Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unacceptable behavior

Another hot day, unbearably so actually, until near sunset when the sea breeze came up and the sun began to fade and gave off a firey light.  We fled to the boat for the evening and grilled some steaks and chicken, with a salad and some garlic bread.  It has been a long day for both of us.

There was a good meeting that I attended with the topic being dealing with unacceptable behavior.  I could write a book on that one topic. It brings up a lot of feelings from the past. I put up with the unacceptable behavior of others and dished out my own unacceptable behavior in retaliation. I found it hard to change my attitudes and harder to draw a line in the sand that would be my boundaries.

I was on a merry-go-round. I kept going round and round with the alcoholic, and I kept getting what it was that I didn't want because I wasn't working at getting what I wanted. I wanted her to give me all the emotional stuff that I hadn't gotten at home and she couldn't. She was too sick, and I was also sick.
I was expecting normal things from within an alcoholic relationship that was abnormal. There was no way that I could get health from sickness, or get my Higher Power to answer my selfish prayers to work a miracle on another. I was having problems with my own addiction to the alcoholic. Her drinking perpetuated her illness and my compulsion to make her stop or behave differently perpetuated mine.

The reality of it all was and still is, "If nothing changes....nothing changes." I found that I don't need permission to move my life in a direction of peace of mind and serenity. I don't need permission from the alcoholic or anyone else to change toward the better. I was in denial, or I minimized my pain by saying, "The devil I know is better than the devil I don't know." Yet ultimately I owed it to myself to have dignity and a sense of self-worth. But that won't happen if I had continued a posture of "submission to a degrading situation."

I like having a boat analogy (surprise!). I found that I was missing out on a lot of life by waiting around for others to change. I was waiting for their boat to sail back into port. And in reality I didn't know if they were even on a boat. So I began to change my own behavior and quit waiting around for others to join me. Luckily my wife decided that she wanted to make her own changes.
It's up to me to get rid of my unacceptable behavior. The alcoholic may or may not do so. She may miss the boat entirely. If you're living with the disease, you can make changes anytime you like. Now might be a good time.
"I will remember that knowing my boundaries does not mean forcing others to change; it means that I know my own limits and take care of myself by respecting them. The focus, today, is on me. " from Courage to Change.

"When will I realize that I need not permit the alcoholic's behavior to confuse my life and destroy my peace of mind? When will I learn that there is no compulsion, in law or ethics, that forces me to accept humiliation, uncertainty and despair? Have I perhaps accepted it because I have a subconscious desire for martyrdom? Do I secretly relish feeling sorry for myself and want sympathy from others?" from One Day at a Time


  1. Oh my this just hits the spot.
    Learning to take care of myself began by walking into the rooms of Alanon.
    Changing my behavior meant that I had to give up some of my character defects...these had deep grooves in my record. Learning what my needs are and how to take care of myself is taking some time, but Hey my life is worth it.

  2. I think for me, it was "the devil I don't know". Fear of the unknown. I didn't know I could make it on my own until I finally realized I wasn't making it with the alcoholic.

  3. It has been said that no man is an island but I think in this particular instance for ones sanity it is best to be an island, you might be part of a chain of them but you have to tend your own garden before you can even think of trying to tend another'.

  4. There is so much here for me to chew on. Your words reach far places.

  5. I believe the best move you can make to help someone you love is to look at yourself first.

    The 2nd is accepting who they are right now, because as you said we cannot know if and when they will change.

  6. For me, this is one of the more difficult challenges of recovery. I struggled mightily with relationships and guilt over the things I said and did. I still have difficulty today, but it's so much better, having been in recovery for awhile now.

    I hate how we treat those we love, when we're active in our acloholism and addictions. I am just grateful to be on a positive path, recovering a day at a time.

    Great post Syd!

  7. If nothing changes, ... nothing changes. This was a touching and deep post today. Habitual behaviors are hard to change. It takes a LOT of discomfort to make it happen. :)

  8. "I wanted her to give me all the emotional stuff that I hadn't gotten at home and she couldn't. She was too sick, and I was also sick."

    That was perhaps the biggest hurdle for hubby and me.

  9. This is a great post at a great time. I just started reading Codependent No More and after realizations of my qualifier's ongoing sick behavior, away from "home", I am starting the detatchment with love process. It's one of the hardest things I've ever tried to do. Logic doesn't help. Aftermaths of behavior I swore would be my breaking points don't seem to help, because in the back of my mind and straight forward from friends, family and other Al-Anons, there's always, "He's sick and he does sick things. He'll wake up one day and say, "What have I done?!" But I am slowly starting to formulate my "Plan B" for if he doesn't EVER wake up. Someone at an Al Anon meeting suggested we always have a Plan B when dealing with a qualifier. Plan A is the miraculous acceptance of how we think things should go. But more often than not, we need Plan B, so we don't lose our minds. I'm having to make a Plan B for the rest of my life.

  10. I could so relate to everything you wrote. It brought back memories of fight-filled relationships that I never knew how to handle. I couldn't handle him and I especially couldn't handle me. Today I know to work on the me part. I'm grateful for Al-Anon for showing me how. Great post today.

  11. I needed this reminder last week. Got right back on the merry-go-round with my mother as if I was 14 years old again. I can't believe how quickly it happened. I live 1000 miles away and I always wondered if I needed to move closer but this distance is a boundary for me today. We will work through this but boy, did it put me back at Step 1 (again). May cooler winds blow in for both of us.


  12. that's a strong post! And I appreciate it!

  13. Again, another timely post. I needed this one today.

  14. Thanks for blogging! I look forward to reading it everyday!

  15. great post. this material is very fresh for me because it is the al anon message which I don't hear because I am not at al anon meetings.
    great explanation of what healthy boundaries are from the al anon perspective and how we can waste our lives in constant reference to another's behavior instead of focusing on our own. I really like this post as I find it very educational and it communicates the subtleties of the new behaviors and attitudes learned in al anon. I would love to read many more of this ? type of post if you feel the inclination.. it is a readers digest condensed capsule of information on the subtle art of relational issues learned in al anon. really enjoyed reading this so thanks for sharing this Syd.


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