I blogged yesterday about one of the things that has been bothering me lately. The other thing, I believe, has to do with control of my environment. I’ve recently moved in with another person, and each of us has lived alone for a long time, so each of us is used to being able to make whatever changes we want. Each of us is used to an environment where changes do not happen without us.

Now, I feel insecure, because changes happen that I do not expect. Doors that have so far been unlocked are sometimes locked. Keys that usually live in certain locations now live in others. Items that were stored here are now stored there. I get used to the new environment, but then the new environment changes, and it wasn’t me doing the change, and the change wasn’t mentioned to me when it occurred.

My conditioned reflex, my old way of being, is to react defensively. It is to blame the other person for making changes unfairly. It is to keep a resentment about the changes. It is to read meanings into the changes. My security instinct feels threatened, although no actual threat is occurring. It is all about control, and the loss thereof.

All of this disquiet is happening on the inside of myself. This is my stuff, my issue. I cannot see into the inside of the other person and they cannot see into the inside of me. Outside of ourselves, in the physical reality, I don’t think there really is any threat or danger. There might be inconvenience if I need to get something that I cannot access, but I’m not likely to die of it, and I can ask how to get to it again. I can ask that it not be moved. I can ask what place would be better. I can participate and communicate.

And I can, like yesterday, presume goodwill. There is no reason to expect that the other person is out to get me, that they need to obtain some advantage over me or that they enjoy keeping me off balance. It is entirely reasonable to assume that they are just living life and getting things done the best way they see to do them.

Just writing about these things, I feel better already. I can keep praying for acceptance, the ability to detach, and the ability to set healthy boundaries in this as in all things. Then I can focus on the present, the next right thing to do, and be grateful for what I have right now.

I am having an acceptance problem. I have to accept that an intimate relationship with a recovering alcoholic is still an intimate relationship with an alcoholic. It’s nice that my qualifier doesn’t drink and continues to work a program toward serenity. The fact is that certain classic characteristics of alcoholism remain, and they may never go away. It’s unrealistic to expect them to. Just because they were not in evidence during the courtship and honeymoon phases does not mean that they have been absent. I don’t know what it means – either the other person was too focused on something to engage in them or I was too blinded to observe them. Or some other factor. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are there.

Back to ADB we go!

  • I need to accept that they are there and there is nothing I can do about that. That’s firmly in the hands of my qualifier and their HP.
  • I need to detach from the internal workings of the alcoholic. While these classic behaviors may be affecting me, they are not about me. The alcoholic’s feelings, moods, psychology are not mine to own or be responsible for.
  • I need to form boundaries to take care of myself. How can I take care of myself in this situation?
I have noticed over time that alcoholics can be oblivious about the world around them, so wrapped up in their internal workings that they don’t notice things in their physical environment. Sometimes this can be so egregious, it’s on the level of a physical disability.
I have discovered that simple, explicit verbal communication is sometimes required for things that non-alcoholics understand immediately without it. For instance, if an ordinary person were to take my hand and I were to flinch way and put the hand behind me, the ordinary person would expect that there is some reason I don’t want them holding my hand, whether it be an interpersonal reason or a physical reason, such as an injury. The ordinary person might ask what the problem is. 
In the same position, an alcoholic may simply reach for the hand again, perhaps even taking the arm and following it down to the hand without any apparent hesitation. Conversely, the alcoholic may assume an interpersonal reason and leap directly into an offensive or defensive measure. I’ve seen that too. It can be an illness of extremes. Either failure to notice at all, or beyond notice into hyper-focus and reaction.
Some of these physical issues have occurred, and it’s too easy for me to read into them meanings that probably aren’t there, such as, “That person doesn’t respect me.” or “That person is treating me like a child.” or “That person thinks they have the right to jerk my body around.” Maybe it will help to remember to “presume goodwill” and use that simple, explicit verbal communication. I can say, “Please don’t take my hand; it hurts.” I have to then let it go, not brood on it all day. It fouls my mood.
Actually, I have acquired several new resentments and fears, so I’ve started working on a 4th Step inventory about them.

My sponsor is taking me through the 4th step really slowly and exhaustively thoroughly. The box with my paperwork must weigh like 14 pounds. We’re doing an AA-style inventory, but it’s almost absurd what’s included. I like it. I’ve been at this for almost a year and a half, and I’m midway down the 4th column.

I’m learning some very interesting things. For instance, nearly all my work-related resentments have to do with lack of detachment, lack of boundaries, or both. I tend to take ownership of the behaviors of other people, and thus deeply resent the uncool things they do as some reflection on me. I don’t set a protected area for myself or make a decision about what to do if unacceptable behavior occurs, so I wind up feeling stuck with it and resenting it.

One really neat thing that dawned on me was the cascading nature of some of my three biggest failings.

1. Lack of acceptance – I tend to have trouble accepting people for who and what they are, forever wanting them to be what I figure they should be. Funny thing is, I never thought I was doing that. But anytime I became angry at someone from failing their potential, that’s exactly what this was. Anytime I expected someone to do or be what I needed, when there was no reason to believe they were naturally inclined to, that’s what I was doing.

2. Lack of detachment – As mentioned before, I was personally invested in the behaviors of others. I also took on resentments that were not mine, being angry at people who had hurt people I cared about, whether that was deep in the past or not, whether I had any objective information about the reported harm or not. I thought of it as being loyal, but it was really just poisoning everything.

3. Lack of boundaries – When faced with a pattern of unacceptable behavior, I didn’t know I could plan ahead healthy things to do to remove myself from a toxic situation. I can decide, “If so-and-so starts to do that, I’ll excuse myself to go to the bathroom,” for instance. I used to let people run roughshod over me, or I’d build walls to shut them out. One of the daily readers has a passage that describes a boundary as not a wall, but a bridge, to help facilitate linking ourselves with others. Sounds weird at first, but I get it. I can connect with you, and still have room to lovingly withdraw if I need to. That’s cool.

I can’t get boundaries if I can’t detach my emotions from someone else’s behavior, and I can’t get decent detachment if I can’t accept them as they are. So, like the first step says, it starts with acceptance.