The Recovering “Yes” Addict

This may sound funny or a play on words but I am not joking around. A definition of the word “addict” is a person who is addicted to an activity, habit or substance. I want to share my road to becoming a recovering “Yes” addict and why I think it is important to recognize this can be a problem for many people.

People Pleaser

For as long and as far back as I can remember I have wanted the people around me to be happy. I am a deeply empathetic person and if there was something I could do to ease your pain, suffering, anxiety, poor time management, I was going to do it for you. It didn’t matter if it was at the cost of my own anxiety or contentment. I had yet to realize I was also allowed to be happy, feel peace and pursue my own interests.  A lot of the time people weren’t even asking, I was just there to offer my help. I couldn’t stop myself because I was addicted to the rush I would feel when I would see the relief spread across their face. This went on throughout my life until recently (November 2017) when I finally had a breakthrough (breakdown).

It was a simple question posed by my 8-year-old daughter after a particularly stressed day of organizing, assembling and then cleaning up a buffet style dinner for the teaching staff at my daughter’s elementary school. My sweet girl asked me at the end of it all as we were walking to the car, “Mom, was it worth it?” Her question, at that moment set into motion the current path I find myself on. It took a decent meltdown a couple weeks later for me to start stepping down and stepping away from many of my obligations. Obligations that I fully acknowledge were brought on solely by myself. That is what mom’s do, right? Doesn’t a good mother volunteer at school, join the PTA and attend every field trip? A good mother runs the Girl Scout Troop, plans playdates and signs their child up for every activity they think will add value to their childhood. No? No.

A Little Backstory 

In February 2016 I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This thing completely pulled the rug out from under me and my family. Pre-GBS I was doing it all, volunteering at the school, volunteering in my community, working a part-time job and for the fun of it decided to take on a full-time job as well. I was running at a breakneck pace and feeling so stressed that my body finally said, ENOUGH! GBS is a condition that causes temporary paralysis and a host of other things that are due to that paralysis. My world was shut down in a matter of days and everything just stopped, including my body. I lost the ability to use my body, to use the bathroom and eventually to eat on my own. I was on a PICC line to keep me alive for 6 months as I was not able to eat or drink due to the Gastroparesis I developed.

My life now has a definitive divider, before I had GBS and coming out of GBS. My roadmap, plan, vision, etc of IF and WHEN I got my life back I was going to do things differently. And I did. I changed some significant things but that addiction to being needed, to being liked, to saying yes even when nobody asked…well that quietly snuck back in without my even noticing. The other people in my life noticed but they all treaded lightly because I was fiercely protective of my addiction. How dare anyone try and tell me what I can and can’t handle? I can do it all, ALL OF THE THINGS, and nobody will tell me otherwise. Unless you are my 8-year-old daughter who is watching and recording and making notes about what a mom/wife/friend looks like…you my sweet girl, you may ask and turn my world on its axis or perhaps back into orbit where I should have been all this time. Post GBS Dani was afraid of being seen as weak, so she jumped back in guns a’blazing. Luckily this time the universe took a softer approach in a couple of red-headed girls that knew how to ask the right question.

I say no or nothing at all now when I find myself in a situation where I can fall back into old patterns. I still falter and say yes when I know I should have said no. I still find myself wanting to offer myself as assistance when nobody has asked. These situations are always going to be part of my life and I am always going to want to help people, I hope that part of me never changes.  What needed to change is the reason behind it, my why. Now when I say yes it is because I have taken the time to think about it fully and I know what it will and won’t bring to my life. I say no or nothing at all now quite often which has given me the opportunity to yes to myself, my husband, my family and my friends. I will always struggle with my addiction to saying “yes” and there will be times it is quite painful to tell someone no, but those are the times where it really matters. Taking the time to walk away from all of my volunteer commitments was scary but once I pulled the plug I haven’t looked back. I am learning to stop schedule shaming myself and appreciate the free time I have to pursue a hobby, hang out with my family and fall asleep at night without the anxiety of the approaching day. I have fully accepted the introvert in me and am enjoying this new found side of myself. Learning to live my life for me and not for anyone else has brought me incredible peace. So to answer her question, was it worth it? Yes, because it brought me to this place of contentment and for that I am grateful.

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