A Common Sense Approach to Communicating Common Sense
The same principle applies in dealing with the children. Unless they actually need protection from their father, it is best not to take sides in any argument he has with them while drinking. Use your
energies to promote a better understanding all around. Then that terrible tension which grips the home of every problem drinker will be lessened. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 115)
This passage is speaking directly about the wife of an alcoholic and how she should deal with issues relating to the immediate family relative to that person. The thing is that there is a more global concept for all loved ones an
d friends of addicts or alcoholics especially during this holiday season.
In my last article, I spoke directly to those of us who are the addicts and alcoholics about the interactions we will be having during this holiday season (Treated as an Alcoholic/Addict or Weirdo During the Holidays). In that post I honestly spoke to my group about our responsibilities and ways to be a par
t of the solution and not create other problems during the holidays if you are the alcoholic/addict who probably was at least a part of the reason for all of the problems.
I believe that to be something that absolutely has to be stated during this season, but I also believe that all of the people around this person have a responsibility to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem also. I understand that you may feel that you are the alcoholic/addict and you did nothing wrong etc. and you may be correct as a whole or in part. The challenge is that at the moment that the person in recovery starts to truly attempt to change and you become the force of resistance to that effort, the biggest problem moves from being that person and his/her alcoholism/addiction and suddenly you become the biggest problem.
That is not to minimize the responsibility that person has for all of his/her previous evils and the responsibility to make amends, but the truth is that what I am describing here is an completely separate problem. In many things in life (if not in everything) each person is either a part of the solution or a part of the problem and this is definitely one of those areas.
On the other hand, what I am not saying here is that you should just be pushed around by every alcoholic/addict that proclaims aloud that he/she is in recovery and you are messing it all up. There are some of us in recovery that will use such information to hold the more passive of our friends and loved hostage. The type that use the fact of being in recovery as leverage to manipulate all who will play along as if to being in recovery somehow buys you the right to blackmail every person around you into serving you in lifelong slavery.
This is where some of the more general concepts in this passage are amazing. Let’s look at a couple of these more general concepts:
Unless they actually need protection from their father, it is best not to take sides in any argument he has with them while drinking. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 115)
First, notice that the passage says “it is best not to take sides”. That is key in this whole discussion. If the person in recovery is in some level of conflict or uncomfortable situation, the normal response should not be to run over to beat him/her back into submission before crazy happens or to run to his/her rescue allowing that person to use you to cosign whatever trip that person is on at any given moment. You are not helping this person by being his/her evil archenemy or by being his/her “Captain Save-a-Twelve-Stepper” either.
Being either one of these makes you the bigger fool in the situation. The truth is that the person in recovery has some excuse for problem causing behavior: “I’ve been being stupid, but now I am in recovery, in the process of learning to not do stupid things. That means I will mess it up at times as I experiment with new thought processes and behaviors.”
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein
On the other hand, the rest of you who have been put through the side effects of our crazy are supposed to be the sufferers who are in possession of the sanity that the person in recovery should be able to learn from and emulate. The fact that you can fight one person’s stupidity by vomiting out some stupidity of your own does not somehow make you smarter than that person. That simply makes you equally stupid at best. It makes a part of the problem.
The thing is that you are not just a part of that person’s problem art that point. At that point you become a major part of your own problem and a pert of the problems of everyone around you.
The next thing to notice in that sentence is the “Unless they actually need protection” part. Although the general rule is not to be against the person or codependent cosigning this person’s every whim, there is a point where this person is crossing some line, where it is your responsibility to stop him/her.
Those of us in recovery tend to drift off to this whole independent thinker trip that can make us a bit crazy at times. If we are susceptible to the influences of stupid people, this may be the right direction for us to be heading, but it does have a sort of sick and self-destructive side especially when trying to learn it’s limits and normal use by doing it in real life.
So lets say that I am going through this trip and I am always on and on about people telling me what to do and about letting do things my own way. I’ll even throw in statements like, “I’m a grown man, I don’t need anyone telling me what to do” and I might throw in the: “If you don’t let me do things my way I will never learn and you are screwing my recovery all up” card. While these thoughts may hold some truth, they do have limits.
