Is “People-Pleasing” Just Another Form Of Being Controlling?

I know I have control issues and continue to work on them. I think all of us in this world have control issues actually and sometimes I think those control issues mask themselves in strange ways through our behaviors that to us might seem like we’re doing the right thing, but to others, it comes across as controlling. One such way I believe is through “people-pleasing”, a behavior I’ve battled on and off through much of my life, which recently, I came face to face with through an action I took in a men’s group I’m part of.

In one of our meetings a few weeks ago, we were working towards coordinating an upcoming outdoor meeting and barbecue. After much discussion, a date was voted upon and agreed to, after which I realized that a member of the group (and also a good friend of mine) who wasn’t there to vote, might not be able to make that date due to their work schedule. So, I asked the group if they wanted me to contact this person and ask about their schedule. The answer was yes, and so I did. The answer I received from my friend was for a different date than the one the group had already agreed upon. So, I immediately brought that back to the group and made sure I expressed my desire to have this person included in the event. The result? The date got changed to accommodate them, which only led later to far more drama, chaos, and frustration in the group. In the end, my desire to be there for this friend and make sure they got included in that group outing was ultimately a “people-pleasing” action, the consequences of which led to nothing more than the appearance that I had been controlling through it all.

While my intentions were good to include this friend, the better solution would have been to just leave the initial date agreed upon by the group and hope that my friend could have made that date. How many times have I done this? How many times have I tried to “people-please” through what I thought were good intentions, by trying to include “everyone” in various events being scheduled? Countless. And how many times has that ended up backfiring on me, causing more drama and stress and always making me look controlling? Also, countless.

A good friend of mine recently told me that he learned long ago that when scheduling any event, he just settles on a date and sticks to it. Those who can be there, will, and those who can’t be there, won’t, and he doesn’t worry about trying to include “everyone”. On the contrary, I do always worry about including “everyone” in event planning and get concerned about letting someone down if they don’t get included in that planning, which always seems to get me in hot water. That “people-pleasing” action really does come across as controlling, rather than looking like I’m just trying to be a good guy.

So, I think I’m going to start taking a page from my friend’s book and just let events get planned on the day that seem most suitable for those present, rather than me worrying about including every single person not present. Because me trying to arrange everything to include everyone really has consistently come across as controlling, led to more drama and chaos rather than peace and unity, and frankly, has been completely exhausting upon my life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

When A Sponsee Blames Their Sponsor For Their Own Issues…

I love sponsoring others in 12 Step recovery, as it’s very rewarding spiritually, but at times it can also be extremely draining, especially when a sponsee indirectly or directly blames me for their own issues, baggage, and addiction itself.

Just over a month ago now, I had a former sponsee tell me they didn’t want to call me every day to check in, which is one of my requirements. They had over 13 years of sobriety from another program, but very little sober time in the one I was working with them in. They felt it was beneath them to check in each day because of how long they’ve remained sober in their other program. After talking with them at length though about this, the real root wasn’t about me at all, it was about them not wanting to do the work in the 12 Step program I was sponsoring them in anymore and them feeling they could handle their addiction on their own.

And just recently, I had another sponsee infer that the work I was doing with them and the traditional 12 Step recovery method itself was the very thing leading them into one relapse after another. What they failed to see was that before I even started the work with them, they were in a chronic relapse pattern over and over again for years, which was very evident a few days after stopping the work with me when they had another relapse. Here again, the problem wasn’t in my style of sponsoring, nor was it with the 12 Step program either, it was that they just didn’t want to do the work necessary to remain clean and sober.

The fact is, addicts are notorious for believing they can handle their addiction on their own, especially after getting some sober time under their belt. It’s a false assumption that’s often made, specifically when a sponsee begins to grow weary of the amount of work involved in the 12 Step process. And when that starts to happen, it’s typically their ego that often drives them to attack the very person trying to help them, in this case the sponsor, solely to allow them to be back on their own. Why would one’s ego want that? Because if there is no sponsor or 12 Step recovery program guiding them, it becomes very easy to allow the smallest of circumstances to guide them straight back into their addiction without anyone or anything to help keep it in check.

