Control is such a powerful concept. In behavioral work, one of the tools in a therapist’s pocket is a technique called forced choice. When a client is resisting a specific instruction such as “hold someone’s hand while we cross the busy street”, one can instead present the individual with two unique options, such as “would you like to hold my hand or would you like to hold mom’s hand?” The child is far more likely to comply because he or she feels as though autonomy is being presented, and the ultimate goal is still accomplished. They perceive a sense of self-government over the situation, and it can make all the difference between an easy session and a difficult one.
I think one of the biggest issues I am struggling with right now is the feeling of everything being out of my hands. J and I had an excellent conversation last night that reminded me just how control driven I am. It is a natural trait of a codependent – the need to have a hand in all spheres of life because their success depends solely on us. It goes back to the “magical thinking” I discussed in this post. However, in the case of a loved one’s recovery, the responsibility relies solely on the addict. I must resist the desire to find J meetings, help him formulate his daily schedule, or become too involved in suggesting activities to keep him busy. Otherwise, he will never gain the self-sufficiency he needs to be successful in rehabilitation. He has to be able to stand on his own two feet.
If that wasn’t hard enough, what is really eating away at me is to put aside all talks about our relationship. Personally, I came to the decision to put us on hold, and allow J to focus on his recovery and me to focus on my own mental health. I know in my head that this is the best decision for me, as well as for him, but my heart is far less convinced. By essentially pressing “pause” on our relationship, I am situating myself in a place that I vehemently dislike: LIMBO. I am a resolution seeker – striving to come to clear cut conclusion to every argument even if it means staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I am a patron of the black and white scenario – we either break up or stay together, and it is imperative we decide right now. I am antipathetic of taking time and space to think things through, either we fix things this instant or we walk away. The more I allow situations of discomfort to sit, the less control I have, and the more likely everything is going to disintegrate into my worst nightmares. Thus, for me to individually come to the decision to put our relationship issues on hold is a gigantic leap of faith on my end, and my heart is extremely afflicted. However, my head is at peace, so I know that this is the right path.
Another technique I use with my clients who are feeling distressed is something I call “problem squeezing”. When a child is showing signs of anger, anxiety, or frustration, I will have him or her sit in a calming place and visualize what is causing their discomfort as sitting in their flat, open palms. Next, I instruct them to squeeze their hands into a fist as tightly as possible and count to ten on an inhale; then release on an exhale. The beauty of behavioral therapy is that it doesn’t just apply to special needs or just to children. I used this very technique right before I went to visit J at the detox facility today. I sat in the parking l0t, closed my eyes, and pictured a mini version of J in my right hand and a mini me in my left. I clutched them shut as tightly as possible and repeated to myself that sometimes allowing things to happen the way they were meant to is far more beautiful than fabricating everything into being. I inhaled, feeling the tension build to its maximum, filling my lungs to the point of discomfort, and noticed that if I kept trying to hold it all in for too much longer I would burst.
Then I let go.
I let it all go.
And for that moment, I was free.