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Things That Don't Help...

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Joined: April 24, 2007

Posted: February 4, 2012, 11:54 AM
Recently someone asked me what I had done to help my daughter. The only thing I could think of was that I had finally stepped out of her way and let her help herself...allowed her to own her pain, and subsequently her joy. I found it was easier to think of those things I had done that had NOT helped her.

Here's my list (and it's a looong one) for what it's worth:

Things that DON’T ‘help’…

1) Anything we do for them that they CAN and SHOULD do for themselves.

-Running interference with schools or employers
-Making excuses for them (He’ sick, she’s depressed, she had a hard childhood, he has chronic pain, he really wants to be clean, he needs me, she’s so young…fill it in with your favorite)
-Paying debts to ANYONE…loans, dealers, bills
-Giving them money
-Calling hospitals, detoxes, rehabs, doctors
-Holding or doling out medications, especially risk-reduction meds like suboxone or methadone.

Being a whirlwind of activity helps us, not them…it makes us feel like we are doing something when in actuality we are spinning our wheels. It relieves of us of some guilt we may be feeling about how this could happen in our family, because really, this is all about us (NOT).

2) Pretending that what we do is for them when it is really for us. This is a hard one to get past because in the beginning we are absolutely convinced that our motives are pure and unselfish…we want to help…we MUST help. Upon closer examination however, we will discover that much of what we have done has been for us, to satisfy ourselves that we have done everything possible to stop this train, and to maintain the illusion that what we are doing is “helpful”

3) Watching.

The kind of vigilance some of us exercised in the beginning (and some still do) is painful to recall. Watching moods, checking phone bills and cell phones, counting pills, sitting with them watching movies or playing games to take their minds off things (as if!), asking 'polite' questions about their day or their feelings.

4) Monitoring meeting attendance…this one is a form of ‘watching’ and is big: Did you get to a meeting today? You said you were going to a meeting. Do you need a ride to your meeting? Isn’t this your meeting night? What step are you on? Do you have a sponsor? Here, I bought you a Big Book. How was your meeting? Did you like tonight’s meeting? Arrrrggggh!!!!

Even worse is going to meetings with them. If you need a meeting, get yourself to AlAnon. Going to NA/AA meetings ‘with’ them is a form of voyeurism and an invasion of privacy. The last word in the name of ANY 12 step program is “Anonymous”. The same is true of finding an online recovery community and ‘sharing’ that with them…icky.

5) Keeping score.

Scorekeeping is part of watching. You said you were going do X or Y but you haven’t. I thought you were supposed to A or B, have you? I have done A,B, and C, but you have not done X,Y, or Z. Score keeping can also mean counting sober time.


Try listening instead. Saying it louder, or saying it differently, or saying it more is all the same…eventually no one hears you. You will know when you are talked out because you will be as sick of the sound of your own voice as they are. Talking includes asking questions, lots and lots of questions.

7) Controlling.

You can’t. Stop trying.

“Control is central to the "MO" of the codependent person. They control their self-esteem by catering to others' needs. They control by their over-responsible performance, picking up where others leave off.” (Dr. Irene Matiatos) This gets back to doing for them what they should do for themselves. See #1.

8) Guilting.

This is just one more way to make it about us. How could you do this? What are you thinking? (Believe me, you don’t want to know.) What’s so hard about your life? Don’t you care about ____? Watching you do this is killing me. You wouldn’t if you loved me. (I can’t really love you because I don’t love myself.)

9) Picking up the pieces.

Allowing one to learn from one’s mistakes is one of the greatest dignities we can offer. Viewing “the wreckage of the past” is necessary and vital to growth. Every time we indulge in #1, of which #9 is a part, we tell them that we do not believe in them, that we do not see them as capable, that we have no faith in their ability to do the right thing,that they cannot take care of themselves. We send a message of incompetence and powerlessness, and chances are good they already feel this way, so all we do is reinforce a lousy self-image.

10) “Shrinking” or “Sponsoring”

You are not your loved one’s doctor, therapist, or sponsor. All of your so-called understanding is annoying and makes it about you again. Stop trying to get into her is not someplace you should be. Everything you are learning about addiction is powerful if you use it to help YOU, but once you use to be disgustingly ‘understanding’ or to try to 12-step your loved one, it becomes the tool of the devil. Instead ask yourself why you are so addicted to your addicted loved one...why it is so hard to tell where she begins and you end.

11) Having expectations.

Expectations are disappointments waiting to happen. On the other hand, having low expectations leads to excuse-making (see #1).

12) NOT working on ourselves.

