The saga about “Dan” continues. In October 2013 I reported how Dan, a farmer in his early 40s, was furious when his wife purchased a breathalyzer to detect if he had been drinking.*
Dan denied to his wife, “Darla,” that he was drunk even though she found him asleep as frequently as three evenings per week and most anywhere in the house when she came home from her job shortly after 8:00 p.m. Their two young children were usually trying to make supper when Darla arrived home.
I changed identifying information to protect everyone’s confidentiality.
Darla purchased a breathalyzer to verify Dan’s claims of not being drunk even though he smelled of alcohol and his responses didn’t make sense when she asked him how his day had gone.
Allowing an inebriated person to be in charge of young children could implicate Darla, a nurse, in accusations of child neglect. If nothing else, the breathalyzer took the determination of inebriation out of Darla’s hands.
Dan either refused to blow into the breathalyzer or claimed the test results were inaccurate whenever he blew a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading above .08 percent. Several times when he was too inebriated to object to testing, his BAC was above .30.
Darla was worried and asked Dan to get help. He came to see me once, at Darla’s insistence.
He didn’t have a problem with alcohol, he said, and refused further evaluation and treatment. He proclaimed he deserved to drink a few beers occasionally because farming was highly stressful.
Dan and Darla were buying their farm from his parents. Both worked hard. Dan said he loved Darla.
Darla helped when she could with farm work; her off-farm job furnished their health insurance as well as supplemental income. Darla and I kept in touch.
Four months ago Dan appeared glassy-eyed and stumbled around the house when Darla arrived home from work. When she asked Dan why the breathalyzer was not in its usual place in her dresser drawer, he said he didn’t know.
Upon looking through the garbage bin, she found the device, smashed. Darla called me.
Dan was involved in games to deny that he had an alcohol problem, I suggested. Something else would have to happen to Dan to convince him to obtain assistance.
Darla purchased another breathalyzer. Seven weeks ago she called me again, this time to say Dan had accidentally knocked their son off a kitchen chair while drunk, angry and before she had arrived home.
Their son had a black eye. Dan’s BAC, which he reluctantly provided, was .26.
Dan accused Darla of colluding with me and his parents to get him into trouble. With trepidation, Darla agreed she needed to require that Dan take responsibility for his behavior.
She would figure out a way for her and their children to escape if Dan became violent again and she would require Dan to sleep in their guest bedroom until he dealt with his problem. She acknowledged enabling Dan to consume alcohol excessively in the past, thinking he needed an outlet, for he was able only when inebriated to say how he felt Darla was domineering to the point that if he didn’t go along with her decisions he would feel rejected.
Perhaps Dan was reluctant to give up what he felt was his only crutch to relax and vent his true feelings, I suggested. Moreover, he probably used alcohol to quell anxiety.
Darla acknowledged her need to hear how Dan truly felt. She didn’t realize his mounting addiction had sneaked up on her as well as Dan.
Darla told Dan about our conversation and asked him to call me.
Four weeks ago the Sheriff stopped Dan for driving recklessly; he was cited for driving under the influence. Dan talked with me twice on the phone afterwards and was respectful but careful as we conversed.
I told Dan he may need to enter a residential treatment program to make lifestyle changes and learn how to verbalize his feelings accurately and manage his behavior without anyone enabling him. He also needed a group of honest supporters whom he could rely on during times of distress, rather than relying only on Darla for emotional understanding.
Dan agreed to accept a referral from his medical doctor for a substance abuse evaluation and possible treatment. Darla kept in touch.
What is the best treatment plan? After Dan’s second session with his substance abuse counselor Dan told Darla the counselor wants to visit with her too, but not until the counselor and Dan meet a few more times.
Dan learned for the first time from his fifteen-year-older brother that their father drank heavily for years and almost lost the family farm because of it. Dan grumpily refused to talk about the subject with his father or Darla.
The current treatment plan is for Dan and/or Darla to meet with his counselor every two weeks.
The saga continues. Stay tuned.
*See the Farm & Ranch Life blog in the Country Lifestyle section of www.farmandlivestockdirectory.com. Blog entry date: 10/08/2013; title: "Farmers' Understanding of Themselves Can Be a Challenge".
Michael Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowa clinical psychologist who lives on the farm he shares with his wife. Share your thoughts with Dr. Rosmann at: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.