After my stepmom fled to Florida to be with her Internet lover, my dad and I sat at the living room table and had a long talk.
We talked about leaving the past behind and becoming a family again. He told me that I was the only person that mattered to him. And that we were going to get through this mess together.
Fast forward a short two weeks later and not only had my dad bumped up his alcohol intake and changed his phone number (without giving it to me) but he booked a one way flight to Florida to bring my stepmom home.
I so desperately wanted my dad to understand that what he was doing to himself was wrong and only going to bring more pain.
But no matter what I said and no matter how loud I screamed and cried he couldn’t hear me.
I was one very confused, frustrated and lost daughter trying to fix her father. And even though there was a small part of me that knew I couldn’t change him, that didn’t stop me from trying. Over and over again.
People would tell me that I needed to forget about him and worry about myself but I didn’t want to hear it. At least not until I drove myself so far into the ground, trying to help him, that I had no choice.
I know how frustrating it can feel to want to help your loved one stop destroying themselves when everyone around you seems to want to talk you out of it.
But here’s the hard truth – even if you’re not ready to hear it – the only person you can ever fix is yourself. That doesn’t mean that you have to totally give up on your loved one and toss them to the side. But for your own health and sanity, it does mean taking better care of you.
And I know that from my own experience.
Today, I’ve got three questions to ask yourself if you’re struggling to strike a balance between fixing someone and helping yourself. These questions will help you gauge whether or not it’s time to shift your energy.
Like always, my hope is that what I have to offer will get you thinking and give you some perspective.
I’ll never be able to give you a magic formula to follow but I can do my absolute best to support you through whatever is going on in your life:)
Remember – We don’t heal in isolation, but in community – S. Kelley Harrell
Until Next Tuesday,
P.S. I’ve been getting some great feedback about the format of the blog posts. So, I thought this would be the perfect time to ask you what you prefer. If you’d like to weigh in on the discussion, click here. This will take you less than 30 seconds to do – promise:)
Question #1 – Am I aware of the patterns?
I’ve talked about patterns before and I’m talking about them again here because I believe they are super important to keep tabs on.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, whenever you interact with someone you know, you’re participating in a pattern. Meaning they act, you react and vice versa, in predictable ways.
For example – whenever my dad would get upset and fed up with his life, instead of taking productive action, he’d call me up and dump his problems on me. He wasn’t venting or looking for support he just wanted someone to feel as bad as he did. Before I was aware of the game we were playing, I’d allow my dad’s mood and resentments fire me up. And I’d set aside every moment of my life so that I could focus entirely on his problems and pain.
And you know what happened? No matter how much worrying or fussing I did nothing changed with him. And that left me angry.
But once I realized the pattern, I stopped playing the game. Sure, I wanted to help my dad. I wanted to see him happy but I wasn’t willing to keep running in circles with him.
Paying attention to the patterns you have with the person you want to fix, will help you gauge if your efforts are causing more harm than good. Not just for the other person but also for you.
Question #2 – Am I factoring myself into the equation?
Wanting your loved one to understand what they’re doing to themselves, whether their toxic lifestyle is all about drugs or alcohol or both, doesn’t mean you have to forget or drop yourself.
When you’re trying to care for your someone it’s so important to check in frequently and ask, Am I factoring myself into this equation?
Meaning am I taking care of myself? Am I getting the rest I need? Am I taking care of and tending to my own needs, wants and desires?
This is so important because if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not going to be any help to the people around you. And if you discover that you’re flat out not factoring yourself into the equation, well then it may be time to redirect your efforts – aka focus on yourself.
Now. I’m going to dish out some tough love here because I don’t want to move too far away from the fact that no matter how well intended you may be, at the end of the day you can’t change, fix or save anyone else.
Helping someone you love doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself in the process.
Question #3 – Is my wanting to fix my someone as toxic for me as the alcohol or drug is for the alcoholic or addict?
It’s so easy for the addict or alcoholic to become obsessed and consumed with their drug of choice. And it can be just as easy for you to become obsessed and consumed with them.
When you get to that point that’s when you start running into trouble.
Which is why, in Al-Anon meetings (and I’m not bashing Al-Anon here) you’ll hear people talking about how you can’t help, fix or save the person in trouble.
I know hearing it can be frustrating. I know when I first heard it, I thought it was crazy. And I didn’t want anybody telling me that I should give up or that I couldn’t help my dad.
But I don’t think it’s about abandoning the other person. And I think that’s the point that can sometimes get lost in translation. If you’re not ready to hear it, it can easily make you defensive. It happens to the best of us.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone you love. But when that wanting becomes all-consuming that could be an indication that you need to reconsider the idea that you really can’t fix or save anyone else. Maybe the safest thing for you to do is save yourself instead.
Remember – Sometimes you don’t realize you’re actually drowning when you’re trying to be someone else’s anchor – Wisdom Life Quotes