Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

What’s My Part In This?

A decade ago I didn’t care, let alone consider the benefit of figuring out my part in what caused a difficult situation to arise.  This wouldn’t have been on my radar because I never thought I had a part.  Back then everything was everyone else’s fault.  I was the one wronged so therefore I was always right.  Others may have felt differently but in those days of denial, the invisible blinders I wore kept me focused on what made me feel I had the upper hand, always being right, all the time, no matter what.

Today I know differently.  The world does not revolve around me and what makes me feel better.  Well, sometimes my husband might disagree with my ability to adhere to this statement, but we’ll just leave that alone for now.

OK, back to the topic at hand.

When I find myself feeling a strong tension with someone else; whether in person, over the phone, in a text, email or whatever other means of communication we have available to us today, clearly something is going unheard or unacknowledged and something needs to give.  I’ve learned through a lot of internal investigation I cannot afford the luxury of being stubborn.  In other words, I can’t wait for the other person to make a move.  If I want to cut through the tension, then I need to take action and I do so by asking myself one simple question, “What is my part in this?”

Now this may seem easy enough, but guess again.  My idea of being completely innocent of all wrong hasn’t entirely disappeared.  Thus, my first response to this question is instinctively going to be, “Nothing!  They are wrong and I’m right!  Any old fool can see that!”  I’ll then disregard the issue entirely hoping this rather dramatic action will cause the other person to weep uncontrollably and beg for my forgiveness.

Uh, no.  Based on years of practical experience, that won’t happen and may even make matters worse.

I’ve come to understand questioning my part in things isn’t always about who said, or did, what to whom.  I need to go deeper than that.  I need to figure out WHY I’m feeling disturbed to begin with. Why am I reacting the way I am? Why am I standing my ground, so sure I’m being attacked, insulted or belittled?  Am I taking a hurtful situation from three days ago out on an innocent bystander?  The potential questions are endless.

I do all this because during this past decade in recovery, I’ve learned every single time I’m feeling out of sorts with someone or some situation, I’m reacting this way because of something going on within me.  No one can make me feel anything.   Whatever is surfacing is always based on a past experience which taught me how to react in a situation like this one.  So in order to untangle the knot of the problem, I need to step back and assess the situation.

I pause, I breathe and then I ask myself the following:  Where did all this start?  What was said or not said?  How am I acting or not acting?  Is what I’m feeling really about this person/experience or am I basing my reaction on something else?  And the big one, is the other person reminding me of something about myself I don’t like?

If I’m still unable to come into an answer about my part in a situation I call someone who has walked this path before me and ask for insight.  I cannot afford to ignore my part because if I do, I’ll be choosing to disregard an opportunity to change which is the essence of what life (let alone recovery) is all about.  If I stand still and never change, I’ll be missing the point of living.

So yeah, I do want to know my part.  I must know my part.  If I don’t identify what needs changing about me, I’ll soon find myself in another situation (perhaps even with the same person) whereby I’ll be asked to investigate my part all over again.  This cycle will continue until I learn what I need to change so hopefully there won’t be a next time.

This is the pathway toward living a far more emotionally healthy and peaceful existence.  Oh and those around me will certainly be better off too!


Having to “check-in” with ourselves can be difficult and often times what we resist the most.  Have you gone through the process or are you willing to?  Take a moment to breathe and then feel free to reply with a thought or two below.

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3 thoughts on “What’s My Part In This?

  1. SOOOOO True! Thank you for speaking my thoughts today! The perfect time to hear this after just getting into an upset with my partner. What is my role? I tend to take responsibility for it all. I will take it all on and beat myself up. This doesn’t serve us either. How can we look for our role and let the rest of it be. You are such an inspiration!

  2. Allison, I love your blog. It helps me understand very complex issues. Understanding is crucial. Relationships cant be changed, aid cant be given, patterns of behavior that dont work cant evolve without first understanding them. For me, gaining understanding and insight has offen been the first difficult but necessary step to allow me to make healthy changes and break old patterns that hurt me. Understanding is no small thing. Thank you for sharing what you have learned and especially for allowing us to see your process. It gives me hope.

    From my Android phone on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network.

  3. Steve H on said:

    Thank you. This is a great teaching tool.

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