I’m bipolar. Unlike my sister, who swings toward the manic side of bipolar, I swing toward the depressive side. So I have less manic episodes, and more depression. These past few weeks I’ve been experiencing bipolar depression symptoms, although I saw my doctor last week, and he tells me my symptoms are likely related to a situation in my life and will most likely go away when that situation is resolved.
My mom is seriously sick. She’s 85 years old, and I’m so grateful that this is the first time in all of her 85 years that she’s ever been seriously ill, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch her suffer.
Even though I know my meetings will help, because it’s the place where I can be myself and share about my fears and sadness, instead of going I isolate and the depression builds. In other words, I don’t take the advice I so freely give away.
The best part is a good friend who doesn’t say anything at all, but just listens to me vent. Doesn’t offer platitudes or counsel, just sits next to me. For them – I am beyond thankful. Because it’s not about having “the blues,” as you can see from the symptoms above. It’s not uncommon, for I know I have many comrades-in-arms. But it’s not something I can just shake off, or I would have done so. Trust me. Peace out.
I hope you don’t take offense at my sense of humor with the image I’ve posted here. I don’t have a cat, but my dog would gladly take the job. She thinks she’s the boss of me. It’s all tongue-in-cheek of course. I DO have a higher power, and it’s not me, or my dog. It’s God. I’m thrilled to hand out tokens this morning, because I know the courage it takes to live life one day at a time. I know the effort it took to get to this place of an anniversary.
But I know what the answer will invariably be when someone (perhaps me) shouts out “How’d you do it?” That person will mention the Al-Anon program itself, their sponsor, other friends, and – last but not least (or maybe even first) – a higher power.
Turning our lives over to a higher power does not mean we laze around cluelessly and never lift a finger in our lives. It means we do the footwork and leave the outcome up to our higher powers. It means we let that higher power have the steering wheel, but we still have the power to put on the brakes, to slow things down if things are going too quickly.
God has blessed my life in countless ways since I’ve been a member of Al-Anon.
But seriously, I went to an amazing meeting this morning. And it wasn’t just because it was called the Sunday morning Amazing Grace Al-Anon meeting, either. We read from today’s reading in Hope for Today, and what I heard most of all was about letting go.
Boy, do I need to let go. I’ve been ashamed to talk about this here, but since I talked with my sponsor and with my friend Sherrie, who guest posted here and writes here, at Sherrie Theriault’s Blog, I feel better. My uber sponsor bolstered my spirits by speaking of a few small resentments she had rattling around in her head.
But what was most important was what Sherrie did. First, she made me laugh. Laughter is very important for the soul. 2. She let me know that I have a double standard, one for myself and one for everybody else, and I’m much harder an myself. 3. That resentments sometimes have layers, and if my sister just stopped drinking seven months ago, it’s not surprising I still have resentment left; and 4. That it’s okay, even good to let readers know other seasons of your soul. You need to know that there was a whole season I did not go to meetings. More importantly, you needed to hear from me during that time, that I was still here, what I was doing, how I was doing, so that you too could read and perhaps say, “Oh yes, that’s me.” or “Gosh, I don’t ever want to go there.”
It was great to see my sponsor. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, what with one thing and another, and we just held each other for the longest time. “Look at you!” she said. “Look at you!” said I. We made a time to get together on Wednesday.
I’m not often speechless. It’s not usually hard for me to know what to say, but writing in this blog has been so hard for me lately, and that’s not like me. It’s like I feel like I’m supposed to have the “answers,” as if 1) there are certain answers one has to follow as a member of Al-Anon and 2) I know them.
Let’s get a couple things squared away. The only “answers” I really know in Al-Anon are told to me (either through the other members, the big book of Al-Anon, my sponsor, whatever) by my higher power. And what I don’t know will be revealed in time. I trust that. I trust it as easily as I trust the sun to rise every morning and to set every night. There is a God, and it’s not me.
