Thursday, November 24, 2011

Common Denominators - Forcing Solutions.

When I consider the phrase "forcing solutions," I recall the sheer blind obstinacy I used to feel. I was a great debater, always prefacing my justifications and rationalisations with the same two words: "Yes, but..."  I marvel at my first sponsor's patience as she answered my smokescreen-creating questions, and listened to my self-pity and victimhood, as I tried to convince her that my case was different. She would allow me to speak, answer my questions, ignore attempts to lead her down a side-road (in an attempt avoid discussing my character defects,) and gently remind me that I was here because I was miserable, and that perhaps I could learn to be happier, were I to try to be more open-minded?

I'd listen (no, since this is an honest program, I'll admit that I wouldn't listen, I'd wait until she finished speaking, the two are not the same, as I try to explain to my own sponsees) then start up with another scenario I'd plotted, about how I was going to "make the alcoholic stop drinking." Or "make him see how his drinking is affecting me, his kids, his parents, his business." Or "make him realise that he's ruining his life." I was determined to make him ______,  and I exerted all my energy trying to force my personal solutions onto someone who had absolutely no interest in them.

20-some years later, my ex is still drinking.  10 years I tried to get him to quit, and I was spectacularly ineffective. Hours of plotting, time wasted on attempts to decipher his thinking, so that I could find a way to coerce him into doing what I wanted - ten years of my life slid past me relatively unnoticed, and definitely unlived. I may as well have slept through them.

One of my spiritual milestones, was the day that I first allowed myself to consider the miseries I had inflicted upon him, in service to my ego's belief not only that I could compel him to stop, but also that I had the right to try. Where did I get that idea? Most likely from having had the will of other people forced upon me, when I was a kid, and watching adults forcing their will upon other adults, and upon children. I think I grew up assuming that this was just what you did - manipulated and controlled, trying to get your own way.

When Al-Anon introduced me to the concept of powerlessness, I didn't like it one bit. I'd had enough of being at someone else's mercy, and I couldn't see how admitting that I was powerless, to the extent of not even trying to change the drinker, was going to bring me to recovery. Detachment sounded like lunacy - sit back and let him drink and ruin his life, my life, his kid's lives, his business? Detach what? My brain? My first sponsor and I had many conversations on this topic, with her patiently explaining one more time that if I couldn't stop him, I also wasn't "letting him."

When I surrendered, I was exhausted. I'd done everything in my power, and it had been like trying to bail the ocean with a spoon - kept me busy, but I could have been better occupied.

I try not to get in the way between people and their lives nowadays. It's not up to me to save anyone by trying to force solutions upon them. How do I know that their Higher Power hasn't arranged for precisely what I was trying to prevent, as a way to teach a lesson they desperately need to learn? It's freeing to step back, detach, and allow life to move along as it will. I can offer support, encouragement, hugs, love, and great ideas learned from those in program who went before me along this same roadway to emotional health.


  1. A powerful post. Trying to force another to do anything is dictatorial. Most dictators meet an unhappy end. I am glad to have surrendered my will and let other people figure out what their life course is going to be.
    Hope that you had a good Thanksgiving.

  2. What is so difficult for me is stopping and thinking before I do or say anything. I can control in my SLEEP, it's such an automatic response. But, when I am able to move from that it does feel so good. That's where I feel the serenity.

    Thanks for another great post.Judy

  3. Love this post ..

  4. you've hit the nail on the head. Life is too short to keep banging your head against a brick wall which had become my prison. I have done this for so long that it has become a way of life. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Now it is time for freedom to live and let live

  5. This sounds wonderful! I have just started my journey in Al-Anon (only two meetings under my belt). I'm still terrified and awfully confused. I am hearing about people accomplishing wonderful things like detachment, but I don't know how to achieve them myself. I find so much comfort in hearing and reading about people who have evolved from the place I'm at right now. Thank you for sharing.