Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Three C's - I Didn't Cause It, I Can't Control It, I Can't Cure It.

I was thinking about Al-Anon's 3 C's  today. Alcoholics are good at shouldering off the responsibility for their choice of behavior, onto their partners, their employers, their friends, the guy at the tire store. I have a half-joking, half-rueful shorthand way of describing this, I call it the 3-pronged excuse:

"I did not do that!"
"Okay, okay, maybe I did do that, but I didn't mean anything by it."
"And anyway, you drove me to it."

This sloughing off of responsibility has a childish feel to it that can be distressing in an adult family member. We wonder how they can do the fancy footwork required to rationalise this kind of thing, we wonder how they....oh, right, I'm supposed to keep the focus on myself, and what I can and can't do.

I can't change other people.

I didn't cause the alcoholism, (or the consequences of drinking,) I can't control anyone's drinking, and I cannot cure alcoholism. It's not up to me to take up the plow for another person - it's beyond my mental or physical strength, and I'm treating them like an invalid when I rush to shield them from the consequences of their choices.

I've had to make a choice this week, about something which I thought was helping, but that I now have come to realise, was enabling. I need to step back, and allow the alcoholic to sink or swim under their own power. I was taken aback, to realise that what I was doing was enabling, and that realisation was only brought about, by the alcoholic having blamed me for something else entirely. It was in thinking about blame, and responsibility, and consequences, and all of those things, that I realised I have been overstepping my mark. (I haven't quite reached the stage in this, yet, where I feel gratitude for the initial blaming, because it led to my realisation, but I'll get there, I always do.)

I'm not culpable for what another person chooses to do, only for my own choices. I can't be held responsible just because they don't like an outcome, which they, themselves, have set in motion.

I can see that I need to put more effort into detaching - for the rest,  my Higher Power will guide me.

20 comments:

  1. I laughed out loud -- HARD -- at your 3 pronged excuse. Why laugh? Because I recognize the truth in it.

    I heard a newcomer in an -Anon type program list another C: compete. Yeah, we can't compete with it, either. And that's not about us.

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  2. Hi, just wanted to let you know that I have been encouraged & calmed by this for days; I've left the web page open on my phone so I can go back to it. Over two years later and your writing still resonates. Truth stands the test of time thank you so much.

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  3. Thank you for sharing. I am a daughter in-law of 2 alcoholics. I've just begun to realise that I need to embrace the 3 C's and let go, detach myself.

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  4. I have found 3 more C's, they are Choice, Chance, and Change. You must make a Choice to take a Chance or your life will never Change...

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  5. thank you very much for this wisdom and insight. very helpful to me today.

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  6. Thank you for this. I needed to read it, and I need to remember it.

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  7. This is great! I'm just at a stage which seems to be long lasting that I don't believe that people who cannot truly relate can come to a deep acceptance of the addict. I am married to an a alcoholic and although I love him I do not trust him and where this disease will lead him... as if I'm only along for the ride, and I'm not, I will one day get off of this roller coaster. I'm not sure when and always hopeful one day the ride will just come to a natural end, with my husband accepting his disease and that he is powerless. A sense of "closure" is what I need. P.S. If you really look hard I believe most addicts do not have a significant other.

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  8. Great wisdom. If you can handle the consequences, when they do hit bottom. I've been in therapy for 25 years, trying to be "re-programed" after all of the years of being an enabler. My father was an alcoholic, three times, he finally completely his suicide mission, I blamed myself for years. That was in 1993, and I still sometimes think to myself, what if... My brother was also an alcoholic/addict, I found him face down in a closet in 1995 dead. How, why, no one knows, years of crack, pot, alcohol, basically anything he could put down his throat. TO ESCAPE LIFE. We had a family business, which I think made it really hard, because I was so used to seeing them everyday. A few months after my brother's death, my male cousin confessed to me that he had been sexually molesting him since he was 7, and that their relationship was still ongoing at my brother's death. I was, to say the least speechless, everything made since. And, that confession made me feel worse, wondering how many other boys' had my male cousin molested through the years? The alcoholic/addict hits bottom and he may come up and he may just die. Which made me question all of the therapy, group meeting, self help books, meds I was on, Could I have made a difference if I had know the truth. Probably not, if I had know it was going to end like this, I would have gone away, as my father asked me to do, so many times. Get out of here, and make a life for yourself. No, I could not leave them, they were my life, no marriage, no children, no grandchildren, just me...here. I wish I had followed my father's life, and got the heck away from them.

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    1. Correction, I found my brother dead in the closet in 2005.

      My father had been through 3 different treatment centers, and was clean and sober for 6 years, a joy to be around, a different human being. He was doing 12 stepping all of the time, helping people, up in the middle of the night going to the hospital, jail, working the program. But, when he fell off the wagon there was no coming back. My thoughts, you are not going to win, go away and save yourself because you cannot save them.

