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...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Really Scares Me...

Happy Halloween, everybody out there in Blogland!

You know what really scares me, except for the fact that my Higher Power is willing and able and does take away all my fears, is that this family disease of alcoholism goes on and on and on...

Our family is experiencing some fallout now, even though we have made our amends and changed our behavior, and it is scary how destructive it is. But we must continue to trust our Higher Power that all will work for good!!

May the spirit of this season remind us all that we are spiritual beings living in physical bodies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Core Beliefs Can Kill

I know I've been told this before, but I've only started to really hear it lately - that I am lovable and worthy of love, that I am not "bad" but "good," that I am not just a child of God but the "apple" of God's eye...

How can this be? I ask. One parent abandoned me and the other told me all the time that no one would ever love me, that I was ugly and mean, that I was just like the parent who left...

When you hear a recording over and over, you begin to believe it. Even when you know it isn't true, you believe it. Especially when the person saying it is your prime caretaker, your only caretaker...

Then when you're old enough and you get to be on your own, the world is a scary place. So you seek out people, places, and things that remind you of home - especially people who remind you all the time that you are not worthy, not lovable, and the rotten apple...

By the grace of God, somehow, I found my way into the rooms of Al-Anon. The first message I heard was that I didn't have to control others the way I had been controlled. After that, I spent the majority of my time looking at what I had done wrong and making my amends.

Now it is time to look at what I have done right, and to make amends to myself. For too long, I let the lie I was told be my truth. I've always compared myself to the alcoholic, thinking that I was much sicker, thinking that he is a great guy and I have no idea why he is with me...

But within the last two days, I heard a friend tell me that I am lovable, I heard another Al-Anon member greet me at my meeting with "Hi, Sweetie!" and I heard my niece and great-niece tell me that they love me. More importantly, I believed them!

I believed them! They have no reason to lie. I have nothing to offer them besides love back. Until now, this week, I've always suspected people who say they love me because my first experience hearing those words was from my parents...

My parents, who have never loved me, not even to the best of their ability. Some people just can't love. They are that sick. The kind of sick that is not fixable. There are such people. Even the Big Book speaks of those who can not be honest with themselves.

I am grateful that even though I thought I could never recover, never become lovable, and never love in return, I have a Higher Power who has gently, with the help of my sponsors, friends, and professionals, begun to erase, no, to eradicate this core belief - to kill it before it kills me.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It Snowed Again...

Normally, snow in the morning makes me happy. But I've been just grouchy enough lately that it made no difference. I immediately got into all the crap I have to do today, things that, of course, I've put on my to-do list all by myself.

I wanted so badly to get it all done before the weekend, but that didn't happen. I used to have so much more energy, although perhaps I took no time out to enjoy life and used chores to get through my anger, or hide my anger, or express my anger.

So I'm taking a break. Ate some dark chocolate which is supposed to be good for me and visited some other blogs. Almost as good as a meeting, well, an open A.A. meeting. Where are all the Al-Anons in blogland? I feel so alone. AA's seem to have so much fun, no matter what they're doing.

I wish I weren't so tired. Maybe I could have some fun, too, but today, just for today, I need to get a grip on "how important is it?" As my sponsor would ask me, "What is your motivation?" Hmmm.... indeed, what is my motivation? I think I'll ask hubby if he wants to go to a movie later...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Doing the Footwork

I feel like I've already written on this subject, but it is appropriate for me this week and at this stage in my life/recovery to cover it again. I'm at crossroads in three areas of my life: my program, my work, and my physical health. In all three, there is not only change but choice.

In my program, I have come to the end of yet another service term. So do I take another position and take a break from "formal" service work? My HP will let me know. I know after doing some footwork last night that I don't want to keep doing what I'm doing. So glad we rotate out of positions in the program.

