I met with a sponsee last night for a couple of hours before the meeting. He is progressing with work on Step One. And I'm gradually learning about his life. I can't relate to all of his story but can say that like most of us who come to Al-Anon, he has built walls to hide the pain in his life. But at the same time, he has only some broken down fences with which to establish boundaries for himself.
When I first heard about boundaries, I knew that I had breached many with a lot of people. And I had no good idea how to establish those that I needed to take care of myself. By admitting that I was powerless over others and accepting that I could not make anyone do anything, I have gradually learned that a healthy boundary is one that I can enforce. It isn't one in which I ask the other person to establish the boundary for me.
For example, I might say something like: "If you show up drunk again, I'm going to ask you to leave." That is something I can't enforce. But if I said, "If you show up drunk again, I'm going to leave" that is a boundary that I can stick by.
Broken down fences are like broken down defenses because I'm left vulnerable to whatever may decide to jump, slide under, or glide through the fence. And I've had to shore up my boundaries with those who are potentially "toxic".
It's a familiar thing in Al-Anon. How to deal with someone in our life who is causing a great deal of pain? Detaching with love and setting boundaries are good ways to do that.
I got to the point before the program that I didn't like hurtful people in my life, but I also didn't know how to get them out of my life or how to detach from them. It has taken me a while to realize that I don't have to like everyone nor do I have to stick around those people who have the potential to be harmful to me. I used to try to ignore them but found that it's hard to ignore the elephant in the living room. Turning the other cheek never worked because I would just get slapped on the other one. And I don't wish to be a martyr. Now, I'm done with people that I don't want to be with. I inventory myself and make a decision on whether I want the drama or the potential of a serenity "breaker".
"In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for "finding himself." If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence." Thomas Merton