Alcoholics and Half-baked Relationships Part 3: You’re Getting Warmer

Grandma's recipe

In the previous post, I compared heat in bread making to honest communication in relationships. The yeast could be comparable to love and commitment. Without the right amount of heat, the yeast will not work well. The same is true for relationships.

Too little warmth leaves the bread heavy-looking, like a brick, not a loaf. Likewise relationships that are very cool aren’t appealing, and often don’t endure. Although I know many who have maintained those business-like arrangements at home, I don’t know any who would prefer it to the healthy, growing kind.

The same is true for friendships. Most of us also prefer the iron-sharpens-iron kind, where there’s a mutual benefit from the interaction. These relationships involve honesty, support and coming alongside action. Conversation develops into the sharing of ideas that leads to stimulating, creative discussions. This kind of relationship is warm, life-sustaining and beneficial to both parties.

This brings us back to the necessity of honesty. Most people are very reluctant to be honest with their alcoholic. What happens is entirely predictable. Increasingly, there are disagreements and anger and drama. The problems come to the surface and both parties are aware that there have been many issues from the past that never were resolved. There was a lot of noise and a lot of anger, but no resolution. No compromise, no true understanding or communication—just a lot of heat!

I have had some very hot relationships—explosively hot. I’m not proud of that, but it’s part of my story. I learned that too much fire in a relationship will cause it to self-destruct. Just like too much heat during the raising of bread, will kill the yeast and ruin the dough. Therefore I don’t like heated discussions of any kind. In my experience all that heat only destroys the potential for growing the relationship. It’s more likely to kill it. A relationship won’t survive too much raw, ugly honesty. The key is giving enough honest feedback to work with the issues, but not so much that it kills the desire to keep the relationship alive.

The best friends to this alcoholic are those who offer that combination of intense listening and genuine, but gentle feedback. Transparency is not natural to most people and I believe, for an alcoholic, it goes against our instinctive bravado. One of our primary character defects is deceit. If we weren’t born fighting that tendency to lie, we soon pick it up in self-defense. Life becomes a game of pretend. We resist reality especially when it is our own. When you’re talking to an addict that is dry, but not sober, you come to expect it.

The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, “Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?”