In my work, I have decided to stop working more than one part-time job and stick to what I like and am best suited to do. I am in a place right now that allows me to do just that, except there are still choices within my chosen profession. Again, I can trust my HP to guide me by opening doors or closing doors. Again, I have been doing the footwork by knocking on doors.

I've got to say that I find this very uncomfortable, especially at my age. I should have been comfortable in my career a long time ago, except I was a late bloomer for many reasons, one of which was how the disease of alcoholism affected me. But that is for another blog...

Finally, concerning my physical health, I have decided to get back into shape for the best reasons of all, to feel good and prevent health problems as I age. Yes, vanity is still a small part of it, but if that were my motivation, I would have been going to the gym all along. So the footwork this time has been to hire a personal trainer who holds me accountable, much like a sponsor, and gets me to the gym.

It is more than the money I've forked out. It is the person who is going to call me if I don't show up and also the person who encourages me because I do. I'm already getting stronger after only two weeks. I trusted my HP to help me find a personal trainer that fit both my budget and my style. I didn't want a fanatic body-builder or a skinny young thing. So far, so good.

And spending the money on a personal trainer, just when I'm working less, how did I justify that? Well, it is costing me less than I was spending on massages and chiropractors and pain killers just to help relieve me of the pain I was experiencing because I was out of shape. I saw my mother a couple of weeks ago and in her seventies, she is bent over with a cane. No thanks, not if this is something I can control.

I am not completely powerless. I have to do the footwork, and leave the results up to my HP.

Speaking of which, TGIF! Have a good weekend out there in blogland!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Seen on a Church Marquee...

Know God, Know Peace.
No God, No Peace.

I drove by this twice today before "getting it" - let's face it, I think a lot slower than I drive... and it takes me a lot longer to learn simple lessons such as my HP is my source of serenity.

I didn't feel very serene today until I got up off my duff and started doing what I knew my HP wanted me to do, what was right in front of me. My problem is that I still think God's will should be dramatic or worldly-important, when sometimes it is just to enjoy life and take care of business...

Peace be to all of you out there in blog-land. I hope you're enjoying fall as much as I am. I hear we may have snow!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Short Power Outage

I was sitting in my green "meditation" chair this morning doing what I often do, thinking and analyzing yesterday's or last night's events. You know - what did that person mean by that or what could I have done better, blah, blah, blah. In other words - stinking thinking! When all of a sudden, there were these strange sounds in the house, when I was sure I was alone. They were similar to the scratching of a phonograph record (now I'm aging myself!) combined with electronic beeps such as from my answering machine and cell phone, only much louder.

They only lasted a few seconds, but I had to get up from the comfort of my easy chair and determine who or what was causing all the noise. I went to the kitchen/family room area and the sound system from the TV boomed on. I muted it and then realized all the noise had been caused by a short power outage. Yep, all the digital clocks in my life were blinking. But honest, I had never heard so much chaos when this had happened before.

Then I realized that the chaos in my head this morning was very similar - I was just experiencing a short Higher Power outage. I had forgotten to get in touch with my HP first thing, so my thoughts were racing, negative, and unproductive towards my serenity and asking for and doing God's will, just for today. So immediately, I sat down, opened my books, read my readings, wrote in my journal, and got connected to the electricity that is my lifeline.

Sure, now I have to go around the house and set all the clocks, but as I do, I will be reminded that it is like doing the footwork, doing the best next thing that is right in front of me, rather than dwelling on the past, which I can not control, and the future, which is way out of my reach. Sure, I can learn from past errors, but I should never get into the motivations of others or try to figure out the meaning of their words - exaggerating things to make myself out to be the victim. Neither should I dwell on the future - that just gets me into fear of the unknown.

Thank you, God, for the reminder this morning that I should plug into you first thing every morning, even before I get out of bed. Amen!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Speaking Your Truth...

My spouse and I were invited to speak at a relationship workshop this last weekend. I thought it funny, as I posted before, that I was having so much trouble with relationships in my family and at work prior to this engagement. What I realized on Friday, though, was that I had stuck it out in my marital relationship for a very long time, even though my spouse did not find A.A. until recently. So I could speak to a fairly good relationship with a significant other.

