Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the need to fix others is not a good driver for good behavior

When David Gewirc (Director of The ADD Coach Academy) said these words recently, I was reminded of the way I behave when I'm in 'fix-it'mode. Have you ever been in fix-it mode? If so, you know what I mean.

When a person is in fix it mode, they feel an overwhelming need to change the people, places and things around them. Other ways to define fix-it mode are:
  • playing God with other people's lives
  • being a know-it-all
  • insisting that others do it our way
  • spending our days and nights thinking up ways to correct others' behavior and then doing everything we can to get them to carry out our will
  • worrying about their where abouts
  • lecturing them when their behavior doesn't meet our standards
  • thinking up fearful thoughts to terrorize ourselves about others' well-being, and then, on the basis of those thoughts, insisting that others do things our way

This mode of operation is often found in families where some sort of addiction is present as well as in many other codependent situations). In a situation that includes addiction, the non-addicted family members have often been traumatized by the addicted person's behavior and they want nothing more than to save their addicted relatives (and themselves) from the consequences of bad thinking and bad behavior. Almost anyone related to an addict and watching their self-destructive behavior would be inclined to do anything possible to fix their addicted relative or friend. Helping someone we love is considered the only option for most people in many situations.

But the problem is, when it comes to dealing with addiction, going into fix-it mode rarely helps the addict get better and often makes things worse.

Here's why:

When the co-addict tries to direct, help or guide the addict, the addict will often resist. Then, filled with frustration, the co-addict will find him or herself pushing back, insisting on the rightness of what s/he wants the addict to do, and the addict will resist more, and before you know it, there's yelling, screaming, threats, crying, and, in some cases, violence.

All of this began with a good intention, but the result is bad behavior that doesn't help anyone. Often, the non-addicted person's behavior becomes so wacky in pursuit of changing the addict, that it creates a scene that is embarrassing, upsetting, and can be dangerous.

If anything, this escalation of emotion and struggle lessens the addict's chances of getting well, thus, having the opposite effect the co-addict desired in the first place when s/he went into fix-it mode.

But, you may ask, isn't the co-addict right? Shouldn't the addict stop seeing their using friends, stop buying and using their drug, stop drinking til they black out, start listening to their sober and obviously wiser relative or friend?

In response, I would say, well they certainly don't see it that way. So, if I try to force a solution on them, chances are, since they are in charge of their life, it won't happen until they see things differently.

Therefore, it behooves me to learn a different way to relate to the addict. One that involves accepting and respecting their right to live their life in their own way and living my own life differently than I have been.

Does this mean I stop trying to help them get clean and sober?

Not at all. It just means I change my tack from one of trying to fix them to one of trying to control my own actions and reactions to their behavior. As counterintuitive as it sounds, only when I keep the focus on my own behavior and on my own life, can I be of potentially significant help to the addict.

Check back in a couple of days, when this blog will discuss the power of letting go and how it can help both the addict and the co-addict get well when the co-addict lets go of the addict's responsibilities and behaviors.

Until then, remember to Focus on You and enjoy all the moments of each day!

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