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Why I Don’t Save People Anymore

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Why I Don’t Save People Anymore

Before I found recovery, I devoted my life to helping other people out of their suffering. What I thought was noble was actually co-dependency. This week, I got to see why co-dependency has never worked.

Beware Of Strangers Selling Food Out A Shopping Cart

He looked at me. I had a split second to look away, get in my car, and pretend I didn’t see him. I hesitated, and in that split-second, he found the crack in my boundary and spoke.

My physical safety wasn’t at risk; but my heart was exposed. I assumed he would say: He need money for gas; he was out of work; his car broke-down car. I’d open my wallet for cash and spend weeks wondering about the poor man I had met in the parking lot.

A Man With A Flan

He didn’t want a handout. Instead, he was selling flan, a Spanish custard-like dessert in five delicious flavors, to raise money for a new recovery house in central Florida. He had me at “Recovery.”

He Was Really Selling Step 12

This man had a familiar look. I see it on the faces of friends I’ve met in the rooms and even when I look in the mirror. It’s an enthusiastic blend of gratitude and peace; it’s the look we have when we FINALLY make it to Step 12, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message and practice these principles in all our affairs.” Our recovery becomes contagious.

Addictions Unite To Cause Mass Destruction

I couldn’t help but wonder, what if I had been this man’s sister or close friend? Before I found recovery, he was exactly the type of person I would set out to save. I imagined countless hours begging, pleading and shaming him into abandoning his harmful addiction.

Yet he found recovery the way we all do; by hitting rock bottom. The absence of a heroic rescue let this man become miserable enough to do something different and stop the insanity. Misery propelled him to race away from his addiction and gave him the deep motivation that’s crucial to sustaining a long-term recovery. If I had been friends with this man, would my addiction, my compulsion to rescue, have been strong enough to keep us both sick?

When my sister was dying, no one rushed in to save me from my emotional distress and that void sent me looking for recovery. Her death, while unjust and unfathomable to me, spurred me to find a different way to live. 

Seeing him work his Step 12 let me see how far I’ve come. I didn’t try to fix him with a Bible verse. I just listened to his story without opinions or suggestions. I didn’t lose weeks of serenity by worrying about this stranger because I’m also propelled by a deep desire to never go back to living the way I used to – putting anyone and anything ahead of what was best for me.

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Pam Carver

If you need addiction or mental health professionals to guide you through the recovery journey and help you heal, check out the website that has all the professionals you need.



Pam is the author of Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and she's a contributing editor for Recovery Guidance. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.

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