From Heartache to Hope

Life with the Alcoholic/Addict

The Challenge of Hitting the Pause Button

Think twice, act once.

The recent events that transpired over this past weekend inspired me to write this blog. I went down to LA to celebrate my sister's, birthday and my daughter, who swings in and out of recovery was a participant. It was a pleasant 24 hours for me, as she and I got along well and showed each other mutual respect.

Since I couldn't control her addiction, I realized that my boundary was for kind and courteous interaction between us. There was no combative communication or playing the blame game for this or that, and I headed back to Santa Barbara a contented mother for the first time in a long while. However, I digress.

My sister, who means well and loves my daughter very much, viewed her frequent trips to the bathroom and sweatshirt- hooded covering in 80 degree weather as a sure sign that she was probably higher than a kite. Instead of hitting the pause button, she made a frantic call to another family member who in turn called my daughter and grilled her on her behavior. Need I say that the **** hit the fan, and what had been a very pleasant weekend was now tainted with accusations and emotions converging with no proof, just speculation.

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Most people can spot someone a mile away who may be functioning (or not) with the added ingredient of a substance, and I too thought my daughter was under the influence of whatever her current drug of choice is, but she's over 21 and has decided to live her life the way she sees fit. Am I happy about it? Of course not, but as I said, as long as she is physically clean and the fur doesn't fly between us, then I can appreciate our relationship for what it is.

As to be expected, she vehemently denied being high and proclaimed that this is one of the reasons for her absence in family functions as she feels like a fish bowl specimen. And frankly, I don't blame her.

So, let's talk about the importance of hitting the pause button regarding direct or indirect communication with the alcoholic/addict.

When we hit the pause button a few things happen.
Those few precious seconds, where you take a few deep breaths might allow you to think twice and act once. It will give you time to regroup and respond with thought rather than reaction or emotion. Probably after years of manipulative conversations and actions, the alcoholic/addict knows what kind of response he or she will evoke.
If you pause, stay neutral and do not engage then you are in control and don't hand the baton over to them to conduct the exchange.

All of us have knee jerk reactions to things that can push our buttons. And some of us can go from 0 to 60 faster than others. For many, we feel that if we don't retaliate immediately, or jump in to fix the problem either with words or actions, then it can be construed as a sign of weakness, not caring or indifference.

Hence, hitting the pause button allows you to take stock of the situation before acting on it impetuously, giving you time to calculate your next action so you can be coming from a place of confidence and stability rather than emotion and passion.

Though these concepts are simple on the surface, they can be challenging to incorporate. We are so easily distracted by wanting to protect the alcoholic/addict from making bad decisions or using poor judgment. We feel we know better and most likely do, but we cannot beg, cry, force, manipulate or make the alcoholic/addict see things our way if they don't want to.

If one cannot rein in their immediate need to voice their opinion or possibly cross an imaginary boundary, then they need to be prepared for the outcome. There was no way that my daughter was going to say to the other family member "you know, you're right, I was higher than a kite and I will head to an AA meeting right away", or "hey, thanks for caring and pointing it out to me and I will stop this destructive behavior immediately".

On the contrary, a defensive and justifying posture is going to be taken as meaning someone is invading their space with either true or false accusations, but in their mind it's none of their business. The outcome, a tense and uncomfortable visit the next time around....if there is a next time.

Please hit the pause button! Listen to that little voice in your head that says "are you sure you want to do this?" You can't un-ring a bell; so sleep on it, take a walk or do anything that will take your mind away from a saying something that you may regret and that though well intended will probably blow up in your face.

If you still feel like offering your opinion (even if no one has asked for it) be prepared for the possibility of an unpleasant response or a wrath of punishing behavior. You may surely ask yourself if it was all worthwhile.

Make your pause button a good friend; name your dog Pause (or Paws) Button, and use it as often as possible. I promise it will get you out of more jams, more uncomfortable situations or even salvage more friendships than you could ever imagine.

As a final note, I asked my daughter not to punish my sister for her non-thinking actions and that my sister has surely learned a valuable lesson. The jury is out here, so time will only tell.


If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my new book Reclaim Your Life - You and the Alcoholic/Addict at www.reclaimyourlifebook.com

I am pleased to announce that I will soon be launching webinar sessions discussing topics from boundaries, communication, baiting and punishing, recovery contracts, the dry drunk and more. If you are interested in being notified when these will occur, please e-mail me at carole@familyrecoverysolutions.com

 

 

Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.

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