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  9. The 4th "C". You have a Choice. Live with the alcoholic or leave. That's right, file for divorce, find another significant other. This "C" is yours to make or live with the ConCequenCes.

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  10. wow a lil over a year sober and really glad i heard this again it has pulled me thru this day of others selfish think n i am greatful to be sober today let go let god

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  11. I didn't cause it, I can't control it, I'll never cure it and will not contribute to it.

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  12. I was enabling him before by trying to protect him, and then I stopped last year, now he is dead from Heroin over dose and I was the one who found him, now I am destroyed, my worse nightmare became reality, and I can not wake up, I can't reverse time. What if I at that day believed my intuition of why he was not answering the phone, I felt that day that a major thing is missing in life, like missing the sun or the moon or the sky, but barried that feeling and stopped the panic, I thought to myself he is OK, probably sleeping, until at night I realized and beleived in all my senses that he is not alive anymore, cried all night and went to his place in the morning and he was not there in his body, he was away far away and I can not hear his voice any more, I can not rescue him anymore, I can not run away from him anymore, I can't be scared from him anymore, I can not touch him anymore. he is dead so as my heart. he took it with him, and I can not reason with my self. I feel guilty.

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  13. this is so hard to read because my daughter is just a moment, a day, a week away from this. I've found her near death from an heroin od twice but she survived. I'm so sorry for the pain you feel and wish it could have been different for you and him. No matter what you could have done, I believe that you couldn't have stopped this from happening eventually because this was his choice, heartbreaking as it is. I know this may be my future too, and I just have to say that if it does, it will be my daughter's choice and a decision she made for herself. Nothing I can do to change this.

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    1. Unless you've been there you have no idea how much pain a parent or partner endures too. The alcoholic/addict has no idea what they put us through on a daily basis so my choice has got to be to detach..............for my own sanity.

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  14. God bless you for this post. The 3 C's have changed my life.

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  15. Thank you so much for reminding me about this. I needed to hear it again. To anyone in pain right now...It is our choice whether we choose to cherish or destroy our lives and also all the bad stuff does NOT cancel out the happy memories...They ARE still there...Choose to hunt them out! x

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  16. Woke in the middle of the night trying to remember the Three C's. Could only remember two. Thank God for Internet and found this page. Been with my significant other for 17 years and always hoping he would stay sober. He has had periods of sobriety up to 4 years. Always gave me a glimmer of hope. Off on a drunk right now. So have distanced myself and left to a cabin at the ocean. Have been in contact with my friends in AA and his too. No answer from him on phone. He received his 3rd DUI on Monday and I know he is in pain. Embarrassed. Hurting. So am I. I have nearly 33 years of sobriety myself and cannot be around him. I just hope he survives this. Sad so sad. But I know I cannot control nor cure his alcoholism. Not sure I can be there for him anymore or really want go be there. We had such great plans in our retirement. Starting over again.

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  17. I left a marriage of 16 years because of verbal/mental abuse and controlling. i was tired of the threats and being constantly judged followed and belittled. i thought i was free when i finally got away and started to build a new life for myself and child. i then ended up with an alcoholic. I have told myself that this is karma....this is what i get for destroying my previous life, so i put up with it. i am still in it and yes because i still feel guilty for leaving my husband and turning my child's life upside down. it has been a roller coaster with sobriety and illness for my current partner....he is worse that what i had left when he is on a binge....but he doesn't remember the previous nights events when he sobers up and doesn't want to hear what he did or said....like that makes it ok. it has taken me a while to realize the 3 C's are so right. it is not my fault....but it is my choice to stay or go, that is my challenge....the sober version of this man is wonderful, everything you would want in a partner......unfortunately the sober person tends to be submissive to the alcoholic. the internet is an amazing tool, you are able to see that there are a lot of people who know what you are going through, feeling and are still going through it. it is a great support tool...it is so awesome to feel that there are others who know what you are feeling and going through. most friends and family feel that you are slightly brain damaged and should know better and get away etc. sometimes that is not easy to do....thank you for letting me vent today.

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  18. I have been married for 29 years...my husband has been in rehab starting 16 years ago and I have always fought for our family. I was so naive...thinking that my love and the love for the family would stop him from drinking and narcotic pain killers. I went to A-lAnon and found it difficult to just take care of myself and let him fail. Well here it is many years later after many totaled cars, dui's ambulance calls, last rites, lying to his work, etc and his family turning on me to realize that I was enabling him. So I moved out to an apartment with my kids
    and he is 6 months sober and he tells ME that I have him on a merry go round and I got exactly what I wanted. Boy, slap in the face. I believed in marriage and tried whatever I could to make him stop...now I know different. So, if you find yourself on a merry go round or roller coaster, get off and take action to find a life for yourself! Do not wait for years and years like I did. I am so broken right now and he is blaming ME for Everything!! It is a sickening feeling...

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