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...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pausing to Ponder...

The poem in my first posting may never be read by its recipient. He doesn't know I'm in Al-Anon, and unless he responds to my latest invitation to see me when I'll be only 35 miles from his home next weekend, we will probably never meet again... This is one of those cases where we do what we can to make our amends, to make up for our shortcomings, but leave the results to our Higher Power... for we are powerless over the insidious disease of alcoholism and its behavior in other people. We can only change our own attitudes and consequent behaviors.

I have decided to share my story in this format, as anonoymously as possible, in order to pass on the Al-Anon program to anyone who has already discovered its rewards and anyone out there who is still suffering from having lived with the disease of alcoholism in a relative or friend. My plan is to share my program backwards, from where I am now to where I was, inserting what happened in the middle. This doesn't mean that I am completely recovered. Far from it. I have simply reached a mountain top this month where I believe I am finally letting go of the original resentment in my life - of my father for having abandoned me as a child and for continually abandoning me as an adult.

Many women out there have been damaged by their relationship with their father. If a little girl doesn't have a loving one, she is often prone to pick men who treat her the same way her father did or a man, she thinks, who will replace the loving father she did not have. I did just that. My pick was an alcoholic. We have been married many years, and I found Al-Anon a long time before he found Alcoholics Anonymous. My program helped me to be content whether the alcoholic was still drinking or not. But just as my spouse's drinking no longer made me miserable, his sobriety did not make me deliriously happy. In fact, the opposite seemed to happen. I truly realized that my happiness depended on my relationship with my Higher Power and my own behavior - my relationship with myself and how I treated other people through my thoughts and actions.

I came to understand that I still held deep resentments that were clogging my soul. In Al-Anon, we talk about peeling the onion - peeling off the layers of resentments we have built up against people who have harmed us, some significant, others a lot less so, everyone from the person who cut us off in traffic to that parent who failed to nurture us. I've been peeling my onion for years, working the 12 steps of the Al-Anon program and giving back to Al-Anon through volunteer work and helping others work the steps. But I never really got to the core of my onion until this year. Oh, I've gotten close before, but I immediately covered it up with new, fresh resentments in order to avoid the fumes with the potential to poison me for the rest of my life. This is called denial, and I was denying that my father abandoning me was a resentment I had not yet exorcised.

This spring and summer, the time had come. My body was beginning to feel the effects of this powerful resentment. It was as if I'd gone through rolfing to rid myself of the emotional pain and the result was the pain coming to the surface where I could actually feel it, yet it has yet to be released. Some days, I can hardly walk, my hips and knees hurt so much. I got some relief this summer, but only because I escaped into depression for a few months. Depression, for me, is not only anger turned inwards, but denial of the destructive nature of resentments - not harming the resentee, but the resenter. Depression for me is tuning out, wanting to escape, contemplating a way out of the misery that is my inner life.

But after getting help for the depression, when it lifted, the pain came back. And no medication or massage seemed to aleviate it. In fact, I am still suffering some as I write this, for this exercise is part of my releasing it to the universe, asking my Higher Power to take it from me. I am still wondering what the outcome will be of my reaching out to my father one last time. I stilll want to control the situation, or to react to it rather than respond to it. I still want to get angry, to lash out, to complain to others, to wail and bemoan my horrible childhood, to exaggerate the awful things my father has said and done to me. In other words, I still want to drown in the problem rather than swim in the solution. Why? Because it is familiar; it is what I have been doing since I was seven years old, since the day my father left.

Yet it is time. Time to let go of my original resentment. The resentment that turned me into an angry, hardened, I-can-do-it-by-myself, leave-me-alone, little girl who grew up to be the typical Al-Anon, bouncing back and forth between the extremes of burning bridges to building them with I'll-do-anything-for-you-just-don't-leave-me! I have just recently learned that I don't have to leave yet another job because everyone there isn't perfect, and I can't seem to be perfect there either. I can work through the problems by fixing myself and my behavior, with the help, of course and always, of my Higher Power. I don't have to participate in the gossip and griping. Neither do I have to be the victim of such. I can look at my own behavior, correct and make amends, if necessary, and then establish my boundaries. If someone crosses them, I let them know as graciously as possible.

I'm working through the same type of situation in a family relationship. These problems are helping me to be true to myself while not rejecting and condeming others. They are helping me to put into practice the principles we learn in the Al-Anon program by working the 12 steps. We sometimes call this awareness, acceptance, and action. I am in the action stage, at least in the aforementioned relationships and certainly in one of my oldest relationships, that with my father. Although I don't feel like I've taken much action since there is no response from him and therefore no interaction, which has been the case most of my life, beginning with the almost total lack of correspondence for 12 years, and no connection either by phone or in person during that time...

