Category Archives: Life lessons

Blamers Anonymous

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


This is a short video by Brene Brown on blaming. It’s brilliant and I sooooo relate to it.
My poor husband, if I can try and find a way to blame him for something, I will. She explains that ‘blame’ is just a way of discharging discomfort and pain. Blaming is how we discharge anger. We spend our energy raging and trying to figure out ‘whose fault it is.’ When we do this we miss an opportunity to grow.
And that’s our purpose here, to grow. Please check it out, it’s 3 minutes long and explains it perfectly.

The beauty of failure in learning to succeed

Adobe stock

Adobe stock


by Rose Lockinger
Most of my life I was afraid of failure. I suffered from the belief that I had to be perfect at everything I did and anything less then perfection was unacceptable. This caused me to go around in my life with unrealistic expectations for the way things should go. I would weigh out every step I took in life with a seriousness that did nothing but hinder my progress and paralyze my ability to move forward and grow. I realized quickly in sobriety that part of learning to live life meant that I was bound to make bad decisions, however those decision did not determine my future rather they were experiments in learning.

The interesting thing about this is that living my life in this manner all but ensured that I would fail. By having to be perfect I would often times not try something because I was afraid that I couldn’t do it, or couldn’t be the best at it and by doing so I failed before I even started. I would put mental roadblocks in my way that I felt would keep me safe, but in reality they just kept me down and kept me living in fear.

This is something that I have heard discussed by many alcoholics and addicts in my time in sobriety— how their lives were a dichotomy of perfection and failure. How the fear that they would fail kept them from truly living and truly succeeding and how once they got sober they had to learn to deal with this.

When I first came into the rooms of recovery of I felt like a complete failure. For all of my attempts to control the outcomes of my life and live in a way that would result in my experiencing the least amount of resistance, I still felt like a total and utter failure.

My marriage had come to an end. I had used drugs and alcohol to the point where I now needed treatment, and my ability to be a mother to my children was painfully lacking. And so I entered into recovery thinking that my biggest fear, being a failure, had been realized.

To a certain extent I was afraid that this feeling was going to follow me for the rest of my life. That because I had “failed” I was bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over again and that there was no way that I could escape what I believed to be my own inadequacies as a human being.

This however, if you haven’t already been able to tell, was completely unfounded and it was nothing but my mind and my disease attempting to keep me down. Every day of my early recovery I struggled with this fear of failure. I struggled with feeling like a complete loser and I struggled with whether or not I was going to be able to overcome my problems. Part of me just wanted to give up, because at that point I didn’t think I was good enough and I didn’t think that I deserved a better life.

Luckily, though I didn’t give up. I pushed on and in doing so I learned one of the most important lessons I have discovered in my life: that failure is never the end of the story but is rather the beginning. That all of the messy feelings and pain that failure brings up for me allows me to learn life lessons about myself that I couldn’t have learned otherwise. In a sense, even though I had been afraid of failure my entire life, it became one of my greatest teachers and one of my greatest accomplishments.

That last part might sound be a bit strange, but it is true. If I wouldn’t have used drugs and alcohol to the point where I completely destroyed my life I don’t think that I would be sitting here typing this out at this very moment. I would not have been introduced to God in the manner that I was and I would not have taken to a life of sobriety in the way that I have. I probably would still be out there somewhere, totally lost and afraid to admit it to anyone. I would probably have just wandered through life unaware that there was a better way.

Getting sober wasn’t the only time that failure has been my teacher, or has been a new beginning for me though. I have noticed many times throughout my sobriety that what I deemed to be a failure was often times a blessing in disguise. That often times having failed, lead me to something entirely new, whether it be a greater understanding of how my mind works, or a deeper appreciation for the things I have, but each failure has been a lesson that I needed to learn, and truthfully I probably couldn’t have learned those lessons any other way.

