Working

I get it. If what you're doing is working for you who am I to tell you different? If you are content, it's none of my business how you got there. On the other hand, if you are making yourself and your loved ones miserable, shouldn't we at least have a conversation about your choices? The formal definition of addiction includes, "diminished recognition of significant problems." I've also heard "repeating behavior regardless of negative consequences." Or even more to the point, "How's that workin' out for ya?" You can't spell "addiction" without "repeated negative results." If you have "told him a hundred times to do his homework," what makes you think that telling him to do his homework for the 101st time will make any difference? Don't the negative consequences--lack of peace in the home--outweigh the possible upside--a spontaneously generated miraculous turn-around? A foolish consistency is not only the hobgoblin of small minds but also the path to a lousy relationship with your kids. Who needs that?
In short, could you be addicted to the repetitive, unhelpful cycle of futile yelling, and the concomitant unpleasantness and resentment on the part of your children?
Before dismissing this unwholesome suggestion as bizarrely inaccurate, let's consider how you would feel if the child actually DID what you've been suggesting. Let's start with Monday: Monday is the same old dance. Robbie refuses to sit down at the kitchen table after school. He is slow to get started, slower to finish. In between, you remind him repeatedly to focus on his homework. A black cloud of negativity pervades the room making it difficult to even find the cutlery.
But Tuesday, from nowhere, Robbie comes home from school invigorated. He carefully removes notebooks and texts from his organized backpack, and begins working assiduously and effectively. Two hours later, he closes his algebra book smiling and asks if he can set the table.
Do you feel pleased and proud? Do you feel like your life just got qualitatively better? Or, to the contrary do you feel unemployed, useless, and nervous? Because now what do you do with the devil you know? Where do you put those feelings of rage and frustration that have been fueling your days? From the first time Robbie "forgot" to address that crumpled worksheet, your blood pressure had been off the charts. Now what do you do with your expectation that your son is unable to complete his homework without your standing over him?
Most families to whom I have suggested this scenario look at me as if I had morphed into an unattractive alien speaking an unintelligible language with green slime flowing from my ears. Maybe I'm wrong. But a subtle distinction for addicts in recovery is that it's not using that they miss specifically. They know that the high had a diminishing utility over time. The first opioid was life-changingly, mind-bendingly, stupendously great. The thousandth opioid--even if the dose was orders of magnitude greater--wasn't nearly as good. Consider, by analogy, the marginal utility of each bite of a five-pound steak.
When addicts get clean they don't miss the high. The difficulty is figuring out what to do day after day. So much of quotidian activity was predicated around finding, buying, using drugs and hiding the effects and consequences. That's why we keep going to meetings. In addition to, camaraderie, it's something to do, a place to figure out how to get through the day. Day 11 of sobriety is exciting. It has been a long time since food tasted so good or the sun felt so enveloping. Day 37 of sobriety is uneventful. What do I do with my boring old self? Day 193 of sobriety can be depressing. The dog didn't die, my girlfriend didn't leave, nothing noteworthy happened. How do I deal with a life that is--when you come right down to it--just a life?
If you have been addicted to thinking about Robbie, worrying about Robbie, planning for Robbie, and supervising Robbie, it may take some getting used to when you have to direct your attention elsewhere. I remember reading somewhere that exercise is healthy and helpful. Maybe there's a group of idiots in your neighborhood who meet at six in the morning to slog through the swamp. C'mon down. Make the change.
Unless you are completely certain that what you are doing is working for you.

One thought on “Working

  1. Lisa Sole

    This is a really good post! Ironically (and thankfully), this one routed to my main Inbox instead of to “social” or “promotions” as these blogs usually do.
    I always enjoy your insights, and this one is especially interesting.

    Reply

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