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"Deal with your feelings BEFORE you deal with the drama!”

This was one of the best suggestions ever given to me. I needed to be reminded of it often.

“But you don’t know what she SAID!”
Deal with your feelings about it. Start there.

“But you don’t know how he TALKED to me!”
Deal with the feelings before you respond.

“But you don’t understand what it DID to me!”
Feel the feelings, then handle it.

“It’s one thing to hurt me, but to attack someone I LOVE so much?!”
Deal with how you feel first.

“But you don’t know what they’re ALL saying!”
Deal with the feelings before you deal with the drama.

And finally it stuck.

If I dealt with the drama as I was surging with the effects of it, I never handled it in healthy, calm, problem-solving ways. It didn’t matter if I had a right to fight back, and fight back hard. When I did I was part of the problem, and only perpetuating the madness.

I learned to take time away from whatever negativity had come my way, been whispered in my ear, or arrived via screenshot

I started to step away from toxic drama when it hit, taking a walk to calm my pulse. In order to give it a few minutes.

Maybe I’d even set it aside for a few days to let the feelings that were ignited pass like bad weather.

Once I was feeling less agitated, I'd ask myself some questions: What's the threat I’m feeling? Will speaking back to this situation stop old patterns of conflict that I don’t want to be involved in? Or am I being lured into bottom-less, unending arguments? Will we have a reasonable conversation leading to a calm, healthy solution? What am I hoping to accomplish by responding? Is it likely I will get what I’m after?

Considering those questions led me to a better frame of mind for making the decision as to how to respond, if I did at all.

Peace, health and wellness became the central goal.

If I truly wanted chaos out of my life, everything else I had to let fade away.

I learned that it wasn’t really even about who I needed to protect, or what needed to be defended. It was about growth and progress. It was about health, well-being and peace.

Those areas of my life are up to me, and no one else.

Opportunities for conflict and battle will always come. We can find them daily if we want to! It’s not about how good we are at hitting back, it’s about how wise we are in protecting our peace, sanity, and emotional/mental health.

That's where true strength and victory are.

Instead of lashing out, I began to set a goal every time something terrible happened or was said or done in my life. Whether it was a goal of traveling, writing articles and books, or doing art, I was setting goals. I set goals to spend time with someone I care about, take a time of rest, and  to run marathons..

And that changed everything. Goodbye drama, hello life and adventure!

Taking a look back at things I’ve reached for in my adult life, many times it was because I had a lot of hate and conflict swirling around (and within) me that I no longer wanted to be part of. I had to find a better way. I was desperate to recover my life to a place of more peace – less drama.

When conflict and chaos are abounding, at some point we have to get healthier and wiser, handling conflict differently than we used to.

I don’t always succeed, believe me I can throw-down with the best of them. I’m just not as likely to these days. And the result – life is much better than before.

Dealing with the feelings, that’s the most important thing.

Parallel to that, spend some extra time on goals and meditating on peace. Doing that in response to an attack of chaos furthers our lives and can even make us better for having experienced the toxicity.

It's all about how we respond.

Deal with the feelings BEFORE you deal with the drama – and I promise life will improve by leaps and bounds! Along with your sanity and health.

It all begins within. ✌️❤️

Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son’s Addiction, in 2016. Her story sheds light on the personal challenges facing the affected parents and family members, and illustrates how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie’s second book, Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache was published in August of 2018. She resides in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys writing, long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and visiting her son in California as often as possible.



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  1. Wow! Great reminder. Thanks for sharing your insight. Today I am feeling the chaos, no peace. I am confused and guilty about things I’ve said. As much as I tell myself to step away from my daughter and her drinking chaos, I always seem to want the last word. I did block her texts for an hour and told her before I did it. When I unblocked, I told her the next day. No communication from her. I’m not sure if she doesn’t want to speak with me or if she stopped drinking and went into hangover, and huge depression. I want to put it out of my own mind so I can get out of my own depression. Heading out to mow the lawn and sweat for an hour. Then I have responsibilities for the afternoon. I’m glad my schedule has distractions today. I tend to obsess.
    I am reading “Unhooked” as well. AIR is a huge part of my support system.

    1. Thank you for reading Unhooked and for the feedback. I truly understand the cycle, including the depression. I love that you took time to “sweat it out.” I did some of my best hiking and running during those times.

      Today is a fresh start and remember – you are not alone,