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, November 27, 2009

Practicing These Principles...

Step 12 says to "practice these principles in all our affairs." The word "all" would mean holiday visits with family members, even those we don't like. I tried to put my finger on what exactly I didn't like about my mother last night as I watched her behavior at my Thanksgiving table. It wasn't her politics, although I disagree with those. My husband and father were having a lively conversation although they disagreed with one another. It wasn't her religion as I've become tolerant of that, expecting others to be tolerant of my beliefs. It wasn't her many physical ailments, even though she's had them for two decades, at least, and is now almost 80 years old so "deserves" a few aches and pains.

Instead, it was her unnamable disease, some kind of mental illness or personality disorder. Like the kind of arthritis she has that doctors haven't been able to name (strangely enough), her particular behavioral problem is hard to diagnose, especially for a layperson like myself. There might be a name for it should my mother think something was askew and seek help. Even my father, though a doctor, doesn't seem to think she's different and bends over backwards to take care of her. I've always thought this was why she continued in this behavior, because it works for her to get what she wants/needs.

She's not an alcoholic (although she might be addicted to pain pills) but tends to be self-centered like a practicing alcoholic. It's always about her. No matter what the topic of conversation, she always makes sure it comes back to her. The best example of this was at my sister's 50th birthday party where she announced that no one had bothered to throw her a 5oth birthday party. My father, out of character, told her that she had insisted she was 39 and holding, so why would they celebrate her getting older? Last night when everyone was talking about anything other than her, she just stared at her food not eating anything. I asked her if she was okay and she said she's lost her appetite lately. "Hmmm," I said, "you did that once before" (referring to years before when she became annorexic "dying for attention" and didn't get "well" until my father succumbed to cooking for her).

Well, my making that remark didn't work for her as it wasn't the kind of attention she wanted, so she started to pick at her food and took forever, but she ate most of her meal. Apparently, her not being hungry hadn't worked for her because no one fell for it, no one made a big stink about it. Today she's tried a lot of different things for attention, the latest being carsick after a two-mile ride from the grocery store. "You know me," she says after every little incident. I've said a few times, "No, I don't" because frankly they're new and I just don't want to play her game. I have grandchildren to dote on these days.

So the question for me last night and then again this morning in my prayers and meditations was to figure out how I could keep my serenity while having my mother in my home for three more days? I recently was able to forgive my blood father whom I don't have an ongoing relationship with, but that was forgiving someone with whom I have no relationship. In fact, I gave myself permission to make amends to myself by not being in touch with him. How do I forgive someone who is still sick but with whom I have chosen to have a relationship, albeit through few and fairly short visits?

The answer is still the same: I can forgive without getting drawn into their illness. With my father, it's not having any contact. With my mother, it's not falling for her tricks. Been there, done that. It doesn't work for me, and I am the one I need to take care of first and foremost. Mainly because I wasn't nurtured by either of my parents. My best parent is my step-father who adopted me, and he did all of us kids a disservice by catering to my mom's every wish. It really is sad, but it is still his choice. My choice is to care for those who really need it after I've taken care of myself.

This is how, just for today, I'm practicing these principles in all my affairs :-)


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