If you are an approval addict, your behaviour is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.”
- Harriet B. Braiker, "Who’s Pulling Your Strings?"
The first time I read the quote above, I understood it in the context of an addict. As an active alcoholic, I drank in order to feel a certain way, which pleased my mind and body (for a while). My spirit, however, recognized alcohol as a toxic substance and understood that it simply had to go. I craved what would have eventually killed me, had I not surrendered to God completely on a cold January morning in 2001. The two-step process of behavior control – I get it.
But as I re-read it, I considered it as it applies to addiction to the approval of others. There are people in my life with whom I have had to construct boundaries in order to survive sane and sober. Quite literally, after 11 years of active recovery, there are people who still make me want to drink to oblivion. Complicating the issue is that some of these people are family - human beings tethered to me by DNA and some very dysfunctional patterns. Sadly, some of these relationships have ended in estrangement.
I really struggle with that. I know that I am protecting my sobriety by limiting contact with some people. I am protecting the little girl who was not protected growing up. That child within me is at peace with avoiding such persons. But ironically, it is that child within me who also longs to be nurtured. Safe. Cherished. And who seeks out those things.
I struggle with it because it is a tragedy to lose relationships, but when people who love you use your weaknesses against you, the environment becomes unsafe.
For years, like a good junkie, I would return for another fix for the fleeting sensation of being loved by certain others, forgetting the sickness and drama that would be left in the wake. I was given what I craved, and then it was threatened to be taken away. And then it would be taken; boundaries demolished, the rubble having to be cleared away before another could be built.
So today, I just don’t take the “drug”. People are always and forever telling us who they are, but you have to pay attention to what they are. If manipulation came with a warning label, it wouldn’t be manipulation. That’s the sneaky thing about it, the game every drug dealer in the world knows.
Like the lyrics to a great song "All the Same" by the band, Sick Puppies:
I don’t care,
No, I wouldn’t dare to fix the twist in you.
You’ve shown me eventually what you’ll do.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and he never estranged anyone. He ran toward the most dysfunctional people on earth. He is forgiveness incarnate, grace I don’t deserve and mercy I cannot comprehend.
There is absolutely no possibility that you could mistake me for Jesus. I am as imperfect as they come.
But I pray he understands the reasons for my boundaries. I pray he will help me heal from the trauma in my childhood and the tragedy that is a splintered family unit. I pray he will keep me sane and sober, and protected.
Simply put, the twist is not mine to fix. It is his.