Because my spouse always likes to be early to events and likes socializing, we arrived in the middle of the morning's session. The group was listening to a tape of a therapist. His message seemed to be about getting out of an unhealthy relationship in a healthy manner. He suggested practicing getting out by having three short relationships in a row before finding a significant relationship. My thought, immediately, was about the unsuspecting targets/subjects of this learning process. What about their feelings and needs?

And because this program workshop was using tons of outside literature, I realized why we had been asked to speak. Both of us tend to rely heavily on our program literature for the majority of our recovery process. I don't tote literature around but my spouse always has his Big Book with him, it seems. However, this day, I had decided to use Al-Anon literature for props for my talk. I even stopped on the way to buy a book at a group meeting because I had either misplaced it or given it to someone.

The three books I chose to represent the three stages of our marriage were: "The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage" (how our marriage was before I got into Al-Anon), "When I Got Busy I Got Better" (what happened in my life so I could become content whether the alcoholic was still drinking or not), and "Living With Sobriety" (how our marriage is now). I read a little from the first book to emphasize that in Al-Anon we don't give advice about leaving or staying. My story is that my HP told me to stay, and I'm glad that I did, even though at times I was very angry about having to stay.

What both my spouse and I emphasized in our separate stories was that the most important basis for a good relationship is to first have a relationship with God, then a relationship with oneself - to be Honest, Open, and Willing. That is HOW I learned to forgive and live with myself and others. Of course, I am still learning, but that is the journey - one now that looks much brighter since I have this new intimacy with my spouse because he shares the program with me. I used to be alone on this road, except for my HP, sponsors, and Al-Anon friends, so this feels much better, at least now that I'm getting used to it.

Anyway, we spoke our truth, even though we felt it was the unpopular opinion to stick it out for the long haul in a marriage. I guess we were old-fashioned or just plain stubborn, or maybe we just took our vows seriously rather than running away at the first sign of discomfort. Because I come from a long line of divorce (my great-grandparents got divorced in the 1910's!) I was pretty much determined to not get divorced, to show my parents that they were wrong about us. Of course, my marriage hasn't worked because I've worked it as much as God has protected and taken care of me and given me tools to be happy, joyous, and free no matter what.

So even though we saw glum faces rather than the normal smiles and nods as we spoke, we knew it was important to stand up for the AA and Al-Anon program as a way to recovery, not as a way to do what feels good at the time. It is a means to serve others, including those in your family who may not be receptive or reciprocal. It means doing God's will even if it isn't what you want. After all, doing what you want has often gotten you into trouble.

I'm finding more and more that when I ask God for his will for me, just for today, and then the power to carry that out, it happens. Even when I'm not in the mood. Like this weekend, when I wanted to run rather than carry the message. And then afterward I worried that I didn't say the right thing the right way, only to be reminded by my spouse that we needed to leave the results to God. We had done the footwork. If there was only one person who heard our message, who was thinking of leaving a relationship based on feelings rather than God's will, then we will have carried the message. And that is what it's all about...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Serenity, Just for Today

It occurred to me this morning that I hadn't blogged in a couple of days. Just like I haven't journalled. Although I have done my morning readings and prayer and meditation. It also occurred to me that I am blogging for a reason - to share my experience, strength, and hope. I am not blogging to simply share my pain, so I should blog whether I'm in a crisis or not.

Likewise, I go to meetings whether I am stuck in a problem or living in the solution. I should never forget to pass on this program of recovery to those still suffering and to others who may be in a crisis mode. So here I am, even though I had a good day yesterday and am looking forward to a day at an Al-Anon workshop today. I began yesterday with a nice long visit with my sponsor. She has become like an older sister, which I don't have in my "real" life.

