Annoyance and the Alcoholic, Addict, and Those Around Them

When dealing with an alcoholic, there may be a natural annoyance that a man could be so weak, stupid and irresponsible.  Even when you understand the malady better, you may feel this feeling rising.  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 139

This is the tendency for anyone who is around an alcoholic or addict for any period of time.  Even those who work in recovery find themselves periodically experiencing this felling of “annoyance.” 

Let’s look at this from two perspectives.

 First of all, from the perspective of a sober person who is around a person with addiction or abuse problems

The person we are discussing must in fact be responsible in some way or other for what you feel and I would never try to say that that person can just blame anything he or she has done on the fact of the “disease” or just to say it is the past. 

If that were the intention of 12 step programs there would be no reason for a person working step 4 to look for his or her own part in all of the resentments listed (Where were we to blame?  The inventory was ours, not the other man’s…We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight. – Alcoholics Anonymous pg 67)

There also would be no use for Steps 8 and 9 for if a person was not responsible for his or her actions when using or due to the “disease” there would be nothing to make amends for.

The thing to consider as any person dealing with or encountering someone in the process of recovery is:  “Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?”

If someone is actually working through the steps properly, conviction for wrongs done to others is a natural and necessary part of the process.  Attacking a person who is trying to go through this may take a deeply uncomfortable situation and turn it into too much to handle.

If you happen to be a person who is working with a person or persons in recovery, you have to understand that your goal is to do no harm.  If you have are going to hurt someone else’s recovery who is looking to you for help by some action, you must not take that action.

I am not saying not to confront these issues, but I am saying to find ways to confront these issues in a way that helps the person and does not hurt.  A good way to start is to talk to that person’s sponsor, counselor, etc. about the situation and plan for an appropriate point in the recovery process to have the confrontation.

For the bottom line look at what it says on pg 108 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

“He is just another very sick, unreasonable person.  Treat him, when you can, as though he had pneumonia.  When he angers you, remember that he is very ill.”

 Now from the second perspective which is the perspective of the person who is going through recovery and others are experiencing this annoyance and it’s directed at you.

First and foremost take a moment to look at what it says in the Alcoholics Anonymous book on page 103

After all, our problems were of our own making.  Bottles were only a symbol.  Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything.  We have to!

This is the basic mindset.  We have hurt these people and have actually done (and may still be doing) things that to many who are not addicts or alcoholics can only be seen as stupid.  The fact that people that we encounter are angry and hurt should come as no surprise.  When it is someone we have been around for some period of time while using he, she or they may have been trying to tell us but we were never mentally in a place where we would listen.  Now that we are sober and at least somewhat coherent some of those people around us may try to seize the moment of clarity to let loose all of the pressure that has been building up in a volcanic eruption of complaints about things you may not even remember and a rush of angry frustration.  It is not okay to try to ignore this person’s (or these people’s) hurt feelings when in fact they are valid feelings from problems we probably caused by our own foolishness. 

You may feel that you said “I am sorry” for these issues and they should just get over it.  This is completely NOT what making amends is about.  “We must take the lead.  A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fit that bill at all.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 83)

If we hurt someone badly, it may be that the only way that person may begin the process of healing from what we have done is to yell and scream.  Within reason, this may do more to “make amends” than apologizing.  The tendency is to protect yourself from anything that is attacking and to put self first.  But the truth is that it is likely that selfishness and self-centeredness are the true root of most of your problems (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 62) and that this would simply be doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Instead of completely focusing on self-preservation, consider “The Rule”:

“The rule is we must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.” (alcoholics Anonymous pg 74)

If it is helpful to the other person this may be the best thing for that person and for you as it is a part of a good Step 9 amends.

I am not saying however to allow abusive people to just be abusive to you, it may also be that the person is just an abusive person and you will have to confront the issue in another way.  You must not however shy away from confronting the issue. 

“Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be.  We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing.  We have to be.  We must not shrink at anything.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 79)

If you need to explain to a person that you would like to confront the issue he or she has with you when it can be discussed calmly, that may help with a person who is particularly abusive or in some cases it may not.  No matter what, however, each issue must be confronted and no matter how much you may think the person is just crazy there is at least some element of truth to what he or she is agitated about.

 To sum up all of this, no matter which of the above you are focus on “The Real Purpose”:

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 77)


Happy New Year and may your new year be the symbol of a new beginning.

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