As a child, I remember setting up Lego toys in a careful pattern like dominoes, perfectly positioned with just enough space between each one, so that I could watch as they slowly toppled over, one by one.
Have you ever seen dominoes fall that way?
I think of the domino effect when I have trouble coping with family problems in a healthy way….such as recently…
Every few years, my family becomes basically one giant dominoes set up. One big problem teeters for a while and then topples over and knocks down the next problem, which causes more problems and the toppling goes on and on. The result is one fat pile of problems. Yes, it’s a bit of a crisis.
Over the last year, one of my very favorite people in the world has experienced some pretty serious health problems. Like many people in my life, this person has refused help. It has worsened considerably over the last few months and just last week, an upsetting conversation with this person was a hard reality check for me.
I’m failing. I’m failing to fix this one.
This is a type of situation for me, different from the problems caused by the behavior of addicts in the family. It took until that moment on the phone to recognize that I’d jumped right back into the arms of my friend. His name is Unhealthy Attachment to Family Problems! Yep. I get stressed. It is no bueno.
Just as I did with the addicts in my life, I had taken on this person’s problem and convinced myself that 1.) it was my responsibility to fix this person and 2.) I could help this person who doesn’t want help. This ran through my head, as it has a million of times before: If this person would just listen….
While this person doesn’t drink or do drugs, they’ve put up a thick, glass wall, in the same way that the addicts do, blocking out their family and friends, who are eager to help.
I did a whole lot of talking and talking and writing long notes – my very best try to convince this person to make better decisions to get their good health back.
All the while, I dropped to my knees to pray countless times, especially as the stress caused the addicts in my family to drink more heavily.
And the problem went on, worsening.
After that upsetting phone call with this person last week, my sister scrunched up her face like the world’s most annoyed teenager and commanded in a frustrated tone: “Detach, Jody, detach!”
I let these problems kick me over and over to the point that it disables me from taking good care of myself.
But I am trying.
The hardest part of healing from my old way of coping with these problems has always been detaching. I have real trouble stepping away from the problems of people I love.
I feel guilty for not being able to fix it – as crazy as it is. I have unrealistic expectations for myself and I forget that I can’t control people’s behavior or decisions. Also, I feel it’s my duty to help loved ones because they’re supposed to be cared for/helped when they need it. That’s what families do.
I forget that you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped.
Isn’t it amazing how fast you can fall back into old ways of thinking/living life?
Fortunately, I usually do, finally, remember that in many situations with family members and friends, I’m going to have to blow a kiss and say, “I’ll be here when you decide you want help.”
I’m going to hold onto hope that one day, these people will blow me a kiss back and say, “I’m ready now. Help me get help.”