Control is one of the biggest obstacles to sobriety. In pursuit of a peaceful and meaningful life, you must let go of control and surrender yourself to the help that you have been reaching for.
Sometimes your efforts to avoid responsibility are disguised as graciousness and politeness. Examples of these run along the lines of “Whatever you want to do is fine with me,” or “I don’t care, where do you want to eat?” or “Where do you want to go on vacation?”
By appearing to be agreeable and deferential to the other person’s needs, you avoid making a statement about your own needs and thereby escape responsibility if things don’t work out well: the restaurant is no good, the TV show is a bore, the hotel has no pool, and so on.
Disguised Efforts to Control
No one likes to think of themselves as always trying to gain control in a situation, so they find covert ways to control. Most of these things represent disguised efforts at control, one of the biggest and most troublesome of all problem-solving issues for chemical dependents.
You control a situation by putting another person under obligation to you, by preventing them from making an effective complaint or negotiating an issue, by forcing them to accommodate to your behavior; or, in another way, to try to figure out what you really want when you refuse to express any preference, by leaving it up to them to make decisions for both of you and then have to face your resentment or disappointment when their choice isn’t at all what you really wanted.
Efforts to exert control can be subtle or direct. You may just walk in when everybody has already started doing a job and begin directing traffic: “No, James, you get the ladder and let Olivia stir the paint. I’ll do the trim on the windows; Johnnie can scrape the walls. I don’t think that bucket is big enough; there’s a better one in the garage.”
Or you may make sure that your project is the one selected by handing it in to your boss a day early—when your competing associate is out sick.
Or just when your associate is about to make a proposal in a staff meeting, you bring up the subject of a suggestion he made at the last meeting—and which you know he hasn’t had time to finish and can’t report on yet.
You can control people in very simple ways: you and your friends have agreed to meet at a certain time to see a particular movie and you show up just too late to catch that movie—but still in time to go to the one down the street, which was the one you wanted to see in the first place.
These small manipulations are a sure sign that you are trying to control people’s lives in more serious and complex ways as well.
Control in Recovery
In recovery, if you are a controlling person, you may find yourself attempting to use your sobriety as a form of control: to give off faint or not-so-well-disguised signals that if the other person continues what they’re doing, it may threaten your sobriety.
If I have to work late on this project, you might imply, I might have to use cocaine to keep working.
You may find yourself hinting that if your boss hadn’t done so and so, you wouldn’t have had to resort to chemicals in the first place.
Watch out for these attempts at control and realize that they really are subtle cravings in disguise, professes of using, or excuses for relapse.
If you or a loved one wants to learn more about our substance abuse programs, please reach out to us today. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVERY to answer your questions.