Mr. Atwater: How easy do you think it is to fool a counselor or lie to people in A.A.? I know people who go to addictions counselors and A.A. meetings, then go drinking.
I think a lot of people who go to those meetings just go because they have to and say the right things while they’re there so they won’t get in trouble.
My husband had to go to counseling and A.A., but it just made him more sneaky about his drinking. He would tell me he was going to a meeting, and he would go to the bar. Then he would tell me he hadn’t been drinking. It would make me feel crazy because I wanted to believe him. It got so I hardly trusted my own senses anymore. Counseling and A.A. didn’t do him any good at all.
Dear Reader: I’m sorry your husband was unable to stay sober this time. Living with a drinking alcoholic is not easy. It is hard to tell who is sincere and who is not. The general rule is, “watch what people do, not what they say.”
If a recovering person is regular with counseling and A.A. meetings, is trying to be honest and “work the program,” chances are pretty good they’re serious about sobriety. However, “serious” isn’t enough by itself. The only people who generally stay sober are those who are desperate enough to persevere and try to handle the hardships that come with being human in a different way than they did in the past. This would be called CHANGE.
Staying sober involves a lot more than just showing up at a couple of meetings. Another misconception is that A.A. and counseling “do” something to you. What gets done is a partnership arrangement, a co-creative process that involves willingness, openness, patience, trust and a few other hard-to-come-by commodities.
The truth is some people do come to counseling and “fool” the counselor, and people do go to A.A. meetings and continue to drink or become sneaky about their drinking. I have been told that only about one in 10 people who come to A.A. stay in the program for more than a year. The good news is of those that stay, most stay sober. This is why newcomers to sobriety are encouraged to “stick with the winners.”
Alcoholism is a disease, and his drinking is not caused by or aimed at you. Although he thinks he needs to hide his drinking from you, his dishonesty primarily is hurting him. Remember many belligerent, dishonest alcoholics do recover.
You might want to look into Al Anon. The person who conceives of his drinking as “getting away with something” is a tragic case, because he hasn’t yet understood that the only one he’s fooling is himself.
• Richard Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.