Those who recover and prioritize sobriety almost always do so with the assistance of stories. The books of AA and Al-Anon, the literature given out at treatment centers, memoirs on addiction to alcohol or drugs, therapeutic workbooks, and even religious texts are used to guide both the newly sober and old-timer into a healthier and more stable version of their own sobriety. When it comes to romantic relationships in sobriety, the field is less crowded–there aren’t many guide books for two people who want to work on their relationship after the chaos of addiction.

Love Without Martinis seeks to provide that valuable guidance through a collection of six stories of actual couples who found their way to a better place. As author Chantal Jauvin writes in the book’s opening, “Stories are a powerful medium for self-understanding. They help us find ourselves or remember who we are.”

Jauvin and her husband Bill went through hell and back in their marriage as they struggled with Bill’s addiction to alcohol. Jauvin eventually worked with Dr. Jeremy Frank, PhD, CADC, a certified alcohol and drug counselor, and together they developed a framework for healing for couples in recovery called the ASCENT Approach. ASCENT includes a specific set of healthy practices that couples who successfully rebuild their relationships in recovery have in common; despite the many differences in couples’ stories–their sexuality, gender, socio-economic background–it is these powerful commonalities that ASCENT was built on, and Love Without Martinis was written to convey.

After opening with a chapter outlining the specifics of the ASCENT Approach, the couples’ stories are told chapter by chapter in novelistic prose, instead of the seated in therapy and taking dictation-style of many self-help books. The narrative addresses the emotions, thoughts, and actions of each person in the couple as the addiction worsens, hits crisis, turns to recovery, and then the couple’s journey to heal the rifts between them.

“When individuals suffering from substance use disorder get well, it changes the patterns of behavior and interaction in the couple.” writes Doug Tieman, President and CEO of Caron Treatment Center, in the Foreword. “This new relationship is truly one of the “Promises of Recovery” and it does materialize if you invest yourself in reclaiming and rebuilding the healthy relationship.” The stories in Love Without Martinis trace the arc of the couples who do invest themselves.

“The battle of an addicted person’s partner to either strong-arm a person they love into sobriety, or ignore them until they become sober, often draws a wedge between the partners and the world within us and around us,” the authors point out. It is this disconnect and dysfunctional coping mechanisms–as well as past hurt and anger–that these couples are addressing.

Jauvin writes, “Here are the practices of The ASCENT Approach for couples in recovery: Assess your readiness to change. Structure your time. Create your community. Engage in your life. Nurture your spirituality. Treasure your partnership.” The couples’ detailed stories are a living illustration of how each of these guide-points plays out.

As a couple’s narrative is being driven forward, the changes to their thoughts and behaviors are illuminated to make clear the specific steps that each person must take to repair the relationship. Here is Larry, from the couple Larry and Sherri, moving through a negative thought pattern into a positive one:

“Yes, he just needed to keep her in check. That thought was foul on so many levels, he admonished himself. First, it implied the game his psychiatrist warned him against. Larry might be the responsible one, keeping the family together, but he was also the “enabler.” He contributed to the family disease. That was a tall order for Larry to accept. For a long time, maybe even a few years, Larry had transferred the anger he felt towards Sherri onto the professionals whose help he sought. Of course, he tried to control his wife. He could not let her run wild with three young children in the house. Not to mention all the debt from rehab, therapists, and psychiatrists for the entire family. It was a miracle the dogs did not need therapy. Stop, he commanded himself. Control the silent introverted “awfulizing”—such a genius medical term—that is what Larry needed to do. Control himself, not Sherri. He’d accepted the expenses, written the checks, hired the housekeepers. He’d perhaps even played the martyr in the name of keeping the family together. Stop, he dictated to himself. Larry redirected his thoughts.”

The work that these couples do individually and within their family can be life-changing for generations to come. Families can create a legacy of recovery with just one person deciding to work for and maintain sobriety; once one person has broken through, any other member of the family is more likely to get into treatment. Not only is the substance use disorder addressed, but years (perhaps generations) of dysfunctional interpersonal habits and thoughts can be changed, freeing the children of that family from those patterns. And those children are then more likely to seek partners of their own who have healthier relationship and coping skills. The legacy that a couple can leave for their family within the work of recovery is priceless.

The stories in this book address many of the blocks that partners face in new recovery, but certainly cannot cover all of them. No one in these stories, for example, has severe mental illness, has been a violent abuser or abused, or is living in total poverty. The couples included here are not interchangeable: a gay couple with a partner suffering from Crohn’s disease, a young family with a baby whose father relapses, an executive who loses control once he retires, and the author’s battle with ovarian cancer and her husband’s messy divorce. However, the problems of co-occurring mental health issues are not specifically addressed.

It’s obvious that Jauvin is a compassionate and knowledgeable guide from the way she writes and frames each couple’s story; the inner dialogue feels authentic, and raw struggles are portrayed with care to acknowledge the source of pain and the pathway out of it. Jauvin spent five years interviewing these couples–in addition to the work she did with Dr. Jeremy Frank to build the ASCENT guideposts–and that, combined with her own story of her husband Bill’s addiction to alcohol and recovery, makes her a trusted and worthy guide. She writes in the foreword: My favorite definition of recovery remains one written by Earnie Larsen, a pioneer in the field of recovery from addictive behaviors: “The core of recovery is becoming a person increasingly capable of functioning in a healthy relationship.” And now, Jauvin has contributed to that capability with Love Without Martinis.

Love Without Martinis is a helpful touchstone and guide for couples seeking to stay together and heal in recovery, and would be a good book to take home on discharge for anyone in a relationship and leaving a rehabilitation center or sober living home to reenter life.

Love Without Martinis is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

By: The Fix staff
Title: Love Without Martinis: Building Healthy Relationships in Recovery
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 20 May 2021 03:53:02 +0000

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