I have someone in my life, whom I love, very much. But they do not do what they say they are going to do. They fail to show up in the ways that they promise to, regardless of the amount of concern that is expressed.
Alcoholism is like that. Alcoholics are amazing promise makers, not so great at actually keeping those same promises...
And I get it...we never want to let down our families, our children, our friends, our employers, the law, but when faced with a decision, if it can really be called that anymore, alcohol wins every time.
It isn’t that we are complete liars, I mean I guess we are...but we lie to keep the addiction going, and that is a full time job and sometimes, like all the time, lies just must be told to keep those pesky people who love us in line. We lie to create the space to drink, and to stave off the consequences for a little longer. And we usually believe that our lies are so crafty and amazing that we are actually puling it all off, except the one who is most convinced by the lie, is almost always us.
My person broke their word last night. And I was up all night long worrying about them. Praying for them. Hoping that there was some plausible reason for his failure to honor his promise. And that right there is why alcoholics get away with so much, we WANT to believe them, so when they offer us up a good old fat lie, we believe them because we WANT to believe there is some other reason for their callous behavior other than complete self centeredness and addiction. We want to believe that they were really just doing something else.
I am sure that is how last night’s failure to honor a commitment to me will be spun...there will be some plausible reason for the broken promise, putting me in the position of having to accept it or face the wrath of an accused alcoholic, who will just remove themselves and their love from your life, like you don’t even matter. Of course I know they do this because they feel like shit about themselves and because this removes one more person that stands between them and a drink. And that is just what has to happen until they either hit rock bottom, or die. Shitty choices, but that is really the only way an alcoholic ever changes.
So today I have the hard choice of whether to hold them accountable for their broken promise, knowing that my action in that regard will likely make them cut me off and stop communication all together. And that feels like a pretty steep price to pay. I love this person so very much, but they are incredibly sick and not really interested in getting well so it would appear.
I set the situation up with clear parameters because I wanted to have clarity around what was expected from each other. And now that has been violated and I have to make the awful choice that people who love alcoholics make - hold the boundary and lose contact, or allow the boundary to become meaningless.
I have to say right here that I really hate that alcoholics use our love against us. Forcing us to make these kind of choices, it is so incredibly painful. And it kind of pisses me off. Except that I know they can’t help it. They are sick, delusional and in the grips of a disease that tells them that all their fucked up thinking is reality. And I can’t change any of that.
So I am faced with a decision that I don’t want to make. Hold the boundary and lose the contact, or erode the boundary and allow my needs to be completely negated and marginalized.
Alcoholism is such a fucked up disease. The person who is the sickest, takes control of everyone’s life by threatening to end their own, either with outright threats or behavior that begs the question.
I will spend all fucking day going around and around about this if I don’t make a decision now. So I am deciding to hold the boundary, and I am willing to take the consequences that come from holding my boundary. Mostly because I don’t want to hear the lie that comes, the lie that will overtake their failure to do as they promised they would, and make my assertion of the boundary feel like I am some sort of misunderstanding monster for holding them accountable for their failure to do what they said they would do.
And I am going to hold the boundary because it is the most loving thing I can think to do. To acquiesce now would only be a rubber stamp to this person’s self destruction. I have meaning and needs and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. And so I must first demonstrate that I have that for myself, and that means calling out bad behavior and broken promises when I see them. And in so doing, I am actually showing this person how much I love them and respect their right to do it their way...I just don’t have to be a part of it anymore if they can’t do the few very simple things we agreed upon.
It hurts. I hate being in this position, but this is the only position one can be in with an active alcoholic. It is the tie that binds and likely kills, and maims and severs and cuts through all the love that abounds.
I do not know what happened last night, why this person failed to honor their promise, I can only guess...and remember what I was like when I was running scared and the lie was all I had to protect me.
So I will go for the most loving thing I can do for both of us, hold the boundary and love anyway. Stand with my heart open, without anger or rancor, and love this person while calling them out for their failure to honor their word. I am pretty sure I know how this one ends, but life is often surprising and life with an addict of any kind is always full of things that you didn’t see coming, even though you could have totally seen that coming...
I do not want to be in relationships with people who lie to me. So I have to do the hard work to hold the boundaries I set. I know I teach people how to treat me, and in this case, I have taught them that I will accept and tolerate just about anything. But I can change and in so doing, perhaps this other person can change too.
And we can both be spared living a life with more broken promises...because I do remember that as much as being lied to hurts, when I was the liar, the telling of the lies cut me too. Engaging further, only assures that both of stand barefoot surrounded by the shards of all the broken promises...no one gets out without getting hurt.