Monday, September 20, 2010

Forcing Solutions.

Our Al-Anon welcome contains the phrase: "... our thinking becomes distorted by trying to force solutions..."

When very new to program, I was confident that I knew the best solution for my alcoholics, and I expended great amounts of time, energy and breath expounding upon this belief. I was constantly trying to force solutions.

It didn't work. My first husband, as a result of my endless nagging, once managed to stay sober for nine months, white-knuckling it the entire way, with no program, and no support. He finally succumbed to temptation when his nephew came for a visit, bringing gallons of booze. I arrived home from work to find them all drunk in my kitchen, and we shall draw a curtain over the scene that ensued, dear reader, because it is not one of which I am proud to have been a part. I acted abominably, shrieking and... well, as I said, never mind about that.

That was, to my knowledge, the last time my ex tried to quit drinking, and he is still deep in the addiction. I'm grateful to be able to say that what I feel about that now, is a detached compassion, rather than the self-righteous disgust I once felt.

When I try to force solutions, I have come to a decision that I know the correct thing to do, and that I have the right to nag, wheedle or coerce the alcoholic into accepting this, in complete dismissal of their choices.

I have placed myself in a position of superiority above the alcoholic. I have set my jaw, clenched my teeth, and rammed my way through. 

In my time, I have been shameless in this regard. I wanted it: he was destroying himself: I would make it happen.

Quite apart from the fact that I couldn't make him quit drinking with any more success than I could make it rain, was the effect this behavior had upon me, and my self-respect. On some subterranean level, I knew I had no right to do what I was doing, and my feelings about myself reflected this knowledge. I felt an uneasy shame just beneath the surface of my self-righteous indignation.

Al-Anon has brought that lurking awareness up to the surface, and granted me the strength and the wisdom to point out when my little piece of ground is being trampled, but then, when the trampling stops, to shut the hell up, already.

I've learned from personal experience that I cannot force solutions, and that I do not have the right to force solutions. A sponsee once asked, a long time ago, "What do I do if I'm not trying to get him to quit drinking?" and I gave same gentle reply I'd received, when I'd asked my sponsor the selfsame question:

"Live your own life."


  1. "Forcing solutions" is a short phrase that describes most of my life. Historically, I've never "known when to fold 'em, hold 'em, walk away or run." That's because the best tools I had at the time (including 21 years into my very active recovery) amounted to deciding how much to bet after having only ever seen the first card (or, at times, the pattern on the backs of the cards).

    I'm getting it that I need to stay in touch with the possibilities as each new day unfolds; there isn't a "that permanent decision was made so now I endlessly stay the course" time for most things (especially in regard to relationships).

    I'm learning to listen to my body/gut information and let that have the most weight. It's really quite different.

    So far, it's been a lot less chaotic. To be honest, though, at times part of me misses bulldozing through the obstacles of whatever I had my sights on. But I wouldn't go back.

  2. Thanks so much for this. And also thank you for the lovely poem that you posted regarding the death of a dog. It was profound and beautiful.

  3. Forcing solutions. Keep the focus on myself.
    That is what comes to mind when I think of forcing solutions. I seem to have the right idea for everyone but if I keep the focus on myself
    better results happen. My training at a young age was to rescue and this I took into higher levels of insanity.
    Just for today I can let go