One of the common questions about living with an alcoholic is: Should I make excuses to my alcoholic husband's boss?
This is a real dilemma for many people. It's Monday morning, he has been boozing all weekend and was due at work five minutes ago. One look at him and you know the whole story of the weekend — the bloodshot eyes, the shaking hands and the smell of stale alcohol that would poleaxe an ox at ten paces.
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It's not a pretty sight. He turns to you and says, once again, "Could you phone the boss and tell him I have food poisoning?" Not the most original excuse, but a fairly standard one. So, what do you do? Do you call his boss or not?
If you look at the self-help pages and advice pages the answer is pretty clear. No, you don't phone and make excuses. You leave him to either stagger into work or make the phone call himself.
The standard advice would also say that he needs to accept the consequences of his actions. Otherwise, he will never learn. Iif you do make the phone call, you are just enabling him. Therefore,he is more likely to repeat the behaviour. Saying "no" is, in fact, helpful to him.
As therapists, we find it difficult not to agree wholeheartedly with that logic. If someone does something and gets a good outcome, they are likely to repeat it. However, if they get a bad outcome, they are less likely to repeat it. Therefore, if there is a bad outcome, in this case a hangover, then he should be left to experience it. This will make it less likely to happen again. Perfectly logical, isn't it?
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The problem with that logic and advice is it only takes one negative consequence and one person into account: the drinker and his discomfort of having to make his own excuses. But there are more people in this scenario than just the drinker; there is the partner and often the rest of the family to consider as well.
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