Monday, February 8, 2010

Motives and Manipulations

At my home group meeting last night I was trying to take my sponsor's advice and not try to rehearse what I was going to say. I tend to overprepare for everything. It gives me the illusion of control. But I understand that the ideal is to ask God to give me the words when the time comes. If I am thinking about what I'm going to say, then I am likely to miss something I needed to hear.

I admit that my ego and a lack of faith have kept me from practicing this principle. But last night I gave it a try.

Last night was a ticket meeting, so rather than go around the room, everybody got a number. If your number got pulled, you got the chance to share. If your number didn't come up, you got to listen. So it was a good time to practice this idea. In a group where everybody shares, I find myself getting more and more worried about what to say as my turn draws near. In this case, I had no idea if or when it would come.

As it turned out, my number came up pretty quickly. I said a silent prayer that God would give me words because I had no idea what to say.

I never thought about myself as a manipulator. More the opposite. I tended to say whatever came into my head, and if I bludgeoned you to death with it, I'd say, "I was just being honest."

But I could see that when I tried to control my daughter, that was manipulation. I was willing to "help," but only if she behaved the way I wanted her to.

Motive was easier for me to talk about. My sponsor is always asking me about my motive, and sometimes the same action is right or wrong depending on what my motive is. It's okay for me to call my daughter because I love her and want to see how she's doing. It's not okay for me to call her because I want to control her in any way.

I also talked about other people's motives being none of my business. That my job was to take the next right thought or action and leave the rest to God. If I try to figure out another person's motives, it's a losing game for me. I just drive myself crazy.

After I spoke, a lot of other people talked about their manipulations, and I realized I had done most of them, I just never recognized them as such. Every time I listened to my daughter's phone conversations to try to discover what she was up to, I manipulated. Every time I waited for my daughter at the coffee house across from the movie theater so I would see if she tried to sneak out and go somewhere else, I manipulated. The list goes on. You get the idea.

I felt a little dumb, really, that I hadn't gotten that. Like I had taken a test and put the wrong answers.

So I was surprised at the end of the meeting when one person approached me with her call sheet and asked which Kathy I was because she'd like to call me. And I was even more surprised when a woman came up to me and said, "Have you ever heard the phrase 'no good deed goes unpunished'?" She wanted me to be her sponsor.

I was floored. Of course, I told her I'd be honored to be her sponsor. But secretly I didn't get it. There have been plenty of times in the program I've thought I had something to offer other women. But lately, I feel like I'm just struggling to get this myself.

My sponsor is fond of saying, "My God has a sense of humor." I couldn't help thinking that about myself last night. I just pray he gives me the words for my sponsees when they need them.


  1. that all sounds great. thank you for sharing this. very inspiring. that you were able to trust that you would say what you needed to without planning it out. and discover new ways you'd been controlling (i'm still not sure either about all the ways i've been controlling - so it was nice to hear examples, thank you).

    and that you have the opportunity to be a sponsor. how meaningful. and i can relate to the feeling of needing to have things more figured out before you would be in a good position to help others. i feel that way myself. but i think those of us who can admit we don't have it all together or have all the answers might be the best people to offer support to others. we are less likely to be in a position of trying to control them or tell them what's best for them, right?

    best wishes~

  2. Another benefit of blogging--I just found out what a ticket meeting is!

  3. Seeing what we do and how we behave is healthy don't you think? If I feel a tug toward "just helping" or "checking out of love" or any of my old excuses, I grab hold of my now clear head and turn it in another direction. None of my business!! Good post, and being there for other women who are looking for a sponsor is a loving way to be in service and also be in tune with your continuing individual recovery.

  4. When I first started going to CoDA meetings, I would share about my problems. I have watched a lot of people come in and do the same thing, when they are new. I have watched the progression as people gradually understand that it's okay to rant and get things off your chest on occasion, but the purpose of sharing is really more than everyone unloading their baggage.

    Probably six months into the program, I started really trying to share "strength and hope". I thought this was what I was meant to do. I made sure that I only shared things that were on topic and that ended in some kind of growth statement.

    For a while, I was leaving meetings feeling like crap. I didn't understand why. Finally, it came to me, after a meeting that had followed a particularly difficult week. I had shared something rather superficial that ended with a "growth statement", but I had not shared the turmoil inside.

    I called my sponsor on the drive home, that day, and told her what I had realized. I was going to the meetings for OTHERS and not for myself! That is not the purpose of going to a meeting.

    From then on, I have shared what I needed to share, regardless of if it was exactly on topic or had a happy ending. Sometimes I do have something profound to add, but often it is more about the struggles.

    Since i have been sharing what I needed to share, I have had people approach me many times, thanking me for my honesty. In addition, I'm aware that even if I come in and share about a struggle for six or seven weeks in a row, I will eventually come out the other side and be able to share about the outcome. When I do this, all the people who have been with me throughout those difficult times get the same benefit as I do when I finally resolve it. they live it with me and enjoy it with me.

    Most recently, I have been in a very low period without a lot of great insights to share... so I thank you for this reminder that it's okay to be where I am today.

  5. Nice post. I too struggle to listen in meetings, rather than planning my 'speech' in meetings. Sometimes I offer to share first, so that I have no option other than listening once I've shared. I know my share won't be as well polished if I go first, and I presume that's a good thing.

  6. The meeting I went to yesterday afternoon was about being Controlling.. and I admitted to myself I'm a control freak still..

    (hugs). Thanks for this post. Controlling is tiresome.. I'm working on my step 4 and step 10 daily about this.. and step 9 too.

  7. I appreciate your post because I haven't tried Al-anon or Narc-anon meetings. I've gone to family meetings provided through one of the treatment centers in my area...and although there are similarities, there are also differences. Your post is inspriring to me and something that I am going to consider as I work on my own codependent recover. Thank you!

  8. I think those of us in Al-Anon typically tend to undervalue ourselves. I'm sure you are a wonderful sponsor and I'm not at all surprised that people want to talk with you.

    Thank you so much for your kind words of comment on my blog. You humble me with such words of praise. All I can say is, "Thank you."