I’m Kelly and I’m a Heroin Addict: Why I Get My Fix Fixing People

“Self-will is believing that you alone have all the answers. Letting go of your will means becoming willing to hold still, be open and wait for guidance for yourself.” – Robin Norwood, author of Women Who Love Too Much

My drug of choice isn’t the kind of heroin that’s injected into their veins. My drug is the kind of heroine that ends in an e – the female version of hero.

When I help someone and they are grateful for the gifts I offer, my brain simmers with a cocktail of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, resulting in a “helper frenzy.” I ride through town like a homecoming queen on a float, waving gloved hands, blowing air kisses to the admiring fans.

It’s no coincidence that these two words, heroin and heroine, look and sound so similar because, oddly enough, they have more in common than you might think: they’re both highly addictive, both more destructive than the user thinks, and both leave a mark a trace of collateral damage.

According to the 12 Steps, the only way we have a chance of recovery is when we can admit to ourselves that we are powerless over our addiction and that it has left us unable to manage our lives… so this is my coming out party. I think this public statement will make me less tempted to go back to my old ways.

My painful revelation was handed to me on a cinematic silver platter while driving with someone incredibly close to me — let’s call her Chloe. She was desperate for a place to stay…until I swooped in on my noble steed, found her a hidden gem of an apartment, vouched for her, and landed her the deal of the century.

Instead of experiencing the gratitude I had expected (and secretly longed for), I was devastated by her Vulcan fury. She spat which almost caused me to veer off the road.

What crime have I committed you ask? She had called me the week before and I had the audacity not to hear my phone ring. She cried out in anger at how I had made her need me, rely on me, and think of me as her savior. And then, when she needed me most, my phone’s ringer was off, leaving her alone to thrash about in pain and curse the water I’d once walked on.

In my defense, I never (consciously) promised Chloe that I would be her eternal savior. Small acts of service became the gateway drug to larger acts of heroism that required immense effort and a heavy toll on my own life. I kind of imagined that one day I would receive a smiling postcard from her telling me that my services were no longer needed because her life had been so brilliant (thanks to me)… but that hasn’t happened (yet). .

How did I help create such an epic failure?

As I hit rock bottom with my “sickness of pleasing,” I sent myself on a search and rescue mission into my past to uncover the origins of my addiction. My detective work took me surprisingly back to my childhood.

As the oldest of five, I got points from my well-meaning parents for doing sisterly things like treating my siblings like babies, teaching them to tie their shoes, showing them how to swing a softball bat, and how to fight bullies.

I grew up believing that it was my job to take care of her, and I’ve proudly embraced that mantle. It empowered me; it made me feel important.

But what I didn’t realize was that while I was puffed up with praise like the Goodyear airship, flying higher with every pat on my back, some of the victims of my heroism were becoming increasingly weakened. It was as if my efforts sent the subconscious message that they were broken and crippled and incompetent without me.

As I struggled to better understand my heroin addiction, I sought advice from a friend who said, “Your struggle is a microcosm of a global problem. For example, the US funneled over $500 billion into sub-Saharan Africa (to alleviate hunger and hunger) only to make the situation worse when it withdrew.” He continued: “Despite good intentions, it is untenable when the giving is alms and not a hand up (giving fish instead of teaching how to fish) and makes the problem it was supposed to solve worse – not cure.

Although I expanded my support without a conscious strategy or agenda, I hurt people more than I helped.

So what’s the solution?

It’s not that easy to stop helping people. It’s like an eater who can’t just swear off food. If I really were a heroin addict, it would be my job to stop injecting the drug in my arm. But even Abraham Maslow taught that service is at the top of his hierarchy of needs, and I was certainly a grateful recipient of people’s kindness.

This is clearly one of life’s “can’t live with, can’t live without” mysteries. Maybe I just need to figure out how to do “ministry” differently.

So, as a newly sober heroin addict (an energy vampire hiding behind a superhero cloak) clinging to withdrawal as I try to live on the knife edge between servant and rescuer, here are my marching orders so far. Just for today (and hopefully every day after) I will:

1. Fire myself from the job I unknowingly (too enthusiastically) took on as a little girl: being everyone’s big sister.

2. Admit that I have a problem and that I am powerless to save, fix and control people.

3. Giving up the belief that I know best how others should live their lives.

4. Refrain from finding my solution by fixing people and looking for God in the wrong places.

5. Make ruthless compassion my surrogate addiction the way heroin addicts safely detox with methadone or suboxone.

Incidentally, ruthless compassion is the unwillingness to see others as broken or inadequate, but instead as inherently whole and complete, regardless of what they’ve been through or what they believe to be true about themselves.

6. Practice “For Fun and Free” – this 12-step motto is about only giving excess bandwidth (time, money and energy) to others unless it’s a real emergency.

7. Tattoo my brain with my new personal prayer (a mashup of The Serenity Prayer and lyrics to Kenny Rogers “The Gambler”):

God grant me the serenity…

to know when to hold them

when to fold them

when to leave

and when to run.

If you refer to my story I hope this will help you with your hero or hero addiction. But if not, that’s okay. For through the lens of my new Ruthless Compassion sunglasses, I see that you are more than capable of finding your own answers, thankfully without undue favors from me.

I’m Kelly and I’m a Heroin Addict: Why I Get My Fix Fixing People

About Kelly Sullivan Walden

Kelly Sullivan Walden is an international bestselling author of ten books, an award-winning dream expert, an interfaith minister, a board-certified clinical hypnotherapist, a religious studies practitioner, an inspirational speaker, and a workshop facilitator. Also known as Doctor Dream, her unique approach to dream therapy has led her to become a trusted advisor, coach and advisor, enriching the lives of thousands of people around the world. Learn more about Kelly and her work at KellySullivanWalden.com.

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