Why Learn the 7 Steps to Be A Loving Mirror?
Imagine this scene so beautifully portrayed in the Alanon book The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage and re-framed here for a new century:
It is 11 PM. Your husband walks in the house, drunk. Dinner is sitting, cold, on the diningroom table, and you are feeling like a dishrag. You went to work, picked up the kids at daycare and afterschool programs, helped them with homework, made dinner, fed them, and sat waiting for him for hours. In he walks, as if it is no big deal to come home five hours late. The children have gone to bed. The dishes, except for his, are washed. Everything is in order except for your head. You feel like it is going to explode. You ask yourself why he can’t get home on time and why you wait for hours for him to come home. And when you see him, you scowl as you sit next to him at the table.
“What’s wrong with you?” You ask. “Why can’t you come home at six so we can have a normal dinner with our children? Don’t you get it that I work, too? That I”m exhausted and left taking care of everyone and everything day after day?”
Your husband, half out of it, lowers his head as he tries to eat his food. Halfway through, his head falls into his plate in a drunken stupor.
You, disgusted, pull him up, clean him off, and drag him to bed.
Imagine that this isn’t a one time event. Day after day, your husband comes home drunk or high, you get angry and disgusted, yet you clean him up and put him to bed.
Now, let’s shift. Imagine you have decided to do things differently. You went to work, picked up the kids at daycare and afterschool programs, helped them with homework, made dinner, fed them,and yourself at 6 PM. When your husband doesn’t arrive by seven, you cover over his plate and put it in the fridge. You put your children in bed and get ready for your 8 PM BALM® call, during which you listen to an expert or family member educate you on addiction and recovery. You realize your husband is sick, not bad and that you cannot force him to act differently. You also know that your only obligation to him is to behave in a loving manner.
So, you clean up the dishes and decide to be loving to someone who is around: YOU!
You make a cup of cocoa and get cozy in your big fluffy livingroom chair.
During the call, you hear an inspiring story about a family that overcame addiction. Along with listening to questions from the other listeners, you even ask one of your own. When the call is over, you are ready for bed.
He’s still not home, but this it not a problem for you. You know his journey is his and it is your job to take care of you. So you do. You take a bubble bath, write in your journal, read uplifting literature and go to sleep.
The next day, you wake up in a relaxed, well rested state of mind, grateful for a new day. Your spouse is puzzled that you are no longer yelling at him. When he asks you why, you say, “Honey, I’m no longer policing you or trying to get you to change. Your life is your life and you get to live it the way you want to live it. I make dinner for the family at 6 and will always leave you some in the fridge. But, when it comes to waiting up for you, or putting my life on hold, I’ve decided not to anymore. Instead, I’ve opted to put my focus on joy and peace in each moment – and when I do, I find other things I would rather do with my time and my life.”
Which scenario most closely resembles your life? Which mood most closely resembles yours?
If you are a BALM’er, chances are, it’s the second one. Being a Loving Mirror has many benefits for family members. See which of these you are already experiencing:
1. Blindside exposure –
- Everyone has a blindside. When you first got to the BALM® programs, you had a blindside about the fact that you were using energy in ways that were unhelpful and often harmful to yourself and your loved one. You may have thought that the more you yelled and screamed or begged and cried, the greater chance you had to get through to your using loved one. Or you may have had the idea that if your loved one got in trouble as a result of their using, it was your job to clean things up by getting them out of jail, getting them a new job, computer, or car. Through BALM®, you learned that this is not true. You found out that calm works better than emotional outbursts when you want to get through to a user and taking care of consequences for an addict can keep them from taking responsibility for their behavior.
- Your using loved one’s blindside is that they are unable to see the consequesnces of their behavior as a motivation to stop using. They are NOT bad people purposely trying to destroy their families. As you know, when sober, they are often amazing. Yet, when using, their behavior can be tornado-like, destroying everything in its path – family peace, finances, business, job, reputation, etc… Yet, when a distraught family member cries, screams and tries so hard to tell them just how much they are doing to destroy the fabric of the family, they often stare, make a face that says WTF, and use the family chaos as an excuse to go out and use some more.
