Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Easy Button - Getting Provoked

I must wear a big "easy button" on my chest. Why is it that the alcoholic can provoke and stir up such negative emotions in us?

They know exactly what buttons to push, don't they? And of course, we want so desperately to respond, don't we? And if we respond, what does it get us?

My answer: Nothing. It just makes us more frustrated. We respond expecting that we are talking to a normal person, hoping to gain love, acceptance, and maybe just understanding of our feelings or how we view the world.

We have to remember we are dealing with a person who is ill.

Someone said, this disease of alcoholism is like cancer. I thought about this and I disagree. The disease is more like a person who is mentally deranged or specifically, someone who is neurotic, has psychosis, and/or is narcissistic.

Yes, we can feel compassion for this person. But the analogy of this disease compared to someone who has cancer is NOT accurate. The person with cancer has compassion. He or she may be consumed with his or her disease of cancer, but they still feel for others and care about the feelings of others and the world others are living in.

The alcoholic - when they are in full bloom - can be an ass. They are self-centered and they are delusional. They think what they think and how they think is the way everyone else should think. They see themselves as the center of the universe, with all the stars and planets revolving around them. This is their disease.

I am not saying not to feel compassion for them. But it is a lot harder when they are in full bloom. And just because they are sober today, does not mean that their disease has gone away. It is still there. It has affected their minds. It has destroyed brain cells. In fact, the killing of brain cells may put them at 16 years old in their thought processes, when their physical body is 40 years old.

It takes years of recovery before they can get back to their true age. I understand when this happens, it is a beautiful thing. But, the alcoholic has to be sober (and this means NO drink) for sometimes over a year - sometimes two years.

It is a nightmare of a disease. But it is not like cancer.

And this "easy button" thing, well they provoke to deflect the disease of alcoholism from being the cause of all their problems. When we respond, they rationalize to themselves that we are at fault and that they are pure and good. That may be an over generalization, but there is a lot of truth to this, at least I believe it to be true.

The compassion thing? Well I think if we have compassion, it may keep us from responding, by reminding ourselves that this is a terrible disease and the compassion may be the most beneficial to us and not so much to the alcoholic. So I am all for compassion if is helps us and keeps us from worrying, and responding to the buttons being pushed.

I hope this little message helps you today.

PS - I was provoked today, yesterday and the day before. Damn, I have to read my own posts!

PPS - Also, I believe there are people who push our buttons, (not just our qualifiers) because we have shown them how and what to push, by our reacting either by being defensive, by cringing, taking them on, telling others what happened etc. Let's let these "issues" go and show that we are better than what we were (not better than the other person - because we all are frail humans - and we don't want to get into a comparison battle) - and demonstrate our alignment to the universe.


Stacey said...

Thank you so much for this post!! I have been contemplating this cancer/alcoholism analogy myself and found only confusion trying to compare the two, particularly since I have taken care of and loved dearly two people who died from cancer. NEVER did their disease cause the problems alcoholism does. I think you are right, equating it to an emotional illness. That I can understand a bit better. Not that I'm any happier about it! Hang in there.

Syd said...

I think that alcoholism is like mental illness. And I often find that I am guarded around the alcoholic. I don't say what I would like to say sometimes or express my total love because I know that I will likely be pushed away. The self-centered attitude and the grandiosity of thoughts are all part of alcoholism.

Anonymous said...

Living with an alcoholic is like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or perhaps a werewolf, or a schizophrenic who takes meds only sporadically because he doesn't think he needs them. You never know when the monster will show up, how long it will be there, or what havoc will be wrought upon your life. It would be so much easier if life was like the movies and there was a soundtrack where the music could warn you. (cue screeching violins from "Psycho" movie when drunken person walks through the door)

And then in between episodes everything is fine with the alcoholic and it is we who have post traumatic stress syndrome. We are so wound up waiting for the monster to come back we can't even do the most mundane things. We are perpetually nervous, shaking and easily startled. It's similar to a child who can't put his feet on the floor because the monster might reach out from under the bed and grab him. It's that kind of fear and stress, all the time every day, unless we actively seek help and alter our thinking.

