I saw this picture recently and I couldn’t help but laugh. It caused me to think back to my time in active addiction. I wonder how many times I thought I had the world fooled. I thought I had everything together and there wasn’t any way people could see how screwed up and confused I was but in reality it was pretty clear to everyone around me that I was in the same condition as the guy in this picture. The people around me didn’t know exactly what was going on but they knew something wasn’t right. Sometimes I even managed to get my shoe tied but I made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be. Looking back, I now realize that a lot of the time I didn’t really get it tied. I know I didn’t because I can remember the trips and falls. I still carry scars from some of those falls.
Have you been around people that think they have things together but it’s clear to you and everyone else that they don’t? What do we do with someone like that? Before we answer that let’s start with what we don’t do. We don’t shame them. When have you ever responded well to shame? When we shame someone we are pushing them away and making it less likely that they will look for or accept help. It also doesn’t do any good for us to enable. I recently had a parent call and tell me that a grown child had been on an alcohol binge for several days. When the parent found out what was going on they went to their apartment to check on them and found them passed out in the floor. The apartment was a wreck, empty liquor bottles and trash everywhere, rotting food. The young man had urinated and defecated repeatedly in the clothes they were wearing. Things were a real mess. The father went on to tell me that he had cleaned the apartment, bathed his son and changed his clothes, cleaned up the trash and washed the laundry. When the son came too, he was furious. Once again dad had come into the apartment uninvited. It was obvious nothing was wrong. The place was clean and now dad was telling lies about how bad of a state the son had been in. Dad hadn’t done anything that any loving parent wouldn’t have wanted to do. But he let his son escape taking responsibility for his actions.
So what do we do? We continue to love, without taking away responsibility. We offer help but we don’t force it. When our friend or family member is ready to talk we listen. We ask things like, “Can I offer some advice?” or “Can I make a suggestion?”, but we don’t push too hard if they say no. Always remember that until someone is ready for help they aren’t going to accept it. I mentioned earlier that I carry scars from some of my actions. It was some of those wounds that I did to myself that enabled me to see that my way wasn’t working. And those scars serve as reminders today of how far I have come.
I know that some of what I am suggesting doesn’t sound “loving” and doesn’t sound like the right thing to do. But I have seen it work. Whether you are the person in the picture or the person watching the guy in the picture, there is hope. If you have questions and need to talk, reach out. I’d be glad to talk with you. Email me at email@example.com.