    March 5th, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    @sibi My thoughts exactly. You’d need to be a disgrace of a human being to deliberately undermine a person’s life that’s attempting recovery.

  • Shirley Whelan

    Shirley Whelan

    April 4th, 2011 at 4:54 AM

    I just came across an article on your site regarding a husband’s addiction to AA and the 12-step program. I’m going through this right now myself. He attends meetings every day, sometimes twice, has his head in his AA books constantly, highlighting sections, and last week asked me for a separation, a month before our 40th anniversary, as I was wanted him to spend some of his time with me. He says we don’t have a relationship … well, no, because he’s never here. He says he wants to be able to form other relationships and that I’m too jealous of the ‘program’. I guess he’s right. So, we’re going through the process of a separation, it’s heartbreaking, but at least I know I’m not alone, other women/men have encountered the same issues when one spouse gets so obsessed with their own personal recovery and wants to live the ‘program’. I’m sorry, I’m just venting here. Thank you for listening.

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