Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm just not willing

I have had quite a lot of drama lately with a sponsee. Without going into his story too much, just let's say that he is having some boundary issues. And the main issue is that he isn't respecting his boundaries. He makes a boundary, decides to toss it out and then cries foul when he gets a big plate of crap tossed back in his face from people that he is trying to control. He doesn't like the crap but can't seem to stop the behavior that leads to it being heaved his way.

And when the crap gets heaved at him, he decides to call me and moan on and on about how dreadful his life is, how sad and broken he is, how disrespected he is, and so on. I listen, make a few suggestions, get told that my suggestions aren't going to work because he is special and feels more deeply than most; that he is bipolar and that's a problem; that he doesn't want to be brainwashed by the program (he was in AA and NA but found those programs to be too restricting); and that he needs to follow his feelings wherever they take him.

So the other day after a particularly disturbing phone call where he said that he thought he might need to go to a psych ward, I told him that might not be a bad idea. I reminded him that I wasn't a therapist, guru, spiritual wizard, or Higher Power--instead, I am simply a person who has worked the steps and am willing to share with him how I did it, what happened as I worked the steps, and how I'm doing now.

I have decided that I don't want to be a part of the drama of sponsees. I am willing to listen but I also want to see some willingness on his part to do what is suggested. The Al-Anon books are pretty clear on the need for willingness in working the steps. And the Big Book of AA provides all anyone would need instructively on working the steps (even for Al-Anon although it isn't CAL for us).

I told him to call me when he was ready to get to work on the steps again. I know that I've got to set my own boundaries with this sponsee. I need a boundary in which I maintain my balance and not do for others what they and the God of their understanding can do for them. I want to be of service but not a crutch or substitute for someone's HP.

34 comments:

  1. I would do the same thing with the "set boundaries-move boundaries-whine when no one respected my boundaries". My sponsor would say, "I hear you clucking but I don't see any eggs." After a few of those, I put up or shut up. I am a slow learner and she knew what I needed. My husband is bipolar and no amount of therapy or sponsoring will take the place of his medication..his opinion..and mine.

    Good call on your part..imho

    Namaste

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  2. This is so interesting to me, Syd, because just yesterday I had a sponsee go out and drink again. I think we stopped it in time but she bombarded me with a whole bunch of reasons why she is different and the AA "rules" don't apply to her. HA! (If I'm real honest I need to remember that I was just like her, or worse, when I first came in to AA...I hated it and fought everyone and everything and it never worked until I finally let go!) Good post.

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  3. The time you are spending with him is time you could be spending with someone who actually wants to get well.

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  4. You have provided the perfect picture of the advice my sponsor once told me: only Alcoholics can help Alcoholics - - - We in Al-Anon only enable them, causing additional hurt - to ourselves, as well as to the argumentative recoverer (?). Glad you released the cunning, baffling, powerful snake! I will keep the situation in prayer for A Higher Power's resolution.
    Hugs,
    Anonymous #1

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  5. Sounds like your sponsee is too invested in his victimhood to make changes. It's a powerful role. jeNN

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  6. yo've made a good decision. a relationship, ANY relationship, has to show a willingness from BOTH sides...

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  7. I only have one sponsoree right now- I've spent many days and nights waiting with him in emergency rooms while I help him with paper work to get admitted to dry out- too many calls at night he's gone off the wagon... he cannot get more than 30 days sober, he keeps going out, yet I keep staying with him.

    His problem is I think deep down, he just doesn't want to get sober. When he is sober, he has to deal with demons he cannot deal with, and he needs his drinks and drugs to cope...and as many times as I think he has hit bottom, and think for him, his bottom will be death. Which is a shame. He's so briliant, so talented, so drop dead handsome- his sister was featured on Intervention- my heart just breaks because I know one day the phone will ring and he will be dead.

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  8. Good post, Syd. Terminal uniqueness, very common in this disease, I think. Willingness is certainly the most important attribute in recovery.

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  9. I used to really believe my probs were somehow different from everyone else at the AA...
    I now know that I am just the same but its taken me a long time to start off to chip away at my "specialness".
    I still get feelings of grandiosity (as u can prob tell from some of last yrs posts)
    So much to learn but gradually I am starting to enjoy my life for the first time since I was a young kid.
    You have given me so much inspiration Syd in 2009, like a voice of reason in my chaotic thought patterns.
    I am sure if I search hard enough I can find a label for the psychological condition I have got but I guess focusing on the prob takes u away from the solution.

    I have started reading loads on Global warming on the net, it seems our civilisation has maybe only evens chance of surviving the next 100 years

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  10. Al-Anon helps me ask and answer 'What's my part in it?' It's still not easy, though, to step away from someone who is turning to me for (their idea of) help. It sounds like you have that figured out, just right.

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  11. I agree with MC. Somewhere it says we don't waste time with those that are not willing, it's taking away from our time to help others that are.

    I have a sponsee that dances around the steps, trying to intellectualize them while not even having read the literature. I told him to either shit or get off the pot. I like the clucking comment Kim made.

