One of my favorite relationship books is The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do” by Susan Piver. This slim volume poses deceptively simple questions for discussion by couples about to get hitched. By focusing on several key areas – home, work, sex, family – it raises questions from the ordinary to the profound to challenge and inspire couples to gain a deeper understanding of one another.
The beauty I saw in this book was that it didn’t skim over the “small” stuff. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship (ie, everyone) knows that it’s often the little things – the subtle details – that spur continual frustration, ongoing tension, and huge arguments. While big questions of whether to have kids and what spiritual beliefs to impart to said kids are fairly standard pre-vow fodder, who does the food shopping and who will balance the checkbook might never attain that level of conversational importance.
Similarly, I believe there are subtle – hard – questions when it comes to drinking. Most people are familiar with the “big” questions you should ask yourself if you think alcohol is a problem – Do you black out? Do you need a drink in the morning? Have you injured yourself or others while drinking?
But equally important are the subtler questions related to quality of life and living in awareness. (Note: you can substitute many different behaviors – shopping, working, eating, etc. – for drinking in the list below.) What follows are some thoughts I’ve collected on the hard questions related to drinking; feel free to add to this list:
- Are there things you do not or cannot do unless you’re drinking? Dance? Laugh? Speak the truth? Open up to others? Take risks? Joke? Joke hurtfully? Cry? Argue? Hit? Smoke? Do drugs? Have sex with your partner? Have sex with someone other than your partner?
- What prompts you to drink? Stress? Sadness? Anxiety? Uncertainty? Celebration? Can you imagine what it would feel like to not drink in response to that prompt?
- When was the last time you had fun without drinking? Who were you with and why did you have fun? Are the people you’re with and the reasons you have fun different when you are drinking and when you aren’t drinking?
- When was the last time you relaxed without drinking? What are other ways in which you relax? How do these different ways of relaxing affect you while doing them and afterwards?
- Has drinking kept you from doing anything? Getting a good night’s sleep? Getting a better job? Ending a crappy relationship? Writing a book?
- Have you ever considered not drinking for a period of time? 1 week? 1 month? 1 year? How does it feel to consider life without alcohol for a period of time?
Beyond the big question of whether or not you’re an alcoholic, I think it’s important to ask the (perhaps) hard(er) question of whether alcohol (or something else) interferes with your basic level of awareness, if you in fact use it to avoid certain things in your life. The answers will be different for everyone and only you can find the correct balance for yourself. But asking is a good place to start.