Blessed Are The Peacemakers?

Depressed woman cartoon

Addiction is a family disease. Everyone is affected and roles are assigned early. My role in the family is peacemaker. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I don’t like to question such a respected source, but from my experience, being a peacemaker feels anything but blessed. I have, however, found great peace through recovery, so perhaps it’s time to change my definition of “Peacemaker.”

I Set A Bad Precedent

For years, I settled all of my family of origin’s arguments. Smaller cases went like this: My dad had the day off, but he didn’t wash the dishes. My mom was furious. She punished him with silence and called me to vent. I handled that case by calling my Dad to smooth things over. He then complained about her. I agreed because she treats me the same way. I cheered Dad up by reminding him of what he does well. Then I made excuses for Mom, “She’s just on edge because of that thing at work.” When we hung up, he felt better. I felt like a traitor. Something had to change.

My Family Still Wants To Me To Be The Peacemaker

In recovery, I learned this behavior of putting me in the middle was actually a form of triangulation. Here’s another example. My Dad called me this weekend to tell me my Mom wants Ricky to move in with them. My Dad gave me a list of why it was a bad idea. I agreed. Silently. During the conversation, I paid close attention to how I was feeling. I asked myself, “Was his sharing making me feel uncomfortable?” When it was my turn to speak, I simply said, “She has a sickness.” My Mom suffers from co-dependency. She knows I feel this way about her relationship with Ricky.

My Mom called on Tuesday to tell me Ricky’s news. Again, I listened as long as I was able to. When she paused for me to talk, I said nothing. She didn’t ask for my opinion, so I didn’t give it.  In the past, their wanting my opinion made me feel important, so I kept playing a part in the dysfunction. Now I see my opinion isn’t important to them. None of them asked for it! They just want someone to take their side. I don’t have a side. Nothing in this scenario is any of my business. Ricky isn’t wanting to move in with me and I don’t live there.

Triangulation And Addiction

Triangulation is common in families with addiction. Murray Bowen, an pioneer in American family therapy theorized,

In a dysfunctional family in which there is alcoholism present, the non-drinking parent will go to a child and express dissatisfaction with the drinking parent. This includes the child in the discussion of how to solve the problem of the afflicted parent. Sometimes the child can engage in the relationship with the parent, filling the role of the third party, and thereby being “triangulated” into the relationship. Or, the child may then go to the alcoholic parent, relaying what they were told. In instances when this occurs, the child may be forced into a role of a “surrogate spouse” The reason that this occurs is that both parties are dysfunctional. In a triangular family relationship, the two who have aligned risk forming an enmeshed relationship.

I Set Some Hard Boundaries

Over the last few years in recovery, I’ve changed my definition of peacemaker. My main goal is to find peace for ME. Once I began to see how settling their arguments hurt me, I had to be brave and tell them all “No.” I started with my Mom because I was the least afraid of her. The first time I told her I didn’t want to hear anything bad about my Dad, she quickly obliged. Unfortunately, a few days later, she tested my boundary. I reminded her I would no longer listen to negative comments. Telling her “No” gave me the courage to next tell Ricky “No.” After I stood up to Ricky, then I told my Dad. It’s still hard to say “No,” but it’s getting easier.

For a year after that, I quit listening to their stories. I learned to space phone calls out over several days. I called only when I had important news. I quit asking how Ricky or my Dad was. Taking myself out of their arguments has been one of the healthiest things I’ve done.