Like red lights flashing on the dashboard, these are the signs that something’s not right. Things like:
- withdrawing from others
- changes in sleep/eating/spending patterns
- particular words or phrases: ‘I’m useless. Nothing matters. I’m in control. I can stop any time I like -’
- setting unrealistic goals or making overambitious plans
It’s tempting to ignore these. But instead of being bad news, they can actually be good. That’s because if you listen to them, they can sometimes stop you going into full-blown meltdown.
Of course, when you’re going downhill, you can’t always spot it. Which is why I’d recommend making a ‘red-light’ list and sharing it with some friends. That way, they can help you: and you can help them.
Because everyone has red lights. Not all of them lead to alcoholism or depression or bulimia or promiscuity … but that’s not the point. Friendship is not about comparing end points. It’s about setting down our masks. Allowing others to speak into our lives – and having the humility to listen. It feels terrifying: like we’ll be exposed and condemned. But in fact, when we share the scary stuff – it shrinks. What harms us is not letting others in: but trying to do battle alone. And some enemies – like shame and self-contempt can only be routed from outside.
In the light of true fellowship, something incredible happens. The obsessions and compulsions we feel powerless to resist…suddenly lose their power. Instead of hiding, we step out of the darkness. Instead of fighting alone, we allow ourselves to be carried. And the red lights that warn of impending disaster - become instead the markers that guide us home.