As part of our 30 stories for 30 weeks in celebration of our 30th anniversary, we share this story titled Manipulation by one of our housing graduates, Ronda J.
I look back at the people in my life, and I can’t help but feel witty. I’ve lied, manipulated and betrayed in the past. In my recovery, I’ve learned that these were part of my character defects. I always justified these behaviors. I was seeking sympathy and pity from others. In this way, I could get what I wanted when I wanted it. I felt I deserved it. If anything bad happened, it wasn’t my fault because the world was out to get me. My manipulation allowed me to control every situation. I thought control was the key to everything. I failed to realize that my actions took that same control away from me. The things I did made my life unmanageable. In my eyes, though, no one had the right to tell me what to do. As my life spiraled downhill, I became completely lost. I hid my emotions, who I really was, in different addictions. Food was my first addiction, then I substituted alcohol and pills. I didn’t have the food or weight to hide behind, so I found other things.
Due to my manipulation and lies, I was able to hide my addictions for years. My weight had led to health problems, so any signs of my addiction were attributed to those health problems. People felt more sympathy for me, and that just fed the whole cycle of self-pity.
Finally though, I hit the proverbial bottom. I lost control of my life, all pride, and my job. The loss of these things barely fazed me. All I could think about was making any feelings go away.
At one moment of clarity, I knew I needed help. I ended up at the hospital for the first time admitting to someone that I was an alcoholic. I begged for help. My pleas landed on deaf ears. Even during my subsequent stay detoxing, my pleas to go to rehab failed.
After getting out, I did take control again: calling, writing, doing everything I could do to get help. I put as much determination in that as I had in my using.
I don’t know what I expected, but I soon realized going to rehab was my way of running from who I was and what I was doing to myself. I somehow thought I could manipulate my way through rehab as I had through life. Little did I know that I was trying to manipulate people who had seen it all: other addicts, manipulators and counselors who saw through it.
I spent the next 5 months, 21 days trying to see me. I had to dig through 30 years of lies and hidden emotions: pain that I’d covered up and fears that I’d denied.
Facing these problems was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I knew if I didn’t face it, I would continue to run and hide, resorting to the same old behaviors. The same fight I had put into running and hiding all of those years I now had to put into my recovery. I had to make the choice between recovery or relapse.
I chose recovery. Part of that meant turning my control over again. I decided not to go back downstate to a family that loved, but enabled me. Instead, I went into transitional housing. I had gained strength, and I knew I needed the help and support of people who understood me.
Giving up control and old behaviors that I’d lived for so long was necessary for me to live. Over 8 months, I’ve grown finding the person I am, setting up the boundaries I know I need to in order to be spiritually alive. I learned to live again with honesty, open-mindedness and willingness.