Which brings me to the second part of what I’ve been feeling and why it’s been so hard to write lately. Not only are there certain answers, but I have them. Alcoholic boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/parent/sibling/friend? Just come to me. I’ll cure what ails you. NOT. So not. What I say on here, what I share on here, on this pithy little blog, is just my own experience, strength and hope. I don’t have the answers anymore than the next guy.
What scares me is when I write posts like “Five Ways to Tell if You’re Codependent,” because it makes it sound like I’m an expert, which – we’ve just just established – I’m really not.
So if you’re here for answers, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re here because you just want to hang with another struggling, trying-to-get-her-act-together codependent, you are so in the right place. And man, can we have some fun. Because my life is anything but boring. I’m worried about two people right now, my mom (who is not an alcoholic) and my sister (who is). More on that tomorrow.
I went to a meeting this morning. I was so grateful there was an Al-Anon meeting on Christmas Eve morning that I could attend. The topic around the meeting was taking care of ourselves, but I heard a smattering of frustration and fear on the topic of holidays in general, my own included. I talked about how I was trying to remember the Three C’s: I didn’t cause it, can’t control it, and can’t cure it . . . and the Three M’s to avoid for myself: manipulation, martyrdom, and mothering.
It all comes down to the wisdom of knowing the difference between things I can change and things I can’t. It should be such a simple thing. All I can change is myself or things about myself. Period. Can’t change circumstances or other people.
Circumstances will be different for me this Christmas Eve with my family. I can’t control the outcome. I can’t control whether or not people have a good time, or are upset about something. I can control my own responses and reactions. That’s about it. There’s not a lot I can do otherwise.
When I think of the word detachment it helps. If I’m too enmeshed with someone or something, I can’t possibly back off enough to even BREATHE, let alone know the difference.
Have a great day today. Whatever you do, take care of yourself. Even if you just need to go to a quiet corner and meditate, do that.
Hanukkah Trivia Quiz
1) What does the word Hanukkah mean?
2) How long does Hanukkah last?
3) When is the menorah lit? (as an added bonus, how many candles are in the menorah?)
4) Where should the menorah be placed?
5) Which nation ruled over Israel at the time of the Hanukkah story?
6) Potato pancakes are a traditional food eaten during this holiday. What are they called in Yiddish?
7) During which Hebrew month is Hanukkah celebrated?
8) What are the gifts called that children traditionally receive (in remembrance of the coins made by the new Maccabee state)?
9) What chant is traditionally sung during the lighting of the Menorah?
10) From which direction to which direction are the Menorah candles lit?
Hanukkah Trivia Answers
1. Re-dedication (referring to the Second Temple reclaimed by the Maccabees)
2. 8 days
3. After sunset (9)
4. Near a window
7. Kislev (on the 25th day)
9. Hanerot Hallalu
10. Left to right (though they are placed from right to left, the left most-candle-holder is placed on the 8th night and is lit first on that night)
How’d you do? I hope you had fun and learned something in the process.
To all my friends celebrating this meaning-filled and happy time, I wish you joy and peace now and in the years to come!
I love the simplicity of the AA and Al-Anon programs. Since AA works so well, Al-Anon has adapted much of what it uses almost word for word for its own purposes, like this prayer. I take that at face value, meaning that those are the four things I need to truly concern myself with when I come before God each night with my daily inventory.
Where have I been selfish, dishonest, resentful and fearful today? Who do I need to talk to/make amends with? An apology alone is not “making amends.” To make amends means to provide just compensation for a loss, injury, or insult. It’s an action. If I apologize and rake someone’s leaves because, say, I caused an injury that made him unable to rake his own leaves … that’s making amends.
The tenth step is freeing for me because it keeps my inventory list low. Instead of full tank, I want an empty one, when it comes to the tenth step, you know? If I go to bed every night, and I hit my pillow … I want to drift off to sleep as easily as possible.
