There is No Magic to Sober Someone Up
The Magic is in the Process
I don’t have any power over anyone and I can’t sober people up and keep them that way. That is way beyond my capabilities. There can be some magic created when an employee has to face a well- run process that causes them to have to look at themselves. There is the magic. That is my experience and that is what I have seen. We don’t wait for people to “come around” and take on that risk and liability. We act with a process that has boundaries and that makes people accountable for their own actions.
Steve Chandler, a business author, has a book where he discusses the choice between people pleasing others or serving them. Serving them gives them reality and employees acting out sometimes are very unhappy to get a dose of that. People pleasing is what the suffering employee wants because they don’t really want to change. They tell you they want to change and promise this is the last time but they don’t. Baby them, tell them it is all right this time, bend the rules and risk an unsafe workplace and they will be happy with you but that is people pleasing and it could bite you in a bad place down the road. Serving can be unpopular but it is the right and safe thing to do. The employee won’t like it but they may thank you for saving their life when they do straighten up. Do you serve or people please?
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The Alcoholic High Wire Act
I have heard it said that watching the alcoholic is like watching the high wire act at a circus. This is a good analogy which explains the relationship that the addict has with people around him or her. There are themes common in all addictions that we can see when we recognize patterns and are looking in the right places.
At the circus the high wire performer climbs the big supports and the crowd gets nervous. “Look how high it is” they exclaim! They are excited to see what he is going to do and how he is going to pull off the next part of the act. He walks across the small wire balancing a long pole and the crowd’s heart paces. The circus actor who has done this many times before takes the crowd through death defying feats but always winds up fine on the other end. Part of the suspense comes from the observer’s minds knowing that the circus actor could wind up dead on the hard floor if he falls but he never does. He builds his performance and just keeps on doing more and more dangerous things until the act ends in a heart pumping finale. The crowd knows he is on that high dangerous high wire and they know anything can happen but he always comes out of it and they are relax and become relieved.
Here is one of the major points I have been telling people for years. The problem with our society is that it believes it has to wait for the grand finale to play out before anything is done with an addict but society is wrong. You don’t have to wait for disaster to happen. With the correct process you can act now!
This high wire act explains the performance of a drinking alcoholic or drug addict perfectly. Many around the addict know that there is a problem and they also know that maybe the next performance could be bad but they hope it will be better. They look and they wait. Individuals look in anticipation at what the next act will be. He is in trouble again at work or with the police or with his family. She has another divorce and her kids are mad. How will he ever get out of this one? They all watch with wonder at how the addict skillfully guides everyone’s eyes to something other than his/her drug that is causing the problem but never ever the addict themselves. We then question our own sanity because we think we are seeing things. “Maybe it is not the drug at all” we say.
The addict then shows us that it is always someone else’s fault. It may be their bad childhood, terrible life, ex-wife, awful kids, the bad deal at work, the stock market, – something is making this poor person miserable. No wonder they drink we think. You would drink too! Everyone watches with amazement but no one does anything but watch. They sit back and wait for the finale.
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When dealing with an addict it is important to remember one thing. This also applies to people as well. Here it is “you cannot change another person.”
Sounds pretty simple but to learn this but how many times in our daily lives are the things we do designed to change others. Saying something to a family member because you don’t like the way they are. Trying to bend over backwards for someone to get them to not do something. Pretend that you know what they are thinking or can read their mind in order to be ready to counteract what you think they may do or not do. There are tons of ways we try to change others maybe not even realizing it. Here is an example. I have been married a long time to a woman who when she walks she likes to walk fast. She has a goal and she wants to get there and thinks by walking fast it is healthier. Maybe it is. I don’t know but I like to walk slow and ambling. I like to make it a social time or talk, an experience, a learning or whatever but not a fast walk trying to catch my breath. No matter what I have done over the years makes her walk slowly.
So two different people, to walking styles. I continually ask to slow down and sometimes I drag my own ass just to try to slow it but never have I been able to change her. She walks fast, that is the way she is always was and always will be.
So what to do? I can change myself and walk faster. I can choose not to walk. I can just accept that this is the way she is. I can walk part way and go home. I can go biking instead or on another walk with the dog at my pace. There are lots of things I can do.
I watch Gerry Springer from time to time and I am amazed how when men with a cheating history are caught again the significant other says they will give him one more change because she loves him. Then they bring out the other woman and there is a big fight. The reason I am interested is that I have seen this in real life. I see that people can have a life but stick with the loser for some reason thinking they can change them. It is amazing but we all do the same thing in less dramatic ways.
As with an addict they are going to do what they are going to do. Only thing you can do is to set your own boundaries and decide what you will tolerate. This includes workplace policies. Create your own goals, your own hobbies and your own life, follow them and you will be a happier person. Trying to change others does not work. I have tried and tried myself to change addicts. Ha! What a waste of time and whatever will be will be. Get a life of your own maybe the addict will be so shocked they will decide to change themselves.
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