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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What's yours not mine!

Anger is a healthy emotion. I had someone in my home that became quite angry at something over which she had no control. No matter how she tried to resolve the issue, the anger continued to be fed by the antagonist. She was at the point where she was wiping down the counter tops over and over again. I was beginning to think she would scrub all the decorative flecks from the granite.

Eventually, the issue was resolved to her satisfaction, but all that anger energy was still right there on the tip of her brain. I suggested she go take a long bath as a means to calm down. Instead she said “It would be a shame
to waste a real good mad” and started cleaning out the fridge. She worked through it all by physically expending the adrenalin she had created. When the fridge was clean, she was then able to put the disagreement behind her and move on.

There are some things that just can’t be resolved and can’t be “moved on” from. There are some hurts that are so deep that healing the gap is nearly impossible. It creates anger and resentment that can color a person’s life forever. But does it really have to destroy your entire life? Is there a way to be able to face that person and not explode at every word that comes from the mouth of the alcoholic or wrong-doer?

I have said many times that there are always options. Good, bad, ridiculous, funny, sane and crazy options are available to us for every issue we encounter. We have the ability to determine which option we use. No matter which option is chosen, we must take responsibility for the one we choose. In turn, we must accept the consequences of our choices. So we may make a bad choice, but we still must own it as our own choice knowing we had the ability to make a different choice.

Riley did some things yesterday that caused me to become angry with him. I was well within my rights to be angry because he was making unrealistic demands. I wanted to yell, scream and stomp my feet to make him know he was the reason I was angry. But then I stopped and tried to take a different approach.

Riley (as most alcoholics who are drinking or not) requires a lot of attention in order to feel secure in his world. Over the past two weekends my attention was not focused on him. I had company and other obligations. Riley enjoyed having the extra people around and socialized more than he had in a long time. I thought everything was fine with him.

When the company was gone, and the house was quiet, Riley starting calling me several times in an hour. He wanted me to do silly little things like turn the TV down – which he is perfectly capable of doing on his own. He refused help of any kind from the aide stating that he wanted ME to come help him and not anyone else. So I wanted to put him in a corner with his nose to the wall until he could behave like an adult again. 

Then it hit me and I made a choice about what to do. I simply told him I would not come when he called as long as an aide was in the room. I was quiet and calm and simply stated a fact. I was not angry even though I was frustrated. I told him, when the aide was gone I would respond if it was something he couldn't manage on his own. Then – and here’s the most important part – I did what I said.

In the quiet of my room, I thought about what was making Riley become a needy child. It was because of ME. It was because of my actions (or lack thereof) that was causing him to be in the mood he was in. I don’t feel guilty for not fulfilling his self-proclaimed requirements. I knew he was well cared for. But, his reactions to not getting what he wanted were not a problem that I wanted to own. His unhappiness was owned by him and him alone. I would not share in his unhappiness nor bend over backwards to “fix” it.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all take blame for what other people do. But, if someone is dissatisfied with something in their life, let that person own their own feelings. Just because the alcoholic in your life is unhappy doesn't mean you have to be unhappy. Nor do you have to fix whatever it is that is making the unhappy person unhappy. It wouldn't even matter if you tried because you can’t own someone else’s feelings for them. You can emphasize, sympathize, console, listen, and understand (or not), but you won’t be able to change how that person views the world. It’s their vision and not yours.

We've all known someone who has been terribly wronged. But none of us can change how the wronged person feels. It is the wronged person’s responsibility to find a way to work through, around or resolve what has happened. The rest of the people in the wronged person’s world are simply outsiders.

The next time someone is crying on your shoulder, instead of trying to fix the damage, try relating by letting them know that you understand how deeply the hurt extends. Let them know you are sorry this has happened and that you wish there was not so much pain. In the process of trying to provide some comfort don’t be dragged into trying to resolve the issue. It’s not your issue to resolve.

We must remember that we are all susceptible to trying to take ownership of someone else’s unhappiness.  We all have felt guilt that we didn’t stop something or fix something or DO SOMETHING that would have prevented the other person from getting hurt. We have all been guilty of coming to a person’s defense when we don’t have all the facts. We all have often forgotten that there are at least three sides to every story – Person A, Person B, and the truth.

Let’s take, for example, that Person A is angry with Person B and Person A relates to you the horrors of the wrong doing. There is never an argument that starts without a catalyst. We may not know and may never know the true catalyst for that argument. Even if we DO know, or think we know, it is not for us to resolve it. That’s for Person A and B to come together and listen with open ears, hearts and brains and find a resolution.

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