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...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Awakening

The grand thing about Al-Anon is that no matter how long we've been going to meetings and doing service work, we still have the opportunity to learn and grow. I had another spiritual awakening last week at my step study. We've been on Step 3 all month - not to mention all the other times I've studied Step 3 - but I heard something different last week: that I had only made the decision to make the decision to turn my will and my life over to the God of my understanding. I hadn't actually made the decision yet.

I realized that I had been able to give my alcoholic over to his Higher Power and my children over to the care of God as I understood Her/Him, but I had come to believe that God loves them more than I do. And because of that belief, I could trust God with their lives. The problem was that for a very long time I had not been able to trust God with my life. After all, if He/She had loved me, then my parents would have not abandoned me, I would not have met my alcoholic husband in church, and our first child would not have died.

However, something changed for me this last year. My sponsor wanted me to do Step 4 a different way, on my assets rather than my defects. It was like pulling teeth, she told me, as I struggled to find 10 things good about myself. However, after the better part of an afternoon, I had my list and it changed my life. Slowly, I began to realize that I was lovable and worthy of not just God's love, but my sponsor's love, my husband's love, my children's love, my granddaughter's love, my grandmother's love, and my Al-Anon family's love.

With God's help and my sponsor's, and all the wonderful people I meet in Al-Anon, I am learning to accept that love and be grateful for it. As such, a core belief about myself has been disengaged, maybe even removed - that if my parents didn't love me, no one would love me. That was a lie that I told myself, over and over again. Of course, depression came easily to me most of my life, and with it, thoughts of suicide. Yet I survived those thoughts and now know the truth - that I am loved.

And because I know I am loved, that God loves me more than I love myself, more than anyone else loves me, I've decided I can trust Him/Her with my life. I'm beginning to feel more love for others already, as well as the possibility that I may one day be able to say that I love the parents who abandoned me, which is a different realm than just feeling compassion for others. I am so grateful that the program is patient and after all this time, I've had another awakening.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Balancing Act

Several people commented after my last blog about depression and how recovery itself can also cause fatigue. This is true, and it is at those times that we need to take extra special care of ourselves. I remember when I was deep in the throws of my first real 4th step inventory that I let a lot of stuff go, such as housework and even physical exercise - things I had always made a priority. I needed so badly to get well spiritually that the physical had to take a back seat. (I felt even better about my doing this when I read in Alcoholics Anonymous on page 64 that "we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.")

So this approach seemed to work for me, even though now I do need to exercise in order to keep up my spirits. But that is different than being spiritually well. Spiritually well to me is not always feeling good. Instead, it is knowing that my emotions or how I feel physically don't need to rule my attitude and therefore my life. They simply help me know that something is going on and I need to use the tools of my program to take action, if necessary. And sometimes that action is rest, which I'm pretty much doing today, deciding when I woke up "not quite right" that I would not push myself as much as I have been.

But in this cultural, we are taught to be producers. I remember my youngest daughter coming home from high school during my worst clinical depression more than ten years ago. She asked me what I had accomplished that day, as if that would be a sign that I was better. Funny thing is that the times I was the most productive in my life have not necessarily been the healthiest. I often took up unnecessary projects or pushed myself too hard on household chores just to keep busy, to keep my mind off of what was really bothering me, which was my extreme unhappiness in my marriage to an alcoholic.

So when I stopped putting the physical first to clean out the cobwebs in my soul, to release my spirit and let it shine, I may have not been as productive as I used to be, but I was much happier and so were my children. Even today it is a balancing act, between taking care of the physical and spiritual, emotional and mental. I have to watch myself to make sure I'm not just being lazy when I decide I need a day off. I have to ask my Greater Power what she wants me to do every day. And today that answer seemed to be to rest, even though I had planned on going to the gym. My knee hurting and giving out while climbing the stairs was a real indication.

It is okay, I tell myself. I can go to the gym tomorrow instead. This will give me the chance to catch up with some reading and be more prepared for a writing class I'm starting tonight. Maybe, just maybe, I'll even take a nap which I usually don't do. It's okay. Sometimes the work we talk about in "working the steps" or "working our program" is not work at all, but learning to be comfortable with changing our behavior - for me, Just for Today, that is being flexible with my schedule when my body and mind need some extra rest. Thank you, God, for giving me the time.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

When I'm Tired...

I've been extra tired lately. At first, I thought it was the time change. Then I remembered that I was tired before the time change. Second, I thought is was traveling, but then I remembered that I wasn't excited about taking our two-week camping trip last month. Perhaps the real reason was that I was tired.

Am I still so out of touch with my needs that I couldn't figure that out then and do something about it rather than "suffer" for a month? Maybe it just takes a lot of years to overcome old behavior - thinking that being tired is normal when all of my life it was a symptom of depression.

So I "woke up" enough today to call my doctor and get some help. Maybe next time I'll "wake up" sooner and realize that I shouldn't feel tired when I'm getting enough sleep, not overdoing it, and otherwise taking care of myself. Maybe next time, I'll remember this time.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Having My Say Does Not Mean Having My Way

Yesterday on the road, I explained to my spouse why I often don't speak up for myself. It has to do with not getting my needs met most of my life, as well as the main people in my life being critical rather than nurturing. So he told me to speak up for myself.

But what happened next? When we got home and the house was not clean (at least not to my standards), I voiced my displeasure. I was criticized. Then when I told my daughter about my displeasure when she got home from work, I was criticized. I was told I was yelling when I wasn't. Certainly not compared to the way I used to yell.

In my opinion, I calmly told and showed my daughter what she could have done better. But to my spouse, I was going on and on when in fact it only took me about five minutes. Guess he's not ready to let me speak up for myself, at least not when he's tired and frustrated himself.

In the meantime, I'll continue to go elsewhere to get my needs met. As one of our pages in a daily reader says, I'll not go to the hardware store when I need a loaf of bread. What I really feel like doing today, though, is my old "fight or flight."

I need to remember that just because my spouse is sober, doesn't mean he's always going to behave. I can't expect that from him anymore than he should expect it from me. So today I will remember that he is still sick, have compassion for him, but not let him bully me. I will take care of myself and my needs today, as well as take care of my responsibilities around the house.

Certainly, if I could work my Al-Anon program for all those years when my spouse was drinking, I can get through this uncomfortable period while my spouse is sober. It is clear that drinking was not the problem, but the reason for the drinking which was and still is a "spiritual malady."

I have that, too, so today I will connect with my Greater Power and realize that having my say does not always mean having my way. I can still speak up for myself if I do it in a calm manner without criticizing others. I could have done better yesterday, but I'm not going to beat myself up today for not being perfect.

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