There is a supplemental lesson in the 12 step book entitled “identifying Unhealthy Behaviors” that goes through the many behaviors that are common in handling a loved ones addiction. These behaviors include, denial (ignoring what is happening, the solution is self-honesty and finding courage to face the problem), enabling (the opposite of enabling is allowing others to experience the consequences of their choices which can provide the learning lessons to help them desire to change), threats (are a form of control and only increase anxiety, frustration and anger. It is more effective to offer encouragement, establish healthy boundaries and allow consequences.). Shame is an attempt to motivate change but only motivates our loved one to isolate themselves from us and creates more suffering. Instead we should offer compassion and understanding and leave judgment to the Lord. Irrational behavior includes bribing, inflicting punishment or developing our own unhealthy habits such as overeating, starving ourselves, or overspending. Controlling or manipulating is exhausting and ineffective. We can become willing to give our desire to control our loved ones over to God and trust that he will help them; for he can do what we cannot do. Remaining a victim keeps us weak and helpless. We may initially be victims of another person’s actions but it becomes our choice whether we remain a victim. If we stay focused on our own sorrow it will define our future, we must realize we are ultimately responsible for our own happiness. Guilt is feeling we deserve to be condemned thinking we have purposely damaged our loves and deserve the punishment or believe God has forsaken us. We must forgive ourselves for past mistakes and let go of the past. Worry and fear is being fixated on keeping track of what our loved ones are doing. We sentence ourselves to a prison of obsessive thoughts. Worrying about what may be happening or what may happen in the future does not prevent it from happening. Worry can make us terminally miserable, merely enduring life rather than enjoying the reward of each day. Worrying about others causes us to neglect working on our own salvation. Through god we can have our fear replaced with power of hope and stability of faith knowing that no matter what the Lord will sustain us.
The previous paragraph is text taken directly from the manual but I personally did not suffer from all of those behaviors. However, there are a few that I struggled with greatly and I would like to share with you my experience. My greatest weaknesses were 1) shaming, 2) being a victim, 3) worry and fear. Having greatly struggled with these I believe the lesson is appropriately titled “unhealthy behaviors”.
For a long time I wasn’t even aware that I was “shaming” my husband. I would be thinking about what he’d done, I would be hurt and fearful and become emotionally unstable and would vent to my husband what my feelings were which always led to me telling him everything he had done wrong and how bad it hurt. I was blind to my behaviors saying that I was simply stating how I felt. When I finally decided to be honest with myself I realized I was taking every opportunity possible to tell my husband how bad he had screwed up thinking he didn’t quite “get it”, and I needed to pound it into his head for him to really understand what he had done and hopefully he would see how much he hurt me and not do it again. Once I admitted I really was “shaming” him and tried to stop. It was not an easy habit to break! And ultimately I have been learning that these behaviors created the opposite effect that I wanted. My husband would be waiting for me to lash out at any given moment and it has taken him months to feel comfortable around me and not on edge. It has been harder for him to really open up and talk to me for fear it will set me off somehow. It has been a process to heal the damage I have done but it is healing and the new way is much much better than the old way. I wish I would have realized it sooner, on the other hand, I have learned a very valuable lesson.
Remaining a victim. Yes, I felt a victim. I had an extremely difficult time thinking I was responsible for my emotions. I wasn’t the one that lied, I wasn’t the one who pretended to be someone I wasn’t. I wasn’t the one who was lusting after other women. My husband did all of that, and he hurt me, he lied to me and it was completely out of my control – I am a victim of his choices. I blamed him for my hurt and felt justified in doing so, after all it was HIS fault, not mine. I wrestled with this for months and months and to be honest I still feel like it was his choices that hurt me and not mine and in that sense I am the victim. BUT, I am not going to allow his choices to hurt me forever. It is my choice whether I wade in self pity forever or if I move on. It is my choice whether I have faith, whether I allow trust to build again, whether I choose to find joy or not. How I move forward is my choice and my choice only and if I stay miserable I have only myself to blame. It was impossible for me to recognize that and truly take responsibility for my own happiness until I stopped playing the role of victim and stopped feeling sorry for myself.
Worry and fear are very heavy burdens to carry around. I found it was worry and fear that triggered most of my emotional breakdowns. I would be so worried about what my husband was doing, thinking feeling, if he would relapse again, if he would lie again, that I could not feel at peace because the fears were constantly nagging. Some days I could keep that under control enough that I felt fairly normal and other days I would get swept up in the current of emotions and have a breakdown. The truth was the breakdown was inevitable – I could not have the worries and fears endlessly, I could only handle them so long. This created a very wild emotional roller coaster ride. These are the emotions I still have to be most aware of and work on constantly but I am getting much better at them and I know that the more I let go of my fears the more hope and faith I feel. The more I let go of the negative things that could possibly be going on with the my husband the more I notice his efforts, his recovery, his support and love of me. Ultimately my emotions are much more stable and I don’t just get through the day but I actually feel peace and joy and in fact I am noticing a playfulness come out in me that I have not seen for many many years. I am truly finding a peace as I allow Christ to carry my burdens for me and release my fears knowing he will help me through whatever the future may hold and I will be better for it.
We all struggle will different behaviors that are unhealthy and I may not have felt them all but I do know that if we can be honest with ourselves and diligent and determined to overcome, our lives will be much much better which also makes the lives of our family better and it becomes a domino effect of improvements.