I then got back to exercising at the recreation center that for some reason I like. I don't know if it's because it is new or that when I'm there, I don't have to talk to anybody if I don't want to. I've been to other facilities where one of the jobs of the employees is to engage you in conversation, whether you want to talk or not. I realize they are trying to make exercise fun, but I'm an introvert and usually want to be left alone. If I want to visit with someone, I will call someone to get together for coffee.

This doesn't mean I'm not available for friends, family, and potential and current Al-Anon members should they reach out to me. It simply means that I not only need my time alone to regenerate my spiritual connection with my Higher Power but my physical and mental energy as well. My HP gave me such time last Sunday when I got the gift of the motel pool all to myself for a good hour of soothing music and beautiful flowers.

Without that time, who knows how I would have reacted and acted at the wedding later that day. Rather than just spewing angry words at my sister afterwards, I might have made a public scene hurting more people and ruining an otherwise lovely wedding. Look at the bright side, both my therapist and sponsor have told me, you got things out in the open with your sister (something your family just doesn't do) and made your amends. At least you know how she feels, and she knows how you feel. Perhaps the relationship will flourish now.

Ah, but I'm talking about my crisis of the week when I am not in crisis. I am in serenity thanks to the tools of the Al-Anon program. The greatest of which is learning to forgive myself just as my HP and others have forgiven me. I haven't forgiven my unacceptable behavior, though. That is like condoning it. I have simply forgiven the imperfect, hurting, recovering human being that I am. I will never have it made, and so I work my steps, stay in service, go to meetings, and just for today, blog... Blessings to all of you out there!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Survival of the Fittest...

I think my dog's teeth are bothering her again. She had 15 of them removed last spring when I took her in for a cleaning. It was not due to my lack of brushing her teeth, but to bone loss in her jaw. She is only 5 years old, so it was quite disturbing, not to mention expensive. Now she's beginning to act the same way she did before that happened. She's having more trouble chewing her favorite treat and her breath is bad. But she hasn't shown signs of less energy yet. I've tried to determine if she has more loose teeth, but I can barely hold onto her little jaw.

So I guess it's time to take her to the vet, the same vet who told me something I didn't know about dogs. "Dogs," she said, "tend to not complain or act like they are hurting or sick. It's because they are still ruled by their natural instincts, one of which is 'survival of the fittest.' " So unlike people, I thought, who have developed a system of taking care of the sick and hurting, although it is not perfect, pets will continue to pretend that they are okay even when their owners will spend hundreds of dollars on them to prevent or cure their pets' ailments.

I remembered this yesterday when thinking about the confrontation I had with my sister last weekend. I always wondered why she and my other step-sister never spoke up for themselves or rebelled or ran away from an unacceptable homelife, when I spoke up and rebelled maybe too much, leaving home as soon as I could. "The squeaky wheel gets oiled," my mother would say later, thanking me for at least letting her know how I felt...

It suddenly made sense to me. My sisters had already lost their mother to cancer. They were too young to know that their mother had not abandoned them but old enough to think that she had. They were in the "survival of the fittest" mode. They had to pretend, even deny, that they were hurting when my mother would lash out at them or, worse, ignore them. They did not want to be abandoned again. I was older. I knew my father had abandoned me and I was angry at the one person who was there for me - my mother.

It became clear to me why my sisters and I had reacted differently to the same situation, and it wasn't just because we had different parents or personalities. My sisters are very different from each other, yet they are still non-reactive most of the time, rarely speaking up for themselves, and when they do it is like a geyser or volcano, depending on how much time has gone by since they last erupted. One sister erupts almost daily when I'm around her. The one I had the confrontation with seldom erupts. In fact, I don't ever recall her getting as angry, if that's what one can call it, as she did this last weekend.