I have also noticed that my failures have in many cases turned into my greatest assets. For instance I was never really able to be honest in the past. I seemed to have an almost pathological need to not tell the truth and as you can probably guess this caused a tremendous amount of trouble in my life. But as my lies piled up on top of each other and eventually led to my undoing, I learned a valuable lessons from this, and today, while I am not 100% honest, I am able to share honestly with other about what is going on with me and I do my best to tell the truth.

So while I am not completely free from my fear of failure and sometimes I still get paralyzed thinking that I am going to choose the wrong path or do the wrong thing and everything is going to come tumbling down, I at least understand that there is nothing in life that I can’t learn from, or can’t come back from. I sunk lower in my addiction than most normal people ever go and yet today I am not a broken woman. My addiction didn’t totally ruin me and since that is the case, I know that no failure is too large for me to overcome, and no lesson to large for me to learn.

Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger


Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

How to be grateful for adversity – guest post

By Christine Hill

Fotolia

Fotolia


Gratitude has a powerful effect on our lives. It can enable us to live more wholeheartedly, make us be more proactive, and lift our mood every day. However, there are times in life when it’s particularly hard to feel grateful. I’m talking about those days when you feel like you’ve just been sent through the wringer, when you can barely face getting out of bed, when you’re battered and beaten.

Trials and adversity are hard to be grateful for. However, they’re an essential part of our lives, and only when we embrace trials can we turn them into opportunities for growth. Holocaust survivor and Austrian humanist Victor Frankl said, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.”

Embracing Trials Enables Us to Act

I think that in our society, we’ve become so risk-adverse that we shy away from our true ambitions because we’re scared of the attached trials. It makes us afraid to commit to a relationship, work for a promotion, have kids, or even pick a major. Suffering can kill happiness, but avoiding suffering at all costs is a surefire way to avoid happiness, too.

Think of it like shopping; if your entire wardrobe is only made up of things that only cost a couple dollars, how good is it? What if instead of being concerned about the cost, you were willing to sacrifice a little, to invest something into something because it was high quality? What if you were willing to go through a little hardship in order to achieve great joy?

When We’re Grateful for Trials, We Benefit from Them

It’s true that no one likes pain. However, you have a choice whenever you’re confronted with a difficult situation. You can stew in it and let it cripple you, or you can learn from it.

Kelly McGonigal makes a vivid illustration of how we deal with trials in her talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” Her research shows that although stress can increase likelihood of disease and death, it only works that way with people who believe that stress is bad for them. Those who believed that stress could be a tool to help them achieve and motivate them to change were actually healthier, no matter how stressed they were.

Trials work much the same way. We can either decide that they’re there to break us down, and shudder under the weight of the burdens placed on us, or we can have faith in our own ability to handle them and learn to turn them into strengths.

How Can We Learn to Become Grateful for Adversity?

Write down the hardest times in your life in the past, how they’ve changed you and what you’ve learned from them. This will help you to see the benefit that trials have had in the past, and help you face future trials with hope and confidence.
Make a list of the people you admire the most and brainstorm the things that shaped them. No one becomes an admirable person without battling their way through a crucible of adversity.
Tell yourself you’re strong enough for what comes. Don’t try to tell yourself it’s easy, tell yourself you’re enough. Discounting the challenge doesn’t make anyone feel better. However, trusting in your own inner strength will help you develop the attributes you need in order to overcome the adversity.
Embrace change as an essential attribute of everyone’s life.
Ask yourself, if you were a book, what would you want to happen next? Every single story follows a simple format: character receives trials, character overcomes them. There’s no development without adversity. So how good of a story would your life make?
Avoid asking “why is this happening to me?” Instead, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?”
Serve others. Sometimes, that’s the only good that we can find from our trials. But it’s amazing when you find that your experience can enable you to help others who are struggling with something similar. It’s like becoming a sponsor in an addiction recovery program, or becoming a grief counselor after experiencing it yourself. Serving others helps us make sense of our own challenges.

Did you know that there are certain sweetness receptors in your tongue that are only activated when there’s also salt present? That’s right, there are some levels of sweetness that you can only taste when there’s also bitter.

