Addictive relationships are in one of two directions. The addict needs to be fixed. As an addict I want something out there, alcohol, a drug, sugar, caffeine, gambling, smoking, work, exercise. I want something out there to fix the inner emptiness I’ve got here. Sometimes I’ll settle on a person. I want you to fix the emptiness I’ve got in here.
So that’s an addictive relationship for a primary addict. For a compulsive helper, needs to be needed, needs to be needed. Now that is just as addictive, just as progressive, just as destructive. Compulsive helpers cause a very great deal of damage.
Secondly, it’s very arrogant to believe that other people needed me to that extent. I remember in my step five, I acknowledged that as a GP some of my patients over the years had committed suicide and I felt such a sense of failure as a doctor that I haven’t been able to help them, even though those patients have never mentioned to me that they’ve felt suicidal. They’ve never mentioned to me that they were depressed. I had no idea. It was a complete surprise.
But even then I felt that I had let them down by not providing an environment in which they felt that they could talk to me and all the rest of it. A man who is here in my step five said, “Robert you are arrogant. You are incredibly arrogant. Do you really believe that you were responsible for that person’s suicide and the others? Do you really believe that you have such power over their lives that something you did or didn’t do would cause them to commit suicide?” You see, I really had to be confronted with the arrogance of my belief that I could’ve done something.
I did the best I could anyway, but I’m not God. I am not God. I cannot prevent someone else from doing what that person is going to do. I can’t stop that. All I can do is what I can do. But a compulsive helper believes that he or she can do everything and we need to be needed.
So the drugs or addictive processes of an addict are blame and self-pity. We blame everybody. “I’m so sad about ourselves.” We’re full of self-pity. It’s not clever. So blame and self-pity, the drugs if you like of an addict. For the compulsive helper, it’s care taking that’s not caring it’s beyond that. It’s becoming somebody’s care taker. You do everything for that person or just in case something terrible might happen. It’s fear driven. Care taking and self-denial. It’s the belief that it doesn’t matter how much it cost me I’m there. I’m going to be the one person in his or her whole life who is really there and stool up and was counted. I deserve a medal or at least I deserve to go to heaven.
The arrogance of that is absolutely appalling. So compulsive helping is just as disruptive as primary addiction. It’s just as soul destroying. It is just as addictive. It’s just as progressive and destructive.
So addictive relationships can be very damaging when you get an addict and a compulsive helper. You rarely get two addicts together. It does happen but they tend to get fed up with each other because there’s no compulsive helper to bail them out. By and large this will tend to make relationship with compulsive helpers. That’s why we spend as much time as we do on our family program to try to help people to heal the entire family rather than just one-half of it.
There are ways in which we can learn to communicate with each other and it’s really quite tricky. Let me show you here. I don’t want to. Here is me and Meg, my wife. That’s me. That’s Meg. This is what was called the “open door” that’s the “trap door” and that’s the “target door.” What we’re going to need to put into those boxes are thoughts, feelings, and actions and we are different.
What is the target door towards which Meg most wants me to go. What does she want me to change, my thoughts, my feelings or my actions? Actions. She wants me to change my behaviour. The target door for me is “actions” What is the open door through which I am accessible? Or this is why we focus so much on this in Promis. It’s my feelings. You can approach me through my feelings. I will hear you through my feelings.
Meg will say, “We’re overdrawn.” I say, “Yeah.” And she’d say, “But the manager was on the phone today.” I’d say, “Well, then you tell him to phone back another day.” You see, you can’t approach me through reason, through my thoughts. But if she says, “But Rob I’m frightened.” Bang! She’s got me. I will hear her.
That’s why we focus so much here on feelings, that we are accessible ultimately through our feelings. We try to block them out. We say, “It’s very unfair if you’ve made her cry.” It may be the only way of helping that person to recognize the addiction problems. We are accessible through our feelings. Therefore, by subtraction, out trap door is faults. Well, of course that’s true.
I keep myself safe as houses on my thoughts, on the way that I think, on the way that I explain things. I can go backwards. I can swing sideways. I can go up and down. I can go all over the place. Any addict knows how to use words. We use tweedledum words. Tweedledum words mean anything we want them to mean. It becomes totally confusing to everybody else.
I can change sides in the middle of an argument and Meg will not even notice. I’m skilled. Any addict is. We can run rings around you. Our thoughts are our trap door. Now, tell me how do you really define addiction? We’ve got you.
We can talk about that for twenty-four hours without taking a breath. We know precisely how to get — you know, run rings around everybody if we stay in our heads couple that with a denial and you got real problems. We need to get down into the feelings to be able to express what we really feel like. The only way you can do that is getting into the feelings. As I was saying earlier, don’t let us take you off. Confront us with our behaviour. Give us the facts.