Friday, August 20, 2010

NOOOO! Don't Pick That Up!

One thing I've noticed, over the years of my relationships with alcoholics, is what masterful manipulators they can be. We start out approaching them because we have something to discuss, and are hoping to have the conversational equivalent of a pleasantly calm drive to a known destination.

We can instead find ourselves, half an hour later, six miles down some gravel sideroad - livid, unable to see our location for the billows of gritty, concealing dust, and almost (or actually) weeping with frustration.

I hated being trapped inside that conversational vehicle, with no control over where we went, how long the trip was, or the speed of travel. I would try everything in my power, to wrest control of the steering wheel during these conversational "drives," and it has never ever worked.

It took my first sponsor to tell me in no uncertain terms that I was putting myself inside that car, and agreeing to go for that drive. She reminded me of a gag we'd seen on tv one time - a ten dollar bill tied to fishing line, and when the victims of the gag would bend over and try to pick the bill up, it would "flutter" just out of reach. Some folks could be led quite a distance in pursuit of that bait of ten dollars.

My sponsor explained to me that I too, was being baited, and I was the only person who could decide that if it looked too good to be true, it most likely was, and that it was my choice to glance down at the bill, reason it out for myself, and choose to keep walking rather than reach for it.

I have recently had another granting of understanding in how my alcoholic works. This has made it possible for the bait, instead of appearing as something I want and perhaps even need, like a ten dollar bill, to look more like a neon sign reading "To activate manipulation, please lift sign."

A lot of what we do with those close to us, is habit. We are accustomed to doing this and such, to which they are accustomed to reacting, by doing that and this. One the pattern is put into motion, it can be almost impossible to stop, without first travelling some distance. I say almost, not completely impossible.

Some days I can see that bait for what it is, and even knowing that, feel compelled to reach for it. Some days I can walk on by. I much prefer the latter, it's a long walk home from that same damn gravel sideroad, back to serenity.


  1. I can never out maneuver the alcoholic in conversation. The manipulation will get the better of me if I choose to participate. Sometimes I simply forget what it's like. And then other times, I am wary of even coming near the vehicle. Good post. I would rather walk at times too.

  2. Such an excellent post! I am currently dealing with this topic in my own life. So glad to be able to get your wonderful posts again, and thank you for going beyond just surface treatment of some of the most difficult issues we face in Al-Anon!