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Engage or Not Engage

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:55am

It's very easy to engage and argue with someone who has been drinking. When the alcoholic is drinking, a whole set of emotions come out, that we have lurking under the surface. The "drink" is our trigger - or should I say - the "drinking."

The release of emotions when we argue with the alcoholic vary and are diverse in range. They emotions run the gamut from; hate, fear, anger, jealously, resentment, feeling like a victim, hurt, and so on.

When we argue with the alcoholic, we feel like we are making progress, we use our best arguments, and we are very good. If the alcoholic responds he or she can make very little sense, or may agree or may attack back.

Pick one of the three on how the alcoholic responds;
1. Not making sense. - we get frustrated, so we explain and get further frustrated
2. May agree - they agree to do some by a time/date. They don't do it. We get further frustrated.
3. May attack - they get personal. We respond by attacking them. We threaten. We don't follow through with the threat.

What we need to look at is how to become in control of what we can control. What can we control? Here is a list;
1. The decision to engage or disengage. This one is powerful. Just saying, "I am not going to engage with you right now." Puts the power of control back in your court. And you can address the issue when the alcoholic is sober.
2. Ask yourself "How important is this to argue about?" This is also powerful because it allows you to rationally decide if this is important or if it is a nit or can be dealt with later.
3. "Letting go." When we are angry, and have this anger sitting under the surface of our skin, it is called resentment. Resentment causes stress. Stress causes illness. The illnesses caused by stress may be sleep deprivation to gaining weight to a form of cancer. "Letting go" says I decide what I am going to release from my mind. This does not mean, I am letting the alcoholic off the hook when they agreed to do something, it's taking a different tact in that I will not be angry. But I will hold him or her accountable.
4. Worry. Worry is thinking about what may happen. It is about the future. It is out of our control. Unless of course you have some power over the future (which you don't).
5. Anger is about blame. Blame looks to the past and what cannot be undone. You have no power to change the past.
6. Present - is responsibility about what you can do now. Stand in the now. What can I do? What should I do? Can I do it? This you do have power to do. This is where you need to focus.
7. Back to Engage. This is about making your statement. Be clear on what you expect and what you need. It needs to be only a sentence. Put a period on your statement. This is powerful. You don't have to explain why you want something. Sometimes that weakens your request. If you feel it moving toward criticism of the individual, that is; toward you or you toward him, then you say silently or outloud, "Stop." Now you decide to say, "I am not engaging. I am not going to allow this conversation to go in that direction." If it continues, stop yourself from further discussion and move away from the argument by going to another room or shutting down by saying, "Let's discuss this later."

A telltale barometer of anger waiting to jump out is when my chest tightens and a coiled snake starts to rise from my stomach up through my chest. And it wants to release through my mouth. Once you recognize the tightening is your stomach or chest, by practicing stepping away, detachment or a control tool above, you find yourself over time creating a new response habit, where you don't get angry as often and are in control of your thinking.

Here are some other tools;
1. Forgiveness - a completely self-centered act that allows you to release and let go. You don't have to accept bad behavior, but it allows you to feel good by saying something about the person's problem to yourself. It helps you, by keeping resentment from building.
2. Setting boundaries - it puts in place clear expectation and consequences if the expectation is not met.
3. Doing something for yourself - this means taking time out for yourself. When you do something for yourself; going to a movie, having lunch with a friend, going running/walk, sitting at Starbucks with a book for 30 minutes, etc. makes you a better, calmer person who likes themselves.

If you follow some of these guideline, you become more empowered. When you are engaging with the alcoholic, you will find that you are being controlled. And the funny or strange thiing is you don't even know you are being controlled. Think about this for a second, and you past experiences. Aren't you playing into their hands when you get mad and engage?

I hope this helps.

PS - actually two PS's
1. I still need some help with this weekend's On-Line Al-Anon Meeting this weekend. I am thinking about the subject of Effective Tools we can use. And people can post what has worked for them. Or someone has a burning topic - we can do that. Please let me know.
2. You may have read the post called the Bride of Frankenstein that was up earlier. It was meant in jest. While I had no one calling for it to be taken down, I reread it and thought it was in poor taste. I mean to never criticize anyone, even when I am fuming, it was meant to add some light hearted ness to what some of us are facing. We are facing some terrible circumstances that affect us deeply. And I wish for all of us to know, that there is a God or HP, and that we shall prevail. And we shall prevail with dignity and our heads held high and we will never be taken down by anyone. Especially an abusive, self-centered personality, and that is where I put my period at the end of this sentence.

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