Most of us who come to Al-Anon build walls to hide the pain of a life with alcoholism. I started building those walls when I was a kid, trying to cover up my shame and creating a fantasy world through reading and walling myself off from the dysfunction. What I didn't realize at the time was that I had only some broken down fences with which to establish boundaries for myself.
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 other than by isolating. 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.
I can remember warning my wife before going to parties that we would have to leave if she drank too much--as if that had any affect on her. I couldn't control her drinking. I couldn't make her leave. What I realize now is that a good boundary would be saying, "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".
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 realize that people who don't have a positive input into my life can be draining. I have to decide what is best for me. This is not an easy solution but one that I have come to understand by putting my best interests first. I simply don't have much time for those who are selfish and think only of themselves.
In the past, putting the needs of others first and mine last has done a lot of damage. I now look at damage limitation because my energy
resources are low, my physical resources are limited, my emotional
resources have been battered and I have been beaten down so badly for many
years. I have to be kind to myself so that I stand even a chance to
recover from the affects of alcoholism and find some quality in my life.
So I have learned that I
do not have to take on the whole world's needs before looking to
my own. Others forget I have needs, because I have not shown them I do. I would be strong regardless of how bad I felt. I thought that not being otherwise would leave me vulnerable. I now know that I have a right to have needs
too. I do not surround myself with totally selfish people who have
no thought for me except to use me to make themselves feel better
or as a sounding board for all they cannot cope with, with no regard to
what that does to me.
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".
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