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Setting Boundaries

Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable. -Denis Waitley

In addition to my daily AA meetings, I also attend a therapy group once a week.  This session is more or less a thorn in my side, because I am being mandated to attend it (the legal consequences to which I have referred in previous posts), and I tend to go into each session dragging my feet.  As the weeks have gone by, however, and as I have developed relationships with my fellow group members, I have been able to gain more and more from each session.  Today was particularly interesting, so I thought I’d write about it.

A man in the group was talking about his discomfort at being asked to do something he did not want to do.  The person asking was a member of AA, and they have developed a friendship.  But the request is time-consuming, and, as I said, uncomfortable for the man in my group, and he is not sure how to proceed.

Here’s why this is interesting to me:  I had been asked by an aggressive young woman to give her a ride, one time, since it was on my way home.  To make a really long story short, this has turned into an annoyance of monstrous proportions.  I have said yes to every request (and there have been many), but I am getting increasingly agitated by each interaction.  On the other hand, a big part of my 12-step program is to reach a hand out to those in need, so I have this recurring argument in my head…

Bad Angel on Shoulder:  Tell this girl you are done giving rides.

Good Angel on Shoulder:  No, that goes totally against the 12 steps, and you are basically driving by her anyway, what is the big deal?

Bad Angel:  The big deal is that you are starting to get irritated before you even get in the car, and you can’t afford to let this resentment build.

Good Angel:  But why even have the resentment?  Stop being so self-centered and pick the girl up.

Bad Angel:  ME self-centered?  That girl does nothing but complain about her life for the entire time we are in the car together, pausing only to demand the next thing she needs!

Good Angel:  Yes, you are self-centered, and this ridiculous debate is proof of it.  Now stop whining and get on with it.

…And so on (and believe me, I am abbreviating this internal debate).  So when this topic was introduced, I was able to ask the group (which includes a therapist) the question:  how can you differentiate between setting boundaries for yourself, and being available to help another person in recovery?

It was a lively conversation, and the solution I heard was this:  personal recovery comes first.  If you are being asked to do something that compromises your own recovery, then the line from” helping others” to “boundary issues” has been crossed, and it’s time to assert yourself.

I will end by saying that I am getting very close to that line with this young woman, but it has not been crossed… yet.  But now that I have this distinction in my mind, I really feel a lot better about knowing when it’s okay to say no.

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