Category Archives: sacrifice

Responsibility, The Drama

I have been accused at times for not taking responsibility. At other times I have taken on responsibility that was not mine to tend. In truth, both statements are one in the same. I adopted responsibilities of others as validation; “I am doing something, see” or as an alibi “I can’t do so and so because I’m doing this and that for such and such” and therefore completely avoided the frightening developmental task of “self-accountability”
I misplaced my sense of duty and commitment usually to people and projects that were lost causes, perhaps because I believed I was doomed to fail anyway. Yet this way if I failed, it wan’t really me failing, but the person/thing I’d poured my heart and soul into salvation, leaving none behind of course, for me to risk screwing up on my own efforts. I couldn’t be blamed for trying to help, in fact it made me a “good person” didn’t it? “What a good person that Jenny is, always there to help others”… “always there for the Underdog”
Never mind the reality that the Underdog was not there for him/herself any more than I was there for myself. We were both conspirators in this charade and we understood and performed our unspoken roles quite well, an innate improvisational theater of the absurd. A painfully overacted satire of human relationships, dreams and aspirations. To the observer with ample wit, a comedy of errors; to others it must have appeared as a tragedy, awkward and painfully maudlin.
When I was in aoda treatment I had one of those old school tough love therapists, the ones who use confrontation as a tool to breakthrough well versed denial that we addicts cling to like a security blanket. One day in a group session many of us were discussing our tendency toward co-dependence. I couldn’t help but notice that the conversation was veering dangerously down the road to competition, as stories so often do among women.  We were actually taking a fair amount of pride in our co-dependence; and “that no matter how much we drank or used we still took care of others”. The therapist, in her characteristic no nonsense “I’ll straighten you out” manner had been quietly observing this dialog with the eye of a hawk regarding a burrow of rabbits. Finally she struck, “Co-dependents are the most selfish people I know”
 “Whaaat? Moi? How can that be?” After all we were clearly so giving. so willing to self sacrifice.
We were, after all, nice people underneath our exterior substance abuse and resulting bad behavior.
It soon became clear that the level of our indignation was indicative of the truth in her statement. Our defenses had clicked into place and we demanded an explanation for this bizarre theory. After about an hour of good old fashioned group therapy and open ended questioning, most of us came to realize that our cruel and heartless therapist actually believed that the sacrifices we made had always had a not-so-altruistic purpose. In fact they had offered justification for our problems, validation for our existence, excuses for our lack of action and they allowed us to manipulate others around us.
Of course, she was right.
What took much longer than an hour of group therapy was the realization that we all have personality traits that are less than perfect, often dishonest (even to ourselves) and sometimes downright nasty. It takes years, sometimes, to accept that the darker parts of us are valid bits of the whole person. If we look at our life history we discover the origin of these patterns and beliefs. Most alcoholics did not come from ideal families or circumstances. The manipulation and self destructive patters we carry deep inside where no one can see (or so we think) are really nothing more than acts of survival. You don’t get by in an unstable, unpredictable land of ever shifting boundaries with out learning some tricks of the game. You have to play by the same non-rules as everyone else of you will be consumed by powerlessness and defeat.
There comes a time, however, when we choose to live our lives differently and after some trial and error we realize that if we are to survive in this new life we must be honest with ourselves. If we are going to stop playing games, replaying “old tapes” as my Mom would say, we have to be authentic. In order to be authentic we have to admit our errors, find their roots and forgive ourselves for ways we have behaved that were not in line with our Ideal Selves.
It is so much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. We tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard, to which my therapist would have said “what makes you so much better than anyone else?”
There were times I hated that woman, and I myself wouldn’t use quite such a harsh presentation of the facts, but in retrospect she was right. We are who we are, no better, no worse than any other human being (at least in potential) and as we stumble along this journey that is life a little humility and self-acceptance can go a long way. Once we have reached this point we are free and secure enough to offer genuine help and support to others with out losing ourselves in the process.
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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