Al-Anon Lifer

Anonymous sharings from a long-time member of Al-Anon, which is a safe place to recover from the effects of alcoholism in a friend or relative...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The First Step

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."

I am back to step one today and have been for some time, although I've gone through the twelve steps of Al-Anon many times. It's not a bad thing to realize, once again, that I am powerless, not just over alcohol but people, places, and things.

Just for today, I am powerless over an alcoholic in my life. She is a dear friend and has been sober for over two decades, but that doesn't mean she is completely well. She is no more cured of her disease than I am of mine.

What is the alcoholic's disease besides the obvious? One defect of character many alcoholics share is self-importance. Al-Anons on the other hand feel "less than."

So what can happen when the alcoholic gets on her "high horse"? If I am not in an especially good place, for whatever reason, I can easily get "triggered" into feelings of not being good enough. I feel judged, even unloved, and want to either get angry or run away - the "fight or flight" syndrome.

But what Al-Anon has taught me is to not react, instead to reason it out with a trusted friend or my sponsor and, above all, pray. And to remember that I am powerless over the other person's behavior. For now, I can just accept that I'm aware of my feelings in response to another person.

What a concept: I don't have to "break up" with my friend or call them to have a long, drawn-out conversation about everything that has ever gone on between us and what they did or didn't do, blah, blah, blah (which would probably end the relationship).

I can remember that by thinking I can control another person or situation, my life becomes unmanageable. Thus, I need to stop trying to control others, which includes thinking I can control others. The only means I have to do that is to give it over to God.

One of the first slogans I learned in Al-Anon was "Let go and let God." It helped me in those early days when I was living with active alcoholism. It can help me today when I deal with sober alcoholics who aren't always as loving and giving a I think they should be.

The first step, just for today, means "let go and let God."

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Out of the Tornado

I haven't been here in a long time, writing elsewhere for a while. But I'm experiencing anxiety today, something that hasn't happened to me for a while. The cause isn't really what has been happening around me but that I let myself get caught up in the whirlwind again - someone else's drama and problems - trying to fix what is not mine to fix, to help when helping only hinders.

So I woke up this morning feeling used and abused, actually more like I have PTSD. I am suffering more than the person who took me on their little journey of freaking out and dumping it on me. They got on with their life today while I drug myself out of bed, barely able to function. My skin is on edge, crawling with pins and needles. Not even a hot bath helped.

I ate more at breakfast than I usually do and I still wasn't satisfied. I tried not to eat too much lunch, but I ate the wrong things. It might be tomorrow before I take good care of myself physically so I can feel better mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That's still better than how long it used to take before recovery. One day is nothing when I think about the weeks, months, even years I suffered from someone else's drama.

At least it isn't my drama anymore. At least I kept the conversations with the sick person short today. I didn't go out of my way to do for them, didn't offer to do more, didn't offer to give them money, didn't offer to put my life on hold so they could live their life instead of me living mine. Instead, I decided to write here as an exercise to let this go, to maybe help someone else know they will survive the tornado, but they have to get out of its way.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Gift of Silence

I'm not a very social animal so I still find silence in the presence of another person uncomfortable. I think I should say something or they should say something. But I have learned to be careful about what I say. I used to fill the void with pettiness or gossip, sprinkled with a lot of judgment.

I was reminded in a meeting this morning that silence is a tool I learned, a gift I can give myself and others. For example, when someone says something that makes me react with a strong feeling (in my head or heart), I don't have to say what I'm feeling. I can think about a response instead. I can take my time.

Or I can zip my mouth and say nothing. In this way, I have stopped many arguments before they took hold. I have also been able to keep family relationships intact rather than lose them, which I certainly would have had I kept on the path of destructiveness due to my vicious tongue.

This kind of silence is kind. It is not "giving the cold shoulder" which can be worse than just keeping quiet. It's not punishing someone for what I perceive to be an attack against me. To avoid this kind of silence, I can replace reacting with saying something neutral like "you may be right" or "that's an interesting way of looking at it."

However, I still have trouble coming up with a neutral statement when someone says or does something that I consider out of line. In this case, it is still best for me to say nothing at all. It keeps me from making the situation worse and possibly having to make amends later.

So now when I'm with someone, say driving in a car to an event, and the conversation has stalled, I can be grateful for the gift of silence. It's okay to not fill the airwaves with mindless chatter. If I'm really having a hard time with enjoying the silence, I can choose to turn on some music.