How many times I’ve had sponsees attack my style of sponsoring or the 12 Step method itself is countless at this point over the 14 years I’ve been doing this type of work with others. Hell, I even did this myself during my previous 12 years of sobriety prior to that with all the sponsors I had during that time. Nevertheless, it’s always the same reason why this happens. It’s because addicts are addicts and addicts don’t like facing the pain of themselves and their disease, which is precisely what sponsors and the 12 Step process does. It makes an addict face themselves, the very thing their addiction causes them to run from like I did during the first 12 years of my sobriety where I just became a dry drunk.

I have a lot of sadness for any sponsee who attacks my style of sponsorship or the 12 Step process because most tend to disappear after doing so and ultimately end up reengaging in their disease not too long after with very few ever returning. Those who do are usually quite apologetic, realizing how sick their mind and ego actually was. Having succumbed myself to so many addictions throughout my life, I know addiction behavior all too well and how my ego always is trying to lead me back into it. That’s why I have a sponsor and a sober support network. It’s why I’m still going to meetings all these years later in both of my recovery programs. And it’s why I remain very active in sponsoring others and volunteering.

Because the last thing I want is to start believing the problem is in my sponsor, a 12 Step program, the meetings I go to, or anything else that’s outside of me. The problem is within me, always was and always will be. Addiction is not out there, it’s in us. It’s never anyone or anything else’s fault. It never was and never will be. Believing anything otherwise will only give power to our addiction itself and that’s something I absolutely don’t want to ever do again…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Demi Lovato And “California Sober”

In 2018, pop singer Demi Lovato had a near-fatal overdose. At first, after her survival from that, she remained fully clean and sober from alcohol and drugs. But, three years later, she is now declaring to the world she’s doing something called “California Sober”, which in a nutshell is drinking and using cannabis in moderation. Being a recovering alcoholic and addict myself, hearing this come from a mega star with millions of followers truly disturbs me, solely because it’s going to mislead countless people into believing that the controlled use of addictive substances is possible for an alcoholic/addict.

I like what Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous once said on this very subject:

“We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.”

I actually did exactly as Wilson suggested in my active addiction days, as I believed that I could control my alcohol and drug use, and for a while I did. But, honestly, anyone, even the hardcore alcoholic/addict just like myself can control their use of addictive substances for a period of time, sometimes if only just to prove to themselves they’re not as sick as others suggest they are. But, in the long run though, here’s the simple truth I discovered on this path of controlled drinking and drugging:

I ALWAYS EVENTUALLY RETURNED TO BEING A SERIOUS ALCOHOLIC AND ADDICT. 

That’s why it really frustrates me when someone as famous as Demi Lovato suddenly declares publicly that controlled drinking and drugging actually works. Look, I’ve known countless alcoholics and addicts over the years besides myself who have tried the controlled approach to their addiction at some point in their using days, none of which ever ended well, as there was always, and I do mean always, some condition of their life that ultimately led them back into their disease again. Whether that was the loss of a job, a financial hardship, some relationship woe, a death of a loved one, or maybe even just a seriously bad day, none ever remained free of their addiction in the long run.

Sadly, not only will many end up believing that controlled drinking and drugging is possible because of Lovato’s words, but many will also end up wreaking more havoc upon their life in the process of figuring that out. Some may even go to the brink of death or actually die because of believing that something like “California Sober” actually works.

Bill Wilson was totally right in his words on this subject, which thankfully I experienced long enough to know that controlled drinking and drugging doesn’t work and short enough to thankfully remain alive to tell others of this.

This is precisely why I fear for Lovato, as she is walking a very scary line that quite possibly will lead her down the same road she’s already been, one that almost led to her death prior. I pray she wakes up before that happens and realizes that “California Sober” may sound like a good thing, but it really doesn’t work. Because addiction is always doing pushups around the corner, waiting for us to have some unfortunate circumstances arise, circumstances that will lead to welcoming the disease fully back with open arms, solely to help cope with it. As one who has done controlled using has never fully learned how to cope with life on life’s terms.

God willing, this is exactly why I’m done with consuming alcohol and drugs in this life, as controlled drinking and drugging, or “California Sober” as it’s being referred to now, never worked for me and re-engaging in either will only lead me straight down the same paths I’ve already walked, and they are ones I know I wouldn’t survive again if I tried to traverse them again.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson