Thursday, May 13, 2010

Self-Preservation


In response to yesterday's post, I got all kinds of support from so many of you--friends close to home, friends on Facebook, Chelle, my sponsor, friends from rehab who also knew Christina. EVERY SINGLE PERSON told me I had done the right thing by putting distance between myself and Christina, so that I ought not punish myself needlessly for feeling I could've done more.

For one thing, it's clear she had issues going on beyond the scope of addiction. Two, she didn't want my help. She wanted to keep drinking. Three, when it comes to recovery, bottom line: you have to do whatever it takes to protect your own recovery. It is far too precious to hand off ... and anybody who doesn't understand that or appreciate that fact is somebody you really can't have in your life, no matter how much it may hurt to give them up. Anybody who would willfully subject an alcoholic to trigger-inducing situations, especially when the alcoholic lets them know, "Hey, this is not okay for me," is putting their own desires ahead of your recovery. Anyone who would do that, who would put you in that spot, is not being your friend.

My pal Stacia (hi, Stacia!) put it very well a little while ago. She said, "It sucks. You like somebody but they're not good for you. You get that sick feeling, 'Oh man, I'm going to have to cut you.'" It's not a fun place to be in. But, again, the bottom line: I will do whatever I have to do to stay sober.

It was good to be reminded of all of this, along with all the other reasons not discussed here that suggest I couldn't have done much, if anything, to help Christina anyway. My sponsor suggested she was a perpetual victim; another friend suggested it was professional psychological help she needed--help beyond anything I could ever provide.

But this got me thinking today about what expectations we have of each other, and what expectations we have of ourselves. I'm too hard on myself; I'm forever feeling like I should hop on the white stallion and gallop over to rescue someone. But that's nuts. Where does this come from? I have a heart huger than huge, but rescuing others isn't really good for them. It's the "teach a man to fish" idea. Or in the classroom, I like to say that I bring the food and the spoon to the students, but it's up to them to figure out how to feed themselves; it's not my place to spoonfeed them. If I'm forever doing for others, I'm not helping them in the long run; and eventually I'm just going to wear myself out so much I won't be able to help anyone, period.

I'm guessing completing Step Four will shed some light on the wheres and hows and whens I developed this nagging, unproductive habit. My offhand guess is that the tendency has something to do with making me feel better about myself. So many of us "helpers" just love being martyrs--it's funny how alcoholics can take something like altruism and transform it into selfishness.

But self-preservation isn't selfishness. It's taking care of yourself so that you CAN give, responsibly, of yourself. So yeah--sometimes it means cutting people.

I've been so fortunate that I haven't had to cut many folks. Almost everyone has been supportive and understanding of the place we find me in. It's my job to tell people where my boundaries are since I can't expect them to magically know them. It's their job, once informed, to respect my boundaries and not try to talk me out of them.

Nothing less is at stake but my own sobriety, my own peace of mind. That is not selfishness. THAT is sanity. And anybody who doesn't get that would do well to turn their focus inwards, examine their agendas, examine their own role in the dynamic. It takes a lot of guts to do it. But it's worth it. What's at stake is nothing less than your own peace of mind.

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