Almost three years into active recovery, I will admit there are still some parts of this process that I find highly frustrating and confusing.
First and foremost, how to be appropriately vulnerable. I grew up in a household where even the smallest of grievances warranted big emotional reactions. Failure to clean the kitchen properly, not showing excessive gratitude for small gestures, or not abiding the smallest rules were all excuses for us to express our unhealthiest and most dramatic coping mechanisms.
I learned to overexplain myself because I hardly ever felt heard. I learned to be hypervigilant and controlling because my environment wasn’t reasonable or predictable. I learned to fear the unknown, because the known wasn’t a “safe” space. I learned to hide and doubt myself and my feelings, because they were often criticized. I learned to be attracted to and vulnerable with people who were often not worthy or safe for the simple reason that their unsafe characteristics were familiar to me. I learned to be angry, because that was a common behaviour in my household.
Vulnerability is a very confusing and scary concept for a person like me. In recovery, I also understand that not learning safe and appropriate vulnerability perpetuates a lot of that aforementioned list of unhealthy coping mechanisms. But I also understand that doing it unsafely through oversharing, sharing too quickly, sharing to much, or sharing too little all have negative consequences too.
So how do you balance vulnerability? I’m still fumbling through this idea.
The second biggest hurdle for me is learning how to appropriately help people I care about. For most of my life I’ve watched people around me try to save and bail out people from the consequences of their actions. In other words, I’ve watched people model enabling.
I understand now that standing in the way of people feeling the consequences of their actions is disrespectful, demeaning, and unhelpful. It is treating someone like a child and robbing them of the ability to learn from their mistakes and develop confidence in their ability to turn their situation around.
In my household, enabling was often combined with a lecture, disappointment, disapproval and a healthy serving of shame. Not only did I watch people get saved from learning valuable life lessons produced from consequences, I watched them get bullied into feeling incapable of handling the next hurdle in front of them.
In most family groups related to addiction they will introduce the concept of “staying in your lane”. Essentially, this is an attempt to lay the foundation of encouraging people to mind their own business, allow people to choose their own path, and *most importantly* put more focus on their own steps and less obsession on others.
So how do you help someone who is asking you for advice without bullying them and still remaining in your lane? Still working on that too.
One day at a time.