Control. Who ME??

I’ve been wrestling with and dealing with ideas and issues of control over the past few days. Well, longer than that I suppose, but a few things have come up in the past week that really brought it to the forefront. Two specific situations and I would love your feedback on what you think. So feel free to pipe in!

First let me start off by saying one of the first things we learn in Al Anon is that we only have control over ourselves. We can not an alcoholic anymore than we can control the sunrise. This is very true and also very very hard to grasp. We think to ourselves that if only I (insert your choice here: try harder, love more, get mad, take away affection, look through email, drive by where I think s/he may be, on and on) that it will get them to change their behavior. That in itself is a sickness. It becomes an obsession of what am I going to do to change this person. It doesn’t work that way.

Too many times in a relationship, we become so enmeshed with the other person we tend to lose ourselves. We start to think only about “us” and not as separate people. We allow others to look at the behavior of one as a reflection of both. Isn’t it strange how this works with addiction but not other diseases? If a spouse has cancer, it’s not a reflection of the healthy spouse. There is sympathy and empathy and help offered. Maybe addiction is such an anomaly that others outside the family don’t know how to respond? But I digress (as usual! )

When someone becomes so focused on controlling the other person in a relationship, whether addiction is in play or not, that they can’t see what they are doing in their own lives, it becomes dangerous. Delusional. Lost. Only when you can truly come to terms with the fact that you can only yourself that things can begin to change. Strange, right? When you learn to take control over your own life, your own dreams, your own future, that’s when true change begins. True change. And guess what also happens? The other person in your relationship is then free to change too. Or not. But it’s their choice. And that alone is one of the most freeing aspects of letting go of that control you held on to so tightly. When your partner sees change in you, and I’m talking real change, not manipulation, they have a few decisions to make of their own. They can continue to do what they’ve been doing or they themselves can decide to change.

There’s an empowerment that comes with letting go of the control over someone else. You get to decide what you will tolerate and what you won’t. You get to decide if you want to live the way you are or if you want something different. If you want something different, you are in control of your own life to make that change! Do you see how freeing it is? Stop controlling and get out of your own way! Life is too short to be unhappy.

control of life

The second part of this has nothing to do with addiction but much more about parenting and how things have changed in the past, um, few decades. This comes from a discussion over the past few weeks with Michael about Ryan. Ryan seems to have a problem with not texting us when he arrives some place. I know, shocking right? I’m sure he’s the only teenager who “forgets” to text his parents. But it was seriously driving me crazy. After everything that has happened the past 6 months, I think a simple text saying “I made it” or “I’m here” shouldn’t be difficult.

Yesterday I had a little epiphany. He was going to the zoo with his girlfriend. I asked him to text me when he got to her house and again when he got to the zoo. I didn’t think that was asking much. Guess who didn’t text me? Yep. So I texted him. “You get there ok?” No response. Tick. Tick. Tick. “Hello?” No response. Tick. Tick. Tick. So I texted the girlfriends mom. “Ryan make it there ok? I haven’t heard from him.” No response. Tick. Tick. Tick.

So by now you’ve probably guessed that I’m about .03 seconds away from calling hospitals, police, jail, wherever I need to in order to track down my son who I’m sure is laying dead or injured in a ditch and they were only able to reach the girlfriends mom who has now rushed to her daughters side and no thought to call me. Seriously, this is the way my sick mind works.

I finally get a text back from Ryan. “We were driving and just pulled into the zoo.” Ok. He’s alive. Close Google window with local hospital phone number listed. Breathe.

And then it hit me. Out of nowhere. What in the hell was I doing to myself? I got myself in that panic. I was trying to control a situation I really didn’t need to or should control. I started thinking about how when I was a 17 almost 18 year old. When I took my car and told my mom I was going to the zoo or the movies or wherever, I sure didn’t have a cell phone. I wasn’t texting her telling her I arrived at the movies ok. I was holding a device that allowed her to ping my exact location at any given time. I told her where I was going and she would tell me to have fun, be back by curfew and out the door I went. I don’t know for a fact, but I bet she wasn’t pacing the floor every minute I was gone. And look how I turned out!!!! (Ok, that made me laugh!) But why, just because we have this amazing technology, do I use that to try to control my almost adult child? Especially when it does nothing but frustrate me.

