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The Bike Ride

by Jeff Ford, LMFT, Clinical Director

It’s not uncommon for couples who are going through recovery to experience some emotional abuse. Ironically, this can happen when the addict doesn’t know how to deal with the emotions they are experiencing in recovery. They are missing the skills they need to manage these emotions and take it out on their spouse or other loved ones in the form of emotional abuse. Let me give you an example. 

I love to go on bike rides. I try to go at least a few days each week. However, I also live in a desert, which means I try to plan my rides when it’s as cool as possible outside. Recently, I was going out for a ride in the evening. My wife came along to go for a short run, and my daughter and one of her friends joined us to walk along the path. After I had gone a couple of miles, I ended up getting a flat. It was frustrating and I had to walk my bike back to the car. While I was walking, my wife called me to tell me that she needed some help. I immediately sped up to get to her to give her the help she needed. Shortly after, my daughter and her friend sent me a message saying they were scared because they thought they had seen a rattlesnake. 

So, what had started as a simple bike ride had turned into a stressful, emotional situation: I was frustrated that my tire was flat, my emotions were heightened in trying to help my wife, and my daughter was visibly shaken and needed support as well. For some going through recovery, this type of situation could easily turn into a moment of emotional abuse. Rather than working through the stress and helping to support those around themselves, they may lash out. They might scold their wife for not planning better or being able to take care of themselves. They might yell at their daughter, telling them that they are just being a baby because there probably wasn’t even a snake in the first place. If that happened, it would be emotional abuse. And it could cause lasting damage and hurt. 

When you’re in recovery, it’s important to learn how to hold other people’s emotional reality in a positive way. Recognize that they are feeling something and, even if you don’t feel the same thing, don’t minimize or neglect those feelings. If possible, reach out and ask what you can to do support or help them. 

Learning to recognize situations that could lead to emotional abuse, and turning them around is an important step in the recovery process.

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