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, June 19, 2009

Father's Day for Adult Children of Alcoholics

As Father's Day approaches, I suddenly realize why my blood father might have called this week after almost three years of silence. I can't know for sure, of course, but he's probably feeling sorry for himself again. That's his MO. And someone in his 80's just doesn't change. He says he has something important to tell me and wants to come for a visit. My sponsor reminded me that I have choices here. And my decision right now is to wait and see, having told my blood father that now is not a good time, which is the truth.

It probably isn't coincidental that I just put him on my Step 6 list under people I haven't totally forgiven. And when I ask God to make me willing to let go of a resentment, He/She usually gives me an opportunity to face that resentment head on. So I thanked God this morning for my blood father calling. I asked for His/Her will for my life and the power to carry that out (Step 11).

I also thanked God for my step father who adopted me, loves my mother, and is taking care of her in her old age - not an easy task. He's the best parent I have, the most normal parent I have. He's the one who stays in touch consistently and sends out greeting cards. He's the one who supported me financially and emotionally and was there at my high school and college graduations. He gave me away at my wedding.

And he's the one I sent a Father's Day card to. I honestly, completely, didn't remember my blood father when shopping for cards for my dad and my husband. That is a good thing after years of trying to get him to be the parent he's never been and never will be. He's sick and the best thing I can do for myself is forgive him but at the same time take care of myself. I don't know what form that will take, but I do know that God will let me know what is best for me.

I do know that He/She loves me more than I can fathom, more than I love my children and grandchild. And with that, I know I am worthy of good things and good people in my life. I no longer search out sick people to fill the void that was left when my blood father left and my mother was no longer able to love me the way I would have preferred. She, like all my parents, did the best she could. And I, too, am doing the best I can.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Alcoholism - A Killer Disease

My Saturday Al-Anon group was reminded again that alcoholism is a disease that kills. A member shared that her spouse had died. I don't know why we were shocked, but it so seldom happens because most of us have loved ones in recovery. But it could have happened in my life and it still could. I need to be grateful again for recovery, mine as well as others.

It's hard for me to understand that alcoholism is a disease. After all, it's treatment is mostly spiritual rather than with medications or chemotherapy. It is unlike cancer which a close family member is now battling. We don't expect her to get herself to all her doctor and chemo appointments while taking care of children and household chores. Instead, we are willing and able to assist in any way we can. We believe this will help her get better.

With the alcoholics, however, we have had to detach with love and not enable them by trying to fix them or the consequences of their drinking. In the past, this kind of help has only prolonged the disease, keeping them from hitting their bottoms and getting the real help they need. We have had to let go and let God and take care of ourselves, which is the best way to be prepared when the alcoholics ask for help.

We still need to be cautious that we only do for them what they can't do for themselves and what the God of our understanding asks of us. Often this is simply encouraging them in their recovery and spending more time alone while they go to meetings and take on service positions. One of the best ways I've dealt with this aspect is to do my own service work, including positions and sponsoring. This almost always works to get me out of self-pity and the blame game.

After all, I don't blame my loved one for having cancer. I just accept it and take care of myself so I am able to help when I am asked. In this way, dealing with the two diseases is the same. If I let myself go to pot, I'm no good to anybody. I practice "live and let live" so I don't push my opinions on anyone or hover unnecessarily. And sometimes I have to say "no" because I have made another commitment or simply need to have some fun.

My God doesn't expect me to do it all or do it all alone. I also have to ask for help. It's exhausting to deal with someone else's life-threatening disease. Right now, for example, I caught a virus and am still recovering from a secondary infection. I've had to let my housework go and say "yes" to activities that get me out in the sun and out of my head. I've had to take life one day at a time, never knowing from day to day how I will feel or what will be asked of me.

In this way, I know that God will give me the courage and strength I need to do his/her will just for today. I need not go into the future, worrying about someone dying. Neither need I go into the past, regretting my past behavior or thinking about all the woulda, coulda, shouldas. Right now, in this moment, all is well. I'm feeling better. My sick loved one is having a good day. And my spouse is sober. It is easy to have an attitude of gratitude.

It helps me to remember how fragile life is and how much our 12-step programs have helped us hang on to the gift of life. Help me, God, to never forget that alcoholism, like cancer, is a deadly disease.

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