I have often described the tempestuous events surrounding drug addiction as a protracted stage play. I view it as a one man play performed by the addict.
Regrettably family dynamics draw many others into what is supposed to be a one man performance. And sadly ,those drawn in as accompanying players are the family members,particularly the enablers. This happens because our emotional baggage and our head clutter draws us onto the stage and makes us active players for many years. The key in my view is for us to get off the stage and let the performance unravel as a one man play. I know this is not easily done,and for many of us it takes years to understand that the show is the addicts’,not ours. And the likelihood of a satisfactory ending only happens when we step off the stage. I know it is not that simple,but the analogy is a very good one.
The title of this piece is intended to help us perform a shorter time and ultimately leave the addict as the numero uno solo in the play. The question of what to do and what to say is very important because they define our role in this drama and with understanding, we can help ourselves exit the stage.
Let’s look at what to do first. In our rush to enable and save the addict we invariably act in ways that keep us onstage. As long as we are enabling, we must be part of the show. We must always respond to everything the addict says and does. Remember this happens because we feel we created the problem which is totally untrue;but our heads are filled with many untruths. As we stop reacting to the addict because we eventually see the destructiveness of our of our role in the performance, we start to do less and less. If your recall the readings,”Detachment,” and “Helping” our role is to be things ,not to do things.” With progressive uncluttering of our heads we begin to understand what that means. To be there. And to be there without doing anything! Ultimately we understand how to be there without doing anything. When we get to this point in our own recovery, we will be heading for the exits .. So the answer to the question”what should I do when the addict does………”, is do nothing. Of course this does not preclude doing something for ourselves which we never thought about because we were so involved in our”acting careers.” managing the addict. The secret weapon which we finally learn to use is doing nothing for the addict. And that is the hardest thing for us to understand. When we do nothing but act supportively to the addict’s recovery, we have found the secret of question number 1. In truth we should have been doing nothing for years,but our emotions would not let us. As we grow and understand how complicit our behavior has been,the answer become obvious. What should I do? Nothing for the addict,but everything for our own recovery.
It should be clearer what the answer is to second question in the title. Since so much of our communication in this play serves the same purpose as our actions,we have to learn to say NOTHING sometimes,a loud and clear”NO” at other times, a lot of “HMMMMMM’ and the very supportive”I AM SURE YOU CAN WORK THIS OUT”. These responces are incredibly successful in stopping the interplay with the addict. No addict likes to hear any of this;they expect something like”of course you can come home”. But when the answer is no the addict understands exactly what is going on. And if you want to pursue getting off the stage say “no “ a few hundred times and you will see just how much the addict understands what it means.It is our heads that mislead us and keep us saying”yes”.
When we learn to do nothing other than be supportive of recovery,and to say nothing that is any way suggests we will save the addict,the stage play will wind down and before anyone realizes the performance is back to a one man show.That’s really what it should have been from day 1. And without other participants on stage,hopefully the play will come to a more rapid end.