Stop Embarrassing Me! (Part 2 – Problem Solving)

Tips On How To Handle Or Avoid Your Addicted Loved One’s Embarrassing Actions

Last week we discussed ways to talk to our loved one when they were acting in a way that was embarrassing. This week, we will use a structured problem solving skill to identify other ways to respond to their embarrassing behavior. In addition to feeling embarrassed, your loved one’s actions when they are high or drunk may also be dangerous (e.g., driving when drunk), irresponsible (e.g., not going to work), or disrespectful (e.g., telling dirty jokes at social events), and all of them are problems.

A point we made earlier that is worth repeating: you are not responsible for your loved one’s behavior. However, although you can’t control your loved one’s behaviors, you do have the ability to change your responses to their behavior. How you respond can often invite change on their part, or at least make a difference for how the situation feels to you.

By using the step-by-step method of problem solving, you’ll be able to come up with solutions to help you and your loved one move closer to sobriety. We may not come up with the perfect solution…we are simply aiming for something better than what is happening now.

Follow these 5 Steps to Solve Your Problems

1 - What is the Problem?

The first step in problem solving is getting specific about what the problem is. You want to clearly define the problem. What specific actions or situations are problematic? The more specific you can be in identifying the problem, the better. If your loved one is embarrassing when they are high, what are the specific behaviors that you would like them to change? If your loved one is embarrassing when they are certain situations, what are the specific situations and behaviors? Writing down the problem a single sentence or two can really help you focus in on what you are dealing with.

Example:  Partner gets drunk at social events and tells dirty jokes. What’s the problem in this situation?

Here are two possible problems:

  1. Possible problem: My partner tells dirty jokes and others are uncomfortable

  2. Possible problem: My partner gets drunk at social events that include people from my work

We’ll choose the second one for our practice.

2 - Brainstorm Solutions

The second step is brainstorming ALL possible solutions. Write down as many solutions to the problem as you can. Even if the solution sounds ridiculous, write it down. In this phase of problem solving we want to be as creative as possible; sometimes the most effective solutions come from ideas that sound silly or impossible. When brainstorming all possible solutions be sure to include the solution of doing nothing. The option of doing nothing to solve the problem is always a possible solution (and in some cases, the best solution).



Partner gets drunk at social events that include people from work.

Possible Solutions:

Don’t invite partner to this type of social event. Do nothing. Don’t go to any social events that may include people from my work. Only invite partner to this type of social event if no booze will be there. Pick up partner from work and take him directly to the social event so he has no time or chance to drink beforehand. Plan to only stay for one hour. Lie to partner about where I’m going and then go to the event. Ask partner not to drink before coming to the event. Have a discussion beforehand (using communication skills) to communicate my concerns and express my wants and needs with the hopes of cooperatively creating a plan.

3 - Evaluate & Pick 2

Evaluate your list of possible solutions. To evaluate each solution, think about:

  1. How realistic is this solution (time, money, likelihood of success)?

  2. Do I have the skills needed to use this solution at this time?

  3. Does this solution conflict with my values?

  4. Does this solution support my loved one’s sobriety or make it easier for him/her to use?

  5. Am I willing to use this solution?

Once you evaluate the solutions, pick the top two (so you have a back-up solution in case the first one you choose doesn’t work). Sometimes you may come up with a few possibilities that, when combined, form a great solution. That’s okay!

4 - Plan and Do

Make a plan and do the solution you picked. Sometimes it can be helpful to plan out your top 2 solutions. You may need to practice PIOUS in order to successfully use a solution, or you may need to think about your boundaries. It can also be helpful to think about what barriers may get in the way when you try out a solution, and then come up with ways to overcome these barriers.

It may be helpful to write your solution down for clarity and retention.

After you’ve created your plan, take the steps needed to make the plan happen (e.g., asking your partner not to drink before a social event with your work colleagues)!

5 - Evaluate, Revise & Repeat (if needed)

Evaluate the success of the solution, make changes to it (if needed), or pick another solution (if needed). After you try your solution, take time to think about how it went. What worked? What didn’t work? If you need to make changes to your solution, go ahead and do so. Or, if you need to pick a different solution, do that and evaluate how it works. Even if the plan did not go at all the way you hoped it would, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t becomes valuable information for next time!

To help you apply the problem solving method, here is a link to a problem solving worksheet. Remember, if your first (or second, or fifth) solution doesn’t work, don’t give up! This is a marathon, not a sprint. To help yourself recover, use your support network and do self-care activities to help you continue in your journey to free yourself from your loved one’s addiction.