Practicing responsibility

Seventh is the series
Notes on Recovery
I probably use the word responsible differently than you.
To me it means able to respond.  “Respond” as is reply or answer.   
I see responsible people as those who can answer a situation, challenge or problem in a healthy way – one that meets their needs, respects their feelings, acknowledges their preferences, promotes their growth, and leaves them more powerful.
I’m guessing responsibility means something else to you.
That may be because I’ve known so many clients who confuse it with following rules, meeting expectations and discharging obligations.  These are people who regularly lose themselves.  They sacrifice their needs, feelings, preferences and growth to other people, or jobs, or imposed codes of behavior, or impossible standards, or endless To Do lists.  They do this less out of love or idealism than self-defense: they’re scared of what will happen if they don’t do it.
I call that irresponsible.
Truly responsible people, as I see it, as the ones who can (a) listen to themselves and (b) act in their own self-interest.
Listen to themselves mean focus inside, pay attention to feelings and the messages their bodies send telling them what their needs are.
Act in self-interest means respecting those emotional and bodily signals instead of ignoring or hiding them.
This sort of responsibility starts with simple stuff: eating when hungry, resting when tired, peeing when your bladder is full.  It extends to venting when angry, crying when sad, reaching out to others when lonely or scared.
As I said, simple stuff.  But if you suffer from control addiction I bet you don’t do any of it nearly enough.
So that’s what you need to practice in recovery.  Call it responsibility, self-love, self-care, or (as I do) healthy selfishness.
“Selfish,” of course, is the dirtiest of words.  Most people confuse it with behavior that harms or neglects others.
But who isn’t selfish?  Preoccupation with ourselves is built into our nature and neurology.  We can’t help that.  Our only choice is to admit or deny it.  To be honestly selfish, or hide our true motives behind a mask of selflessness.
Thus in the end practicing responsibility means being able, willing and brave enough to take care of yourself.
Because if you don’t, who’s going to?
 Next: Practicing intimacy





6 responses to “Practicing responsibility

  • thisisme711

    Hey Steve, okay…practicing responsibility, practicing surrender, refocusing, detaching, yet all I feel is lonely and alone. It is difficult living within another person’s spiral. Two people engrossed in their own self-care, one needing nurturing and the other needing to live in a constant state of separation, don’t make for a very happy life. I realize this is all relatively new and I need to give the process time, just feeling overwhelmingly tired and confused.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Early recovery — the first days and weeks of trying to abstain from any addiction — is the hardest time.

      That’s mainly because the addict has no Plan B yet. They haven’t learned to trust healthy alternatives to what they’re used to doing. So when feelings like loneliness, fatigue and confusion come along the urge to relapse into Plan A behavior is strong.

      For control addicts, relapse starts with (a) automatically blaming their pain on externals. “Look at what’s happening around me. That’s why I feel so crappy. I need to change what’s happening around me.” (Or in your case: “I feel crappy because I’m living in someone else’s spiral.”)

      This Plan A reaction leads naturally back to (b) wanting to control those externals (“If I could just change X…”), and then (c) actually trying to. And then you’re back where you started.

      I think having emotional support is critical during these initial days. Alcoholics in early recovery are told to do two things only: don’t drink, and go to meetings. Control addicts need to do essentially the same thing: Stop trying to control, and get emotional support. “Emotional support” means people who can listen to your feelings and then help you remember why controlling isn’t the best way to handle them. Ideally they’re also people who can help you practice the alternatives that are still new to you, like refocusing, surrender and responsibility.

      As I said, this is critical.

      Because, in my experience, addicts who try to recover alone usually don’t.

    • Steve Hauptman


      “All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.“

      – Henry Miller

  • Hard work | Monkeytraps

    […] to practice, since it depends on practicing the other two alternatives – surrender and responsibility — as well. Intimacy’s hard emotional work for everyone.  For control addicts it can […]

  • Hard work | Monkey House

    […] to practice, since it depends on practicing the other two alternatives – surrender and responsibility — as […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: