HeSaid by: Christopher Kennedy Lawford

Why alcoholics and addicts have difficulty with decisions.

I think the reason that I have difficulty with decisions has something to do with my mind. I don’t have to tell you that my mind moves too fast. It reacts to everything and never lets anything go. It explodes with possibilities constantly. You once said it’s like a pinball machine, balls, flippers, lights, bells, dings, all screaming for attention and I have to explore them all. That’s the way it is for me when I’m deciding what to do.  As soon as I choose something my mind screams, “Hold on there, slick, what about that other thing, it might be more fun, you could be missing out on something.”

My appetite for the experiences of life is voracious. I don’t stop. I’m like a shark, always swimming, looking for the next thing to take a bite out of. Sometimes my mind drives me crazy, but I love being on this planet. I want to do as much as I can every single day. So, when I decide to do one thing, I can’t forget about the other thing that’s going to give me a whole different experience. I have a hell of a time staying in the moment; my mind is comfortably entertaining the possibility of being in two, three or four places at the same time. My mind is undisciplined, doesn’t care much for structure, never developed a systematic approach to making choices. I’ve always let my feelings and attitudes, in the moment, decide what I should do and these things can change as quickly as, well, the weather on Nantucket.

You tell me that I can’t make up my mind, that I am plagued by buyer’s remorse and the grass is always greener syndrome. You’re right. I think it has something to do with my inability to sit with who I am, what really matters to me, and the desire to find the necessary discipline to structure my path through life. I fell in love with you and didn’t give a whole lot of thought to whether or not you and I match. The political or prudent choice never interested me unless it was aligned with what I felt I wanted to do. Desire is a much more attractive filter when determining what to do in life. The other thing is, I often don’t know what I want to do. My feelings and desires leave me conflicted and unwilling or ready to decide what to do. Maybe there is a fear of growing up. Being certain about where you are going and what you want to do is a characteristic of being an adult and I resist that. It’s charming in one’s 20’s and early 30’s but can be exasperating in ones 40’s and 50’s.

When I got clean and sober I woke up from a long nightmare. I was 30 something and had been looking at a bottle, syringe, or joint for 15 years. I had a lot of catching up to do in the living life department. I want to do everything that I missed and then some, but don’t think I have enough time to do it all. So, I choose to do it all, which is impossible, and when I have to prioritize it can paralyze me.

And then there is: THE FEAR.

THE FEAR that after having been delivered from the hell of addiction, I am bound to screw it up. I’ll make a mistake, make the wrong choice, which will bring failure or misery and then I’ll have to use again. So, I vacillate, figuring if I don’t choose or commit I can’t make a mistake or fail. I told you it wouldn’t be easy being in a relationship with an alcoholic, but you already knew that didn’t you?

Shesaid by: Adele Slaughter

Why is it so difficult deciding what to do?

Let me count the reasons.

Maybe the first reason is that we both have commitment phobia? You know, there is the disappointment of making a decision, what if it’s the wrong one. Make a commitment and go down the wrong road. That would be a disaster. I exaggerate, of course. But the fear trigger is there. We both have a similar wound.

One of my main blocks to helping us decide what we ought to do is being a people pleaser. My parents fashioned me into the girl-who-does-your-bidding. Maybe you remember that life-sized doll, Chatty Cathy? You pulled a string in her back and she said things like: Please take me with you, or Let’s play school. And I distinctly recall her saying I LOVE you. She was a popular doll in the 1960’s capturing the imagination of a generation of girls. Dolls like Chatty Cathy and Barbie helped to fashion our ideas of ourselves. Of course there were the feminists, but that came later, in college. All these “dolly” influences helped to make me want to please you . So for example, every time we go to a movie I choose and you don’t like it, I’ve failed. Therefore, I have to get you to choose the movie, the vacation, the restaurant, etc.

And here’s where we get into more trouble. There’s an art to being a people pleaser. You have to get it just right. Those of us who have to make sure the world is pleased with us find ourselves stuck in the Goldilocks syndrome we can’t be too sweet, or too sour. Not too romantic, not too violent, we have to find a movie or the way of being that is just right.

