Can’t Talk Now, I’m Putting My Halo In With The Delicates

Oh I feel your pain, sistah !  Let's swap bundt cake recipes soon.
Oh I feel your pain, sistah ! Let’s swap bundt cake recipes soon.

A gentleman sent me a note recently and asked my opinion on selflessness and it’s role in alcoholism – how one could be giving of themselves so much and yet find themselves at odds with others and the tie-in to craving the drink.  It had me thinking about my own initial struggles with those very same questions…and how truly at odds the truth and my version of the truth were.

You see, I had always had this image of myself as a selfless and unselfish man. I felt I did all the cleaning, cooking, grunt work of the house. I made sure that I kept a clean home and a decent looking exterior (a gardener, I am not, but I try my best). I always sacrificed my time and energy to let my wife and others do what they wanted while I would take care of kids (mine and others), run errands for them or just take on stuff so that they could go out and enjoy life. I felt that I rarely got asked what my needs were or what I wanted to do. I watched whatever shows or movies people wanted to watch, never argued with anyone about anything and let people have pick of whatever they wanted. I was pretty damned selfless, wasn’t I?  A man of good standing?  Of charity and do-gooding?  Didn’t I exude a whiff of, shall I say, sainthood?

The other, lesser known,  St. Paul
The other, lesser known, St. Paul


During those times, deep down, I was an angry, resentful, lonely, broken man with no self-esteem, yet selfish and self-centered. I played martyr and victim. I thought I was totally selfless when at times I was really making everything about me. “Poor Paul, works too hard”, “Oh Poor Paul, look at him sacrifice himself so much”, “What a guy, never asks anything in return,” etc. This kind of throwing myself on my sword was my way of seeking approval and attention. I was passive-aggressive at times, which certainly screams anger and I took digs at people in the kindest, gentlest way without them even knowing it (sarcasm with a smile!).  You could practically hear me muttering by dishwasher machine as I cursed all those on my grudge list under my breath.  If you asked me what was going on I would cheerfully tell you I was extolling the virtues of the new detergent I bought that week  (“It’s in cube form – it takes the guess work out of free pouring, guys!”) I also wasn’t honest.  This was all the stuff my alcoholism fed off of.

I saw all this in my working the steps, namely the fourth step inventory, in seeing my part in things. I know that when it was suggested I wasn’t as snow white as I made myself made out to be, I balked at that suggestion. How dare you!  Do you see the shine on those floors?  And how about those stubborn grass stains gone from the kids’ jeans? I work hard so you don’t have to.  But you see, I had no boundaries – I let people treat me the way they did because I did that to myself and they saw that I was fine that way. I had a perverse sense of control and high-and-mighty-ness when I played the martyr.  I felt better than you while I made myself less than you.  Sick thinking eh?

And of course in doing so, I took offense easily to things. Deep down I wanted pats on the back and thank yous and applause when I should have been doing what I did out of love, service, purpose and most importantly, out of humility, rather than for something else. I sometimes catch myself doing that today. The thing is that I can see it now, and correct it to the best of my ability.

Today, it’s different.  While I offer myself in service to those who would accept it (or even when they can’t accept it), I now too take service in those who would offer it.  I am leveling myself to others in my realm and scope of existence.  I no longer placate the parts of me which want to play God and determine who I am better than or less than.  I’ve had to look and examine my motives for everything I do.  Is it out of love, or applause?  Is it ego-driven?  I have to sort these things out sometimes, but I’m getting better.

I may have put the halo away, but it doesn’t stop me from following in the paths of those who truly wear them.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. LOL!! I only laugh with recognition because it appears that you could be a “double winner”: alcoholic AND co-dependent! Jackpot! 😉 It happens a lot, actually. The co-dependence often drives the addiction.

    I think it could possibly be that I just did not have the genetic predisposition to alcoholism, else I would be a “double winner,” too — I sure tried at times to be alcoholic. Instead, I think I got overeating and smoking and a couple others… Addiction is addiction in a lot of ways. Just different poisons for trying to cope with the same core issues. And yes, I used to (still do) try to cope with the co-dependent anger, for my oh my does playing the martyr set up a cycle to seethe inwardly. And then we have “liftoff.” Been there, done that, lol.

    Melody Beattie’s classic books on the subject really helped me identify my role in the whole merry-go-round of addiction/alcoholism, and made me see why I would choose an alcoholic to be with in the first place. What better place to get to play martyr than in a dysfunctional dynamic because of an alcoholic?

    Yeah, figuring out that part was a wake-up in a lot of ways.

    Thank you for the honesty. It’s not easy to face up to this stuff, but how it seems to come back into proportion when we do face it squarely, confront it at its origins, and then find strategies to recognize when it happens and head it off at the pass. Awareness is a whole giant chunk of trying to repair and re-orient the mind, isn’t it.


    1. Wow Celeste – thank you so much for your reply! I have been called lots of things, but not co-dependent! Who knows, maybe I *could* be a double-winner! My sponsor has softly suggested I might be a fit for other 12-step programs, but upon investigation I felt I didn’t identify. But I know a few people in CoDA and it’s done wonders for them.

      You are right, awareness is a bit chunk of things in looking at what part we play in the whole affair, and how to head it off when things start to build up ever so slowly (or not so slowly!).

      Thank you so much for the wonderful and insightful comments from someone who has been there, done that…lol.


      1. I have been called lots of things, but not co-dependent!

        LOL. Yeah… *nods* Well, I recognized the whole “martyr thing” as a kind of classic sign. I don’t know for sure, of course. Only you do, but you might read up on it just a little to see if anything rings true. Even Wikipedia is a good resource on it! I love the Internet for research on stuff like this.

        I keep thinking of that parable about the blind men touching an elephant.

        I mean, in so many ways we are all just blind men, trying to figure out the elephant, you know? I might have an insight that shows you more about what the elephant is like, and vice versa. I think that is a large part of what recovery is about. Helping each other see the elephant. Usually it is quite large, and right in the middle of the room, hahaha.

        What I got out of your reply is that, “Hmmmmm. It might be time to seek out one of those CoDA meetings.” I have not done that yet since being back in the US. And meetings for CoDA are a lot more prevalent here in my city. I owe it to myself to see if it would be of help, beyond what I am doing in therapy and on my own.

        Thanks for sharing your part of the elephant.
        May greater enlightenment all be ours!

  2. Mrs D says:

    Great post. Nice and honest and well written. xxx

    1. Thanks Mrs. D! Always wonderful having you here 🙂


  3. I’m glad I decided it was time to add some new blogs to my list and I’m glad yours was the first one I read. Two sides of the same coin, is what you and I are. I continue to pray that my ego is washed away like those stubborn stains on my tidy whities, but it still clings there.

    But I have made progress, I’ve been known to stomp my foot and put my hand on my hips to get my way. Why, just yesterday, I insisted that we watch a movie that I’ve been wanting to watch instead of Patton for the umpteenth time. Actually, I’ve been insistent about a lot of things since sobering up, and the one I have the hardest time standing up to is myself, the me that ones to go ahead and shrink and shrug and let someone else make the decisions because then I don’t make any mistakes and I can always blame someone else. Huh?

    Thank you for the post, it never hurts to have what I know re-emphasized. Luego, I gotta go hand my sackcloth out on the line to dry. 😉

    1. Awww, thank you KMH. I enjoy your blog too 🙂

      I completely hear you standing up for yourself. That is something I always struggled with, and still do at times. Practice, practice, practice. And yes, the relationship we forge with ourselves is very important – we usually are hardest on ourselves and need to repair that. If we can like and love ourselves, how can we like and love others?

      Thank you so much for your reply…and get to that sackcloth!


  4. i love this. and isn’t is interesting what we find out once we put the halo down. like, who we are … I always enjoy your writing 🙂 and thanks for hanging out over on my blog. i like your brand of genius.

    1. Hi Belle – thank you so much for your kind words…and yes, I love hanging out at your blog…what’s not to love there? 🙂

  5. Al K Hall says:

    What a great post. Your conundrum at the end reminds me of how i started doing anonymous acts of kindness to increase my humility, but then found myself feeling great about it and worrying that i’d missed the point! lol

    1. Thank you, kind sir 🙂

      I think you’re absolutely right – humility is the key, and while at first the idea of kindness for no reward of it’s own was difficult for this alcoholic, it really became something that was important for me…and I am so glad that I did NOT miss the point! Thanks for pointing that out!

  6. sherryd32148 says:

    Great post dude! Good job.

    1. Thanks, Sherry! Always a pleasure seeing you ’round these parts 🙂
      Have a wonderful day!

  7. Lilly says:

    What Belle said… :0

    And also, this made me sad, because I really recognised my ex husband in this and it gave me some fresh insight into the way he was the way he was, only he never, at least in the time we were together, showed anything like that level of self awareness and soul searching. He was the quintessential ‘nice guy’ who actually was incredibly manipulative and passive aggressive in the ways you describe for for all the same reasons. He was an HF alcoholic with sexual compulsivity issues too and we split up due to my discovery of that double life. I’ve no idea where he’s at with it all now as we have no contact but it made my heart hurt a bit for him. I hope he finds that awareness and honesty some day.

    And, lookie, i’ve made this post all about ME and my history. But I think your insight is phenomenal and I love the way you express it too. Your writing about AA also makes me wonder if I’ve been too quick to judge there.

    Anyway, hooray for the gift of healing.

  8. Hi Lilly,

    Thank you for the lovely words.

    But believe me, I, like your ex, didn’t have anywhere near this kind of self awareness or soul searching. It was something that I was forced to look at because to not meant I would die sooner than later. I avoided the self-seeking because I was scared to death. I feared what I would find, what would come up, what I would see about myself that I didn’t like. Who wants to do *that*? But I am glad that it helped you even in a small way. I too pray that all of us get into a place where we can search within ourselves not only for the issues, but also for the solution. It *is* within us – no need to look outside ourselves. And that has taken me some time to figure out.

    Healing…yes! Hooray for that indeed.



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