Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Self-will run riot

One of the blogs I read regularly is written by a young man who has a mental illness and is also an alcoholic. He is very forthcoming about his problems and his relationship with his family, and he writes very well -- you can 'see' the scenes he describes, and 'listen' to the dialogues between him and the few people who populate his world. He could certainly write a book that would be interesting and descriptive.

He's sort of gone off the rails lately and seems to be in a rather manic phase, doing things that are likely to lead to devastation and relapse and perhaps even hospitalization, in my inexpert opinion. His past blog posts pretty much bear that out -- this is not new behavior. He is talking all the right stuff, but I'm very skeptical. Guess that's a problem when you've been around for a while -- not much really is new behavior or situations that can't be seen pretty clearly.

It's a classic example of "self-will run riot" -- a description of an alcoholic who wants to deny that "... he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts that somehow, someday we will control and enjoy our drinking is the real obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing."

We've used this phrase for years to describe many situations: our daughters' behaviors, for instance, when they go off to do something that, they explain to us, "is something I just have to do for me." And then we watch when the train derails, or at best, loses a couple of cars as it careens around the twisty, wind-y bends. Or situations at work, or in meetings when self-interest prevails over the goals of the group to the point of being damaging.

But we're not picking up as many pieces as we used to in any of the situations, hard as it has been. It's hard not to leap in and save people from themselves, to throw money at something to ease the pain, to smooth out whatever problems have arisen from the individual's self-will rioting.

We've set boundaries for ourselves: beyond this place be dragons. And we don't go there, at least not often, and not with everything we can muster.

We create our own destiny. Our actions will have re-actions, and when -- despite past history, despite the cautions of those who know and love us, despite (perhaps) that tiny voice deep inside us saying "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" -- we forge ahead anyway, the resulting issues are ours to deal with.

This phrase applies in so many ways! Right now we are trying hard to curtail portion sizes, to limit foods that we know are not good for us (like anything my seriously bad sweet tooth wants), and to lose weight. We are on the edge of diabetes (both of us have immediate relatives who had it), and the way to forestall it is to lose weight and do some kind of regular exercise.

If we don't do all we can now, it IS going to happen. It WILL shorten our lives and cause us other health issues.

I don't want to get there knowing that I could have done something to prevent -- or at least deterred -- the disease.

So when I'm tempted to pick up a box of candies at the store, I remember "self-will run riot" and put it back down. If it's not in the house, I can't eat it. And I can't afford too many more 'just this once -- I deserve it' excuses. It's too easy to slip back into bad habits.

In my blogger friend's case, he has made a bunch of changes in only a few days -- like getting a job after having been on disability for years, like drinking again, like deciding that he doesn't really have an alcoholic problem but it's the stress of dealing with his anxieties (caused, of course, by the pressure his family has put on him) that made him drink.

And it's not that I think some of his decisions aren't good ones in the long run. But positive change occurs with planning and talking and slowly implementing first one thing, then another, then another, and in concert with your doctor and caregivers. That hasn't happened.

To change everything all at once, to leap without considering the effects of your choices on your finances, your body, your loved ones, and your mental state is a sure-fire way to crash land.

Self-will is what it takes to change, for sure. Disciplined, planned, determined self-will got me to California. It got me into healthier lifestyles in years past. But it was planned, and it was not done without regard to consequences.

I hope my blogger friend will be all right. His parents have, from what he writes, picked him up and rescued him many times over the years, and he is incredibly lucky for that, I suppose. I'm sure they will do the same this time, although I think their doing so continues to set up a pattern that will eventually repeat with the same results.

And when you love someone, especially a child, it's very hard to watch the crash landing and do little or nothing. But sometimes that is the best thing one can do: be compassionate and loving, but acknowledging that the choices and consequences are someone else's to deal with.

All we have control over is ourselves: not others, not our children or our friends or our grandchildren or our relatives. They must take responsibility for their own choices and actions even if those choices impact us and our emotions. By rescuing too often, we try to take their lives into our own hands -- and that is not good for anyone.


mxtodis123 said...

Oh gosh, someone I can get my frustrations out with. I've been following the same blog and having the same feelings. This is my first time here, and something sent me here today. I not only work with mentally ill clients, I have a stepson with mental illness. Yes, he is definitely in the manic stage. I've wanted to post there, but you know, he doesn't want to hear it so I've been holding it in....and really being upset over those who congratulate him on his every move...when it is so obvious what is going on. Why, the other day, he mentioned a certain type of beer he drinks because of its higher alcohol content, and no one picked up on it. I understand they mean well, but mental illness and alcoholism are both illnesses...and I just don't believe that going along with everything he says is in his best interest, but as you say, we have no control. I feel bad the way the poor dad is being badmouthed by everyone when it's obvious he has always been there for his son; otherwise, he'd be in some state hospital.

Sorry for the rant here on your blog. Not fair to you. Just that I have been holding this in for so long. So sorry, Beth. It's a relief to find someone who is not yessing him and telling him how good he is doing.

Anonymous said...

awesome blog, do you have twitter or facebook? i will bookmark this page thanks. peace maria