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, April 18, 2008

Really Letting Go

There are levels of letting go. I've recently let go of my blood father even more, meaning I've forgiven him more. How can this be? You either forgive someone or you don't, right? Well, you begin to forgive someone when you make a decision to do so, but forgiveness takes time. It takes practice. It is not a one-time event.

Recently, with more compassion for myself, realizing that God truly loves and cares for me, unlike my parents did, I made the decision to give my life and will over to God. Really making this decision took a lot of trust, something I lacked because of my childhood, because I married an alcoholic.

Really knowing that God forgives and loves me has helped me to understand that he/she also forgives and loves my blood father. He, like me, was a tortured soul. Since I haven't seen him in almost a decade nor talked to him in almost two years, I do not truly know what's going on with him now. I am only assuming that he is still suffering the way I used to suffer.

I previously conceived compassion for him because he was kicked out of his home at the age of 14 by his alcoholic step-father. But that only made me wonder more why he was able to turn his back on me as a child. Didn't he know how important it was for a child to know his/her father? His father had died when he was the same age I was when he left me. Maybe he was just repeating history...

So I fast-forwarded to a different time in his life, when he hadn't seen me or talked to me for six years, when my step-father had filed to adopt me. That must have hurt him deeply. He did hire a lawyer, but he had no chance since the judge was a personal friend of my new dad's family in a small town where who you knew and who you were were everything. So he didn't show up at the hearing himself.

He told me one of the last times we talked that he had receipts for the child support checks he sent me. So why didn't he present those as evidence at my adoption hearing to prove that he hadn't abandoned me? I don't know the answer. My mother is not known for telling the truth. I was told my father did not write to me, did not send me money. He says he did. How awful that must have been for him to not hear back from me, to know nothing about me.

And even though I wonder why he didn't try harder, why he didn't show up on my doorstep and demand to see me, why he didn't show up at that adoption hearing, I can only imagine how much pain he was in to have lost me and my older brother, even if it was due to his own behavior. I know he hurt because every time I've seen him since then, since meeting him when I was grown, he has cried when we part.

So he must still be hurting at the age of 80 because even though he sees my brother regularly he hasn't seen or talked to me in a very long time. That, of course, is mostly his doing again. He turned down an invitation to have breakfast with me when I was close to his home for a wedding. That was his choice, but it must still hurt. I, of course, wasn't hurt. I was more relieved because, honestly, I don't like him. No one likes someone who feels sorry for themselves and can't own up to their own faults.

But I can feel for him even though I don't like him. I can look into his tormented mind and heart and realize that he may die never seeing his daughter again. And I can truly forgive him, letting go once and for all the core resentment I held against him for changing my life forever by running off with my mother's best friend, his business partner's wife. That was a very, very long time ago.

And now that I have grown children myself, I know that parents are never perfect. I just received a phone call from my oldest who just wanted to chat. I can't imagine calling my blood father to do that. How sad for him. How sad for me. But I can still forgive him the way my children have forgiven me, even though I've made my amends and he never has. I can still let him go, realizing that he hurts, deeply, and may never get out of that pit.

I thank God that I've gotten out of the pit of self-inflicted guilt and self-pity and that when I'm drawn like a pin to a magnet to that deep hole, I have the program tools to keep me above ground - the most powerful being forgiveness, especially when the offender is neither repentant nor present. To pardon is to pardon oneself, too, for we have all been imperfect. So I am finally free, or at least more so than I was last week and certainly most of my life.

Monday, April 07, 2008


So here's a new acronym I came up with during a meeting on Step 4 yesterday:





I got these from someone sharing about what they write about during a personal inventory. These are the things we need to get rid of to uncover our assets (except behaviors can be good as can attitudes!), thus B.A.R.F.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Step 4: Just Do It

I went to a good meeting today on Step 4. We read the chapter in Paths to Recovery and it contained many methods to taking one's moral inventory, making it a bit overwhelming. But there was one line I really liked from an Alateen sponsor: "Keep It Simple!"

It occurred to me that we in Al-Anon spend an awful lot of time on Step 4, often years, when it is really just one of the twelve steps. In that way, we seem to make it more important than the other eleven steps. And because we think it is soooo important, we get stuck on it, thinking it is tooooooo hard and we'll never be able to get it done.

There are those who go way back to the beginning and write about all the resentments they've ever had. I recently heard about someone with 600 resentments! What? The most I ever wrote were 60. But even that was way too much, especially since my Step 5 took two days. What my sponsor says is correct, in my opinion, that we really only have about ten main resentments that cover everything as we tend to meet and deal with the same characters and characteristics, including our own, over and over again.

My advice to sponsees now is to begin your inventory with what is going on right now. Deal with the present first. As time goes by, you can work your way back to your early childhood where your problems began. I found that this was more like "peeling the onion" because when I got to the bitter core, it was the incident and the person whom I first reacted to negatively. By then, I'd been going to Al-Anon long enough to be able to face this squarely and ask God to remove my continual reaction to it.

So this month, as I work Step 4, I'm going to "Keep It Simple!" I'm fortunate in that I've written a lot of Step 4's, so I don't really have a lot of stuff to dig up and dispose of. Yet, I still have some grievances and behaviors, especially my own, that I need to write about and then talk to my sponsor about when it's time to move on to Step 5.

I'll give myself a month, since my meeting works one step a month. Any more time and I'm holding myself back from the good God has in store for me.

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