Recovery red flags

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Once you got sober, do the steps, take part in some therapy, go to rehab you may have thought you were ‘done’ and could just go about your life now you were ‘fixed.’
I hate to be the one to tell you…but it’s not quiet like that. From time to time you are going to get what I like to call a ‘red flag.’ And whenever you see someone waving a red flag, it means ‘danger.’

When red flags present themselves in our recovery they are indicating that we need to pay attention to something or, do something or, usually talk to someone else about how we are feeling.

All through my recovery I’ve had red flags go up from time to time. Being the recovery guru that I am, my first reaction to a recovery red flag is to always ignore them. However, they are persistent buggers, so if you ignore the first one, don’t fret, they will continue waving at the corner of your eye with increasing persistence. I may then stop and acknowledge the red flag. ‘Right, something’s up in my recovery/wellbeing,’ I’ll think to myself. Once acknowledged their urgency will diminish somewhat. Relieved, I carry on as before, and wouldn’t you know it, they come back with increased urgency. As I may have acknowledged them, but what I didn’t do, was do anything, about the danger.
On we go like this and I have discovered they will continue to wave away until I do one of two things; I can either drink to take away the increasing discomfort or do something about their cause.

The discomfort usually presents itself in my behavior and attitude. As soon as you (yes, you) start pissing me off, and I start planning how I’m going to take you down, I realize there is something wrong with me (and not you). My discomfort within myself increases, my husband can do nothing right, nothing is going to work out for me, the world continues to create new and ingenious ways to ruin my day.
I’ve been here several times in my recovery. As someone in my life always says (without fail) ‘if I’m ok with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.’
And that is the truth of it. When I am in a fit spiritual state, then what the world and its inhabitants do or say, does not affect my internal well-being. Instead I have appropriate reactions to the events that occur in my day.

Here’s what you need to know about recovery red flags:

• Don’t ignore them, your pain and discomfort is entirely in your own hands. Pay attention to their message.
• Go back to doing what has been working for you up until the red flag. What ever your method of recovery is, there would have been some basic tenets that were working for you. Do those.
• Ask for help. Once we get in that cloud of negativity and discontent we usually need a hand getting out of it.
• Be honest. The reason we ignore red flags, is we don’t want to make the changes, they are alerting us to. Usually, because we are trying to shape an outcome to what we want (or think we want).
• The reality of change is much easier than the thought of it. The outcome you were trying to create is much better if we just let go of the control and let events unfold, as they should. All our effort, instead, can go into managing our internal emotional life, as this is the only thing we do have control over.
• Once you have addressed the danger the red flags will disappear and harmony will be restored. File the lesson away, as trust me, you’ll need it again somewhere down the road.

7 Things You Should Stop Blaming Yourself For

By: Maurine Anderson

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


We as people have this tendency to believe that just about everything is within our control—and that whenever something difficult or discouraging happens, it is somehow our fault. For your own psychological health, however, it is highly important to remember that not everything that happens to you in life is within your control. Things happen, and sometimes you simply cannot pin blame on any particular person for those things. Here is a look at some of the things we commonly blame ourselves for, when we really shouldn’t be.

Your emotions.

It’s important to remember that there isn’t anything inherently bad or immoral about any particular emotion. Sometimes things happen that make us happy. Sometimes things happen that make us sad. And sometimes things happen that make us angry. Don’t blame yourself for how you feel, or try to tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel a certain way about something. The key here is how you cope with and react to your emotions.

Another person’s rejection.

As the saying by Dita Von Teese goes, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” You are going to encounter rejection in life, and much of the time it truly isn’t personal. There will always be people who don’t like your hairstyle, your political views, your career path, or your religious views. There will be times when you truly were not the strongest candidate for that job you wanted. The best you can do is be authentic to yourself and embrace those people who appreciate you for who you are.

Rejection in romance.

