Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Three C's

One of the things that I've learned in Al-Anon is that I'm not responsible for someone else's drinking. The slogan that captures this is "I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it". A lot of people come into the program trying to find a way to stop their alcoholic from drinking. Look at the writings of Lois Wilson and all that she tried to do for Bill W. She tried everything including getting drunk herself to show him what the terrible effects of alcohol were. There are a lot of people who come to Al-Anon to find that answer. But what they hear is that they can't stop anyone from doing anything (Step One) but that we ourselves have problems that have to be dealt with. Some of these issues that we bring into the program are very self-destructive. The controlling behavior, the anger, sadness and fear can make life miserable. We think that it's possible to exert control over another, yet we don't want to be controlled ourselves and, in many cases, our emotions are out of control. Some, including myself, have just been ready to give up on everything when we first went to a meeting.

What I've come to learn through Al-Anon, is that the alcoholics in my life don't drink because of me. They drink because they are alcoholics. Nothing that I can say or do will change that. Instead I have learned through the steps to deal with my own issues and to take care of myself. When I do that, then I can begin to recover from the effect that the disease has had on me.

The first part of the Three C's is that I didn't cause my loved one's alcoholism. Nothing I did caused the alcoholic to drink. The drinking started many years before I even knew the alcoholics in my life. What I have heard from my S.O. is a lot of blame thrown at me for just being me. It's not unusual for alcoholics to cast blame on the people who are closest to them. This is simply an attempt to justify the drinking. By accepting that I didn't cause alcoholism, I am relieved of guilt that I have felt about my father and my spouse. If only I had been a better son or if only I had been a better husband....well, I've learned that no matter what I would have done, nothing would have been different for the alcoholic. It's an illness/disease that caused the problem, not me.

Learning that you can't control your loved one's behavior is another crucial part of recovery. You can share your thoughts and feelings with an alcoholic. You can even impose certain consequences if your loved one drinks. But the decision to seek treatment is one that only your loved one can make. For some, this means watching a descent into the abyss. For all who love the alcoholic, it means that they have to detach and no longer manipulate situations so that the alcoholic won't drink. In Step One, I learned that I am powerless over people, places, and things.

The final part of the trilogy is that you can't cure your loved one's alcoholism. There is no cure for alcoholism. Alcoholics will always be recovering but not cured. There's no treatment that allows alcoholics to return to moderate drinking. The Big Book indicates that it's best to completely abstain from alcohol. But again, the decision to abstain rests with the alcoholic, not me. By not being able to cure alcoholism, I don't need to repeat all the same old things over and over hoping to find a solution. There is no magic cure, and I've learned that I don't need to exhaust myself hoping that the "last ditch" effort will make the drinking stop. I know now that the best thing to help an alcoholic is another alcoholic.

Remembering these three points has allowed me to respond to an alcoholic's behavior by taking care of myself rather than reacting based on anxiety or resentment. If I start feeling anger, fear and resentment, then I will take the steps necessary to stop my destructive thoughts and get back into myself. This may involve leaving for a while, calling my sponsor, going to do something that I want to do or a host of other things that will get the focus off the alcoholic and onto me. And this is the essence of detaching with love.

21 comments:

  1. Cool post ! Interesting. I started to reply but it was too !! long so I posted it on my blog instead!

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  2. I did'nt know about the 3'Cs, but I won't forget them. Thanks Syd

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  3. Ahh the 3 c's...thanks for reminding me of them. It's a life saver sometimes.

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  4. I googled "The 3 C's of Al-Anon" and was directed to your blog - great writing - I'll return often. My son is in rehab and I just started Al-Anon. Thanks, Syd. - Carl

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  5. Thank you for explaining the 3C's. I found the entry in the back of the book Courage to Change which is the book we use in Al-Anon. After reading the pages I still didn't get what the 3C's were. I found you by googling 3C's + Alcoholics Anonymous.