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  12. I appreciate this post very much. I am always reminded of "not doing something for someone they can do for themselves". It seems easy, but people do complicate the process of recovery making even the program or a program a source of difficulty for their lives.

    I have recently had to enforce some of the toughest most restrictive boundaries of my entire life, somehow I know this is the only part I can do anything about, the rest is left to the other person and their life choices. It is hard to balance it all, isn't it?

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  13. You sound like a great sponsor to me. Good work.

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  14. I don't know much about boundaries - a long story and probably not relevant.

    I do know that I've never yet helped anyone by simply buying into their drama and assuring them of the validity of their drama. For some, my sober experience seems to be useful. For others, I can support them in finding the solution they need/want.

    Blessings and aloha...

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  15. I've never had a sponsee, and I'm not in Al-anon, so I'm not sure my comments should mean anything, but it sounds to me like you have the AA equivalent of a recidivist relapser. There's no requirement to help those that don't want it.

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  16. Just as potent as your post are the comments afterwards. I always wish that people would speak the truth, as you did to him. It's a good practice and one that sharpens people more than the absence of boundaries. I could use hearing it from people and feel thankful when I do--even if it stings at first--I heal better in the long run. =)

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  17. you will show him in practice how to make a boundary, and keep it. Perhaps that's what he needs.

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  18. sometimes when we set our own boundries, it helps others to set and keep theirs.

    great post.

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  19. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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  20. Great post, Syd. I have two mothers calling me all the time asking for advice. They only pay lip service to AlAnon, and when I tell them my opinion, they tell me why it won't work in their situation.
    I'm trying to be patient by repeating my message over and over (admit you are powerless), but don't know how much longer I can keep it up!

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  21. You are doing him a favor, not just yourself. He sounds like someone I once was close to. Who used to tell me how special he was and how others were ruining his life. I was in way over my head.

    He has been in AA for years now and I hope is still there.

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  22. great post.
    Love the "I hear you clucking but I don't see any eggs."
    I say a LOT, when people refuse to 'play', "Its not for people that NEED it, its for people that WANT it"

    I refuse to persist when someone just wants a 'friend', or someone to RANT at, or complain about their 'problems'
    I will persevere for a LIMITED time if I think they are a bit slow or difficult, but I feel it does the other, more willing people a disservice if I waste time with someone who 'cannot take direction'

    The 2 ? questions I ask at the beginning are
    'Are you willing to go to any lengths'
    'Are you able to take direction'

    I give em the 6 things. If they cannot even do those for 7 days or 14 days, I will not go further. In other words, I 'test' em from the off, to see how receptive they are. I f they cannot do 6 very short, simple things every day, then it is going to be !!! very exasperating trying (!) to DRAG them through the steps..

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  23. i watched a freind of mine today deal with the insanity of no boundaries and no respect from those she is trying to 'help'. i know exactly what you are talking about, and i keep my distance as it is hard to not say anything while i am there and it is easier to keep my sanity when i am not in the middle of their insanity.
    i lose more sponsee's this way, but i truly believe it is not my job as a sponsor to fix anyone's life, i just share experience, strength and hope of the steps of my program. and i always try to keep them on the subject of recovery and not of being a victim of their lives.

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  24. Good for you Syd, can't help those that aren't ready.

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  25. I think you demonstrated to him what healthy boundaries are, hope he noticed.

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  26. I absolutely agree with you.

    My feeling is that we didn't work the steps and we don't work the program to be abused. Being "used" is not healthy, it's abusive (in my opinion).

    I'm sure you handled all of this in a kind way.

    PG

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  27. Oh, it's SO much work. You guys get much more work than we do because you're forever on call. Talk about needing boundaries, right? And there are so many people who haven't any idea, and then there are the ones who have impermeable boundaries who can't let anyone in. Glad you've got a nice balance, working on it, at least.

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  28. The drama is the merry go round of alcoholism. It took me 3 months in Al-Anon to decide to work the steps, and then a solid 3 months to work step one. But when I completed it I knew that being on that merry go round had contributed to my life becomming unmanagable. I felt my first glimmer of peace at admitting my powerlessness. I'm all the more motivated to invest in myself and work the steps!!

    Kathy S

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  29. My question to myself is "Am I caring more about their recovery than they are?"

    If the answer is yes...it's time to let go until they are willing.

    12 step program hopping...now that's an interesting idea!

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  30. Ah. The plight of the tragically unique. I remember being that person.

    You did the right thing, Syd. Now, I'm praying for your recovery from the brain drain that this has caused :)

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  31. Thank you for sorting that out in front of us. I learned.

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  32. Thanks Syd for sharing this. Boundaries are still something I am learning about with my sponsees.

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  33. Thank you for this blog. It helps me as I am very new in al anon and am somewhat isolated. It's hard at first to pluck up the courage to talk to people at meetings and so it's nice to have this other place where i can learn. I know all about people without boundaries as I seem to be surrounded by them! I hope that I can some day be as honest and straightforward as you were. Peace, Sarah

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