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, February 09, 2008

Spiraling Upward...

Recovery and progress in this program have often been described as a spiral, that we deal with the same issues over and over again, only on a different level. Many times, it seems like we're sprialing downward - you know, the one step forward, two steps back feeling. As we grow, however, by really working the steps, reasoning it out with others, attending meetings, and doing service work (vital, in my opinion), our spirals tend to go upward more than downward.

I had this type of growth spurt recently. Just a few blogs ago, I mentioned my blood father again. I had actually started this blog with the last time I was in contact with him. Since then I've been working on forgiving him for not only his past behavior but his current behavior towards me. Watching the movie The Savages last month brought it all to the forefront again. I saw these adult children who had been abused as children forgiving their father by taking care of him in his last days. It was moving considering they hadn't had much contact with him for years and years.

But that didn't mean that I had to take care of my blood father in his old age. As someone said to me early on in the program during a step study, you can forgive someone but that doesn't mean you have to take them to lunch. And as my current sponsor says, you can forgive someone without forgiving their actions. Also, you don't need to put yourself in harm's way if that person continues in their destructive behavior. Which my blood father has, continuing to abandon me over and over again while at the same time blaming my mother and me for his estrangement.

So what happened recently besides seeing the movie The Savages? I went to NYC last weekend and visited Ellis Island. It occured to me that I didn't know enough about my father's family to look up if any of them had come through Ellis Island. (I knew about both sides of my mother's family, that they had hit the states and the West around 1852.) When I got home, I found the genealogy book my father had given me in the 1990's about his father's family, and in it was a family tree with his mother's maiden name and her parents' names.

With that information, I went on the Ellis Island website and found three women who could have been my great-grandmother. Then I went on websites in Minnesota to find my great-grandparents' wedding certificate or my grandmother's birth certificate, to find out more about my great-grandparents. I didn't get anywhere, although I didn't make any phone calls to find out more. Instead, I decided that I might have to contact my father to find out more. Then I was reminded from the family tree that tomorrow is his 80th birthday.

Suddenly I felt like it was time for me again to try to contact him. After all, it was his 80th birthday, and his mother would be 100 next month were she still alive. Now I have been advised by both my sponsor and therapist to emotionally divorce my father, and I've been working on that for several years. So I called my sponsor who did not give me advice but told me to pray about it, determine my motives, and think about the consequences, if I could live with the outcome. I pleaded with her to tell me what to do and she said I already knew what to do.

I didn't, but I did know - and I told her so - that I do believe I had finally forgiven him. I had finally let go of that deep resentment that was my original resentment. I didn't really realize it until I said it, but it was true. My insides match my outsides now. I no longer have to fake it till I make it. I truly am serene about the whole situation. It is what it is. I have accepted it and moved on or upward into a different level of living, no longer pulled down by the past.

So after dinner, I started to write a letter to him about Ellis Island and wanting to know more about his mother's side of the family. I fully intended to say Happy 80th Birthday and all that, but just a few paragraphs into the letter I felt very strongly that I was wasting energy and time, and this wasn't in God's will for my life. That I could be open to having a relationship with him, but he would have to initiate it this time since he was the one who broke it the last time. I learned last year that I don't need to mend a relationship that I didn't break!

Even though I used to try, over and over and over again. And where did it get me but not serene. Yet here I am now, serene, although things don't appear right with my world, they are, because they are right in my heart, with my motives, with my God, and with the universe. Each of our stories is different. Each of us follows a different path in recovery. One friend may forgive her father and take care of him in his old age. Another may have to forgive her father after his death.

As for me and my heart, although I don't see or talk to my father, I have forgiven him and wish him a Happy 80th Birthday. He is, after all, a child of God and suffering from this family disease called alcoholism. And because of that, I can be compassionate, but I can also detach with love for myself, moving ever upward in the spiral of recovery.

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