When you are living in the same house or in the presence of someone actively acting out an unhealthy habit, it is possible that you will experience the consequences first hand. These may range from sleepless nights, to verbal abuse, physical violence, unannounced visits from collection agencies, drug dealers or law enforcement agents. Just to name a few examples.
These situations can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially when there is no way to isolate yourself from the situation. So what can you do?
The first tip i can give you is to be absolutely clear with yourself about what you are willing to accept, and what not. In 12-step terminology this is called ‘setting boundaries’. This is an individual choice because each of us has different levels of tolerance.. Be aware that if you set a boundary that you have communicated to the person who is acting out the unacceptable behaviour, you will have to carry out the consequences you have announced. So think this over carefully, or the whole purpose of setting the boundary is defeated and will make you feel worse afterwards. Look at it as if you threaten a child with a punishment for doing something you will not tolerate. You will have to follow through on it, or the next time the child will ignore your ‘threat’ and will probably disobey you the next time.
Secondly there are – in my experience – boundaries that should never be crossed without consequence:
- any form of physical abuse
- any form of behavior that puts children at risk
Some other helpful things you can do to make the best of these type of crises include:
- do not engage/react to provocations or manipulation (don’t add fuel to the fire)
- if possible, physically remove yourself from the upsetting situation, for instance by retreating to a separate room/location or when in a bar, restaurant or hotel go to the restroom
- try to relax and stay calm by focussing on your breathing
- meditate on thoughts like “this too shall pass” or by mentally reciting the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”
- call your 12-step sponsor (if you have one), a fellow (if you are in a fellowship) or a trusted friend or family member.
Obviously this doe not change the unhealthy habit in another person or the seriousness of the crisis. It will however help you to deal with it and maintain your own serenity to the best of your ability, and after all, that’s what matters the most.