Friday, January 7, 2011

Negativity Is A Choice.

One of the aspects of living with (or being closely related to) alcoholics, which can be crazy-making if we get caught up in it, is their inability to deal with their painful feelings, and their desire to punish anyone within reach, when they're hurting.

We feel what we feel, and we have a right to our feelings, but sometimes, watching an alcoholic's dramatic posturing, I can find myself wishing that we could have the information about the feelings, without all the rest of it. I don't know if perhaps they feel that without the drama, the feelings wouldn't be either recognised, or validated? My wondering why they do what they do, is a path to madness.

My part is to maintain my boundaries when the drama is trespassing upon them, and to detach, when it all gets a bit loud and overwhelming. I used to feel obliged to sit still for the performance, because I was afraid the alcoholic would feel unloved if I didn't. Somewhere along the line in  my recovery, I had a realisation that by showing up for these performances, I was contributing to their continuation. Now, when I hear the opening bars, I try to remember to politely excuse myself.

Alcoholics can be the most endearing people on the planet when things are going well for them, and some of the most tiring, when life isn't working out the way they'd wished/hoped/planned. They can be vociferous in their complaints that they are in pain, and wanting out of it. They aren't just having a bad day, they're having the worst day anyone has ever had. Ever. Since the dawn of time.

At one time, I could easily be caught up in circular, insane talks, which went 'round and 'round, with me trying in my co-dependent way to fix whatever ailed them, and them sucking me in to their personal whirligig.
These talks would start with them throwing out a challenge: "Make me feel better, tell me something positive, improve my mood, help me get out of this awful state!"
If I took that bait, then there would be a declaration that life was shit, they were unhappy, they were always going to be unhappy, life sucked, 12-Step was useless stupid and annoying, they wanted proof of a Higher Power, they wanted a miracle...
Arguing against this sort of negative declaration, used to involve me in discussions which could have been rehearsals for a Monty Python sketch.
It never worked. I'd give up, finally, exhausted and frustrated, and they'd seem almost satisfied, in some perverse way, to have maintained their negative attitude.

I cannot change other people. Another person's state of mind is not my problem, regardless of what they might say.  If they throw out challenges which seem to suggest that it's up to me to make them feel better, I can courteously sidestep the challenge, and let go of the outcome. I can offer a program tool which has been helpful to me and some others, I can gently or sometimes directly state that they seem determined to be miserable, and then let it go. If they are open-minded, they'll come to that realisation on their own, if they aren't, doesn't matter what I say, they won't hear me.

How do I know this? Because this entire post also describes me when I was new to Al-Anon.


  1. I have found that I am not much different than the alcoholics I have known except I do all my whining internally to myself. I have learned to keep it to myself and that isn't so great either. I use to be confused by the stream of consciousness being laid upon me. I thought I was suppose to solve the problem. Now I know sometimes people want to vent especially to those closer to them. Now I here blah blah blah and they feel better and I don't need to do anything.

  2. Alanon has helped me to learn to let go of my need to fix the moods and frustrations of the alcoholic in my life, but what I wasn't expecting was to discover that I do this with literally everyone. In fact, I seem to attract people who need fixers like myself in order to function. Crazymakers, who regularly throw hissy fits in order to get what they want out of people, find people like me a terrific employee/friend/relative to have around. I need to remember that alcohol or not, I am not responsible for other people's moods or behavior. And I need to step away from those who feed on my need to respond to that, or I will never find serenity in my life. Thanks so much for your share. Needed it today.

  3. The negativism of the alcoholic is what I have to disengage from. That and all the over analyzing of everything, as if the entire world depended on their problem. I understand the self-centered stuff, but it doesn't mean that I have to like it or stay around it.

  4. How nice it is to disengage from the costly drama that previously consumed my time, energy and thoughts.I can learn how to dicipline myself, focus on me and work the 12 steps. I can make it better for myself, change my thinking and the way I react to the drama.I often lament over the years wasted before I attended the meetings.I am grateful for daily readings and encouraging words posted on this site. I keep coming back to nurture my sanity.