Okay. I know for a fact that how we say things is just as important if not more important than what we say. I’ve been attending these lectures on alcoholism and have been learning better ways of communicating, how to express “I Statements.”
(Stay with me for a minute, here, I know this is technical but it’s important for later on.) There are three steps to an I Statement:
1. State very specifically what behavior led to your feeling.
2. State what you are feeling.
3. Explain the consequences of the behavior for you.
In correct usage, it might look something like this:
1. I feel “I feel scared . . .
2. When when you stay out all night
3. Because because I don’t know where you are.”
Simple, right? Well, Saturday afternoon, I forgot all about these I statements when my sister called and said she had just gotten through a therapy session and her therapist told her she needed to work on anger. Mind you, I knew she had already been through one crisis that day. She’s an alcoholic, and I try to be careful about putting too much on her at once. I save my verbal “vomit” for my sponsor because I figure it does no good for my sister to know all the irritations and frustrations that go through my mind regarding her.
But when she said that, all my good intentions flew out the window. Everything I had learned just kind of took a back seat and my mind went on autopilot. Verbal vomit flew out before I could stop it.
“Well, you do have problems with anger,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you know that every time you get drunk – or even when you’re sober – you complain to Mom that I got sent away to college to live in a dorm and you had to go to a local college?”
“Yeah, I do know that,” she replied.
And the verbal diarrhea continued, unchecked.
“Do you know why Mom sent me two hours away to college?” I asked, and I knew there was some sarcasm in my voice.
“Because I had become a permanent babysitter for your three kids who were all living with us at the time. She wanted me to get away.”
“There you go, coming up first again. Mom always thought of you first.”
“Oh, and taking you and your whole family into her house to support didn’t count.”
“You babysat my kids? Well guess what? I babysat all you kids from the time I could walk.”
I laughed at that point. I couldn’t help it.
Eventually we talked it out. We can never stay mad at each other very long. In a family of seven siblings, we are the only two sisters. But – she’s the reason I’m writing a book about alcoholism, because I truly believe her drinking changed my whole life and a lot of the choices that might have been available to me. I wish I could say I’m better, but I’m still such a sick codependent. I don’t ask her anymore if she’s going to meetings, or if she’s working her program.
I have a smaller hoola hoop now, and I’m only concerned with my own program. It’s enough for me. It’s enough for a lifetime.