Monday, October 25, 2010

When Going With The Flow, Takes Me Down The Drain.

I received a phone call this weekend, which reminded me of how important it is to choose my friends wisely. This person has had a difficult life in many ways, and has an unremittingly negative attitude. Work, friends, family, health, marriage, the family dog, the state of the world... I used to hang up the phone after a conversation with this person, and feel as though I'd been fighting a strong current for 57 minutes - worn out, and mildly depressed.

I've had to detach with love, from any emotional engagement with this (not in program) friend. I offer what support and encouragement I can, I try to make them laugh, but I keep my essential self back a few steps, so that I'm not sucked into that awful sweeping current, and dragged away downstream.

This stepping back to a slightly safer place on the riverbank, this detachment from this person and their litany of misery, is an act of changed attitudes on my part. At one time, I used to feel as though I must give whatever it was that a friend sought from me, that were I to refuse, I would be being a horribly selfish person.

That's co-dependency, to put the desires of someone else, above my own serenity. It's co-dependent to allow someone to grab me in an iron grip, rip me out of my good mood, and pull me down the drain with them, into that mental sewer of negativity.

It's all right for me to choose not to hang out with people who drag me down. It's perfectly acceptable for me to decide that my serenity is more important than letting someone else use me as a dumping ground for their resentments, bad moods, and roiling anger. I have the right to decide that I am going to pull back from a friendship, for no other reason than that I've realised that I'm not enjoying myself with this person, that in getting to know them better, I've discovered that this person is not a healthy friend for me.

Life isn't going to be all smooth sailing - Al-Anon doesn't promise me that I will be granted a reprieve from having to deal with life's usual trials and tribulations. It teaches me how to move through my life with a better understanding of, and compassion for - myself, and others. I still have to deal with the same problems, it's how I choose to do so that changes.

At one time, I'd have dealt with my dawning understanding of how this person could affect me, by cutting them off completely - total avoidance. I don't do that nowadays, but I do make sure that I'm emotionally detached from the parts of their character which are dangerous to my serenity.

If they call, I decide whether or not I've got the energy to listen, before I pick up.  When I do answer the phone to their call, and that current of complaint starts gathering momentum, I can stand on the bank, and watch the river flow. I no longer feel the need to dive in and try to rescue someone, who hasn't the slightest interest in being saved; someone who fights wildly any attempt on my part, to steer the conversation shorewards. I watch, I throw out a few flotation devices, and I wave as they are carried off out of sight. I have no intention of drowning alongside them.

That may sound harsh to those of you new to program, but we can only save ourselves. There is no way for me to force this person to choose a more positive and accepting attitude; I have enough on my plate some days, with the effort to steer my own thinking in a better direction.

I do what is humanly possible, and I turn the rest over to my Higher Power.


  1. I too have found that I don't need to just go with the flow and can extricate myself from their anger and negativity. It is a great improvement for me.

  2. I, too, have learned that I do better when I surround myself with people who lift me up or those who are placed in my path that I can lift up (with a smile, a hug, or sharing). I have had to end some relationships and have pursued others with this in mind. It took me a long time to learn this. I can listen, pray for, and let go. Simple but not easy.


  3. I too have learned this lesson. I have much more serenity when I am able to emotionally detach from the drama of others...instead of "fixing" them!