Every person’s story in love is different, but just about every story has some rejection in common. There are going to be dates that never lead to second dates, and there are going to be people you take a liking to but who don’t reciprocate those feelings. With so many differences in needs, taste, lifestyle, and personality that exist among people, it’s no wonder that rejection in romance is so common. So while of course there are ways to increase your likelihood of meeting that special someone, don’t kick yourself if he or she hasn’t made an appearance in your life yet.

Another person’s poor choices.

Sometimes those who are close to us make choices that deeply hurt us. One example is drug use in teens. As a parent, there are many things you can do to educate your teen about the negative effects of drug use—and about the benefits of living a sober lifestyle—but sometimes even our best efforts do not give us the outcome we want. Everyone has choices, and as this article points out, we ultimately cannot control everything that our children do. So if someone close to you makes a poor life choice, the best you can do is learn that tricky balance between control and acceptance—and strive to support that loved one in whatever way you can.

Being terrible at something.

Some people are born with the ability to create amazing artwork, and some are born with the ability to run a mile in under six minutes. Maybe you were born with neither; but that only means that there is something else you are innately good at. So if you try your hand at something new and are terrible at it, don’t take it to heart. Besides—everything is difficult the first time you try it. Even using a spoon.

Falling on hard times.

Sometimes people simply fall on hard financial times. Yes, there are definitely ways to prepare for financial emergencies, such as establishing an emergency fund, but sometimes even then, smart financial planning cannot quite prepare you for unexpected life events. Most people don’t set aside funds to cover a major lawsuit, for example, and most people don’t expect to be hit with job loss and then immediately by major medical expenses. But sometimes these things happen. As this article about bankruptcy details, bankruptcy is not always a result of financial irresponsibility. So if you find yourself fallen on hard financial times, just remember that while what led you there may not have been within your control, there are now several things that are within your control.

Small mistakes.

Finally, there are those small, everyday mistakes that we blame ourselves for. A typo in a big company email. Letting dinner cook on the stove for a little too long. Forgetting to attend a friend’s dinner party. The thing about these small mistakes is this: we are all human. Mistakes are in our nature. Sometimes no matter how organized or diligent you are, something is going to fall between the cracks.

Lonely Christmas.

The season is almost upon us, and if you are alone this Christmas you probably just want to run and hide until it’s January.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I know exactly how you feel. Christmas (or the Holiday Season as it’s referred to in America) asserts itself as a time of joy and togetherness, when in reality it is an enormous struggle for a lot of people. With very little joy and no one to be ‘together’ with. I’ve often said it is loneliness that kills alcoholics more than anything else. I know it almost killed me.

But somehow I was always saved from having to spend Christmas alone. By sheer luck, I always managed to have angels in my life who would invite me over for Christmas and always make me feel included and welcomed. The gratitude I have for these families knows no bounds.* Despite myself, each year, I wound up actually enjoying the day a lot more than I ever anticipated, and it was always due to those lovely folks who invited me in.

Now I have a family of my own, a house that is clean, comfortable and warm, and enough money to indulge my family in festive treats – I am able to pay this kindness forward.

We always invite people over who perhaps wouldn’t have somewhere to go over Christmas. Sometimes they are newly sober or going through a divorce or just an international student with nowhere to go. Whatever the reason, we find all these different people bring something special into our lives and we wouldn’t want to spend Christmas without them.

I would urge you to try it. If you are in the incredibly fortunate position of being surrounded by people you love, have a look around you at the people you know. I guarantee that if you look hard enough you will see someone who is quietly dreading Christmas day and would be incredibly grateful to be included. People in very early recovery often struggle a lot with Christmas. It can be a very vulnerable time of year for them because there is alcohol everywhere and often they have estranged their own families and not had a chance to make amends yet. Having a safe and loving place to go to would be an enormous relief to them. Or maybe you know someone who is lonely and isolated, loneliness afflicts everyone at some point, not just alcoholics. The gifts of companionship, hospitality, and connection are worth so much more to them than anything that can be bought in a store.

Then in exchange, like me, they may one day get the opportunity to pay it forward to someone else who is struggling.

And there will be one less person lonely this Christmas.