Of course, whether she has truly forgiven me or not, she has crawled back into her shell of self-protection. She dare not speak her mind with me anymore for fear of rejection. Being a single woman, her family, as dysfunctional as it is, is all she has besides her church and work friends, which we all know from experience aren't always there for us when we really need them. So naturally, she will pretend and even deny that she is still angry with me. I know I'd still be angry with me. Heck, I am still angry with me. I'm feeling a bit depressed - anger turned inwards...

God, I pray for my sister's higher good, her healing from childhood hurts, and happiness. I thank you for the Al-Anon program and its tools so that I may move forward rather than backward. That I can forgive myself even as you have forgiven me. I ask for the knowledge of your will for me today, and the power to carry that out. Help me to crawl out of my shell and "fake it 'til I make it" just for today. Help me do the next best thing, what is right in front of me. One thing at a time. One day at a time. Thank you for the golden leaves, although fleeting. Thank you for my life and the blessing of family and friends, even if they are not as many or as close as I'd like. I pray for true humility, that I may better serve you and others. Amen.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

God's Sense of Humor

Or is it His timing? I was asked several months ago to speak at a relationship workshop this weekend. I said YES because we say yes to service work, even though at the time I was just coming out of a major depression triggered by a dear relative's death. I don't just grieve like a normal person. I am an Al-Anon, after all, so I over-react to a lot of things, even after years in the program.

Anyway, since then, I have had to deal with major issues in relationships at home, at work, and with extended family. To think that I have any words of wisdom about relationships is absurd. But my Higher Power obviously thinks I do since someone in the program recommended me as a speaker. I am to tell my story with my marital relationship as the focus, so I've decided today to keep it simple. I'll tell how it was, what happened, and what it is like now. I'm going to use Al-Anon literature for props because I have followed the guidelines in them, to the best of my ability, in order to remain on this wonderful path of recovery from the effects of alcoholism in my life.

Thank you, God, that even though I've had a major meltdown just this week, I can still pass on what I have learned to others. It is in our imperfection, after all, that we come together for our common welfare. If we were just a bunch of perfect people getting together to pat each other on the back, we wouldn't be very effective for we would be still be in denial and dishonesty. Have a blessed day, everyone!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Where There's Smoke...

So just when you think everything's okay and you're on the right path, someone tells you different. Such happened the same evening of my last post, the day I had that lovely time alone in a motel swimming pool (if that isn't an oxymoronic statement, I don't know what is).

Anyway, my sister and I were driving home from the wedding reception sans my daughter who we left behind to dance with "the kids." It was dark and we get lost. My sister tries to navigate but I'm not able to hear what she's saying (she always mumbles) and she has the light on in the car to look at the teeny map we have, which is just making it harder for me to see, plus there are weirdos in the area of town we have found ourselves (no pun intended). So I tell her as nicely as I can to please turn off the light and look for highway and street signs.

SILENCE. I can hardly stand it. It is so passively pouty aggressive...

Suddenly, I almost hit one of the weirdos who is taking his unaware time crossing the street in front of me. I slam on my brakes and my sister screams (she's done this to me before) and asks in a shaky voice, louder than her usual mumble, "Are the doors locked?" I can't stand it. I pull over the first chance I get and tell her that yes, the doors are locked, and I had to slam on the brakes to not hit that guy, and if she doesn't like my driving, which I've been doing all weekend, she can get out. Not a nice thing to say at all, I'm the first to admit it.

But I don't admit it until we have fought, or at least discussed life and all the things in our lives the other sister should feel bad about, for a half hour while driving around looking for one familiar highway or street sign. I say some pretty rotten things, or at least they sound rotten because I'm screaming them, something this sister never does, at least not with words. She finally gets through to me, enough for me to stop and listen while driving (listen and drive?) and tells me her latest tale of woe while we remain lost for another half hour.