It sure is easy to look at the addict and believe that all would be right in our worlds (and more importantly in our interior lives) if only….

Instead, try looking at what you contribute to the dynamic. What is it in us that makes us need to project-manage them and their disease? What is the sickness in me that I feel that all positive outcomes hinge on what I do or say? Once again, it's all about me.

13) Seeing your situation as ‘special’ or ‘different’.

This has a name in 12 step settings: terminal uniqueness. We are all terminally unique. In codependents this most often takes the form of “She’s so wonderful, sweet, funny…when she’s not using.” Yep, they are all terrific, sensitive souls when the drugs have not robbed them of that. Your addicted loved one is no more or less special, spiritual, kind, creative, loving...(fill in the blank) than any other addict, including those junkies you see outside meetings or in line at the clinic.. Everyone is someone’s father, wife, child, friend. Your family member may just more fortunate in education, economics, community support, or family structure. None of us are more special than another. There but for the grace of God...

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Posted: February 4, 2012, 1:51 PM
I think that most of our experience's with our children have been close to the same. It's how we choose to deal with it..I just went with my gut. It wasn't always the right way but somehow, we made it to the other side. I did all of the things you're not supposed too. Asked for advice here and put some of it to use. Mainly, I never gave up while at the same time trying to save myself, a little at a time. I don't think any mother here ever gave up, they just changed the way the approached it. And every situation is unique. Not every family is the same, not ever child the same. The disease, however, is. Am I happy? That's my gauge. If I'm not, something needs adjusting. It's not rocket science, it's motherhood. You do the best you can.

I love what you wrote S. Your wisdom is so beyond what I could ever hope for..thank you for teaching me.


I used Drugs to forget, I got clean to remember.

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Posted: February 7, 2012, 12:00 PM
That was an amazing list. Thank you. Especially liked the part about not being their shrink or doctor, etc... I have to remind my boyfriend of that. Sometimes it feels invasive..he tends to try to get into my head and I don't want him there! He also does the "question" and "watching" thing which drives me insane. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, thanks again. :)


"If some great catastrophe is not announced every morning, we feel a certain void. nothing in the paper today , we sigh.”
Paul Valery

“Self-love, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”
William Shakespeare

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." George Bernard Shaw

“If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.”
Jimmy Buffet

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Joined: February 28, 2011

Posted: February 7, 2012, 7:04 PM
I am still struggling with a lot of those. This past weekend I caught myself in the Big Book trying to find "his story" for him. When I caught myself doing this I closed the his book and grabbed my Al-Anon book and started looking for MY story.

This week is not going as well as last week. I am struggling struggling struggling with wanting to manage him. You need to do this, you need to do that, why are you doing this or that... I can feel myself starting to get snippy and short fused. Not to justify it but G has another ear infection so nobody is sleeping which I am sure has to be contributing to the short fuse somewhat (it would already be there I know but it feels like it has almost been cut in half).

Thinking I need to get a hold of my sponsor maybe to talk out some of the frustration.

Just before lunch today I called to check on G and nobody answered. I feared that maybe he had taken him out and walked down to the card store so I drove home to check. I SNUCK OUT OF WORK AND DROVE HOME... BAD BAD BAD... He was there, watching nerds play video games on the internet while G sat on the floor playing. I snapped, bit his head off about him being on the computer and not playing with G or cleaning... All that seemed to accomplish (as it always does) is both of us being angry and resentful at each other.

These are the weeks where the "work" portion of working the program really comes in to play:s

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Posted: February 7, 2012, 7:05 PM
Oh MNM hope you don't mind buy I am going to copy your list and print it off for myself.

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Posted: February 7, 2012, 8:19 PM
Just so you know, Newmom, the reason I was able to compile that list is because I did every single one of the things on it...I was not well. So I remember being where you are and let me just tell you, the sooner you can let go, the happier you will be...wish I'd done it sooner. I listened and learned as quickly as I could because I wanted the hell out of the dysfunction and I didn't much like who I had become, not only as a mother, but as a wife, a friend, an employee...I was a white-hot mess. Each in his own time, but try not to let too much pass you by focusing on him and what he is or isn't doing. Your anger hurts you.

By all means, print it and maybe use it to jump start a conversation with him...

Peace ~ M&M

PS Hope the little man is feeling better soon.

You will not change what you are willing to tolerate.

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Posted: February 7, 2012, 8:30 PM
The progress I see in it for myself is that a majority of it is just thoughts and I'm not saying it. That is probably what is eating me up a bit but I keep chanting to myself, "it's not mine to handle, its not mine to manage, its not mine to control. Focus on G and me, focus on me and G"... Sure some of it has come out but I am starting to catch it before hand and working to figure out a way to calm myself down and let go...