*Thank you to the Sokoloff and Broyden families – including me in your Christmas meant more to me than you will ever know.

Heaven is for real

Heaven is not a place most drunks think they are going to end up at. Dead or alive.
I often compare being an alcoholic to living like the walking dead, you’re moving, breathing and talking but inside you are dying. You look like a regular human being but inside the light is going out.

Heaven is just not something you think about.

However, if you’re a former drunk you sometimes have ‘heavenly’ moments in your life where you just have to pinch yourself.

I had one of those moments yesterday.

My son putting decorations on our 'wonky' tree.

My son putting decorations on our ‘wonky’ tree.


By ‘moments’ I mean a time when you get hit by a wall of feelings so strong that you want to fall to the ground with sheer relief and gratitude that you are sober.
If you’re an alcoholic you’ll know what I mean.

Mine happened when I was getting the Christmas decorations ready.
Alcoholics love and loathe Christmas. We love it because it kicks of several weeks of ‘legitimate’ drinking. Meaning you can drink more and at inappropriate times of the day because that’s what everyone else is doing. But then you loathe it, because it symbolizes everything you do not have. Family, friends, connection, joy, peace, somewhere to go with people who want to be around you etc.

I would usually have a huge rock in my stomach as December 25th edged nearer. Christmas amplified my aloneness and separation like no other time of the year. Even if I was lucky enough to be around people I liked, I still felt separated from them. Christmas was something to endure and survive until New Years Eve came around because that was a holiday I really excelled at.

I don’t know how long I hated and dreaded Christmas for but I’m guessing it was about 20 years.
After I got sober Christmas became only slightly less awful, sure they were better, but they were still empty and lonely. When you’ve spent years alienating people and wrecking your life it takes a while for things to come together. You don’t get a perfect life just because you decided to get sober.
Having grown up an only child of a single parent, I have always craved family, I yearned for that sense of belonging that other people seemed to have so naturally. I would say that the number one goal of my life has been to find people I could truly belong to. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

But things like that don’t happen to people like me. I drank away my twenties, whilst everyone else’s was finding there life partner and getting mortgages I was burning through relationships and moving countries trying to escape myself. Sober in my thirties, it took a lot of work to shape myself into someone capable of a loving functional relationship.

But somehow I managed it.

I was firmly in the region of ‘advanced maternal age’ when I luckily and easily fell pregnant with my first child at 38. Then another gamble and I am pregnant again in my forties with my second child.
So yesterday, I was decorating the Christmas tree with my 3-year-old son and he was putting all the ornaments on the same branch and our tree is a bit wonky, but it didn’t matter because it was so perfect.
photo
As I was watching his beautiful face light up at the fun we were having, it just hit me that this was heaven. Putting on ornaments on a wonky tree with a 3-year-old was my definition of heaven. Nothing had to be perfect except the connection I have with him and my husband.
Somehow, despite all the mistakes I had made, I had found what I was looking for.
I’ve never thought heaven is a destination we go to when we die, but something that exists within us if only we can find it.
Heaven is being fully present in your life.
Heaven is connection with people you love.
Heaven is belonging to the human race.
Heaven is for real.

The disease of perfectionism

This blog could be written really briefly, here’s the gist of it: You’re not perfect. Get over it.
If only it were that simple right?
Unfortunately the disease of perfectionism is much more prevalent than that, in fact it’s a killer. Perfectionsim will take you right back to the bottle if you let it.
But where does it come from?

Image courtesy of varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Perfectionsim is driven by an internal fear that we are not good enough. It is really an outward manifestation of emotional unmanageability. People who are a slave to perfectionism are trying to manage their ‘insides’, by ensuring their ‘outsides’ are perfect. Nothing is ever good enough for them, it’s never quiet right, no matter how hard they work perfectionism is always just out of their grasp. It taunts them with its promise that all will be well once you have got ‘it’ perfect.
Peferctionsim can also be extremely dangerous when someone tries to exert their ideal of peferctionsim onto someone else. A parent who tries to make their child ‘perfect’ under the misguided belief that is how their child will be happy; a spouse who tries to shape their partner into ‘prefect’ convinced they will then be happier.