Of course this is impossible so you have to make the decision about what movie we see or the thing we’re going to do, because in my universe I am not allowed to get it wrong.

And then the next stumbling block…no one always wants to make the decisions and so you get irritated. Now, I’m in deeper trouble. No one likes to be with someone who doesn’t care what we do, either. You want your partner to have ideas and opinions. But I do have feelings about things…I just don’t like to communicate them clearly. I hate displeasing you, and I can’t always know what you want.

See the pitfalls. The whole thing is rife with land mines.

So we stumble around trying to decide what to do. Sometimes we have so much trouble deciding that we have another picnic in bed and buy a film on pay per view. On a bad night we can’t even agree on which lame movie to rent, so sometimes I’ll actually pretend to want to watch Magic Knives of The Ninja Vampires.


~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on August 5, 2010.

5 Responses to “Hesaid/Shesaid”

  1. So proud of all you are doing with your life….from one shark to another.

  2. Thanks for posting this Chris. It’s just what I needed to hear today, hours before I drop my son off at yet another rehab-this one longer term. I cannot understand the poor decisions, lack of decisions, and lack of structure. Your post helped to understand.
    Jane C.

  3. Brilliant!

  4. Christofear: You leave a good analysis of your present day-to-day- predicament, a typical useless confesion of character defects . What can be done to change them? Do you really thin “GAWD” intervenes? Think twice!!.Has she intervened? When are you gonna into poetry like John and robert and forget this AA bullshit? What may I ask does this have to do with your Uncle John in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, what implications does this have for your feelings about your friend Fidel Castro, and The Big E, and Bobby, and Ted, and Dotson Rader, whose book about Tennessee Williams I just read for the third time ? (I love T. Williams..is there a better movie than “A Streetcar named Desire? Isn’t that perfection in the arts? Would you not have loved to play Brando’s role? What about the cinematography, and lighting, and Vivien Leigh, and Gadge, and Karl Malden, and EVERYTHING about that movie?) Which reminds me of your uncle John’s speech about the arts in Amherst in 1962, the best speech or article about the Arts I have ever read. Can I send it to you?

    OK, I am a very drunk right now, but doesn’t what I say make sense anyways? You were good in “13 days”, so was your father in “Exodus”, a fine movie I must say.Otto Premature did a fine job in “Exodus”, show it to the AIPAC people, and the Palestinian Lobby. The Cardinal was also great, Frank did a fine job in The Man with the Golden Arm about HEROIN ADDICTION..Sorry I may be partly fucking with you, but I am making sense anyways, you can see that and I really respect most of the Kennedy Legacy. Really I mean it…

    Here’s an excerpt from a speech by Robert Sr. during the Last campaign: Did this, baby:

    “And this is one of the great tasks of leadership for us, as individuals and citizens this year. But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. Robert Kennedy

    Send that to Robert Jr., if he needs reminding, which I doubt.


  5. I have recognized many similar patterns in myself with respect to difficulty in decision-making. Fortunately, since working and living a program of recovery, this area has improved dramatically.

    I completely relate to the noise in my head when I used to set out to do anything. My head would flood my thinking with questions about, “well if I do THIS, won’t I be missing out on THAT”. So often I would put THIS down and go do THAT. Only to have the pattern repeat. Like a ping-pong game back and forth.

    I was continuously discontent in those days. Never knew an easy feeling unless chemically-induced. With this type of thinking, I can’t imagine not being tempted to chemical peace of mind. It was agony.

    Today is a lot different. I usually listen for a quiet inspiration of what to do next. I then shut my mind off to the voices in my head that question whether I should do THAT versus THIS and I just get busy. If by chance I am wrong, God will show me soon enough. And God is big enough to help me if I have made a mistake in divining into what I felt was an inspired endeavor. I am no longer affraid to make the mistake. Yet I so seldom feel I make the mistake. I have learned to trust the intuition and one way or the other, things have been working out.

    In fact, more is working out with less effort from me. I still have to do the work, but I don’t have all this noise in my head and drama in my life around my decisions.

    Recovery is amazing. The steps are so practical. Life is so much better. God is great.



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