I am calm, even if I'm not serene, never once asking my HP for help (although I have accused my sister of not using her HP when she is sore afraid earlier) when we stumble across the street we know leads away from the highway we want, so we find a parallel street that leads to said highway and lo and behold, there it is. I would call it a miracle or a God-send, but it was just that we had hit every other street in town already. This wasn't a giant city, just a mid-size one. The kind you think you'll never get lost in so you don't prepare. You forget to go to the AAA office and get a free map, only printing out little maps off the Internet with specific directions to your destination, forgetting that maybe you should have directions from your destination.

Anyway, we spend another hour back at the motel making up and hugging, and though the words will leave scars for years, we are closer for it. I found out that she didn't want to travel with me or rent a car with me or stay in a motel room with me. Even though she thanked me for making the plans and didn't say NO when I asked her if she wanted to do all of the above. However, she didn't say YES either. She just accepted and went along with my plans. So she was at fault there, not speaking her mind, afraid (once again) of something, I don't know. Maybe my screaming at her, you think?

Well, what is done is done. I've made my direct amends. Now come the living ones. I called her this morning to see how she was, something I just don't do. I don't like the phone. If I make contact at all it is with email or a greeting card. Yes, I bought her a greeting card, too, to send sometime later this week, so it isn't too obvious that I am groveling for her forgiveness. My therapist tells me not to be too hard on myself, and certainly not to do what the alcoholic used to do when he did the same to me - buy me flowers or a lobster dinner. Point taken.

The best thing I can do is to NEVER AGAIN take my frustrations and feelings of rejection (this time by "the parent I hardly knew" and the new manager at work) on my sweet sister, who herself was terribly damaged in her childhood. My mother was/is her step-mother, and she was/is very much like Cinderella's step-mother, only she treated her own daughter, me, more like Cinderella and my two step-sisters like the rats before they became the coachmen. Throwing them crumbs and slapping them should they complain or even speak. We had/have a baby sister who got to/gets to go to the balls and supposedly married "prince charming," although I'll take my alcoholic (even before he was sober) over this guy anytime.

Well, enough. I'm still feeling disgusted with myself, being in that Al-Anon hangover stage. This too shall pass, but I must, if I have any kind of decency, go through a grieving period of guilt so I will have the grave resolve to continue my step-work. I went to my home group this morning and they loved me even after my confession. My sister loves me, too, although I'm not sure if she wants to ever see me again. I wouldn't blame her. I get tired of her character defects, too. But this blogging stuff is helping. And hopefully it helps anyone out there reading it realize that those of us in recovery are just that, in recovery. It's "progress not perfection!"

Sunday, October 01, 2006

On the Lighter Side

So when I was packing for the wedding I'm going to this afternoon, I didn't want to try to get my whole makeup bag through security at the airport, so I looked for a few small items I would need should my luggage get lost. Then I remembered the last time my luggage got lost. It was in Paris last fall. I was joining my husband on a business trip. (Gotta say here that his getting sober last year sure has added new oppportunities to my life and dimensions to our marriage!) Anyway, Air France gave me an overnight kit which included a T-shirt and all the essentials for hygiene. However. when I was going through it to eliminate items like aftershave, I found something I hadn't seen in a long time. It took me a few seconds to recognize it. A condom!! Only in France, I thought, or certainly never in the United States, would an airline consider a condom for an emergency overnight kit :-) :-) :-)

P.S. I'm having a very good time with my family this weekend. I got to spend most of this morning alone, though, swimming in a lovely pool listening to soft music and looking at flowers. Then I had a nice long soak in the hot tub. For some reason, the pain came back to my hip and leg this morning. Actually, the reason is that I was telling my sisters (step but legal - we're all adopted) about my father not wanting to see me. I was on the verge of dredging up (shouldn't this stuff be out in the universe by now?) why, or why I think, he is angry with me. Fortunately, my HP saved me because my full-brother, who lives close to our father and has a completely different relationship with him, although not emotionally attached, walked in. Thank you, God, once again!! Well, it's time for me to go squeeze into a girdle and nylons. So glad I'm losing weight so the next time I get dressed up won't be so uncomfortable. Blessings to all of you!! God is good!!