Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Warning: serious post ahead.

I know, I know- 2 posts in one day...this is an actual serious post about something that I've thought a lot about over the years, and would like to get off my chest.

When you take Psychology in University, you tend to diagnose yourself with everything, most of it completely untrue.

One thing that I did learn about myself was that I was a high self-monitorer (sp?)- i.e. I am constantly analyzing my self-presentation and adjust it to others' ideals and to fit the situation. This might be a good thing- but not necessarily when you're so preoccupied with adjusting your own behaviour that you're doing everything for the perception of others' and not for yourself. One can never be completely comfortable living this way.

However, the benefit to this behaviour is that you are generally acting the way people want you to. You rarely offend people, and are generally well thought of. It's a pretty fast journey to popularity, even though it's frequently at your own expense.

This sort of behaviour also rarely leads to vices and addictions. Those are socially unacceptable.

So, since I generally get along with people, and am constantly analyzing what I "should" be doing and how I "should" be acting, I am frequently taken aback when I see people so blatantly the opposite.

This leads me to the point of this post: 12-step programs and how they affect the non-members.

I'm sure most of us have known someone in our lives who have suffered from some sort of addiction. The person that I'm thinking of was schizophrenic and this led to drugs and alcohol and eventually jail.

I was friendly with this person while they were in the Remand Centre - but it eventually led me to developing "relationships" with other members at the Centre, and then all sorts of other problems followed. Up until that point I had been the perfect child, friend and student. I had to do a lot of damage control, had to tell my father what I had gotten involved in, and apologise to a lot of people as a result of this one "friendship."

After it was over I just wanted to forget about it. Even now, 14 years later it is a part of my history that I wish I could erase.

However, the original "friend" (we were never even that close to begin with) joined AA. And as you may or may not know- one of the "steps" is to call up EVERYone that you've ever wronged and apologise to them. I don't quite know if the purpose is to gain absolution, or if it is a way of punishing themselves for what they've done wrong. Maybe both.

So, I got my call. I tried to be as gracious as I could- but really all I wanted to do was get off the phone as quickly as possible. I'm certain that the members of the program must be warned by their mentors that not everyone will necessarily be forgiving or want to hear from them. In retrospect I think it might have been more kind to give my caller a more honest response. However I am not rude by nature, and I felt that I had to take responsibility for my own actions.

I had wanted to forget all about it, and getting that call just brought up all those feelings of guilt and shame again. And then my "caller" went to the same University that I did. I didn't want to see him. I couldn't handle being gracious and interested in his life on an on-going basis.

So he eventually stopped trying to talk to me (to my shame and relief) and told my dear Anon what a bitch I was. Anon and I ran into him at the movies not too long ago and he wouldn't even look at me. He just spoke with her and walked away.

So, my question is- what do these 12 steps accomplish? Maybe they give some sort of peace to the addict, but at what cost to those who have suffered with or because of them? One could argue that it's better to apologise than to not apologise, but is it?

Is it right to force someone to have that conversation with you when maybe all they want to do is forget? The natural thing to do is say "it's OK" when someone apologises to you, but often it really isn't.

Anon and I were talking about this person the other day, and just the mention of his name makes me feel badly. I don't have one good memory associated with him. And I do rather blame the AA. If he hadn't been forced to call me to make "amends" and I hadn't felt compelled to be kind, then he would probably have never felt that we should have ever been on a friendly basis again.

Has anyone else ever gotten that call? How did you feel? Did the apology give YOU any kind of resolution?

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