Now lets say that I see a glass of some cold refreshing liquid sitting on the counter in the kitchen on a seriously hot day. I go over to drink it and one of my loved ones is standing there who knows that the substance in the cup is not a drink but some special chemical for cleaning that has no specific scent but is probably poisonous or harmful.
If that loved one sees me about to drink it, should that person try to stop me. What if that person begins to try to stop, but I cut that person off ranting about telling me what to do etc. before I can hear what that person is trying to truly communicate, should that person spitefully say; “Whatever idiot, it’s your funeral” or should that person, knowing that I am in recovery and prone to stupid behaviors in the process of learning to be less and less stupid, keep trying to stop me in spite of how rude or ridiculous I get?
I know that several of you reading this probably chose option one: “Whatever idiot, it’s your funeral”. That is not however, the “part of the solution” answer. That is the “part of the problem” answer.
The point is that there cannot normally be a that person’s side and my side, or a that person’s side and our side, or a me and that person’s side and everyone else etc. To be a part of the solution, you should focus on using your energies “to promote better understanding all around.” The person who is the voice of reason is the person that will lessen “that terrible tension”.
During this holiday season of gatherings, parties, gift giving and mixed emotions (for many of us in recovery or still in alcoholism/addiction; depression and self-loathing), there is a deep need for people who are part of the solution. For the person in recovery the holiday season is full of temptations, traps and tensions that threaten our recoveries day by day and minute by minute. WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET.
If your friend or loved one in recovery is being weird or stupid during this season, it is probably the signs of struggles, stresses and tensions or some challenges that are inherent to the recovery process. That also means it is probably the sign of a time of great need. Any and all help is desperately needed NO MATTER HOW MUCH THE PERSON THINKS OR SAYS IT IS NOT. Drifting off into crazy is not only the act of not being helpful, but is dangerously destructive to this person at this point.
I stated earlier, that in such situations friends and loved ones should not take sides in arguments etc. That is not entirely true because there is a side to take: the side of common sense. To be a part of the solution, you must use a common sense approach to communicating common sense to everybody involved, only when it is necessary.
You have to communicate in a way the person or people you are communicating with are likely to hear and respond to. Way too may people get frustrated and communicate the right things in the wrong ways simply to get things off of their chests. That is not attempting to be helpful to a person, that is an attempt to verbally punish that person for frustrating you (don’t get it twisted!).
One more point to consider is that being a part of the solution is communicating common sense “only when necessary.” Running around being the “Recovery Person Messed Up Police” is not in any way being helpful. That is to be a major part of the problem. What I am describing is the person who runs around behind the person in recovery the way the parent of a child who has just learned to walk runs around behind the child catching the child every time he/she starts to fall and keeping that child away from anything that he/she might not know not to touch and so on.
Some mistakes are going to be okay. The person in recovery will need to learn and needs to learn to make adjustments for little mistakes etc. That is a part of the process. Being followed by a “NAG” is not a necessary or useful part of recovery. Making me nuts is not a helpful part of my learning to think more clearly, it is a muddling of my thoughts in barrage of outside thoughts that can only serve to keep me from being able to think clearly for myself.
All of this is based on the idea of balanced sensibility on your part, especially if the person in recovery is not using balanced sensibility. I totally understand that this is a tall order, but it is also one of your greatest contributions to the health and growth of your friend/loved one that you can make.
Something else to consider, is the fact that in many cases, helping the friend or loved one to get better will help every person that person encounters have a little less crazy in their lives too. That means you are not just helping him/her, you are helping yourself as one of the people that person encounters.
Ponder this passage:
He wants to make good. Yet you must not expect too much. His ways of thinking and doing are the habits of years. Patience, tolerance, understanding and love are the watchwords. Show him these things in yourself and they will be reflected back to you from him. Live and let live is the rule. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 118)
To our friends and loved ones, please be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem (no matter how crazy we may get);
To those of us in recovery or still in bondage to our alcoholism/addiction:
STAY SOBER MY FRIENDS;
- Treated as an Alcoholic/Addict or Weirdo During the Holidays (wadehrecoverynetwork.wordpress.com)
- Sober is “But a Beginning”? (wadehrecoverynetwork.wordpress.com)
- The Shame of the Alcoholic (psychologicalscience.org)
- Shame and Addiction (addictionandrecoverynews.wordpress.com)
- Alcoholism and Social Exclusion (blogs.scientificamerican.com)