Letting others take responsibility for…

7 Oct

11:38 pm

Their anger.

Their sadness.

Their confusion.

Their lack of sense of purpose, of self.

Their lack of trust, or faith.

Their joy.

Their “luck.”

Their change, or growth.

Their happiness.

I have been working on an “amends” with my brother for almost two years. Two years over ONE incident in which I blacked out and screamed mean things at him and his girlfriend, mainly at his girlfriend.

The other night, we finally talked. After months, maybe close to a year.

I got the impression that my brother was drunk. It made me smile (in an “oh, the irony” sort of way), and cringe a little. He finally asked a question about my boyfriend, which rubbed me the wrong way anyway (mind you, he’s never before, in the near-two years we’ve been dating, even acknowledge him as being in my life). And, he’s never ONCE asked me about my sobriety, how any of that is going. Not once. Ever. It’s relevant here because, if it was such a big deal, isn’t my getting sober part of that big deal now, too? Or, shouldn’t it be?

I don’t feel that pissed anymore, just sorry. Sorry about what happened, sure, of course. But sorry, too, for them. Sorry that he can’t forge the courage to call his own sister because his girlfriend is telling him he can’t. Sorry that she and he are in a relationship where she fans the flames of his anger and resentments–to match her own, many of which are based in her early-life trauma (psychological problems, incest, rape). Sorry that they don’t have any friends. Sorry that they don’t want any friends. Sorry that they might not see any of this; sorry that they seem to feel the pain that it causes anyway. Is it I who is in pain here, though? Am I unhappy because they seem unhappy to me? (Some of it is that they ARE unhappy; some of it is that I am projecting my own goals and values on them, for better or for worse.)

What I realized in all this is, everyone is responsible for their own happiness. And to grant people that responsibility is you telling them that you have faith in their ability to tackle what I would consider life’s hardest challenge–to live without resistance, i.e., be happy. Me saying I’m sorry a million times, and worrying about whether two “co-dependent” people are going to forgive me–this does me no good. This is meaningless, actually. I don’t have to care about this outcome, and I don’t have to make them happy. I don’t have to worry about whether they’re happy or not.

See, I think I’ve spent a LOT of time in my life not only caring what others think about me, but shouldering–internalizing–their responsibility for their own happiness. For some reason, I feel guilty that my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my boyfriend, or my friend is unhappy. I drank over it, in one way or another. It’s taken a lot of work, actually, to see this tendency to want to please taken to the extreme: the need to solve everyone else’s unhappiness!

Sigh. Deep breath. Like I said, I carry this around, like a burden. It’s so deeply ingrained in me that I’m barely conscious of it–this “ability” to see others’ pain and lack, and then, my habit of not letting that go and leaving them to tend their own gardens. However, when I quit drinking, it was staring me in the face, and there was no way around dealing with it. And, once I started learning how to let go, even forcing myself to “not care,” I became MUCH happier–more balanced, had more time and space to focus on my own self, my healing, tackling of cravings, even probing into deeper mental realms.

Some people don’t like it when you leave them alone, though. They don’t like it when you hand them back their issues and say, Here, this shit is YOURS, bitch (Breaking Bad reference!). It’s a rejection, and an abandonment. I’ve felt that way, actually, when certain friends (and even my brother) have told me to get a handle on my drinking…and then literally disappeared, walked away. I felt abandoned; it was unfair, I felt, and it hurt.

It was the catalyst, though, for me learning to finally stand alone, and take charge. Whether there is anyone to lean on or not. And, I could do it. I CAN do it.

So, this handing back responsibility is also a way for them to say, And, I know you can do it. I have faith in you; I know you can take responsibility for your own happiness. It’s a way for them to say, I can’t do this for you, and you can’t do mine for me–but, hey, that’s life, kiddo. We are ALL responsible for our own happiness.

This is not to say that amends aren’t important. I have to say that I don’t think I would stir the pot in the case of most of the people I’ve hurt and/or offended; it’s over, and revisiting the hurts would cause more damage. I do, however, believe that continual effort on my part to conduct my relationships well, to handle my end of the deal, is key to dissolving any and all remaining bad karma. I guess.

I wasn’t pissed at my brother after hanging up. I wasn’t dubious, or sad, or emotionally changed in any one direction. In fact, I just kind of let it go. So be it, I thought. If they’re still pissed, that’s their problem. Literally. And, problems can be solved. Just with this one, it’s not going to be by me.

14 Responses to “Letting others take responsibility for…”

  1. Runningfromthebooze October 8, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    Major breakthrough DDG. Letting go to allow others to work on their own issues isn’t always easy. Even if we know whats best and feel like we should push the issue, the real growth comes when we give people room to learn lifes lessons in their own time.

  2. furtheron October 8, 2013 at 4:03 am #

    I know that feeling -a lot. When I hear of something wrong my instant desire is to fix it or fix them etc. But hey – not my job, generally. I don’t take responsibility for these things – my daughter lost her house keys – she text me and said “I think I’ve left them in my locker lock at school”… In the end her friend could see she was stressed and took her back to school (I was 50 miles away at work so couldn’t) – but I was just thinking. Ok if they are gone, I have to just get a locksmith in and change the locks just in case but not thinking of me dashing back racing around etc. Guess what? Yes there they were in the lock – no problem. But how I dealt with this was all different from how I use to deal with all this stuff internally.

