I know that I learned a lot of lessons from the alcoholic. I found that I lost respect for my wife because of the drinking. I reacted in negative ways. I became so obsessed with getting her to change that I forgot about the person that she was. I was obsessed with her problem and also forgot about myself.
It wasn't until coming to Al-Anon and going to open AA meetings that I learned the difference between hating the disease and not the alcoholic. Both programs taught me about having respect for others. I learned that everyone has the right to be their own person – no matter what their problems are or how they decide to manage their lives.
I think that is how I began to see that in order for others to respect me, I have to respect myself. I've learned in the program to look at myself and to be aware of my actions and behaviors. I've learned not to control others but to let them go so that they can be their own person.
My actions and not reactions are what help others to respect me. I've learned to keep healthy boundaries but not show hate or contempt for another. I realized after being in Al-Anon that all the years that I spent in anger, disdain, and contempt really did nothing to help either of us.
However, there are times when I think that people in my life take me for granted, tune me out, or disregard my feelings. I know that these are sensitive areas for me. And that if I don't pay attention to the feelings, I will start to slip.
I suspect that the roots of this behavior began early on in my relationship with others. So what did I do early on? I put up with things in order to keep the peace, make a good impression, avoid confrontation, and generally get along in childhood and in my marriage. And so the people in my life learned what I would and would not tolerate and what to expect from me.
It doesn't take long for these "lessons" that I taught to become deeply ingrained. And then that leads to my complaints: "Why does everyone always take me for granted? I'm tired of being the "responsible" one. Can't anyone take me seriously? Doesn't my time matter? Don't I matter?"
So what's the solution? What can I do if I'm unhappy with how others treat me? I needed a new "lesson plan". And that's where the steps and traditions come in. So here's what I decided:
- It wasn't very productive to beat myself up over what I did in the past. I need to be gentle with myself. Screw guilt! I reacted before because I didn't really know how to react. I was just trying to survive. In the present, I can develop new behaviors.
- I can look at what I have been tolerating and make some boundaries that I want others to respect. I need to enforce those boundaries.
- I need to make it clear to others what my own needs, wants and dreams are. I need to decide what the new "messages" are that I want to send.
- I have the right to speak up when my feelings get stepped on. If I want to be treated well, I have to make an effort to explain what I need, rather than pulling back and struggling with frustration. It is up to me to provide enough information to others so that they know where I stand and what my boundaries are.
- It doesn't accomplish anything for me to feel helpless or like a victim. That just leads to blame, resentment and rescue attempts that make me feel bad.