I made a post recently in our Friends of Tipping Point Facebook community that I want to talk more about. Here’s what it said:
“Repeat after me ‘I will not allow others’ poor behavior because I have compassion that they have an illness.’
It is not your responsibility to fix someone else.
It is not your responsibility to accept being mistreated because someone else is ill.”
I made this post because I think sometimes when we show up with someone close to us who has substance use disorder, once we understand the addiction and we understand that they can’t help it, that they’re stuck in this cycle, then we might put up with mistreatment from them. We tolerate it because we understand they can’t help it.
But they can get help with it. And you can help create that change.
That sounds contradictory, I know. First I’m saying it’s not your responsibility to fix someone else, and then I’m saying you can change them.
The truth is you can change them, when you change.
Think of it like a dance you’re in with your loved one. Right now their addiction is leading the steps, and by now it’s one you’ve danced with them for so long that it’s second nature to you both.
But if you decide to change the steps, your loved one is going to notice. It will be awkward at first, but they’ll have to decide, do they follow the new steps you’re taking or do they stop dancing with you all together?
A personal example of this I like to share is from back when I was married with three young kids, and we all went to church every Sunday. Mass started at 9:30am, and I would get myself and the kids ready by 9:20am, but my husband would only just be jumping in the shower. Which meant we’d end up being late for church.
I was so frustrated. I felt not seen and completely dismissed. And it wasn’t until I took a class on boundaries that I discovered why.
I learned through this class that I had a personal standard of wanting to be on time or early for things. And by being late to church again and again, that standard was being violated, and I felt like I wasn’t at choice about it.
I was at choice.
This class taught me that by succumbing to this idea that “this is just the way he is,” and therefore we’d always be late, I was giving away my power.
So I prepared a conversation and sat down with my husband. I told him I’d discovered that being on time or early is really important to me, and I’d noticed I had been late a lot to church. And that I’d decided I was going to be on time for church from now on, which meant I’d be leaving with the kids by 9:20am, and if he wasn’t ready, I’d save him a seat.
The following week, I had the kids in the car at 9:20am, and my husband was just jumping into the shower. So I went to church without him and saved him a seat.
Now, he was irritated at first, because I was creating change. But eventually after another several weeks of this new normal, he came to me and expressed that he didn’t know why he kept getting ready so late. And it led to him reflecting on his own crisis of faith and realizing he didn’t want to attend church at that time.
We teach others how to treat us.
I had taught my husband it was okay for us to be late when actually that wasn’t okay for me.
It wasn’t my responsibility to make him be on time, just like it’s not your responsibility to fix your loved one.
It was my responsibility to stand up for myself and do it kindly and lovingly and then hold myself to that boundary I created. And by doing so, I created the change that allowed for him to make his own change as a result.
You are always at choice.
You have power, even when you feel powerless.
If you’re struggling to figure out where that power lies, we have a ton of resources that can help.
You can start by posting in our Friends of Tipping Point community. There are hundreds of others in the group on a similar journey who are eager to offer support.
If you want to create change right now, I have one spot left for 1-1 coaching this month where we can sit down together and work out a plan specific to your situation. Book a package here.
But let me know in the comments…
Are you allowing others to mistreat you because of their illness? What is a situation you’re wishing could change but you feel powerless to do anything about?