In the past I had a muddled perspective on boundaries and a general lack of skill in relationships. I didn’t know where I ended and you began. I didn’t know where I began at all. I looked to everyone around me to define me. I had a lot of advice. I knew what the solution was to any problem. Being a “helper” made me feel wanted, needed, appreciated, and worthy. All values I did not hold of myself internally.
I thought I could “fix” people and ran myself around in circles trying to do so.
The reality is that if people don’t ask for your advice they probably don’t want it.
The reality is that most people will do whatever the fuck they want to anyway, despite of or inspite of what you have to offer.
I got caught in a vicious cycle of “helping”, offering advice, solutions, all the best answers and then people doing what they do, what they want. I took this as personal failure. This created a new cycling of not good enough, not wanted, not appreciated, not worthy. (It’s also a colossal waste of time and energy.)
The solution to me when I was drinking was “well, maybe if they try this, or if I word it like this, it will finally get through and then they will be happy/healthy/not addicted to drugs.” Like the good girl I kept trying, expecting a new reality from the same people.
The energetics and psychology of this is similar to that of enabling. When people are experiencing addiction and/or mental health challenges we think that by helping them, doing their work for them, bailing them out, that we are doing it out of love and concern for that person. Love and concern plays a part. But the bigger aspect of enabling is something much more insidious, much more subtle.We enable because the thought of powerlessness is just too big for us to carry.We enable because it makes us feel important and needed.
As a recovering addict I know that I wasn’t ready to stop drinking until I was “as desperate as a dying man clinging to a life preserver.” (AA Big Book)
I know from personal experience being the enabler that I did what I did because I couldn’t accept the fact that everyone has their path to walk in God’s eyes. That “pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth.” (AA 12&12) And I definitely could not, would not accept that I was powerless over people places and things.
The result, more suffering, more pain, more feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough, not being heard and ultimately more looking to the bottle to quell the surge my shame, guilt, and anger.
AA has helped to shift my perspective on this. My own experience with addiction and recovery is the biggest gift of insight into how I am with other people.
In early recovery it was hard. I got sucked into you. Your problems became mine, your fears became mine. I also took credit for your successes. I was beginning to understand that this wasn’t right. It just didn’t feel right anymore to me, but it was still happening. The only difference now was the awareness. Awareness precedes acceptance precedes action.
I got curious, saying often “oh this is interesting” (still my favorite statement in self-reflection, used daily). In the space of curiosity there is no room for judgement. I was aware that I wanted to have a different kind of relationship with people, accepting of the fact that my old ways were my old ways and served a purpose at the time, but no longer do. I just didn’t know how to take action to move towards a different way of thinking.
I asked for help. It came from one of my mentors, the phrase “That’s not mine.”
In any situation, in every relationship, when I wanted to offer advice, or was beginning to think, “well this is what they should do” I repeated the mantra “That’s not mine.” Whenever I began to feel myself energetically and emotionally taking on another person’s stuff, I repeated the mantra “That’s not mine.” Whenever someone would come at me looking for an argument, “That’s not mine.”
It is simple and pure magic. Those three little words create enough space in my mind for me to choose what to do next. Listen? Walk-away? Pause and pray?
Today, I am beginning to understand who I am and what my core values are. I am setting healthy boundaries. I have defined my authentic yes and authentic no. I see myself in other people and honor that I am not the expert (most days). The death grip I had on my life is loosening and I am beginning to soften. (I like to think of myself as a square with rounded corners.) I am learning when to stand firm to my core values and when there is room for compromise.
I’m learning who I am, maybe who I’ve always been, hiding in the shadows of black-outs and debauchery. I’m giving myself a voice, a right, to be present with the gift of choice, outlined by me and God, not you. I have taken ownership of my part in things,which also requires defining what is not my part.I no longer try to fix you.
There’s real freedom in living this life friends. And real personal power. You have to give up a false sense of power via the illusion of control to dip into the endless reserve of support that flows through you.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness (Big Book of AA)
You deserve to live a sober peaceful life, onward.