The point is that I have a choice. I'm not a victim of someone else's opinions or my own reactions to those. Thoughts and feelings come and go. They are not right or wrong. It's what we do with them that matters. Silence is one tool of many we receive in Al-Anon. For me, it has been golden.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Checking In With My Sponsor

I might have more than two decades of Al-Anon under my ever-expanding waistline, but that doesn't mean I can go it alone, especially around the holidays. I might have seven sponsees who come to me for advice and wisdom, but that doesn't mean I have it made, especially around the holidays. The holidays can be hard enough for normal people, but for those of us who grew up with alcoholism or untreated Al-Anon parents and then married alcoholics, well, we have an especially hard time. We don't have good memories to give us those great expectations, yet we still have great expectations. Then when things aren't turning out like we'd like, such as our own adult children not wanting to hang out with us or even each other, we are more than disappointed, we can become devastated. So when I was feeling badly about the the lack of a big, happy family Christmas, I knew I needed a shot of reality. It didn't matter that it snowed a foot today and the roads were bad, even treacherous. I needed to visit my sponsor face-to-face. She gives me the encouragement I need, the reminder of how much I have to be grateful for, such as grandchildren that I will see on Christmas. If it weren't for Al-Anon, I wouldn't get to see my grandchildren. If it weren't for my sponsor's unconditional love, I might not even be alive to know my grandchildren. And yet here I am, passing on that same unconditional love not only to my family the best way I know how now, but I get to pass it on to sponsees and to all of you. So happy holidays, everyone! May your new year be filled with meetings and your continual recovery in the Al-Anon program. If you haven't gone to a meeting yet, this is the perfect time of year to try one. You'll find you're not alone in your dealings with alcoholism. It might just be the best gift you can give yourself :-)

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Ah, Fall :-)

My flowers are blooming again with the cooler weather. The windows are open rather than the A/C being on. A few leaves on my shade tree are turning gold. I can move my office off the dining room table and back upstairs. I love it. I made it through another summer.

I also made it through some rough weeks there in August when my thoughts and emotions were riding the roller-coaster in my head. I have a new service position that requires a lot of paperwork but also a lot of contact with other people, which is the hard part for me.

I would contact someone and wonder what was wrong with me when they didn't get back to me. I'd lay awake at night worried I had said or done something wrong. Then I learned to pray for that person rather than worry about it and, voila, almost like magic, they would get back to me and even say something nice.

We also have a happy occasion coming up in our family, which is great but stressful. I found myself obsessing about that, too, even when the details are not up to me. I only have to take care of my part, which isn't putting out fires from circumstances and spats between my children. I found myself saying the Serenity Prayer to get to sleep.

Funny thing about asking for serenity - I get it. I'm able to let go of the craziness I feel and let the coolness of God's hand rest on my forehead. I made it through the hot summer again as well as some sticky situations. Just for today, life is good. 

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Long Time, No Blog

Has it really been over two months since I blogged here?  I guess I haven't had many issues to deal with this summer, or I haven't had any ah-ha moments. Actually, I did have one old issue to deal with, my own irritability. I'm over it now, but I found myself jumping back into old behavior for a couple of weeks in July. I wanted to blame it on the heat and humidity, but I have central A/C plus a car with good-working A/C, and we went camping in the mountains for part of that time, sooooo I could only blame myself.

Something had to be going on with me, or not going on with me as it turned out - I was forgetting to make "conscious contact" with my Greater Power in the morning and then throughout the day. I was relying on myself again for everything and then getting angry at others for not meeting my needs, not living up to my expectations. Does this sound familiar?  It is one of the symptoms of our shared disease - Al-Anonism. Because we had to do everything ourselves as children and/or as adults living with alcoholism, we continue to think we're alone in this world, even if we currently have a great support system and healthy family.

Although I've been in Al-Anon over two decades, I still stumble and fall. I always will. The difference is that now I can look at myself, call my sponsor for help, ask a good friend or two for advice, and make amends to myself and others I may have hurt along the way. I don't have to continue to suffer. I don't have to continue misbehaving. I have choices now. I always did, but before Al-Anon I didn't know I had choices. I just lived a reactive life. If I was irritable, I stayed irritable. Now I can change my thinking, change my mood, and change my life!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Remembering to Laugh!

I just had a great visit with an Al-Anon friend. After a couple of hours of sharing with a little bit of crying, I remembered something that has helped me in the past: to laugh at the crazy people in my life.

I remembered how much it helped to take this stance when my spouse was toward the end of his drinking days. Although quite intelligent, he would say the stupidest things in his denial. My daughter and I would laugh rather than get upset.

It not only worked to lighten the mood in the house, but I hadn't done anything for which I had to make amends.

And I felt better, too, because I can just take things way too seriously...