I felt the person who could give me solid advice about the problems I was having with Jim's drinking was my dad. He had been a recovering alcoholic following the principles of AA for many years, and over those years he had successfully given counsel to many people. One thing I absolutely admired about my dad was the fact that he could listen with an open heart and only give advice when asked...extremely patient, wise and honest. I talked with Dad about my concerns and was pleased when he agreed to meet with both of us to openly discuss our thoughts and feelings about alcohol. The mere fact that Jim and I would be willing to enter into such a personal discussion in front of my dad tells you how safe we felt in his presence.
After giving Jim a chance to talk about his drinking habits and why or why not he thought these habits were a problem, Dad asked me to share why the drinking was a problem for me and the effect I felt it was having on our relationship. He gave both of us an ample opportunity to explain our feelings, and by the end we agreed he had a full understanding of why we were turning to him for help. In response, Dad shared his belief that if a person's drinking was causing a problem to anyone in that person's life, then that person's drinking was a problem. He went on to explain that most people thought that in order to be considered a person with a drinking problem you had to be an out-of-control drinker who had missed work, gotten fired, or experienced blackouts due to drinking, but he knew otherwise based on his own experiences with alcoholism. I was quite surprised by this profound wisdom delivered in such a simple package. After having time to process it for a few minutes, it made total sense...the essence of our situation presented in a straightforward and unpretentious manner. My dad, a man of few words, each of which he chose and constructed with exact precision. Does this give you insight into my dad and why we were comfortable and safe in approaching him for advice?
As we left our meeting, Jim and I were in agreement with the message that had been delivered to us that night. On the recommendation of Dad, we used this newly received idea/meaning as a foundation for our communication...and what discussions we had throughout the following days! That one session was the catalyst for a significant shift in our marriage.