Al-Anon Lifer

Anonymous sharings from a long-time member of Al-Anon, which is a safe place to recover from the effects of alcoholism in a friend or relative...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When We Just Want to Help

When we so desperately want to help someone else but don't know what to do, chances are there isn't anything we can do. Oh, we can try. We can do all those things we were taught to do for others, even if we overdo in the process, but in the end we are hurting them as well as ourselves.

How are we hurting someone by helping them, you ask? Well, if we are doing for them what they can and should be doing for themselves, we are taking away their opportunity to be responsible and to grow. I'm not talking about niceties like baking someone cookies or giving someone flowers to cheer them up. I'm talking about big overtures.

For example, have you ever been asked to help move a friend and then when you got there ended up packing for them, too? A normal person, I believe, would have helped move the heavy items but if the boxes weren't ready to go, too bad. We codependents, however, will go to any length for people to like us.

Once I went to pick up a friend to give her a ride to the airport and not only was she not packed, she expected me to finish her laundry and pack for her. I had done a lot of favors for this person, so of course I "helped" her. Then because we were running late, she wanted me to park rather than just drop her off so she could repack and leave whatever she didn't want in my car. At that point, I woke up and said no.

After all, I had left a sick child at home and needed to take care of her. But what if I didn't have a sick child to go home to, what would I have done? Who knows. This "friend" who was childless told me that my child could take care of herself. At that point, I saw her for who she really was, a "user," and myself for who I really was, a "usee."

So not only was I hurting this woman by allowing her to use me, I was hurting myself by letting her use me. The best thing I ever did was to say "no." Yes, she stopped calling me and I lost a "friend," but I gained my self-respect in the process. Plus I've tried my hardest to not get entangled with such "needy" types since. Even if it means feeling lonely at times.

I've learned to take care of my needs first, unless there is an emergency and someone really, truly needs my help, and that includes a friend or newcomer who needs to talk. So when I'm having trouble obsessing about someone else and what I can do for them, I need to ask myself a few questions (some of which are repeats from my last blog) :

1) Have they asked? No, then stop. 2) Could or should they do it for themself? Yes, then stop. 3) What is my motivation? So they'll like me, then stop and THINK. It is best at this point to make sure you are really needed and that your motives are pure, that you are simply passing on a kind deed once done for you, for example. If instead you will feel resentful should you help someone, you need to take care of yourself first, even if that feels uncomfortable, even if you don't have an excuse. We learn in Al-Anon to say "no" without "because"...

From today's reading in Courage to Change:

Today's reminder
Being true to myself is one of the greatest gifts I can give to those around me. Perhaps I will inspire them to do the same; perhaps not. Why should others bother to follow my example if I can't take care of my own affairs? To give advice to others is to intrude; to give advice to myself is to grow.

"Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


At Friday, December 22, 2006 6:53:00 PM, Anonymous Sober Chick said...

I am realizing the longer I stay sober the more I need Al-Anon. I have some friends that I have gotten close with in the program and are still very sick. Some with relapse and coming back, one in particular.

I really hope to obtain this courage that you write of. The art of saying "NO" when it is right for your soul.

Happy Holidays, thank you for your message of hope.

At Sunday, December 24, 2006 1:44:00 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

I am alanonic too... LOL thats what we Washingtonians call it anyway!
thanks for posting this

Merry CHristmas

At Thursday, December 28, 2006 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Gwen said...

Oh this is an excellent post. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I have heard these words before in different patterns but they have been said to me. One of the things my sponsor frequently says to me if "she's not asking." I have a need to feel needed lately. It feels really yucky and I am not sure why this is coming up it just is. Thanks again for your words.

Hope your holiday's are going well.


At Saturday, January 06, 2007 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous GE said...

What an eye-opener, thank you!


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