Probably some of the anger is at myself for knowing what I am doing and not liking the way I am in that regard.

Well I can say for certain that just being on here and sharing is already starting to help.

Like my sponsor said about the phone thing, that was then this is today and today he is clean and sober. Must have something to do with that letting go concept and forgiveness:s

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Posted: February 7, 2012, 8:56 PM
Here's a little something for you:

It's only a thought, and a thought can be changed.

I carry that card in my purse as a reminder that I can choose my thoughts...and I do.

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Posted: February 8, 2012, 3:10 AM
Great list, MNM! I sent it to my daughter-in-law too along with a recommendation for a online board. She appreciated it.

I'm with Lisa. I appreciate you're trying to teach us....but you are far better than what I'll probably ever be. I'm not an "F" student....but I'm definitely not an "A" one either. I'm around a "C"...but I'll keep trying. :) One day at a time!


"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke (attributed)

"If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." Anita Roddick

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Posted: February 8, 2012, 9:21 AM
Aw, Susan, it's not a case of 'better than' or of not learning. Like I said, I did every single one of the things on that list...until I didn't anymore. Each in his own time. For me, it was just clear as glass that things were not working so why keep doing head hurt from banging it against the brick wall.

Peace ~ M&M

You will not change what you are willing to tolerate.

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Posted: February 8, 2012, 12:54 PM
My problem is that I'm not bright enough to know when to shut up and back off. Mouth run riot. It is very hard to change but change we all must. Without that change, we do keep hitting our heads against the proverably (sp?) wall.

I'm so much better at this with Jake these days then I am with my husband but when I read here in the mornings, I try to memorize the "list" and other things said and then use it throughout the day. Me too Susan, C student at best.

Don't get me wrong, husband is doing so much better and I am letting him be better and work this out on his own. I think it was such a shock to my system and rocked my foundation that I'm having trouble getting out of my own way. I'll get there. I usually do.

This post has been edited by cowgirl on February 8, 2012, 12:55 PM

I used Drugs to forget, I got clean to remember.

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Posted: February 11, 2012, 10:19 PM
That was a great post MnM, you rock.

It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for who you aren't

Never go faster than your Angels can fly

Stress is when you wake up screaming and realize you havn't fallen asleep yet.

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. - Buddha

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. - Buddha

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Posted: February 11, 2012, 10:30 PM
have read the initial post every day, thanks for posting it

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Posted: February 13, 2012, 1:13 PM
Keeping this at the top so that I don't have to find it every day...

I used Drugs to forget, I got clean to remember.

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Posted: April 4, 2012, 10:47 AM
bump for OPT

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Posted: April 15, 2012, 10:28 AM

this was an amazing post. thank you for sharing your wisdom. i am definitely still working on a lot of things but i am doing the best i can at the moment. i believe i am also going to print this off or save it to my computer so i can remind myself of the steps i need to take.... giving him the room he needs to accomplish things as well as make mistakes. and i know he is doing the same for me.

now, since he started the clinic, he told me about a family group night counseling session that they have at the clinic. he said we should go to that. it was his initiative ( i was actually quite surprised he mentioned it)..... now what would your advice be about that? should i go with him since he asked or would you think he needs to do it on his own for a while. its hard to say no to things like that.

it all gets so overwhelming sometimes.... one minute we are totally fine. then the next its like our world is falling apart.

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Posted: April 15, 2012, 7:51 PM
Family counseling is for families...we went. There are things that I did for me and things that she did for her, but she was my daughter, not my significant other. My husband and I attended family counseling to understand our parenting differences and to work through the trauma that we underwent while struggling through our daughter's addicition. There was a time while my daughter was away at long term rehab (16 months) when we were doing phone counseling with her and her counselor. But when it came to meetings, she had hers, I had mine...therapist the same thing, she had hers, we had ours, and I had my own as well.

So yeah, go ahead, and watch your responses and behaviors, not his...get yourself healthy and the rest will's all you can do anyway.

Peace ~ M&M

You will not change what you are willing to tolerate.

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Posted: April 15, 2012, 8:33 PM
Thanks for bumping this post to the top. It is a great list!!

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Posted: April 18, 2012, 12:53 PM
Bumping up for Jack~!

I love this share, Mom. Your ESH helped me today~!


Happiness is not in the bottom of a pill bottle. It's inside you.

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Posted: April 18, 2012, 4:49 PM
Thanks, Stacey...yours helps me often, glad I could repay the favor =)
That's why we're all here, right?
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