Picking Your Battles

Picking Your Battles

- February 9, 2022

Picking your battles implies letting go of instances in which you would usually feel slighted.  This may seem like you are sanctioning the particular behavior from the other.  This is far from the reality of picking your battles.  By ignoring the verbal exchange completely, you are using a behavior tool known as extinction.  This is one of the most effective ways to make a behavior die out.

Picking your battles lends credence to only engaging in battles that are a top priority with yourself.  Some people need to constantly be right.  They will risk life and limb to “prove” their point of view.  This causes great discord at times in what could have been a polite social interaction.  Addicts are known to try and sway others to their point of view no matter what the cost.  I have observed relationships of several years fall by the wayside due to someone choosing to battle the other and make their point clear.

What is not being said here is for you to become a doormat for others.  We are simply trying to learn what battles are important and let the small somewhat insignificant exchanges go the way of extinction.  At first, it may be difficult to let things go.  Remember that this is a learning and a practicing process that is not perfected overnight. Thoughtfulness, before we speak and respond to someone, takes patience and practice.  We learn to respond rather than to react to every comment or opinion we hear from the other.

An example of a battle I had to let go of ended a 25-year friendship in recovery.  I called my long-time friend of 25 years to wish her a happy AA birthday.  After some conversation, she interrupted me and stated that she was no longer 25 years sober.  She stated that she was sharing a bottle of wine with her husband in the evening to relax.  Needless to say, I was in shock.  This was a person who was very active in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.  She was the chairperson of her group and attended international conferences for AA.  She had helped numerous people achieve sobriety.  And now she is telling me that she has been drinking for nine months while conversing with me quite often.  My first thought was that it appeared she had been relaxing just fine for 25 years with no alcohol or drugs so why did she need this added substance to relax now?  I picked my battle and did not say this to her.  She went on and on justifying her decision to drink and use.  All I could say was that I cared about her and that if she ever needed help, I would be there for her.  I didn’t battle with her as to why she had been lying to me for nine months.

Needless to say, I was heartbroken to hear this information.  I wanted to yell and scream at her “why are you doing this for real?”  This person had been my best friend and confidant.  And now she was choosing what seemed like the drug over our 25-year friendship.  By picking my battle I was able to leave the door of communication open in case she called me for help.  Don’t get me wrong now.  My heart was still broken over this news and remains so to this day.  However, I picked my battle and left the door open to attempt to facilitate a good outcome, should she seek out my help at some point in the future.

So, learning to pick our battles can help us to have better relationships with others.  Not every little thing is important enough to risk anger and hurt feelings.  I value my friendships; they take time and energy to build.  There is a saying in 12 Step programs as follows:  Do you want to be right, or do you want to be sober?


Written by New Day Rehab Center