I am most vulnerable to resentment and a host of other self-defeating attitudes when I disappoint myself in some way. I do care about what others think of me and often rely on a team of trusted friends and loved ones to help me decide how to think, feel and behave. Whether I follow advice or strike out on my own independent decision making, I have learned that being reliable is a thing that I need to practice.
Reliability is not has hard as it sounds. When paired with decent self-care, I have figured out that I can be reasonably reliable. At its core, reliable means that when I say “YES!” I follow through and do it. When I say “NO!” I do the appropriate actions that fit with my no.
I am currently reading and rereading an excellent book called Dopesick by Beth Macy. In it, Macy unpacks the current opioid crisis from both a historic and personal perspective. The stories are heartbreaking and achingly familiar. Toward the end of the book, yet another of the young women who she had followed through her opioid addiction succumbs to the lifestyle and is found dead in a dumpster. She wrote of the extended family’s tragic response - continuing to bicker, judge and blame one another for either “enabling” or following “tough love” principles.
She implied, I think, that this was just more missing the point.
It make me think about being reliable. I find in my own recovery work that it is a skill that is desperately needed. This is a tough affliction, and more than anything, I suspect families need to learn everything they can, get clear about their core values in loving their afflicted one, and reliably apply these principles.
Recently I participated in a funeral service for a woman who I did not know but loved. I had come to love her by knowing her parents as they faithfully attended our Family Education Program (that educates family about the disease of substance use disorder and offers support and encouragement for families as they make difficult decisions). These folks were RELIABLE in their measured, healthy, loving response to their daughter, even though she herself resisted treatment. At her death, this mom and dad grieved and were sorrowful but they exhibited little to no regret, recrimination or blame. I find this remarkable and extremely unusual.
I suspect their own reliability gave them the gift of no regret, recrimination or feelings of blame to work through. Their compassion for both self and others was beautiful. They had done their best; they had been reliable; they had lived with boundaries.
Tomorrow, we will talk about the third of 7 skills that strengthen us and reduce the likelihood that we will wallow in resentment.