Yet I have taken action. I have sliced into the core of my onion and its poison is seeping out through my muscles, slowly but surely. It is almost gone. I can tell because it isn't as deep. It is more on the surface. Often, just the warm touch from my hand can relieve the pain. All I have to do is remember to touch where I hurt rather than feel the kind of self-pity that says, "This will always hurt, this will only get worse and worse, I am doomed to a life of pain..." I am not. I have learned that. I've lived with the chaos of alcoholism and learned to be content and even happy. I can certainly do the same with this original resentment. I only have to be willing to let my Higher Power take it from me. That doesn't mean it is instantaneous. It is too old and I've held it so deep inside me, that even a supernatural healing takes time and causes pain, like surgery of a deeply imbedded tumor which affects all the nerves and organs around it.

And feeling the pain of its release also serves to teach me to not take it back, ever. To right now know that once it is gone, I can finally begin to become the loving, kind, creative, humble, and authentic person I was meant to be - before I reacted so harshly to my father leaving. And my mother's hurt clouding her ability to be an emotionally available parent. But that is for another blog, another day. Today I am releasing by reaching out to any reader out there the seriousness of what can happen when we hang on to our resentments. They will kill us one way or another. I have a choice here. I can walk upright with no pain or I can hobble to a drugstore and buy myself a cane. My Higher Power and the Al-Anon program and all it offers can be my "crutch" or I can work my way towards needing a walker or wheelchair long before I am an old woman. I've seen it around me. I feel it happening to me. And I choose to not take that path.

I choose health - beginning with my spiritual health which helps heal the emotional, mental, and physical health. I chose this week to contact my father with an invitation to meet with me. We haven't seen each other since his mother's funeral, which I took the time to travel to to be with him and my brother and pay my respects to the grandmother I hardly knew... The last time we saw each other before that was eight years ago. My spouse and I stopped over for a few days on our way to another destination. My father told me that because our trip wasn't solely to visit him, our stopping over did not count. Yet he has not made any attempt to come visit me, my spouse, or my children, not in 13 years. Yes, he is a very sick man. He was damaged as a child, by an alcoholic, and has not received the gift of recovery that I have. Thus, it is up to me to make one more, for my sake, attempt to see him.

After this, I am through, unless by some miracle my father sees his part and makes his amends. I can no longer participate in this one-way relationship. My counselor has told me to consider emotional divorce. To stop sending birthday, Christmas, and Father's Day cards. After all, this father did not raise me. He even easily gave up his rights as a parent when my step-father adopted me. So I had a daddy of sorts, although not the real deal. He loved my mother, and so tolerated me. I was not an easy child to be around and for many years as an adult, I was hostile and unyielding, spewing out hateful words and blaming everyone but myself for my problems and lack of love in my life. Yet he never gave up on me and always left the door open, even visiting me and my children, his grandchildren, along with my mother, who also had every reason to reject me, unlike my blood father whose reason for rejecting me was his own guilt of falling in love with another woman and parenting her children....

So I've told you enough. I've typed enough this cool fall morning. I am so grateful it is fall, my favorite time of year. Even when there are so many painful anniversaries this month, I can be happy. Perhaps that is why my Higher Power has given me the desire and the tools through the Al-Anon program to take care of my core resentment this month, by attending a family wedding only 50 miles away from my father. I'm leaving it up to him whether or not to drive the 50 miles to see me. It is, at this point, his choice. The proverbial ball is in his court, once more. However, if he takes any cheap shots, as he often has in the past, I can leave the game. And it won't be as a sore loser. It will be as a healthy adult who is willing to play fairly but not put up with being bullied anymore. I'm suddenly feeling light. My hips no longer hurt like they did when I woke up this morning. This can only be a God-thing. Thank you for listening...

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


At Saturday, September 23, 2006 5:24:00 PM, Blogger Gwen said...

I am so happy you are with us. Thank you thank you thank you. ;)

At Saturday, September 23, 2006 5:59:00 PM, Blogger Nay said...

Glad to meet you. My blog has helped me so much in just "getting it off of my chest."

I internalize a lot of stuff and the words just seem to pour out when I write. Hope the same comfort for you.

Welcome to the new addiction of blogging.

At Monday, September 25, 2006 1:51:00 PM, Blogger Mary Christine said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. I hope you find blogging to be as wonderful as I have, and indeed many of us have. Welcome!

At Tuesday, September 26, 2006 9:01:00 AM, Blogger kel said...

Hi, and welcome. Your words are beautiful and inspiring.

At Sunday, January 07, 2007 12:14:00 AM, Blogger Jenni said...

Thank you for writing and sharing, since I’m a single parent, lately, I also get my inspiration, to my recovery journey from the web. Me too is a long time friend of Lois W and I also have an “emotional divorce” (good picture!) from my father. I can relate to many things you write.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home