When he was drinking, I must have said to my alcoholic spouse at least 10 times, "You are acting like a petulant 12 year old boy". So when I start putting myself on a guilt trip about only having one child and not giving her a sibling, I remind myself that I already have two children, one I gave birth to and one I married.


Catherine said...

Yeah, I always found the cancer analogy didn't work for me, either. Not only for the reasons you've all mentioned, but because of the way society responds to these 2 diseases. If my boyfriend had cancer, I could tell everyone I knew and get their support and understanding. I could turn to innumerable state and private organizations and foundations to treat the illness with the latest technology, to educate and counsel the family, to nurse him, to help us. If it were cancer I wouldn't be sneaking off at night to anonymous fellowships because no one would be ashamed. No one would be judging. The stigma, like you mentioned, is more like that of a mental illness.

The more I learn about the disease of alcoholism, the more I feel kind of outraged that there are so few resources for alcoholics and their families. (It even seems that a lot of mental health professionals know very little about it.) We're on our own. And thank god for alanon cos I can't deal by myself.

Anonymous said...


Reading your post today, these stuck out like a sore thumb.

1. The feelings of others - The alcoholic can't comprehend that, too busy with self concern.

2. Worlds others live in - They are the center of thier own universe, other planets (others peoples lives) don't even map on the radar screen.

At the end of the day, it was me she believed to be the ass, who simply "didn't get it".

Must be the view from the cheap seats...

Peace this Thursday.


Anonymous said...

Joe - this post leaves me not sure whether to laugh, or cry!! Laugh, because it is so true, and I am again relieved/astonished that others can somehow put to words what I am living/feeling. And cry, because of the obvious. How sad that we are all able to relate to this craziness. Speaking of which - for me, I am always unsure which is worse - the nightmare, crazy times with alcoholic spouse, OR the up side of the roller coaster. The in between times, Suzanne refers to. Those are maybe the worst times for me, because they are the 'crazymaking' times. When I sit there 'with post traumatic stress syndrome', while my husband acts as though we are the most loving family. When I have FINALLY, after 23 years of craziness, made up my mind that I am not willing to be a part of this, and am filing for divorce - he becomes the sweetest, most caring husband, and father. And, I just can't bring myself to leaving. Because, what if?? Could it be?? He promises me the world. "Please! Don't go! I love you, and everything is going well in my life for the first time! I feel so much better! You are going to regret it!" So...I stay. But, I promise myself, just ONE more chance. Because, I did make vows. And, I do love him. And, he is the father of my precious children. And, without fail, for 23 years - (did I mention 23 years!!!) the craziness begins. The other shoe falls, and I he is angry/ranting about something that I could not see coming. Because, of course, if I could see it coming, I would prevent it. Right? Because, like Syd - I am guarded. I do what I can to avert the rejection, and the anger. (I am sorry for my ranting...sigh. I just feel as though I am living in the twilight zone.) My head tells me that history is the best predictor of the future..but my heart struggles to differentiate between love and pity. And...what if?? I have been with him since I was 14. EVERY time I am ready to leave, I am immobilized by fear. Fear that I will regret my choice, because 'this time' he may have truly changed. (Okay...this time I am really going to stop typing...thanks for listening, all.) And Joe, thanks as always for your wonderful writing. I am so, so happy to hear that you are choosing life for yourself, and your daughter. Who knows...your choice could be what saves your wife's life, too. I applaud your courage!!!! "...courage to change the things you can...and the wisdom to know the difference!!"

Anonymous said...

this is why Alcoholics in recovery usually feel most comfotable when they are with other alcoholics...
They get it!!!

TraceyBaby said...

I am relieved to hear you talk about the maturity level of someone who is addicted, even after recovery. My 21-year old acts like he is 14 even though he went through rehab months ago. It has been difficult seeing him flounder about with jobs, poor judgement, etc.

Mary said...

Well I over react to my over reactions.

I tend to get involved in things I should not get involved in. I was way way way over involved with the A I was with for 7 years life. He barely knew me, showed very little interest but could hook me in with one word.