From Courage to Change of January 29;
Many of us learn the value of self-expression in Al-Anon. We discover how we feel and benefit from giving voice to those feeling when it seems appropriate. But there’s a difference between expressing ourselves and using words to control others.
Sometimes the only way I can determine whether I’m trying to control someone else or whether I’m simply expressing my feelings is by noticing how many times I say the same thing. If I mention something that is on my mind and then let it go no matter what response I get, I am speaking sincerely. If I repeatedly make similar suggestions or ask prodding questions again and again, I am probably trying to control. If I am satisfied only when the other person responds in a way I consider desirable – agrees with what I’ve said or takes my advice – then I know I’ve lost my focus.
I am learning to be honest with myself. I will not use my recovery as an excuse to justify my efforts to change other people’s thinking. Trying to control other people only gets me in trouble. Instead, I will promptly admit such mistakes and put my energy back where it belongs by focusing on myself.
“We should have much peace if we would not busy ourselves with the sayings and doings of others.” ~ Thomas à Kempis
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It is indeed a precious thing to be able to speak genuinely, to know that you have not betrayed the truth of your own thoughts or deepest passions for the sake of maintaining “peace at any price.” Being co-dependent has burned appeasement into my brain. This desperate peace is the product of fear and a surrender to futility. That is not spiritual serenity.
When well indoctrinated by the intense impact of alcoholism or addiction in others, speaking truth requires a commitment to know myself and to develop that skill of speaking genuinely to recover. The negative contracts I have made with an Adult Child of an Alcoholic or an Addict/Alcoholic is a promise from myself to “protect them” at all costs from the consequences of their actions. Most of us caught in such co-dependent covenants feel that our martyrdom for the cause creates an understood right to attempt control of the Disease in others by controlling the Alcoholic/Addict directly. This is the benefit and responsibility of the negative agreement that I would fight for as an active co-dependent. I felt proud of the crap I was able to endure. I felt sure of my authority and place as a diplomat. Controlling was what I got out of the disease-warped relationship. Giving that up feels . . .wrong.
Yet for me to gain the ability to know myself and speak genuinely I cannot claim the dubious right and responsibility of controlling others. That belongs to their God. And ultimately, I am able to inspire and have greater impact by demonstrating personal courage and freedom. This is one way I nurture my spiritual serenity.