Even if we achieve perfect, it is unsustainable. Some bastard usually comes along and spoils it. If we focus on our outside world being perfect in order to feel happy or satisfied we will never be able to achieve sustainable happiness.
Why? Because the outside world is beyond our control. No matter how much effort we exert, we simply can’t control others or what they do. They come along and mess up our perfect homes, plans, parties, holidays, events etc. They don’t do things they way we want them done, how they clearly should be done, for everything to be ‘perfect.’ We feel frustrated and unhappy because things are not ‘prefect.’

Being perfect is a ‘delusion’
‘Perfect’ is an illusion, a delusion actually. We weren’t designed to be perfect, we were made to be messy because that is how we learn. Children are the best example of this, they don’t care if there clothes or room are a mess, or that they didn’t color in the lines, their satisfaction comes from engaging with what’s right in front of them and embracing the experience. As adults we forget that the real joy lies in the experience and all it encompasses, not whether it was done the ‘right’ way. When we are trying to be perfect what we are really doing is letting that negative voice in our head run the show and whose voice is it anyway?
Letting go of perfectionism can be a life changing and liberating experience. When we let go of perfectionism we are able to live in the moment and accept what comes our way with grace and gratitude. When we are a slave to perfectionism we miss so much good stuff, like opportunities to grow and connect with people.

Freedom is in ‘letting go’
I remember when I was in the grasp of perfectionism attending a party a friend of mine had organized. When I arrived (on time) I discovered that nothing had really been organized properly. The decorations were only half up, the food wasn’t ready, the music hadn’t been organized. I was horrified, I remembered thinking how could the host possible let this happen, I would feel so ashamed. But then I noticed something, she was stood in the middle of it all radiating serenity and joy, as people arrived, she calmly handed out tasks and guests happily completed the preparations. I was roped into sorting out the music with a guest I’d never met before. We had an absolute blast organizing the playlist, laughing over each other’s musical tastes and arguing for songs we loved. I looked around and saw the same thing was happening everywhere. Within the minutes the party was pulled together and everyone had a fantastic time including the host. It really stopped me in my tracks, I would have lost sleep over ensuring everything was perfect, I would have been stressed by the time everyone arrived and I wouldn’t have really enjoyed the party because I would have been fretting over things going wrong. I would only be relieved by everyone leaving.

Seriously? What does that achieve?
That was the beginning of me letting go of my perfectionism and embracing mess as something joyous. It takes practice, the thought of not being perfect used to induce anxiety in me and I had to learn how to let go off it. But bit by bit I did. Trust me, life is so much richer and more rewarding when you’re not trying to be perfect.

Boundaries

I had no idea what boundaries were until I got sober. I had no idea that I could protect my personal space and keep myself safe. I was so used to doing what I though everyone else wanted that I would continuously put myself in risky and abusive situations. So they were one more life lesson I had to learn. Boundaries are our responsibility, we can’t expect other people to protect them for us. They may invade or run over our boundaries and it is our job to put the boundary back in place.
HPIM0826
Here are some signs of unhealthy boundaries:
1. Telling all to someone you’ve just met.
2. Not being able to say ‘No.’
3. Being sexual for the partner, not the self.
4. Acting on first sexual impulse.
5. Violating personal values or beliefs in order to please others.
6. Accepting food, gifts, touch, sex that you don’t want.
7. Taking as much as you can get just for the sake of getting.
8. When giving to others causes you to suffer.
9. Food Abuse.
10. Letting other people direct your life.
11. Not standing up for yourself because you’re scared you will offend someone.
12. Letting others describe your reality.
13. Expecting others to know what your needs are and fulfill them automatically.
14. Expecting someone will take care of you.
15. Agreeing with others because it’s easier.

