Monday, March 31, 2008

Gossip

Gossip – we’ve all done it, and while it may seem like a harmless pastime, we need to resist the urge to engage in it, if we want to maintain a sober mind.

Gossip is damaging and degrading to the person that gossips, the person that listens to the gossip and the person gossiped about. The wisdom of anonymity in the twelve step recovery programs goes far beyond just guarding the identity of the addict. It emphasizes the importance of an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality.

There are many kinds of gossip and many reasons to gossip. We all want to feel that we are important, that we matter and that we are a part of something. To establish a sense of intimacy with friends and acquaintances we'll talk about the details of other people's lives. Many of us use gossip to have something to say in social situations; to appear informed; to be understood or to impress others.

What is gossip? I think of gossip as talking about someone when they are not present. It can be “positive”, like “my husband stopped drinking”, or it can be negative, like “guess whose husband got a DWI”?

In the addictive/alcoholic family system gossip can sometimes be the only form of communication. Often the family is so enmeshed that what goes on in one family member’s life is the business of everyone else, particularly if they’re in crisis. They’ll talk about each other instead of to each other because they fear being direct and confrontational, or because they’re addicted to chaos and excitement. Confiding is not gossip - there are times when we need to talk about someone for our well being, or for theirs. In that situation it is necessary to seek the help of a counselor and/or a trusted twelve step program friend.

To break away from the gossip habit requires awareness, courage and self disciple. Avoiding gossip is very difficult and anxiety producing. We don’t want to be left out and we may feel that if we don’t engage in gossip someone might get angry and reject us.

When we gossip about someone we reinforce and perpetuate a reality about them that may or may not be true, and once that reality is created it’s difficult to change it. The image of that reality can be an obstacle to recovery for the alcoholic/addict. Even in sobriety addicts are stuck with an image of themselves that interferes with healing many of the hurts incurred during their active time.

We justify gossip by saying “everyone does it” or, “we are only talking out of concern for the person." In dealing with someone suffering from addiction, gossip can prevent us from focusing on ourselves and it can reinforce our victim role. It can lead to dishonesty and can damage our relationships with friends and family.

My #1 Rule for a Sober Mind is "Do what is right for you". Talking about other people doesn't serve us or others in a positive way. Instead, we can put that same energy into better use by figuring out our own lives, and pursuing our passions.

4 comments:

Jeanine said...

Interesting how you put gossip in the context of the family: that it can be the only form of "communication", and that we talk about each other rather to to each other.

Thanks Rita!

Jeanine said...

Interesting how you put gossip in the context of the family: that it can be the only form of "communication", and that we talk about each other rather to to each other.

Thanks Rita!

Jeanine said...

Interesting how you put gossip in the context of the family: that it can be the only form of "communication", and that we talk about each other rather to to each other.

Thanks Rita!

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