Remember that annoying video game from the seventies? Space Invaders? Fricking little aliens would advance down the screen, and while you’re going back and forth across the screen, banging on the space bar to shoot them out of the sky, they actually SPEED UP the more of them you shoot. And if you’re lucky enough to wipe them all out, they REAPPEAR and keep their inexorable march into your personal space. Until they finally blow you up.
While I was drinking, I didn’t have a lot of respect for the personal space of others. What is it anyway about a drunk who always has to stand too close to you, alcohol coming out of his pores, and all you want to do is push him or her away? Sometimes it’s a cultural thing, sometimes it’s just alcohol talking, but it’s not easy to deal with. And neither was I. But I sure had my walls up – don’t tell me how to drink. Don’t tell me what to do. And I’m not going to let you get too close to me because I might get hurt again. I’ll push you away before you leave me.
When I attended a workshop about codependency some years ago, and the talk turned to resentments, I was told why I built those walls. Because I would feel the pain (from betrayal, criticism, belittling, you name it) the first time, and then re-feel it in my mind, and nurse what may have been a joke to someone else into an Act of War! And I would put up those emotional and sometimes physical walls because nobody was ever going to hurt me that way again. And I drank to numb the feelings that sometimes seeped through those cracks.
When I surrendered to my disease and stopped drinking, I worked hard to tear those walls down, to examine those feelings, and to deal with them, some for the very first time. Trouble was, when the walls came tumbling down, I had no healthy boundaries to replace them with. And I almost drank again. I actually picked up another white chip when I was about 18 months sober, not because I had a drink again, but because I needed to surrender to the fact that I didn’t KNOW how to say NO when someone made unreasonable demands of me, or invaded my space. And in the end, when I was betrayed anyway, I had the strength to say “no more” and walk away.
I went over the line recently, invaded someone else’s personal space, and justified it in my mind as okay because nobody can tell me who or who not to be friends with. And while my motives may have been good, my perspective was not. My life is an open book these days. I have no secret friends because secrets will always betray me.
But I need to respect the friendships of others. I need to respect their boundaries. and I needed to admit my error promptly:
This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. Big Book, Page 84
I had a really shitty day yesterday, but at least I apologized promptly.
Today I get to get over myself. And I get to remember that others have healthy personal boundaries which aren’t walls. And I get to remember that I can ask to have my selfishness, resentment and fear removed, and have faith that they will be removed. And I get to remember to say NO when it is important for me to say no.
ZAP! Begone Space Invaders!