Today I will talk about my personal life with an addict, in the hopes of giving you some insight about your lives. But as I do so, keep in mind that many of life's situations show up in very unhealthy, dysfunctional ways, and the tools I will tell you about can help them all, from your crazy husband, to your crazy wife, to your crazy boss/job and so on.
When I was with my ex-husband, I could say that cheese was made from milk and in a given mood he might argue the point. Before you knew it his argument could progress from cheese is made of milk to "Why do you always have to have things your way?" to "What's the matter with my cooking?" to "Fine, I won't cook any meals any more" to "I'm outta here" and off he would go. Little did I know he had just been looking for a good excuse to be mad enough at me to go buy beer. I would sit in the insanity- perplexed and wondering what had just happened. After a while I began to argue back and act just as crazy as he did. Then he had a really good and true reason to be mad. I might throw his sandwich out the car window or lob his keys across the parking lot, or kick the coffee table over. In short, after a while I was more nutty than he was.
So when I learned of his addiction, I began to go to Alanon. Alanon is for family and friends of alcoholics. However truthfully speaking, almost anyone on the planet qualifies since 90 % of us know or have known someone with a drinking problem, and there are no Alanon police checking you at the door. In Alanon you can go to meetings as much or as little as you want. You will sit in a room with other people. You will listen. If you want to, you will share. This sharing is amazing because for once you get to speak, and no-one else can respond, pass judgement, or give advice. Alanon is free and it is safe, and anonymity is valued above all else. So you never have to worry about your words being repeated.
Alanon is a powerful tool because many of us who have lived with a lot of dysfunction have never had the experience of being free to speak and listen, and work things out for ourselves. We are very unpracticed in the art of following our own inner wisdom, and many of us don't even know that wisdom is there. But if we settle down, and listen, and if other people don't crowd our thoughts with advice and 'their' way- we will find our own way. Alanon works because people don't tell you that what you do is good or bad, right or wrong. There is no judgement of what you say. This is important because many of us who live with addiction make it our life's work to try to do what everyone on the planet thinks is right or good. This of course is impossible- because everyone's opinion differs. But we drive ourselves crazy trying to do it anyway. In Alanon, you don't have to worry about anyone's judgement or assessment of what you do, which is very freeing.
Here's how it would work for me. In Alanon I might read and speak on topics like the slogans or the twelve steps. Later if I was being yelled at for some trumped up reason, I might go to a meeting and hear people talk about the slogan "Easy Does it", "detach" or "think." Now in my previous life I never would have believed a slogan could help you much, but when I was in Alanon and someone would talk about how they used the slogan- I could then begin to use it as well. So the next time I was yelled at, I would remember the slogans. Then I would breathe and think "Easy does it." I might then decide not to re-act to this Dave's words in the moment. Instead I might detach and realize his problem was not my problem. Later I might go to a meeting and talk about it. I might "think" about how I wanted to handle the situation so that I both kept my cool and my sense of dignity. I might consider a few options. Perhaps I might choose to simply walk away from his words the next time with no reaction. Perhaps I would begin to put my ducks in a row to leave, as I did with Dave after several years of this merry-go-round. Perhaps I would decide to have a conversation with him when he was not upset. Perhaps I would speak with a sponsor to sort out what I truly wanted to say, and the best way to say it. A sponsor, by the way, is someone who has worked the program of Alanon for a while and will be a sounding board for you, one on one- for no return. Again he or she gives little advice, but lots of listening and Alanon tools to make your own choices.
In Alanon I learned how to deal with someone else's insane behavior. If you go, you will also probably learn, as I learned, that the way you yourself live is not 100% sane. But this is actually the good news. Because you have to see it before you can change it. This is how Alanon works- awareness, acceptance, action- and it is one of the most powerful methods I have ever encountered for living a life of sanity.
As a side note, I used these same slogans with great effectiveness so that I did not walk off of that unhealthy job until I was 100% good and ready. In the past I would have argued back and quit, and caused myself hardship. This is the true meaning of having control over your own life. No-one else can get you to do anything you don't want to do. You have the say-so of how life goes for you- especially in the face of the craziness of others.
And that, my friends, is the tool of Alanon.
If you are new to this blog, you should read some of my earlier entries such as "Do I love an addict? " part 1 and part 2, and "When I first learned I loved an addict"- as well as many of the other entries that you can pick and choose.