Signs of healthy boundaries:
1. Saying ‘Yes’ when you mean it
2. Saying ‘No’ when you mean it.
3. Not over explaining answers.
4. Not giving unnecessary explanations.
5. Understanding that you are responsible for your own feelings.
6. Getting out of your ‘story’
7. Identifying the causes of your feelings.
8. Responding with appropriate feelings to appropriate events.
9. Resisting the urge to ‘rescue’ others.
10. Being able to ask for help.
11. Self care.
12. Prioritizing what is important.
13. Being with people you choose to be with.
14. Gracefully removing toxic relationships from your life
15. Saving yourself.

Toxic people

Kristen Johnston wrote an excellent blog on her attraction to toxic people and the lessons she learnt from having to extract herself from damaging relationships. You can read the post in full here.
I totally related to what she was saying as I did exactly the same thing.
Dealing with toxic people is just one of those things you have to learn to do in recovery. As Kristen points out, slaying the dragons of drugs and drink are relatively easy, compared to the life stuff we have to learn Like: having boundaries; recognizing your feelings; behaving appropriately and all that good crap that comes with being a healthy functioning human being.
But ending relationships with toxic people is a pretty big task for an alcoholic/addict.
We have spent years running from unpleasant feelings and have a particular aversion to any kind of confrontation, we also tend to be chronic people pleasers. It took me a while to learn how to deal with toxic people and I made plenty of mistakes along the way.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


When I trained to become a therapist and was given all these big words to describe people’s issues, I of course, began to secretly diagnose everyone I met. Let me tell you, this got really fun when I was dating. I would meet a guy and within thirty minutes, sum him up in my head with all these issues, and then dismiss him as possible romantic material.
I was, after all, clean and sober and was finally going to demonstrate healthy choices with healthy people.
Can you guess how many men that left me available to date?
A big fat zero.
In my opinion they all had issues!
I had created this rigid worldview which led me to have ridiculous expectations of people.
It began to dawn on me, that I was excluding the entire human race from my experience. I had swung so far the other way, that I pretty much dismissed everyone as a potential date or friend.
Which is a pretty lonely place to be.
I had to learn that there is a difference between toxic people and people who are just working through their crap. I also realized no one was perfect, including me.

Toxic people tend to be resistant to changing or any kind of self-reflection, they are adamant that others have the problem and need to change instead. They generate drama and misery wherever they go and are incapable of seeing themselves as the cause of it.
In contrast, people who are just working on their crap will sometimes behave badly but with time will realize this, own it, make amends and change.
It’s really kind of simple: Everybody has crap. Some people are working on it, others are not. Pay attention and you will be able to spot the difference.

There is a big difference between being toxic and behaving in a toxic way. As an addict I went from one extreme to the other; I went from surrounding myself with sick and toxic people, to pushing away anyone who I perceived to have a flaw.

I wholeheartedly agree with Kristen, that the healthiest thing to do is to remove toxic people from our lives as soon as possible*. This can be challenging, but with practice, it can get easier. I also think the more we work on ourselves, the less toxic people we attract into our experience, so this also helps. Maybe some of these people will change and we can invite them back into our lives and sometimes they don’t. But when we take responsibility and make this space in our lives, the universe will often bring in someone incredible for us to connect with, someone we never would have met otherwise.
What hit home about Kristen’s piece for me, is that she kept her heart open and was always willing to help and trust. Ok, it got her into to trouble but it also enabled wonderful people to come into her experience. Whereas I did the opposite, I excluded just about everyone and didn’t give anyone a chance.
If you read to the end of her post she includes an extract from psychotherapist Nancy Colier, who emphasizes that we are not obliged to open our hearts to everyone. Even when people hurt us desperately and then apologize, we don’t have to invite them back into our lives.
I completely agree.
I passionately believe that we are responsible for the experience we wish to have, and we have to take responsibility for whom we invite into our experience.
When we can balance that with keeping our hearts open, then we are well on our way to becoming healthy functioning human beings.

*check out Kristen’s check list for spotting a toxic person. Spot on – in my opinion.