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, November 13, 2010

What Is Enabling?

Now that the leaves are off the shade tree in my front yard, I have a better view of the neighborhood. As we go into winter, not only has my little dog wanted more to eat, the wild animals are feeding on whatever they can find. Or in the case of the local foxes (and raccoons and skunks...) whatever my animal-loving neighbor will feed them.

She thinks she's helping them by giving them hot dogs and cobs of corn. But the experts tell us that we should let wild animals fend for themselves. Not only will they be better able to take care of themselves should we suddenly disappear as their source of food, but their ability to fight off disease and other natural enemies if they live off the land.

Plus they won't be too fat. I realized when I saw a really fat red fox run across my yard with a hot dog in his mouth that my neighbor is enabling the animals, although she'll tell you that she is only helping them - she loves them. But in so doing, she is really harming them. They are becoming dependent in an unhealthy way.

So it is with we friends and family members of alcoholics. We may think we are helping them because we love them when in reality we are hurting them - we are enabling them. What form does this take? It is a lot more subtle than buying them their booze.

For me, one way of enabling was being the designated driver - giving the drunk and buddies an excuse to drink out-of-control. I solved this by driving separately to events. Turns out it helped me because I could leave when I wanted and thus was able to enjoy myself - what a concept!

But, you might say, aren't we saving lives by being designated drivers? Maybe if you take turns in your group of friends to be the one who doesn't have even one drink that night... but if you "help" someone by taking away their being responsible, you are enabling. My rule of thumb is if I'm doing for someone what they could/should be doing for themselves, on a regular basis, that is enabling.

Feeding the fat fox (the disease of alcoholism) is enabling the fox to just get fatter...

(c) 2010 Al-Anon Lifer

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Friday, November 05, 2010

A Little On Sponsorship

I was asked for my experience, strength, and hope on sponsorship, specifically what to do if one's sponsor doesn't seem to be available anymore. As a sponsor myself, I make sure I don't take on another sponsee unless I have the time they seem to need. Communication is the key, something we Al-Anons aren't always good at because of our broken relationships due to alcoholism. But we get to practice new behavior in Al-Anon where it is safe.

So if your sponsor doesn't seem to have time for you, you probably need to pray about it and then talk to her. Ask her if she would have time to meet with you regularly, even if that is once a month. It depends on what you need. If she admits her lack of time, then you can let her know you'll be looking for a new sponsor. This doesn't mean you can't stay friends. I repeat, this is not like burning a bridge. It is simply admitting your relationship has changed and is not working the way it used to.

To begin your search for a new sponsor, pray for guidance. Since you've already worked the Steps, your needs are not the same as a newcomer, but you still need this special kind of confidante. Listen to people share at meetings. My sponsor found a new sponsor recently in a younger member, both in age and years in the program. She simply liked what she had to say in meetings - she wants what her new sponsor has. That's the key - there is some kind of attraction.

All this talk reminds me that I haven't heard from a couple sponsees for a while, so I probably need to check in with them to see if they still want me as their sponsor. If they have moved on, I will have more time for others. It really isn't a big deal when we change our sponsors/sponsees. It's not like we're married to these people - we're all just growing and sometimes we grow in different directions, our needs change. And it's important to take care of our needs. No one else will do this for us :-)

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Very Long Fall

Here in Colorado, we've had an exceptionally long and warm fall. It is two days after Halloween and we still haven't had a hard frost, at least not in the Denver metro area. And although I'm enjoying it because fall is my favorite season, it's starting to mess with me. As a person no longer working, I have options as to what to do with my days. Which means that I can procrastinate forever when it comes to some tasks like cleaning out drawers and cleaning off my desk. I keep thinking those things can wait until the weather turns cold.

In the meantime, I have one drawer in particular that is getting so full I'm having trouble opening and closing it. And the mess on my desk long ago hid my to-do list. It occurred to me today that if the weather never turns cold, will I simply never take care of these heretofore cold-weather projects? Will I just let the drawer get stuck for good or my desk become the cornerstone for a reality series on hoarders? I mean what do people in Hawaii do? Nothing? Ever?

Since I'm originally from Montana, I can't begin to answer that question. I learned from an early age to get outside to enjoy the weather if it was even close to being nice. But I've lived in Colorado long enough now to know we have enough warm, sunny days to skip a few and get things done inside. And I worked quite a few of those years. Plus I take care of laundry and dishes and occasionally vacuum. So why not clean out that drawer?. It is, after all, a small drawer.

This reminds of the 10th Step: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." This Step is useful in that it keeps us from having to go all the way back to Steps 4 and 5, which are for most of us much more difficult than Step 10. In other words, if I continue to ignore the little messes, they will turn into big messes. No amount of excuses, such as the weather is so nice today (again), will keep the piles from getting bigger.

So "just for today" (or tomorrow now that the sun has set) I will take care of one mess before I let myself bask in yet another beautiful sunny and warm fall day... In reality, I must confess, I haven't really been enjoying the days that much since I don't like clutter - just like I can't really enjoy the company of the God of my understanding if I have amends to make :-)

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