So I’m making a conscience effort to let go. He has a phone. He can call if something happens. I don’t need to track or ping or worry. Because I’m only driving myself further insane. I’m not saying he’s going to be given some free-for-all with no accountability. After all, it’s MY cell phone he has and it’s Michael’s car he’s been given with permission, and it’s OUR house rules he has to abide by, but I think I’m going to try, really really hard to not demand a text that I don’t get.

I’m giving up that control too. I can learn to unlearn that behavior. And just maybe, he’ll learn something too.

control

Addiction – The Family Secret

I really wanted to write about this subject today after giving it much thought. I hope I can be succinct and cohesive, but I am also asking for feedback if you would. That’s kind of the point of the blog post.

How many of you have an addict in your family? Any kind of addict. Alcohol, drugs (<– that was whispered like the mom in St. Elmo's Fire….lol), gambling, sex, shopping, eating….anything that causes a problem for the person and the family unit. I bet you do if you're honest with yourself. I bet there's the crazy Uncle you only have to deal with during the holidays because he drinks too much and gets obnoxious or starts telling dirty jokes around the 5 year old kid table. Or your sister who eats her entire meal telling everyone she's not really hungry, but then grabs some extras and hides in the bathroom finishing off another piece of cake plus 3 more rolls. Or the niece everyone thinks is perfect but has been secretly getting high every night and no one notices. What about the guy at work who can't turn down the next project/phone call/email/business trip/etc because he's afraid of not getting the next promotion or being valued enough?

Or maybe it's you. Can you stop drinking? What if you've never been told you have a "problem" before but now you're being asked to stop. Can you? "Well, **I** don't have the problem. My mom, well, SHE was the one hiding bottles through the house, not me. I can stop when I want." Uh huh. But do you? Can you go a month without drinking? Excess shopping? A little weed? A little pill? Working on a day off? What about exercise? Are you addicted to something "good" for you? Do you push it too far? Are you running 7 days a week? Should you?

Anyone who has dealt with an addict will tell you the above scenario is classic denial. There's always always ALWAYS someone worse off than the person you're talking to. Or an excuse for the behavior. And that's a convenient rationale to not admit your own problem. Yes, admitting you have a problem with (insert addiction here) is a first step. Admitting powerlessness over the addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. Step One in AA. And starting at Step One is always the best place to start. The whole one foot in front of the other thing, right?

But what is YOUR role in all of this? The non-addict family member. Do you cover for the gambling spouse who just spent your electric bill money at the craps table? Do you call in sick for the spouse who can't quite make it to work again this morning? Do you explain to your kids to stay away from Aunt Dee because she can't help but to act the way she does? What if it IS your kid? Do you cover and and hide and put on the happy face for the world to see?

Now I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone open up the four walls of their homes and let everything be a gawking free-for-all. Every home has its secrets that most are sure would be horrified if the outside world could look in and see during your most raw, emotional times. That's not what I'm getting at. I AM suggesting that addiction is so incredibly prevalent in our society, and that the old way of thinking is not what is healthy for the entire family. Talking about it, discussing it, sharing it, help to bring it out of the shadows where it can grow and fester. That helps take away that stigma that unfortunately still exists today.

Which brings me back to the non-addicts role. My role. Most of my readers know my husband is an alcoholic. I don't hide it. It's hard. It's difficult. I've written many blog posts about it. I'm active in an Al Anon group. It's been amazing to find that everything I thought I was dealing with alone, someone right down the street was dealing with too. And right around the corner. And all over the city, the state, the country, the world. But no one knows because everyone hides and covers. It's the family secret.

Here's a great saying in AA: "Nothing changes if nothing changes". Simple right? Simple and true. Changing the way WE act and will bring about change in US. Not others. Ourselves. It's a very empowering feeling when you truly start to put yourself first and change the way you think.

I wish I could get more people talking, and in doing that you could realize you aren't alone. You're family isn't the only one. And perhaps helping to shed some light on what is happening will also encourage the addict to seek support and help. Don't let another generation continue the cycle. There's a Step One in AA and in Al Anon. But there's more than one step. Keep moving, keep growing. You can do ANYTHING for a day. Today can be Day One in your life, whether you're the addict or just love someone who is.

Namaste.

Addiction