The journey of a farm family dealing with alcohol addiction has been reported for seven years of Farm and Ranch Life columns. Many readers have requested updates about Dan and Darla. The most recent article, and the 10th in the series, was published in June 2019.
Here is an updated report. As usual, I have not revealed identifying information, except the following – Dan farms land the couple is buying from his parents at a price negotiated years ago, and which is reasonable to everyone involved. Darla is a nurse supervisor. The couple has a daughter who is now 13 and a son who just turned 10. Dan took on a part-time position selling corn and soybean seed when time allows, which he enjoys.
My role with the family has been as a consultant and not as a therapist. I offered recommendations. Initially, Dan mostly stonewalled and found reasons to not attend counseling, AA and any other therapy.
When he was drinking heavily during 2012 through 2016 and episodically until about 18 months ago, Dan was usually belligerent when Darla, who had consulted me for advice, asked him to visit with me. He destroyed four breathalyzers that I recommended to verify his claims of not drinking.
As Dan’s drunken episodes increased over the four years after Darla contacted me in 2013, despite his promises to abstain from alcohol, Darla eventually required that Dan leave their home whenever he behaved in a drunken fashion, even when there was no breathalyzer to assess his inebriation. The couple found a counselor Darla and Dan felt understood their situation and who Dan consulted individually also.
The children of Dan and Darla were key incentives for Dan to straighten out his life. They met with the counselor. Their daughter told her father, “If you drink again, I’m living with Mom when you divorce. You decide.”
Their son pleaded, “If you consume alcohol again, don’t try to fool us. Dad, stop drinking and pray.” The counselor, the children, Darla and most importantly, Dan, recognized he had to make a life-long choice.
There were a couple legal matters which were eventually resolved without serious repercussions to Dan in 2016 and ’17. He entered a 30-day treatment program, then followed up initially with therapy appointments, group therapy, and found his part-time seed sales position. Dan says he has not consumed any alcohol for 18 months, and Darla verifies his report.
Dan told me he has developed better ways than drinking to deal with stress and anxiety. He said he feels more self-confident. Dan has refused opportunities to drink alcohol and allows Darla to keep wine in their household to serve guests. He proclaims that his problem with alcohol should not influence how other adults choose to lead their lives.
This crop year Dan achieved the best yields of corn and soybeans ever, even though the weather was too wet in many areas of the country. The farm he and Darla are buying is mostly upland that sheds excessive water and has tile lines to drain wet spots. He said his customers are ordering more seed from him for next year than last year.
When Dan and I discussed his addiction and other related issues recently, he said he still struggles with wanting to please others, with anxiety in crowds larger than about 25 persons, and when he doesn’t know the persons in the setting.
Dan likes one-on-one interactions when approaching potential customers for the seed he is merchandising. He likes working mostly alone on the family farm. He credits Darla for being patient with him. He is emotionally attached to the children and Darla in ways he did not ever expect.
Dan said his children and Darla “are my most dear friends.” He added, “They stuck with me when I was at my worst, but they demanded better of me.”
When I mentioned to Dan that his future dealing of addiction is still to be determined, he said, “I know that; that’s why I have a team with my family and my support group.” He volunteered that he knows he will never try methamphetamines, opioids and marijuana. They are becoming problems among some people in his community.
Time will tell if Dan continues his newly found good adjustment. That he and his family are the happiest they have ever been together is a good sign.
The family attends Catholic church services, which is a positive prognosticator also. Research affirms the benefits of church affiliation and habits of prayer. Dan said that a man in his support group attends the same church. They talk periodically. Dan also meditates.
Alcohol and other substance and behavior addictions are difficult to deal with. Dan and his family have found reason for hope. The chances for relapse diminish if Dan continues monthly support meetings, consults with his friend and meditates regularly.
Dr. Mike Rosmann is a psychologist who lives with his wife on a farm near Harlan, Iowa. Contact him at email@example.com.