By: Whitney McKendree Moore
Imagining My Role
When my son calls me “Metaphor Mama,” he does not mean it as a compliment. However, like a good son in a program family, he accepts that the way I think is the way I think.
Lately, he’s been sounding as though he has actually developed a bit of appreciation for the eccentric lens through which I look at life. I am encouraged by this, and, therefore, I am going to share another “word picture” from my experience in Twelve-Step recovery.
Imagine a sports arena, chockablock full of spectators, all cheering for the players as they play a ferocious game for the division championship. I consider myself somewhat like one of those spectators in living alongside someone in his own “ferocious battle” to keep the cork in the bottle.
We Each Have Our Roles to Play
In recovery, I practice keeping myself (and my well-being separate) from anyone else’s health and well-being. This does not mean I don’t care; it means that I don’t interfere.
Before I found the tools of recovery, my mistake was to run down from my seat in the bleachers, shooting off my penalty flags. Now I know that whenever I (figuratively) do this, it’s as though God says, “Okay, everybody — stop — she’s back on the court again.”
My addiction is to insinuating myself as “the referee” of a situation that is not mine to officiate. When I butt in, I unwittingly stop the clock which sets everything back. If I stay put, cheering from the bleachers, I am letting the game be played with Heaven’s help. Perhaps another word picture will help to clarify, this an excerpt from a book called How Al-Anon Works:
THE LADDER STORY
From How Al-Anon Works
There are still alcoholics in my life. Before Al-Anon, it was as if they were standing at the bottom of a ladder and I was right behind, urging, begging, and pleading for them to climb it. As they began their ascent, I propped myself behind them, pushing them up with all my might. With each unsteady step they took, I pushed all the harder. Eventually, when they lost their grip and fell, I fell too, cushioning their blow. As they got up and climbed again, I was right underneath, all the more concerned that they hold on tight. Each time they slipped and tumbled, I fell beneath them and took the brunt once more.
Injured and sore, I came to Al-Anon. I began to notice that some of the alcoholics weren’t even holding on tightly or being careful with their footing. Why should they? They had fallen several times without sustaining injury. We fell once again.
Then I noticed that, next to this ladder, was another one — a ladder with my name on it. I picked myself up off the ground, walked over and began to climb it. Although I was concerned about the alcoholics, I realized that they must climb their own ladders by themselves. My attempts to help had only hindered.
As I climb my own ladder, I discover that it requires a great deal of concentration and strength to move up. I can’t effectively climb while keeping an eye on the other ladder. So I focus on my own climb up the rungs, and let the alcoholics focus on their climbs. If they fall, I will empathize, but I will not be injured. Their own injuries may convince them to hold on tighter. Their success or failure in climbing out of the pit of alcoholism is their responsibility. Whether or not I climb out is up to me.
When I Forget Which Role is Mine
Hovering and “helping” by me has ironically ended up, every time, being unhelpful. For one thing, it is fundamentally disrespectful to the suffering trying to be God!
Having made that mistake many, many times, I see that the need to get out of God’s way. No one can make my life for me, nor can I “play” for someone who is on the court. Every one of us needs a relationship with God. Who am I to think myself a better substitute?
For me, it comes down to something Lily Tomlin once said, “We’re all in this alone.” That is why I stay in the bleachers. My role is to stay put, cheering for my loved one’s “game” which (I have finally learned) does not depend on me. I rejoice to be free of trying to run interference by playing referee anymore.
Voice and pen became Whitney’s personal ways to be heard. After she married in 1971, she published an article every year as she pursued her professional career and she continued to “sing constantly.”
To Connect with Whitney:
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
So much focus is on the struggling addict, and we do need help, but just as importantly, families need guidance as well.
- How do you navigate the turbulent waters of early recovery?
- How can you help your friend or loved one without enabling?
- Where can you find support for your issues?
These are questions that readers at From Addict 2 Advocate want to know. Are you ready to write a helpful Al-Anon post?
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