A couple of days ago I felt a little triggered. Don’t worry, I didn’t drink – I’m well past that point in my life.
But I did experience some of those old feelings – the ones that used to lead me to pick up something to numb my emotions.
Enduring a Personal Attack
A friend – not a close friend, but a friend, nonetheless – came over to borrow my Internet (he’s too cheap to pay for his own). He’d had a bad week.
While using my computer (which I was graciously loaning him, even though I had deadlines for school and a meeting to catch in an hour), he went on a rant about how much he hates people of my generation, how we don’t do anything to improve the world, and how we have our “heads stuck up our YouTube.”
I attempted to counter that by saying I spend my life trying to help people through my research, writing, and facilitating support groups, but he wouldn’t hear it. I sat in stunned silence as he continued to rant until he finally left.
I remembered how scenes like these used to send me to the nearest bar to swallow my anger with the help of several tequila shots.
Instead of taking steps backward, I went forward – to a meeting where I got support from my friends in recovery. But I asked myself: How should I react when someone decides to make me their punching bag?
Here are some ideas I came up with:
- Disengage From the Situation
Walk away. Or tell him to leave (It was MY apartment, after all!) Just say something like, “I’m on a deadline and have to get back to work. I’m sorry but I need you to head home.”
- Tell Them to Stop
Don’t try to reason with a person whose anger is irrational or someone who feels entitled to release his or her pent up frustrations on you. Just say something like, “I’m not your punching bag. I’m sorry you’re so annoyed, but it upsets me too much to have you vent your anger on me. You need to stop.”
- Maintain Your Boundaries
You can’t control cancer or drunk drivers, but you can set limits on your interactions with others. When someone is hurting you, remind yourself that you don’t have to take it. Whether it’s ending the conversation or ending the friendship altogether, your first responsibility is to take care of yourself. During active addiction, many of us put up with a lot of abuse because we were too scared or ashamed to stand up for ourselves. In recovery, we learn how to set healthy boundaries – and protect ourselves!
Regain Your Emotional Balance
Going to a support group meeting immediately after he left really helped me regain my emotional balance. Reaching out to others who understood how much words can hurt and getting the back up I needed to set healthy boundaries made it possible for me to sleep that night. And by the way, he’s no longer allowed to use my Internet!
Have you ever felt like someone’s punching bag? What did you do or say to set healthy boundaries and protect your recovery? Share your experiences in the comments section below – your story might encourage someone else to do the same!
Additional Reading: Let it Go – The Toxic Nature of Grudge-Holding
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