"If you think you are dependent upon another individual -you are!" Dr. Robert Anthony
Our Circles - Who We Are and What We Do
Whenever we see a loved one's life in disarray, part of us wants to jump in and manage it. Think of a circle drawn around a person's feet. The circle represents who that person is. The circle is their work life, their family and the interaction with the family, their obligations - like paying the bills, household duties, etc. It represents their promises and commitments, their hopes and dreams and their beliefs - such as religion, politics, self, etc.
We all have a circle. Don't reflect on the size of the circle. Just visualize this.
When we see someone step outside the circle, they stop paying the bills, they don't go to their work, - they don't do what they are supposed to do . . .
The person - us - wants to "fix" things. And we "jump into their circle." We still have ours - by the way! We try to manage or help the other person by managing the things they have to get done.
"No" is a Complete Sentence.
We still try to manage and get done the other things we have to do too. We - in essence - are doing the work of two!!!! Let me give you some examples:
- We pay the bill for a son who got the DUI.
- We allow the son to borrow money from us to go buy something they cannot afford (nor can we - by the way!).
- We call into the office of our spouse to tell the people there, that our spouse is sick today, and cannot make it.
- We tell people when our spouse is passed out drunk, that they had a long week and are tired.
We make excuses, we do things for them, we allow them to "get off the hook" by not facing reality. At the same time our lives become unmanageable. We cannot manage two lives. Hell, we can barely manage our own. What in the world makes you think you can do both????
This is where we become sick. We become unmanageable. Our children suffer. Our work suffers. We feel like we are a prisoner - in some odd manner.
Visualize yourself standing, one foot in the addicts circle and another foot in your circle. The addict has drifted out of their circle. He or she sees someone managing the circle. They may think, "I don't need to come back. Some body (you) is taking care of me (my circle - my obligations."
Or -The addict may think, "I will keep drinking" (or using). They don't even care about their circle (their old self). They are "not in reality." Their drinking becomes worse. They reality is further covered up.
You - So you are helping - trying to stabilize and keep things together. You are in two lives. Here's what happens;
- You are trying live both and doing a "sucky" job doing it - and you know it.
- Sooner or later you start to lose your identity.
- Sooner or later you don't remember you are.
- You have glimpses of a life - a previous life you lived. You see this old self.
- You miss your "old self". You get "pissed off." You want it back.
- Your anger becomes misdirected.
- You lash out at people at your office (the last place you want to do this by the way).
- You lash out at your spouse's family (and you become labeled a "bitch" or an "asshole" - and of course you feel guilty/bad about this and you think they think "No wonder he/she drinks." adding more guilt/bad feelings to your psyche).
- You may lash out at your children about something trivial.
- You begin to isolate yourself because you don't want to "burden others."
- You feel stuck. You are in a death spiral.
Break it. Say, "No." The word "No" is a complete sentence. It's a long-time get well process. It doesn't happen over night. It takes courage and one small step at a time. Because you have to "ween" others off it too - the ones who know you are always there for them.
Next post - More on co-dependency. By the way, who am I to write about co-dependency? I am "Mr. Co-Dependency" and don't you forget it! I write this today, with the full knowledge I can break this, but tomorrow, I am back. This post is dedicated to the therapists at the clinic, who will remain nameless and who are so dedicated that they give out their time almost 24 by 7 to family and addicts. God Bless them. I do not know how they do it.
Last, the work here is from Virginia Satir. Satir served as the director of training at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto from 1959-66 and at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur beginning in 1966. In addition, Satir gave lectures and led workshops in experiential family therapy across the country. She was well-known for describing family roles, such as "the rescuer" or "the placator," that function to constrain relationships and interactions in families (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon).