Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A conversation that I had

This is a conversation that I had the other day with a double winner (an alcoholic who also goes to Al-Anon) in the program.  He and I were talking about how the minds of alcoholics/addicts are so different from that of the non-alcoholic.  So we did a little role playing which is something he does with his sponsees who are in Al-Anon to get them to see how the alcoholic thinks.  In the role playing A is the alcoholic and M is me.  I came away feeling that the energy vampire had sucked the air right out of me.  Maybe after reading this, you will see why. 

A: I really want you to be with me and I do appreciate all that you do for me.  I love you for that, but because you have so much power over me, I hate you as well.

M: But how can there be hate and love combined?  It doesn't seem that these two strong emotions can actually co-exist. And how could you hate me? I have always been there for you.

A. They exist for me because I don't want to lose you.  You provide me with the things that I need. I don't want to do for myself and realize that without your being here, I would have to get a job, take responsibility, pay bills, and get honest.  When you do things for me,  it reminds me that I don't want to do for myself and I feel bad.  I resent all that you do.  And that makes me come to hate you for doing things for me.

M. So you are saying that I need to let you go and leave you to your own devices?

A.  That is what you should do but you won't.  I only have to crook my finger,  say a few things about what a pathetic victim I am and you will come running to help me.  Then I have you hooked again, just like a fish on the line.  And that is how I keep you hooked.  But by continuing to do for me, you are actually killing me.  And making me resent you more.

M. So if I don't fall for your self-pity, your whining, your manipulations and let you be, what will you do?

A. I will immediately begin to look for someone else that I can dupe into helping me.  There are hundreds of loyal and committed people out there.  I will look around and find one just like you and begin to use him just as I have you.  You are a dime a dozen.

M. So what we have together would simply vanish?  None of the past would matter.

A. I might feel some regrets, but I have to survive and the only way that I can do that is to find another person who is willing to be there for me.  I simply move on to hook in the next person and the next person after that.  I don't want to take any responsibility and why should I when you take it all.

M. Can any of this change? Is there any hope?

A. There is hope but it would require that I become honest and I am constitutionally incapable of that.  I have no conscience when it comes to getting what I need.  And you have no ability to understand how I think, so don't even try.  You will never beat me at my game because I don't care about your goodness and what you do.  I only care about getting what I need.

M. This really makes me feel sad and sick inside.  I know these things in my heart but hearing them put so brutally is hard.

A. Try being me sometime.  I want to be like you but can't make a move to do anything for myself. I am afraid to ask for help,  I am afraid to get a sponsor,  I won't work the steps because I would have to look at myself.  No one will hire me for a job because I have no skills.  My circle of friends is getting smaller.  The meetings I go to aren't the way that I want them to be.  Nothing is the way that I want it to be.  So I simply wait for you to come along and take care of things for me.

M. I don't think that I can live with so much self-hate and negativity.

A. Then why do you stay?  You would do us both a favor if you would just go.

After I had this conversation, I physically felt shaken.  This is how the non-recovering alcoholic thinks.  And this is the way that I not only kill him but also slowly kill my own spirit.  Heavy, really heavy stuff.


  1. Minus the alcohol, and I feel exactly what you feel. Exactly! And, as you have mentioned, it hurts a lot!!!

  2. The voice of active alcoholism/addiction. But what about the distorted thinking and voice of the codependent who is obsessed with that alcoholism? That makes me equally chilled. Those who don't want the alcoholic/addict to get better.

  3. Oh, that's an illuminating conversation. I had never given thought before to the relationship of an alcoholic and partner. It must be so hard to live with.

    Syd, I've seen you on Gledwood's blog and I've been trying to add myself to your followers list. It's not working... probably something to do with cookies, etc. I'll keep trying.

  4. That did hurt a lot, as the real truth sometimes will. My A is has just begun the road to recovery, this exercise certainly describes how I have felt. I'll star this entry when I need a reminder. Spot on.

  5. dang. that would have rocked me as well...good insight into the mind of an a,coholic though...

  6. This conversation puts alcoholic thinking into context very well. If only our real-life, not-in-recovery alcoholics understood and could express themselves so well!

    Though, I do think that as an Al-Anon, my thinking has much in common with the alcoholic's. Only my addiction IS my alcoholic.

    Thanks for a great post.

  7. whoa! thank you for sharing this...

  8. I see two spiritually sick people in this conversation.

    The focus placed on one being sick and the other being normal reflects the spiritual disease in the seemingly normal. The focus, is being placed on the alcoholic instead of on the solution which guarantees success, God being all powerful has always been in control and will provide all we need to get to (or back to) joyful serenity.

    This is a tough thing to witness, even tougher to accept.

    The answer is always "simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn
    in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.

    These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a
    peace and serenity as I had never know. There was utter confidence.
    "Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program of action which a hundred of them had followed


    Thumping again. Can't seem to stop.
    Wanting what I don't have is easy because I know what is right, what is good, what is 'normal' (NOT)! I've always had that part down. I'm in charge of deciding what's good for me and bad for me and when it doesn't work out that way I get more frustrated, more depressed, more afraid and more angry. I was so sure of what was supposed to be (right, normal, good).

    Being willing to go to ANY lengths to get it (a working connection to God that allows the possibility that everything is in His control and he doesn't need help figuring it out or fixing it. That it's me who needs to change, my ideas and behaviors, my self-centeredness.

    A person like me who believes they're normal and know's they're right won't get there. We must have desperation. All my ideas are right and good to me. I thought them. I have gathered proof and research to support my thoughts. I can't not. My thoughts however good they may be do not change the ultimate reality and when I'm hurt, angry and afraid I can't see a way clearly that everything is as it should be and that the only thing that isn't is me, so what do I do with that?

    The book suggests a fearless and thorough inventory of my ideas.

    What an awesome contemplation today! I really felt this one. Thanks Syd!

  9. Your friend did a good job with the role playing I think. It was indeed heavy stuff. Facing truth and saying things out loud is uncomfortable. It would be a good experience if more of us would do that.

  10. I also think the dialogue you have shared fits that between a partner that has borderline personality disorder and one who does not. The person with BPD ( I suspect) feels just like a person who is actively drinking...

  11. Yes, the joys of being an alcoholic. I have to say that AA has really educated me on the ways of alcoholics. I understand why I did the things I did, and why I do the things I do. I'm not proud of it, but now I can make better choices. This was an amazing insight and I can see why you were so tired.....

  12. I was just talking to a friend about how the active alcoholic is like a sociopath. We might have a conscience, normally, but by using drugs and alcohol to silence it when it twinges we can basically function as if we don't have one.

  13. This role play, which I read three times, is excellent, and I totally agree with your conclusion.

    From the comment you left on my post "Helpers," I'm wondering where we disagree, or if I'm misunderstanding the comment.

  14. I think I need to read this at least once a day! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Very heavy stuff! Brought tears to my eyes as I recognized myself in the alcoholic's part of the interaction. Motivates me to double my efforts in the program and continue to improve my spiritual condition because I don't want to go back to being that way -to that extent. Unfortunately, I still have strong tendencies to act that way and still think that way a lot. I am an alcoholic through and through that knows nothing else to do but place myself in God's hands. Only he has the power to change me. Your post intensified my feelings of complete and utter defeat and frustration at being the kind of person who I don't want to be (Step 1's powerlessness). This feeling keeps me humble and "right-sized" and in the center of the AA boat. Thanks, Syd.

  16. great food for thought. very interesting.

  17. You know Syd, sometimes I don't comment here because I am an alcoholic and I really can't contribute anything to the conversation. I can call myself a "double winner" if I like, but I wouldn't.

    I think your friend grossly oversimplified the "mind of an alcoholic" - as if we all have the same mind!

    I hurt my family terribly - and for that I am truly sorry. I have made amends, to the extent that amends can be made. I never went around looking for a sucker. Honestly! I am an alcoholic, not a sociopath. I truly loved the people I hurt. I still love them.

    I hate the the idea that someone is proposing that ALL alcoholics are just users and ALL alanons are just victims. It is a gross oversimplification - and in many cases just wrong.

  18. Very intense post. In treatment the last thing I wanted to do was role play, but it is a very effective tool to help see 'the truth'.


  19. Just bounced across from Charlie's blog based on your comment there. This was very powerful indeed. Thank you for writing :)

  20. Well, this pretty much encapsulates the good old alcoholic/co-dependent Merry-Go-Round.... I recognized me and my alcoholic here and thank you for this post because today I needed the reminder.

  21. My son actually verbalizes everything you have said. He will say "Please stop helping me, all you are doing is making me feel bad." Sometimes I really hate my life. I see my addict and my behavior in what you wrote but I am getting better but it is a slow process with many steps backwards before heading forward again. I hope to reach the release of detachment but it is going to be a long haul.

  22. I've read this now a half dozen times and I will read it more. I've struggled for almost two years to understand what went wrong with my marriage, what happened to the man I love. I couldn't understand why he was acting the way he did, why everything I did was wrong. I'm not a drinker, so I wasn't aware of how the alcohol was affecting him. Thank you so much for this post, and for your blog. Bit by bit, I'm beginning to understand.

  23. This is one of the first posts I read while searching for some peace in my life. It hit home like nothing else.
    I'm grateful for your blogs and knowing that I'm not alone.
    I went to my first Al Anon meeting Thursday, and another this morning. I've been good at putting on my happy face for social gatherings, but to walk into that room with only my real self was not easy. It will no doubt be a long journey, but one that I'm finally willing to begin.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.