Sunday, March 4, 2012

Letting Go

If there is one lesson I've learned in the last few years more than any other, it's that you have no ability to change other people.

Though it is possible to change yourself, it is impossible to change anyone else.

Even though it may be theoretically possible to change yourself, that does not come easily.  We are hardwired as humans, set in our ways, our thought processes ingrained in who we are.  We are creatures of habit, we crave predictability and repetition.  We rely on what we know, whether it is good or bad for us.

Recognizing that our patterns are dangerous, a step too painful for some to face.    And so the cycle begins.  People can get stuck in bad habits, dragged down by routine, crippled by what is comfortable, hampered by the very thing that hurts them.  Breaking a cycle is almost certainly an uphill battle, but without the recognition that it exists at all, change can never come.

And what are those of us around them to do?  Sit idly by and watch them destroy their lives?  Conspire with them and feed their addictions?  Enable their bad choices and beat ourselves up?

I'd argue not.

From the outside looking in, it's often obvious what is going on.  That the person stuck in the cycle needs help, but doesn't want it.  They want a cohort, not assistance.  They want someone who will let them keep making poor choices, they want someone who can turn a blind eye, they want someone who can't see the writing on the wall.

They want to live in the now, and only in the now.  Because now feels good.  Now doesn't worry about tomorrow.  Now is just fine the way it is.

But it isn't.

Tomorrow always comes.  And tomorrow, they will need help again.

For some people, their now is alcohol.  For others, gambling.  For some it is drugs.  For others, inappropriate relationships.  For some, it is an online fantasy world.  For others, spending money.

So desperate to control the now, they ignore the tomorrow.  They can't see the damage they do to themselves, let alone to the people who love them.  They can't understand that the people who love them and care about them can't do it anymore.  They can't understand that the people who support their choices without question do it for their own selfish reasons, and not because they care.

What are we to do?

I'd make the argument that we do what we must.  We do what we have to in order to protect ourselves and our sanity.  We shield the innocent.  We refuse to be drug down the downward spiral with them kicking and screaming.  We decline the role of enabler.

We walk away.

We let go.

We do this with the hope they will see.  We do this with the hope that they might someday understand.  That one day they will wake up and think about tomorrow rather than now.  That they can see the path of destruction and start to pick up the pieces.  We do this with the hope that it's not already too late.

People who've not been there can't understand what it's like to watch someone slowly destroy their life.

People who've not have to make this choice cannot imagine how hard it is.

Tough love is as much about self preservation as it is about wanting someone to change.
I can't go with you on this journey, anymore.

There's an important difference between giving up and letting go. 
~Jessica Hatchigan

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