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...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Letting Go - the Miracle Cure for the Soul!

We're snowed-in here in the Denver area again, but not quite as bad as last week. Enough though that I've sort of lost track of time. There is no real schedule to keep and no place to really go, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

The thing is, even though I haven't actually been stuck in the snow for over a week, my mind has been stuck in a squirrel cage. I've been obsessing about work-related things that I have absolutely no control over.

So this morning I went to a conference-call open AA meeting. The topic was perfect for me. As I sat at my desk listening to the combined wisdom of about 15 people, I noticed a note under my "How important is it?" rock. It said:

"Letting Go - the Miracle Cure for the Soul!" Me, Sept. 1, 2006

Wow, I thought, here I am almost four months later still struggling with the same thing. Oh, I know I've given it over to my Higher Power, over and over again, but this week I completely forgot and took it back.

I'm an Al-Anon, but it's as if I was walking by a bar and without a thought just walked right in and ordered a drink. I took that bottle of resentment and followed it up with a dose of worry and fell off the stool of serenity.

I've "sobered-up" again and realized that I'm not in charge, no matter how much I try to be. Heck, I can't even get through the piles on my desk when I have nothing but time. Maybe that's good because maybe I would have thrown that note in a drawer somewhere and it wouldn't have been there for me when I needed it the most!

Well, if I don't get back to blogging this weekend, Happy New Year, Y'All!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When We Just Want to Help

When we so desperately want to help someone else but don't know what to do, chances are there isn't anything we can do. Oh, we can try. We can do all those things we were taught to do for others, even if we overdo in the process, but in the end we are hurting them as well as ourselves.

How are we hurting someone by helping them, you ask? Well, if we are doing for them what they can and should be doing for themselves, we are taking away their opportunity to be responsible and to grow. I'm not talking about niceties like baking someone cookies or giving someone flowers to cheer them up. I'm talking about big overtures.

For example, have you ever been asked to help move a friend and then when you got there ended up packing for them, too? A normal person, I believe, would have helped move the heavy items but if the boxes weren't ready to go, too bad. We codependents, however, will go to any length for people to like us.

Once I went to pick up a friend to give her a ride to the airport and not only was she not packed, she expected me to finish her laundry and pack for her. I had done a lot of favors for this person, so of course I "helped" her. Then because we were running late, she wanted me to park rather than just drop her off so she could repack and leave whatever she didn't want in my car. At that point, I woke up and said no.

After all, I had left a sick child at home and needed to take care of her. But what if I didn't have a sick child to go home to, what would I have done? Who knows. This "friend" who was childless told me that my child could take care of herself. At that point, I saw her for who she really was, a "user," and myself for who I really was, a "usee."

So not only was I hurting this woman by allowing her to use me, I was hurting myself by letting her use me. The best thing I ever did was to say "no." Yes, she stopped calling me and I lost a "friend," but I gained my self-respect in the process. Plus I've tried my hardest to not get entangled with such "needy" types since. Even if it means feeling lonely at times.

I've learned to take care of my needs first, unless there is an emergency and someone really, truly needs my help, and that includes a friend or newcomer who needs to talk. So when I'm having trouble obsessing about someone else and what I can do for them, I need to ask myself a few questions (some of which are repeats from my last blog) :

1) Have they asked? No, then stop. 2) Could or should they do it for themself? Yes, then stop. 3) What is my motivation? So they'll like me, then stop and THINK. It is best at this point to make sure you are really needed and that your motives are pure, that you are simply passing on a kind deed once done for you, for example. If instead you will feel resentful should you help someone, you need to take care of yourself first, even if that feels uncomfortable, even if you don't have an excuse. We learn in Al-Anon to say "no" without "because"...

From today's reading in Courage to Change:

Today's reminder
Being true to myself is one of the greatest gifts I can give to those around me. Perhaps I will inspire them to do the same; perhaps not. Why should others bother to follow my example if I can't take care of my own affairs? To give advice to others is to intrude; to give advice to myself is to grow.

"Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Back at it...

It's been a while since I blogged, but I have a few good excuses. One is that I've been sick so what energy I had went to the necessary rather than the extras like blogging. The other is that my grown son broke his leg and needed not only help with surgery but moving. I've learned in this program to do for others 1) when they ask and 2) when they can't do for themselves.