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  6. I didn't know about the 3 C's, it piqued my interest in Al-Anon. I'm trying to focus on myself, I've forgotten who I am. I leave when I need a self awareness check. I've been married to an alcoholic for 33 years and my two sons have chosen the same path. I don't drink, I've never been a drinker. Thx for your post.

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  7. Do you know what the 3 w's are?

    Thanks for you help, Denise

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  8. Thanks for explaining the 3 C's so clearly. The next time a new friend says, "Just do so-in-so and put your foot down, and your son will have to stop drinking," I will point them to read your writing. I have added a 4th C: I will not Contribute to his disease. Thanks!

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    1. I like that fourth C too!

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  9. Your post is interesting and helpful, but I have found that the hardest emotion for me to overcome is the feeling of selfishness. I am constantly questioning myself and my "new method" of dealing with my brother's alcoholism as being selfish.
    I have recently taken a hard line with not wanting to put up with, witness or contribute to his drinking, which in turn has alienated me from the rest of my family - each trying their own method of coping with his problem. How is it possible to get my parents and my other brother to all agree on how to best help my younger brother with his alcoholism?
    -Lost

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  10. Syd, God bless you for sharing your message. This is so valuable for all of us. I think I'm going to bookmark this to read when things are so painful. It serves as a gentle and loving reminder...of the actual reality in what can mask itself at times as complete insanity.

    Thank you so much for this very useful tool that you have shared with us all. It also serves as a reminder that we don't have to be alone....Al-Anon is there.

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  11. I am always hopeful for a cure...

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  12. In the Al-Anon group I attend, there is a 4th C. The 4th is ..... that we can Contribute to making the situation better by keeping the focus on ourselves and participating in our own recovery..... which as we know has a ripple effect on the addict in our lives. This helps me to feel that I am being active, helps me practice detachment AND that taking care of me IS helping the alcoholic.

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  13. The Three Cs can help you through so many situations. But where do you draw the line on control? I have taken his car keys to stop him from driving drunk... I have poured alcohol down the sink even though I know that there are shops selling everywhere... You try to stop yourself but it is so hard to watch them destroy themselves. Yes, you should detach. But I still get back out of bed, change out of my pyjamas and go down to the boat to check on him.... I know. Back to Step One.

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  14. Thanks for your post and your honesty. I think we all struggle with detatchment. It's a very difficult concept. Or rather I should say: it's simple, but it's not easy.

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  15. Thank you for explaining the 3 C's so effectively....I too just found your blog by googling the "three Cs of Al-anon". I am an alcoholic. Someone on a list-serve I participate in mentioned the 3Cs...We need to remember these living points too.
    Woody

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  16. Talked with several teenagers about the 3Cs, and will direct them to this blog post for your added insights. Thanks for sharing. Diane
    http://codependencycaringorcontrolling.blogspot.com

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  17. Thank you AL-Anon. The people I have met have been so kind and encouraging. They have given me HOPE for my son. I will keep coming back!!

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  18. I have a 4th C--Courage. It takes heroic effort to implement the 3c's and stick to them. Draw on your inner courage--and know you are doing the right thing.

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  19. 2) The 3 Cs – to which I’ve added a 4th & a ‘new’ 5th
    I didn’t Cause it
    I can’t Control it
    I can’t Cure it
    & (mine) I can choose not to Contribute to it (Enable)
    & (mine) I can choose not to be Co-Dependent
    (my behaviors can’t change those of another)

    Also, IF we choose to keep going back to the ‘dry well’ for water, we’ll keep being thirsty. That is what I share with my s-daughters when they come to me to complain about their bio-momster… I tell them what they need to hear, & let them make the parallel that she’s incapable of loving them as they deserve to be loved – so it’s NOT their fault she can’t love them – no less UNconditionally, and they can choose to not set themselves up for disappointment. Plus that they do have a CHOICE in anything…. and can CHOOSE SERENITY despite the challenges.

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