- HOW BALM® HELPS: When a family member learns how to Be A Loving Mirror with their loved one, they don’t react to bad behavior. They see it, deal with their own emotional reaction internally, jot down what they see, script a BALM® conversation, and calmly share the facts of their loved one’s behavior directly with them. Whereas before, family members cried and complained among themselves and either screamed or pretended all was well with their loved one, once they become BALMers, they plan BALM® mini-interventions to let their loved ones know what their using behavior looks like and is causing. These calm, loving, fact-based conversations, go under the radar of a user’s defenses and go right to their heart. Over time, speaking fact to denial, breaks down the grip denial has on a user’s mind. These 7 Steps to BALM are the path to sanity for the family!
2. Opportunity to Vent –
- Being related to or in relationship with someone whose drinking or drugging is out of control can be so exasperating! “Sometimes I just feel like I am going to explode!” is a statement we often hear from families dealing with a loved one’s behaviors. While venting to a coach, sponsor or therapist can relieve some of the pressure, it doesn’t solve the problem in the long run. And venting directly to a loved one can be disastrous, since, as stated above, your venting at them can give them an excuse to go and use some more. So, what’s the solution?
- BALMer’s learn to vent strategically! BALM® is a method of strategic, planned venting, without any of the negative side effects.
- By getting calm inside, observing the facts objectively, dealing with your own emotions, documenting what you see, scripting a factual conversation and, without any hint of sarcasm or anger, sharing them with your loved one at the right time in the right place, you get to vent in a productive, powerful way. (Yes, it’s easier said than done. But it’s exactly what BALM’er’s use the 7 Steps to BALM to do, often to great effect!)
- As a result, the need to vent in destructive ways diminishes and the habit of Being A Loving Mirror GROWS!!!
3. Stay out of Denial –
- In the BALM® programs, we say, “Denial is the lynchpin of the addictive system!” In other words, it’s what keeps the addict, and the family, in the addiction.
- Here is how it works: The addict does something driven by the addiction. You see it. You say, “You just stole that scarf from her. I saw you do it.” He or she says, “What? Are you crazy? I would never do that! I was just looking at it!” You say, “Oh, of course. Sorry.” They steal. You confront. They lie. You believe them (or pretend to do so, ‘or the sake of peace or non-confrontation). As soon as they say you believe them or apologize for accusing them, their addiction relaxes, as in “Whew! Got by that one!” And things stay exactly as they are.
- BUT if you see them steal the scarf, get calm, say, “I saw you take the scarf.” They say you are crazy. and then you calmly say, “This isn’t a debate, it is a description. I saw you take it.” Then, drop it and document the behavior for a BALM® conversation. Every time you gently yet clearly refuse to believe a lie, their denial gets a little crack in it. Then, when you have your BALM conversation and bring it up in the context of other behaviors you have noticed, the crack grows.
- There is NO guarantee that their denial will end. But as you have learned, when you stay out of denial, your craziness decreases substantially AND they have a MUCH better chance of making better choices in the future.
4. Love has the chance to grow in you in the healthiest of ways
- My sponsor has always taught me that my ONLY obligation to another adult human being is to BE LOVING! I have taught my sponsees and coachees and students this over the years and have strived to live with this in mind.
- BALM® behaviors bring love to the fore in your consciousness. When you live from love you increasingly live in peace, which brings us to the fifth and most powerful personal benefit of BALMing:
5. BALM® builds within us an imperturbable ocean of calm.
- What we who practice BALM® have found out is that we become the peace and love that we practice, and lo and behold, that peace and love have always been there. In fact, they are who we are at our core.
So, what is the benefit of practicing BALM®?
In the Alanon book mentioned at the beginning of the story, it only takes a few days for the husband to go through a shift and re-enter family life. In my family, it took three months for my husband to go into treatment. (And, may years later, after the end of a relapse, I learned that the family’s role becomes even more important in sobriety – but more on that in my next blog.)
In BALM® families, we find that when one person changes, the dynamic DOES change for everyone. Yet, the way that change looks is different for each family. Often, the user begins to move in a more positive direction as well.
When YOU practice BALM, you become the peace you wish to see and that peace spreads to all you meet, giving your loved one an anchor to calm to grab onto during his or her darkest days, and hopefully bringing enough light into their lives to help them change their minds and choose recovery along with you.
And once they are sober, you continue to be that light in your family. Sobriety is the time to grow strong in your BALMing. But, as I’ve already shared, more on that in my next blog!
So, my friends, continue to BE A LOVING MIRROR!
And, have a loving day!
Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC, MRLC, CTPC
Family Recovery Coach/CEO
Family Recovery Resources, LLC
786 859 4050