So it's been an interesting couple of weeks, to say the least. And now that I'm well and my son is back taking care of himself, I can't go anywhere because we're in the middle of a real live blizzard. Not the kind people think we get all the time here in the Rockies (because the media is in cahoots with the ski industry) but the kind that is dangerous, the kind you don't go out in without provisions in case you get stuck in a snowdrift.

What I've learned in all of this is it's amazing how relaxing life is when I don't spend half my day running around doing things I think are necessary. In reality, most of what I do isn't that important. It's just filler between the important things - eating, sleeping, friends, family, meetings, service work, and, oh, yes, work work...

I'm reminded of an AA speaker who said someone once asked him what he did for a living. His answer was "Oh, you mean what do I do for money, because what I do for a living is work my program." Amen to that, especially in this season of the almighty dollar. May you be blessed with just the necessities with some friends and family thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Home Messy Home

I'm usually the type who gets everything in order around me, especially in my home, but circumstances have prevented that this last week. Too much has been going on and things have just piled up... like the Halloween decorations...

When we got home from our trip, most of the neighbors had their Christmas decorations up. Granted, half of them get it done professionally, so they don't count. Our house stood out like the black sheep of the neighborhood with the big scarecrows and ghosts and rotting pumpkins on the front porch. But it was still cold and just not important to bring it all in. My ideal was to pack it downstairs and bring up the Christmas decorations at the same time. However, our daughter was and still is moving out of the basement, so that process just wasn't practical.

I found it almost humorous that it got to my husband first, the shame of having spooks in our yard when the neighbors had their PEACE, HOPE, JOY, and LOVE signs up. No kidding, we have neighbors who have these huge signs they put on their decks every year as if they signed an agreement with each other, even when the owners of the houses change. It is lovely. We can see them from our upstairs window and anyone driving the busy street adjoining our neighborhood can enjoy them...

Anyway, Hubby went outside in the cold and collected the obvious, hanging Halloween decorations. I waited until it got warm again to go out and collect the rest. But I didn't pack them away. Instead, they are piled up in the house. Now we have that pile along with a few turkeys, pumpkins, and fall leaves lurking in the dining room, family room, and kitchen, as well as a bare Christmas tree that Hubby managed to get up between football games on Sunday. I went shopping with our daughter for her new place and got new stockings for the mantel, for Hubby and me. I've decided not to put the kids' stockings up since they're grown and gone.

Needless to say, our house is full of mixed messages with a few Christmas decorations up, a pointsetta that Hubby bought me, and piles of Halloween decorations with other reminders of the fall and Thanksgiving season all over the house. But the outside, at least, looks like Christmas with white, pristine snow still gleaming in the sun and moonlight in our front yard. It reminds me of all the times I made sure that everything looked great on the outside to the rest of the world when inside our house was rotten and messy. Oh, not to anyone who per chance would get inside, because I made sure that looked good, too.

I'm talking about the disease of alcoholism and its effects... you know, the secrets, the screaming, the door slamming, the deafening silence, the crying, the scared children, the absent father... As I look around my house right now, I'm thinking how this represents what it used to be like - the facade on the outside with the mess on the inside. But it isn't what it is really like spiritually. My home may look chaotic right now, but it doesn't feel chaotic. It is not out of control, it is just temporary circumstances keeping me from cleaning it up. That's all.

And the big difference is that I wouldn't be embarrassed if anyone came calling today. I wouldn't apologize for the mess. I'd let them in, offer them a cup of tea, and rummage through the pantry for some store-bought cookies. It would be just fine and they would feel at home. I'm learning to feel at home in whatever my circumstances are, just like I learned to be content whether the alcoholic was drinking or not. I can be at peace inside when all around me is the opposite. It is okay and it is just for today.

Thank you, Higher Power, for my home, my Hubby, my program, my children, my dog, my sponsor, my service sponsor, my grandma, my mother-in-law, my sponsees, my Al-Anon and AA friends, my meetings, my fireplace, the warm winter sun, my TiVO, my chiropractor, my massage therapist, and so much more. I am truly a grateful member of the worldwide fellowship of Al-Anon. I'd rather have a messy home with a serene spirit than a perfectly organized home covering up chaos any time of the year. And that's the truth :-)