Alcoholism Acronym: Three S’s-Step Back, Shut Up And Smile

Bald Smiling ManIf you want to have more control of the things you say in response to an alcoholic pushing your buttons, try the three S’s approach, step back, shut up and smile.

The biggest problem I had in communicating with the alcoholic was constantly reacting to his button pushing. He used to be able to send me into a rage with just the right words. Since I’ve been learning how to cope with alcoholics my communication skills have improved greatly.

I learned the three S’s acronym in an Al-anon meeting. This method of not reacting instantly to the alcoholic works wonders during a heated discussion.

Getting a handle on the things that come out of my mouth has been a difficult task. Taking the time to step back, shut up and smile really helps me have self-control over not saying hurtful things. It’s amazing how three seconds of discipline can make a world of difference in what comes out of my mouth. It’s like having a reminder to take a moment and think in order to determine if I actually want to respond to the alcoholic or not.

12 comments to Alcoholism Acronym: Three S’s-Step Back, Shut Up And Smile

  • C

    Thank you for this – I am going to try the 3 S’s, but it is going to take all I have not to answer when the A is making comments that are nasty or don’t make any sense. It is almost impossible to deal with an alcoholic. I think after their 2nd drink, all hell breaks loose. It is better to be in another area of the house or leave if possible! They are a loose cannon. Amazing neighbors don’t seem to pick up on it, nor do his family members. Amazes me!

    I don’t drink, didn’t have any desire even when I was young. Alcohol should be under lock and key in stores so only those who can handle it can buy it!! Oh, well.

  • Yeo KH

    Indeed the 3S’s are not only useful for addiction, it is also useful for stepping off a situation, which one does not have to be in control of every/all situations in life, just step back, shut up and smile, enjoy the performance of others around him/her. As a psychologist/psychotherapist, I believe people have the solutions to solve their own problems. As parents, we often overly concern for the children, even at their early adulthood. Learning to step back, shut up and smile, enjoying the performance of the children is an art and act of having faith and love of their lives.

  • Cherri

    I had the same trouble with the guy in my life his family was that way and I believe they are still like that. He never wanted to change not even when his life was turned upside down when me and his daughter left. I meet up with him at one of those christmas paformences for our daughters K class and I had been giving him a chance thinking that he was not drinking anymore. Oh! But no I smelled beer on him and looked into his eyes and saw they were blood shot. I guess he will never change. That’s why I believe his family is the same because he has made no progress. I’m hopping in the future soon that I can go back to court when my daughter can tell what she realy wants to do. She was probed and was made confused by him and his atterney. So when she is older that hopefully will not happen. And I think the 3’s sound great to me I will try that two.

  • Jule Allen

    It’s important to remember that everyone has a vice, addiction, attachment, and nasty flaw they’re blind to. When we humble ourselves, we can see that we have no room to judge anyone. We know from our own weaknesses how nearly impossible it is to resist our own “carrot sticks” that we run to when the going gets tough. Alcoholics and drug addicts are the worst because they introduce chaos into what should be peaceful family life, the one place we hope and expect to find love. I’ve encouraged my alcoholic to remain unemployed after his second layoff so that he has limited access to cash. I’m essentially his alcohol “dealer”. He gets six beers a night and sometimes a couple of shots of whiskey. After that, it’s hidden and out of reach. He can give me looks that kill once it’s taken away, but he’s thankful several moments later once the disappointment passes…just like a kid wanting more candy.

  • Jule Allen

    By the way, an alcoholic must have written this piece of advice because it’s the go-to order of most, if not every, alcoholic. They love to rant and complain but can’t take their own medicine…such sensitive souls. Hm. Shut up!

  • Jule Allen

    By the way, whatever happened to happy drunks? Don’t they exist too? I guess their spouses and s.o.’s don’t need to vent on websites and forums. Anyway, look on the bright side…if nothing else, alcoholics teach us to accept that we are all flawed, to embrace our imperfection, and that we really are all emperors without clothes.

  • Jule Allen

    What I really need help with is dealing with an alcoholic telling me to “shut up!” He says it whenever we argue and he doesn’t like the truth I’m telling him. How do you back out of the argument when “shut up!” sounds condescending, arrogant, and chauvinistic? The imperative to “shut up” leaves no option but to continue arguing so as not to appear submissive or controlled.

  • maj ol

    im at the stage,that i need him gone out of my home with two kids,aanyone been through this,its choas already,hesays he goin he understands wht he has done to me,im just physical being at this stage living on total anxiety,he sayshe go give him aa few days thts two months ago,he finallystrted pckingtoday and left half way thru,bombed out somewhere so will have to wait for the showdown later and the quilt trip of how the evil bitch kicking him out at xmas,am i wrong too

  • Kadge

    Im always one jagermeister away from being the worst b*tch, ugliest woman, control freak etc etc. I have known him 2 years he has been drinking for over 30 but I am responsible for him being homeless, being dirty, drinking too much. He lies, he’s abusive and has now started with mild physical abuse. I lock him out he shouts and wakes the neighbours until I open the door, I sit in a cafe away from the house and he shouts at me in front of everyone, I try to ignore his phone calls then he comes to the house. I cannot get rid of this man no matter what I do. I try hard not to argue he then rants I am ignoring him, I try agreeing with him he rants I am humouring him, I disagree with him we have the argument. I smile he berates me for laughing at him. I walk away he follows and continues shouting. I stay at a friend’s he sleeps outside my front door until I return, urinating in the watering can, the rubbish bin etc and leaves it there for my return. I live in the Canary Islands and the police do nothing to help. I dont want to move but he is making it impossible to stay. Help. I see my only way out is to leave this lovely island where I came to start a new life. One size does not fit all what else can I try? Please.

  • Glynis

    My AH is continually making nasty derisive remarks about my children (from a previous marriage). He tells me he is going to call them and tell them to f*** off and never come to see me . How can I use this method of detachment when the subject of his taunts is so emotive for me, and if followed through, so destructive to my family? When he is drunk he is very likely to carry through with the threat…how do you step back, shut up and smile in this situation…I’m just terrified that he’ll do it.

  • Vicky

    I totally thought i was the only one going through this! I tried one Alanon- meeting and was not comfortable, although I could relate with many people there.

  • rose

    I let 80% go now thank god – so much more peace – and no longer feel at all responsible for his behavior. But when my husband gets really nasty and steps way over the line I just reply with “gee wouldn’t your grandfather be proud of how you’re speaking to your wife?” “Wow I bet your boss would so admire how you behave at home” etc. I just keep up that line until his fury boils over…then he comes back 20 mins later ashamed. Then I quietly say something like “you know I’ve known and loved you since you were seventeen, sort yourself out, or the only person who loves and stands by you will just walk away because she deserves better”. He’s about to go into rehab…the only one of his five abused and abandoned siblings who has, so I’m proud of him.

Leave a Reply