"Biting Back takes a compelling look at self-care, setting boundaries, and protecting ourselves from friends, loved ones, enemies, and sometimes even ourselves. Written in a page-turning and warm style, Claudia’s refreshing addition to the self-help shelves offers empowering solutions to effectively remind us to stop inviting troubleinto our homes and souls." -- MELODY BEATTIE, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CODEPENDENT NO MORE


More About Power


All my life I've been trying to help my brother with his vampires, his depression, his negative self talk, in early years his drug addiction. It seems though that now the vampire has gotten hold of me. Well, actually, long ago the vampire got hold of me, I suppose – the vampire being my need to rescue my brother. I try everything. All the way from trying to get him into treatment in the early years (he didn't go into treatment until I left: in other words, it was of his own volition that he went into treatment and had nothing to do with me) to trying to cheer him up, suggesting strategies, doing things for him, countering his negative beliefs. The last thing I tried was giving him a long list of all the really bad things that happened and happen to me, including all the millions of things that don't "go right" in my life either. I did this so that he could see that life isn't so personal. Everyone has things to deal with.

Anyway, you can see I've been bitten. I'm not sure how to revoke my invitation, while I'm scared for my brother. Can you help me? Thank you.

Signed: Worried in the Woods

Dearest Worried,

This may sound hard, but I'm pretty sure we can't make other people well by getting sick ourselves -- and trying to wrestle, cajole, or debate the vampire off someone else's neck is sure to make us just that: sick. As you've already discovered, the vampire has plenty of appetite for the both of you, and I can promise you its more than willing to take on the rest of your family and loved ones, too. We're talking insatiable appetites here.

Coming to terms with how little power we actually have over other people and their vampires doesn't usually feel good, but I believe it is good. I think it signals the acceptance of reality for us -- a "moment of clarity," if you will. The trouble with moments of clarity is that they aren't much fun. I mean, it's not like the sun comes out and the birds start singing when we see finally something for what it really is; the recognition of powerlessness usually feels pretty crappy, and it's a little while before most of us can start feeling good again. And you're right, it is scary.

One of the fairest rules of vampire slaying that I can think of goes like this:

“If I didn’t extend the invitation, then it is not mine to revoke.”

As a recovering alcoholic I'm very grateful to the people who tried to help me when I was still drinking, who told me how they felt and how they were affected by my disease (brave souls!), but who eventually got clear with themselves about exactly where their thresholds were, and about how much or little they wanted to do with my untreated illness - which was certainly a vampire to them.

They could tell me how they felt and could draw a line for themselves about how involved they wanted to be with my illness, but they could not make my decision for me about whether I wanted to get well or not. That was my vampire, and my decision. What they could make a decision about was how well they wanted to be. That was their vampire, and their decision.

Those are the rules.

I don't think there's a vampire around that can't be slain with a combination of CLARITY and POWER. The clarity you've already got; it was something you needed to find alone and in the light of your own circumstances...it was a personal, private thing. But that, I think, is where the private, personal, and alone stuff needs to end.

One of the tricky things about admitting powerlessness is that, once we've done it, we need to find another power source (besides our own impeccable judgement and furious will to make things work out our way) to replace the power we've stopped kidding ourselves about having. If we don't replace this superficial power we thought we had with real, down-to-earth, practical (there's that word!) power, then we are sure to return to our old illusion of power. And as we've already discovered, vampires aren't particularly impressed with that!

I myself am a big believer in the power of experience, which is to say that I think you should talk to someone who has experience with a vampire like yours and gotten free. For me that was and is participation in a 12-step group -- with people who can describe their own experience with my vampire (just so I'm sure we're talking about the same thing) and can also tell me how they got free. The expression "find someone who has something you want" usually works pretty well for me: I look for people in the group who seem to be open-minded, calm, funny, and who are - above all else - free. Then I ask them how they got from where they were, to where they are today. And the power of that is unbelievable.

I don't think for a minute that 12-step groups are the only place to find that, by the way, but I do believe that the experienced teacher is the best -- theory and speculation just won't cut it with vampires. The power has to be grounded in something real and practical. Like experience, for instance.


Feemus said...

wow--I am always just stunned by how freakin' wise you are.

and it's amazing what you can do with all that extra blood once you stake a vamp or two!

The Practical Vampire Slayer said...

Thanks Feemus. And you sound like a guy's been slaying vampires...is this so?

Feemus said...

Well, trying.

But even if you miss the heart, trying helps, I think. Even if you only get in a flesh wound.

TPE said...

Hello. I've been circling this blog for a wee while now - wanting to comment, but having nothing to say. I met you over at The House of Feemus, and enjoyed it very much. There is just TOO much, in these pages of yours, that resonates with me - but I am not always comfortable talking about such things.

I know, I know, I'm a cowardy custard, but it can feel overwhelming at times. I sometimes touch on things in my own blog, but rarely venture far with it. I have set up numerous other places - as you may, or may not know - in an attempt to edge closer towards...whatever. Success rate to date: minimal.

Feemus is right, though - you certainly seem like one mighty wise person, and it would be my very great pleasure to get to know you over time. Slowly. I have a feeling you could see right through me. That's okay, I've nothing to hide, it's just that I'm not sure I'm ready to see for myself. Am I being too oblique? I'm sorry.

Are you any nearer to knowing when your other space will be up and running? Hang on - will you even see this letter of mine? Damn it. Have I bleated in vain?

Kind regards.

claud said...

Wow, how great to find you here, TPE, and I love the way you talk!

I've been REALLY awful about posting here, as you can see -- I have been working on other things, but I've been to your blog and visit every day (waiting for YOUR next post, fella!)and consider our friendship well on its way already. I cannot find an email address for you anywhere, but here is one of mine: practicalslayer@yahoo.com

Talk to you soon, I hope.


TPE said...

Hello Claud - I forgot to mention that I am a complete and utter cretin who takes ages to get round to things (drat).

Anyway, so sorry to have been tardy in getting back to you here. If the offer still stands, I'll drop you a line at the email address you mention.

You should feel very free to beat me up for being such a fool.

Kind regards etc....

claud said...

If I only knew the Welsh for "cretin!" Oh well, it's great to see you here ANY time, my Periodic Pal. Write any time, I'll writecha back.

funforager said...

I sympathize with the woman who sparked this incredible post. I got bled by my own brother's mental health issues, even going crazy once at the same time he did! Now wasn't that helpful.

My big discovery was that when I made a decision to see my brother as ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, he was. Who was I to say he wasn't. Naturally, he was not a vampire, far from it. But when I saw him as who he was supposed to be, I started to notice how resourceful and intelligent he was dealing with his troubles, which included catastrophic depression.

By changing my perceptions, I must have revoked my invitation to the blood letting thought that something was wrong and it was up to big sister to fix it. From that day on, we have had an incredible relationship and I helped other family members see that he doesn't need fixing.