Friday, 11 November 2016

Handling unacceptable behaviour within the rooms

'Try not to condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what he says or does. He is just another very sick, unreasonable person. Treat him, when you can, as though he had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember that he is very ill.
There is an important exception to the foregoing. We realise some men are thoroughly bad-intentioned, that no amount of patience will make any difference. An alcoholic of this temperament may be quick to use this chapter as a club over your head. Don’t let him get away with it. If you are positive he is one of this type you may feel you had better leave him. Is it right to let him ruin your life and the lives of your children? Especially when he has before him a way to stop his drinking and abuse if he really wants to pay the price.' (To Wives, Alcoholics Anonymous)

Just because we're in recovery does not mean we accept unacceptable behaviour. Love and tolerance of others is our code, sure, but that's not the whole story. It's our responsibility, if behaviour becomes abusive in any way, to set a boundary. That can mean telling someone to stop, leaving the situation in which the abuse is taking place, blocking telephonic and electronic communications, and even going to the police or seeking an injunction through the courts if the person does not desist. An artful malefactor will accuse us of being intolerant or impatient or otherwise 'not working our programmes'. At this point it is important to remember the advice of Al-Anon.

'IN AL-ANON WE LEARN: • Not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people • Not to allow ourselves to be used or abused by others in the interest of another’s recovery • Not to do for others what they can do for themselves • Not to manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, get up, pay bills, not drink, or behave as we see fit • Not to cover up for another’s mistakes or misdeeds • Not to create a crisis • Not to prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of events' (Detachment, my highlighting)

Note, in particular, the underlined passages. Just because someone is a still-suffering alcoholic, drunk, in early recovery, or sober for a while, does not mean we have to put up with behaviour we would not put up with outside the world of recovery.

Examples within include:
  • A barrage of unwanted communication.
  • Aggressive, intimidating, accusatory, or condemnatory communication.
  • Covert or implied threats contained within confusing, incoherent, or ambiguous communication.
  • Circumventing blocking by using other means (different email accounts, profiles, or numbers).
  • Using other people's accounts or fake accounts on social media to track or follow you.
  • Going out of their way to go to the same meetings as you or threatening to do so.
  • Threatening to share publicly in a meeting about the situation.
When you set a boundary, the harassing individual is likely to retaliate with the accusation that your behaviour is unspiritual, intolerant, impatient or otherwise unhelpful to them as a recovering alcoholic. This is not the case. To turn to the second underlined passage, the natural course of events when someone is harrassing you is that you block communications and, if it escalates or becomes (even more) threatening, to go to the authorities. Allowing someone to face the consequences of their actions by not standing in the way of this is a deeply spiritual action, and to shield the alcoholic from the consequences of their conduct would be to act as a co-addict and to enable the alcoholic to embed the behaviour even further in their mode of living. The consequences of their actions, namely your boundary-setting and further action if necessary, are their consequences, not yours, since they are a natural and sane response to harassment. 

Do not engage substantively with the material contained within the harassing communications. Any attempt to set a boundary, halt communications, or terminate the relationship will typically be met by a barrage of self-justification ('you brought it on yourself'), denial ('you've misunderstood and overreacted'), and counter-accusation ('it's your boundary-setting that is abusive'). Any experienced harasser will guilefully exploit all of the facts at their disposal to present themselves as the victim and to present you as the aggressor by refusing to respond. You cannot negotiate with a harasser.

To quote ... In All Our Affairs, an Al-Anon publication:

'... accept the fact that you will not get healthy behaviour from a sick person or logical statements from an illogical person.'

Allowing yourself to be dragged into discussion of the harassment with the harasser is a doomed project and will only increase your upset. You will not be able to talk them into reasonableness.

To sum up: when faced with harassment or stalking, you are entitled to set a boundary at the point you feel uncomfortable. The boundary does not have to be negotiated  or agreed with the harasser or stalker. You decide when you want to set the boundary, even if others would tolerate more. It's your boundary, your recovery, your safety, and your peace of mind.

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