Hey Dr NerdLove,
Is there ever a place for flat-out ignoring people? Long story short, I met a girl in AA, I was 9 months sober and she was 2 years in. I went through a situation where my girlfriend of six months 1) cheated on me with, and then 2) left me for her ex. THAT relationship then fell apart about 6 months later because her boyfriend went back out drinking and using (He was in the program, in and out, and once he got 4 months sober was when she went back to him). And she’s on to guy number 3 at the moment, whose totally bran new in AA and shows up to meetings high.
What happened when the break up first happened, I went to the use of the silent treatment: refusing to speak to her and acting like she didn’t exist. Same with guy number 2. If they ever went for a handshake or said hi, I wouldn’t even acknowledge them. But I went further, putting all sorts of walls up. I wasn’t just acting indifferent towards them but also their sponsors, their friends, anyone who I thought was “taking their side” etc. I’ve since learned that the silent treatment is a combination of isolation and anger, and it was my disease making me think this way, as eventually I would’ve had walls up against everyone and then been all alone and then picked up a drink. So thank God, I found help with this, I learned I can’t ignore people out of anger because I was giving myself depression (because of all the energy it takes).
So I re-connected with all the people I was ignoring and made amends, I’ve been very friendly and polite with guy number 3 – I don’t have any resentment against him as he’s just some random guy, he didn’t do anything wrong. I shook his hand and told him I hope there’s no bad vibes between us, I just want him to have the same chance getting sober as everyone else.
The only people I still ignore (it’s been a year since the break up) is the ex-gf and guy number 2…And this is where my question is: My conscience bothered me for having ignored all those other people but my conscience doesn’t bother me for ignoring these 2. I’ve looked into this a bit and think there is a difference between “the silent treatment” and “not relating”. The first one is to do with resentment, but the second is to do with protecting yourself. It’s honestly not out of the whole “I’m never gonna talk to you again” thing. It’s just that it doesn’t make sense to me to acknowledge them. If they come to make their amends, I’d listen. But as for me going to say hi to either of them or shake their hands, no thanks. And I swear, my conscience doesn’t ache about it. I really think it’s “not relating” not the “silent treatment”.
At the moment, I’m studying to become a catholic priest – a dream I had since I was 16 before I was struck down by booze and self-esteem issues. And people I trust in the AA program and do step-work with etc. they’re all on my case about my need to start acknowledging them. And they use what I’m doing against me (“C’mon you’re almost 2 and a half years sober”, “C’mon you’re going to be a priest” etc.) But I don’t get it, I don’t see the contradiction or see what’s wrong with acting indifferent towards those 2 – and like I said before it’s not the “never again” thing, I’d be able to acknowledge them if they made amends for what they did – but until then I act like they don’t even exist, and I don’t see anything morally or spiritually incorrect about that.
So that’s the dramatic back-story. But my question is basically, what do you think? Is there a difference between the silent treatment vs not relating? And how come my conscience bothered me about ignoring all those other people but it doesn’t bother me about ignoring those 2, unless the ST and NR are 2 different things??
Vow of Silence