I’m hearing a lot about Al-anon and enabling and detachment and suchlike lately.
Why? Well, it’s the holidays and if anybody (including ourselves) is going to act up, it’s then.
Why is it so hard to set boundaries which are both healthy for me, and helpful for the alcoholic or other-type folk? Cuz the person doesn’t necessarily have to be addicted for me to walk all over myself, in trying to help where I may or may not be needed.
It’s been said that the alcoholic (or whatever) is addicted to his/her substance, and that, in a way, those of us who love them are addicted to them. Why, and how, do we turn ourselves inside out in order to help a person who may not even want to be helped? At the very least, they’re not ready. And in the meantime, I’m a mess! Somebody help ME make a decision! Because I can’t, anymore!
And really, that’s what Al-anon is about. Making healthy decisions for yourself.
Applying the principles to my situation, it’s the friend who’s so angry at the world that they take it out on everyone, even those who love and try to help them (as in, me). It’s the guy who just got out of the ER after a suicide attempt who is already drinking again – and their family wants me to fix them. It’s the loved one to whom I will never be enough, no matter how I try. It’s the son that I love dearly, who said he needed to stay with me for “a while,” and it’s now going on to a year.
Meanwhile, I have the idea that I “can’t” say anything, “can’t” set limits, and, most of all, “can’t” say no. Because what if … (and it’s there that I can come up with many many reasons, ad infinitum).
How much do I do for them?
First off, I have to be in touch with God enough to be able to hear His guidance, that still small voice that says, “No no no no no,” or, “You’ve had enough.” Some call it a red flag. In my case, I wait so long that it ends up being a white flag. “I give up! I surrender!” And I’m ready for the white coats!
Secondly, I cannot be “it” for any one person. When I start thinking I’m “the only one” who can help a certain person, I am in trouble, and I am not likely to help that person very much. Especially if the load does get too big and I start resenting them.
Thinking I’m “the only one” reminds me of Elijah of the Bible, who was so depressed in the desert, and spoke to God about it (1 Kings 19:14-18):
… I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left ; and they seek my life, to take it away…
Wow, I can almost hear the whining voice. God, how come I’m the only one who can help, here? Why am I in this position? If I’m being honest, I will say, How did I get myself in this position? Can’t someone else do it? And God reminded Elijah:
… Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
God reminded Elijah that he was not indispensable, nor was he the only one serving Him “so well.” Ugh, a little ego deflating. I’m not the only one who knows how to help. I’m not indispensable. But I sure do lead people to believe I am.
And what do I get out of leading people to think I’m “all that”? Oh I’m not consciously seeking kudos. I honestly want to help. But where do I get the idea that I can help everyone, and that I am the only one who can?
One thing that happens with me is I’m unbelievably attracted to people who feel unlovable (or I perceive that they do). Maybe they have had some injustice done, and I want to make it up to them. Life has treated them horribly. Someone has hurt them, over and over. And I think, if I just love them enough, I can fix them. If I show them the world is not all bad, I can fix them; they’ll be happy. Then, when I can’t convince them, I am furious! “After all I did for them!” I, I, I!
Where does that come from?
Is it as simple as “do unto others as you wish they would do unto you?” Or is it, I’m looking for some payback, some undying love and gratitude?
Well, it may well be. I have come a long way from the days of my early adulthood where I felt like there was nothing to love about me.
But though I have since learned that I have a lot of good qualities, I still have the idea that I have to earn that love.
Again, I have to go back to the Bible.
Romans 5:8 KJV, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
and, Ephesians 2:8 KJV, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
If you’ll notice, in neither scripture does it say I have to do anything to be loved. I just have to seek God, and His love is there. No earning, no being indispensable, no putting Band-aids on everybody.
God did give me the capacity to love, and to love greatly, but He did not make me God. And He did give me His Holy Spirit to guide me in what I should do for others.
I just have to stop long enough, be humble enough, to ask Him, “What wilt Thou have me to do?”
And then, the hardest part: Wait.