The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.”The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.”
The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”
The first arrow can be living with the active addiction or relapse of a loved one. That is so painful. From being a bright, vivacious, entertaining, loving and funny person s/he can morph into someone dark, maudlin, untrustworthy, self absorbed and dangerous. This is painful. The lies, the deception, the hiding the worry and the guilt all mount up to make every waking moment difficult. This is the life of the co-addict. Believing s/he could make the change FOR the other person. Believing that something that s/he could do would make a difference. We may not be aware of it, but with practice and support we can “control” it.
Amanda Andruzzi wrote a blog entry in May 2013 which explains that there are many reasons that we who suffer from second-hand addiction exhibit co-dependent behavior.
Some co-addicts have a huge need to be needed. Their desire to be helpful and useful has become over grown. Perhaps it has become entangled in the illusion that we can help someone else into being other than they are. With a child this helpfulness is appropriate at certain ages (tying the shoes for a toddler, for example). We cripple our young children if we do not step away and allow them to struggle with learning this skill for themselves. So, too, over helpfulness with an addict can in fact prevent addicts from finding their own limit with their addiction and climbing out, in fact, owning and being responsible for their recovery themselves. This over helpfulness can be a second arrow. It does not work, however we continue to do it.
The nature of the disease is cyclical. First there is the being wound up in the process of active use, the illusion of FUN and the delusion that “this time it will be different” and all the other processes lure an addict into actively engaging in their disease. Then comes remorse, perhaps physical sickness, guilt and shame. Now the addict is childlike, compliant, willing to do anything to restore the good graces of their para-addict. This is the moment the co-dependent lives for. It seems as if all will be well and that a change will be made- that they “really mean it this time”. This is another second arrow; the co-dependent delusion.
The person suffering from second-hand addiction also may thrive on being a giver. The generosity of helping, the generosity of forgiveness, the generosity of patience. This generosity can continue until you have given away your soul. You have denied yourself to the point that all you have left is resentment. In time, even the anger towards the other disappears and nothing is left but self doubt, depression and pain. All this in the name of “giving”. This, too, is a second arrow.
All of these arrows are not exclusively from an open heart. In truth, being wrapped up in the outcome of another’s life can be a way of avoiding one’s own need for growth. When I am wrapped up in “him” or “her” I cannot see “me”. The process of living with an active or relapsing addict has actually changed my brain, has convoluted my coping mechanisms and I, too, need to find a bottom and climb out. In the proces of being restored to sanity I may discover that I was also involved in a form of addiction. This second arrow was the process of avoiding my own wonderful being. By remaining “other focussed” I could dis-engage from looking at myself, finding out my own needs, desires, boundaries, strength, and goals. These can be terrifying to examine. Much more conventional, much more in line with the way my mind and neurology were being formed, much more familiar was it to stay in the cycle of fear, anger and forgiveness that comes with holding on to a relationship with an addict. I am used to that. The huge and truly fearful unknown is NOT slinging the second arrow. Support and wise friendship is needed to begin to empty your quiver.
It is a long road to recovery and I falter at times. When I find myself sticking in a second arrow I reach out to friends, I talk about it and I look inward. What is this gripping serving? What am I avoiding in myself. I use kind words with myself – look away form my object of temptation and say “Dear heart – let go”.
Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200, RTY500 is the author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path”, a leader of Y12SR classes, and the creator of SOAR(tm) (Success Over Addiction and Relapse) a teacher certification training she holds with her good friend Kent Bond E-RYT500. Find out more about her, her classes and the training at www.yogarecovery.com