    Secondly – a world from the wise… well the experienced anyway. No-one other than another alcoholic will be interested in your sobriety. As my wife pointed out “It is your problem, you deal with it”… fair enough really. Yes I know you want everyone in your life to say “How is it going?” and all that but frankly… from a normal persons point of view all you’ve done is decided not to drink – they just don’t get it, they never will, if they did… they’d be picking up the chips with you each month and really interested in how you’re recovery is going. I’m heading slowly towards a decade off the booze, I do sometimes talk to professionals about recovery and sometimes they say “Your family must be ever so proud”… Not really, relieved and happy maybe I don’t think proud is the right thing to say as again they are just thinking “after 20 years of us telling him, obtusely, directly and even with threats he finally got the message”

    • carrythemessage October 9, 2013 at 6:58 am #

      Well said, Graham. Really well stated.


    • Drunky Drunk Girl October 11, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      Thank you for this! I’m not sure how I’d manage raising kids and letting them grow and learn and make mistakes–yikes. And, yes, you’re right, and it’s something I need to keep hammering into my head: no one else besides fellow drunks really cares. It’s not b/c they don’t want to (maybe sometimes), it’s more that they just can’t understand. And, like one of my friends who is a clinical psychologist always told me: why are you placing expectations on anyone? Why do you “think” that someone else should behave in a certain way? And, I was like, you know, you’re right, it’s not my business to “want” or “think” someone should react a certain way.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing, I appreciate it! xx

      • furtheron October 12, 2013 at 4:40 am #

        So right you cannot expect anyone to react/behave in anyway.

  3. changingcoursenow October 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    I know exactly what you are saying furtheron. Except no one in my family of “social drinkers” ever really said I should stop. I just knew I needed to. So, they are sort of uncomfortable with my sobriety because it draws light to their excessive drinking. What they don’t realize is I have done more than stopped drinking. I have changed my life. I have control of me now and I am doing things I never would have had the time or energy to do before. My head is screwed on differently now. Those are the changes I want them to notice – not just switching from wine to tonic water. That’s the least of it. I want them to ask…but they don’t. So I share my happiness with all you – who really get me.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl October 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      I hear you, changingcoursenow! I LOVE coming here, to my little sober universe (and, if I was going to meetings, it would be to them, too). It’s like, way better than any other social media space (die, Facebook!): calming, supportive, no competition.

      Funny, but the longer I am sober and really digging into my issues and how I used to be, the more I really don’t want anyone in my family or friends to notice my changed self or life. I’m happy with one person knowing: me. I’m doing this for me, and if anyone in my family congrats me, sure, it’s nice, but it’s not something I really go after (anymore, I used to when I first got sober).

      Nice comment!

  4. carrythemessage October 9, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Great responses so far. I think that many of us have felt how you have felt, DDG, and done what you have done. I know I have. I tried to be the rescuer, the healer, the negotiator, the bringer forth of others, the people pleaser. And it didn’t work, in the end. I just got drunk again. Or in sobriety, I just got really pissed off and would lose any serenity I had.

    What you say is wise and true – it’s *their* shit to take on. It doesn’t mean we are uninterested or blase about things. It doesn’t mean we are cold and uncaring. It doesn’t mean that we don’t give a crap. What it does mean is that we don’t need to take on things that aren’t ours. We are self-caring and unselfish in this act. And we are allowing the other person to carry and deal with their own concerns. I don’t take on what isn’t mine any more (or do the best that I can). If someone doesn’t like me, or is pissy with me, or is having a bad day or is whatever – it’s their stuff to take on, not for me to carry their load. It just makes my life easier, and it puts the onus on them, even if they don’t know it or see it.

    When we make amends, proper amends, we are just cleaning up our side of the street. If the person responds negatively, or not at all, or even kicks you out of their home – you have made the amend. you have done what you needed to do and are clear and clean. How the other person responds – their problem, not yours. This helps us keep our true north direction strong. Your brother may or may not forgive you. If you have done what you need to do, then the struggle after that is his. It may not be ideal, but it is what it is, unfortunately. Doesn’t mean you are out of his life, and that you don’t love him. Of course not. But you can be there without taking on what is his.

    Great post, DDG. Lots of insight.


    • Drunky Drunk Girl October 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Thanks, Paul!!! My problem is, I’m not sure if I’ve done what I’ve needed to do. Maybe that’s where it would be great to get in touch with AA folks, people who have done this and know the “rules.” My initial contact with “this woman” was via a letter, to which she responded *viciously.* I thought, maybe I should try again? My mom, and my boyfriend, were both like, No, you’re done, end of story. OK…but I still feel guilty. I don’t know how to handle this particular person because she has her own problems, and aims to fan the flames of anger and resentment. I know I should just let it go, but it sucks knowing that I MADE that attempt, I wrote that letter and then, chose not to go there again, yet…I’m left feeling like it’s still up to me somehow because she hasn’t forgiven me. And the worst part is that I don’t even WANT her forgiveness, I don’t miss or want her in my life.

      Also, it’s hard for me to “not care” and then, not feel like I’m being cold or uncaring–too many years of people pleasing, methinks! Like I wrote, it’s something I have to literally work on.

      GREAT comment…thank you! xx

  5. Just Some Woman October 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    It seems you’re dealing with two emotionally inept people. You’ve “sorryed” yourself to death and don’t owe anymore apologies. They don’t deserve to rent any more space in your head. This has been a hard lesson for me too. I just can’t handle OPS “Other People’s Shit” , anymore. You’re doing too well to let it bother you!

    • Drunky Drunk Girl October 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      Bingo. Thank you! It’s hard, it’s work “letting it go.” I also know about that OPS thing–oh, boy! I spent quite a few months (9 maybe?) being SO over OPS. Now? I’m feeling more open, but with boundaries. xx

  6. Belle October 10, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    probably the key sentence in this post, for me, is this: “me learning to finally stand alone, and take charge.” anything else that happens is extra, is bonus. you apologize — and they get it or they don’t. you take good care of you. and yes, you may try to fix old business. and then you stand alone and feel very strong that you’re doing the right thing for you. hugs from me.

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