To that end, sometimes I have tenth step friends I call on for help. Just yesterday I called a friend in Al-Anon because I was on my way to a NaNoWriMo kickoff party and I got scared and panicky.
How does this step look for you?
I think the single most difficult thing for me to learn in Al-Anon – and some days it’s something I only strive for – is to live life in the moment. It’s so much easier to fall into the pitfalls of yesterday or tomorrow.
Think about it. We can get to yesterday and tomorrow with only a daydream or two. We can get to yesterday’s mistakes and tomorrow’s worries in the time it takes to drive from work to home, something we do on autopilot. Those kind of drives leave a lot of room for daydreams about yesterdays and tomorrows.
But try this, just once. Turn off your radio and your cell phone. Really pay attention to what’s happening on the road in front of you. Drive like you’re taking the test to get your first license. Feel the steering wheel underneath your hands. Hear the sounds around you; really listen. See everything, take it all in. We are only alive for this one moment. We don’t any of us know what might happen from one moment to the next.
The members of Al-Anon I admire most are the ones who really live out the slogan: One Day At A Time. They know that they can only solve one problem at a time, and the other problems will still be there waiting. They also know that nothing lasts forever, just like each day has a beginning and an end. Sadness doesn’t last forever, nor happiness.
They make their way, in the moment, eyes wide open.
What ways are you living in the moment?
When you know yourself you are empowered. When you accept yourself you are invincible.
— TINA LIFFORD
At the Sunday morning meeting yesterday, when we broke up, I chose to sit at the Hope For Today table. The topic of the reading for that morning was perfectionism, and how, despite being gentle with other folk, we can be merciless with ourselves.
As I listened to the other people at the table, I learned something important, something I could so relate to. What we say to ourselves about our imperfection, our blunders, or our stumblings along the way of life is more important to recovery than the imperfection itself. How we get back up, dust ourselves off, and continue on, makes a huge difference.
Raise your hand if any of these statements sound familiar:
“You stupid idiot!”
“How could you have done something that dumb?”
“Well, there you go again…”
“&%$* it! Why even bother at all?”
I’ve said these things to myself, and others. “If you were a real writer, you’d write every day…be published…” and self-defeating statements that I begin to believe because I’ve said them over and over to myself so often. Would I dare say that to a struggling writer friend? Not in a million years. I know what that would do to her spirit. Yet somehow it’s okay for me?
No. And it shouldn’t be for you either, if you want to move forward and beyond perfectionism. Guess what? Everyone has a flaw. If you don’t see it, that just means they cover it up really, really well.
Today, take some time and notice how you talk to yourself. Catch the harshness of your tone, and change it as soon as you recognize it. Pretend you are talking to your very best friend.
You are, you know.
Ever hear of the 80/20 rule? I used to be a member of a Southern Baptist church, and this rule definitely applied there. 80% of the work is done by the same 20% of the people. So, when a new project or something would come up, and volunteers were asked for, a few minutes of strained silence would ensue before the same people would inevitably volunteer; which, of course can lead to burnout and disillusionment.
It’s no different with any other organization, whether it be a 12-step meeting or a community choir. Someone has to volunteer. Someone has to step up, take a risk, do something outside of his/her comfort zone (difficult for codependents because they tend to counter-balance, thinking they shouldn’t volunteer for anything, to take care of themselves).
This happened to me recently in my Choralaires group. One of the tenors, a gentleman, had been making the coffee for our break for . . . I think at least a year. It involves bringing the coffee supplies home with you every week, including the large coffee pot thingy.
The first week I was there he wanted to pass this mantle of responsibility and everyone was very quiet. I thought about it but didn’t say anything. Then at break I mentioned I might try and the next week it became my responsibility. I don’t know how long I will do it, but it gives me a stronger feeling of belonging, like I’m doing something to contribute.
Lots of people – often the newbies – make coffee at AA and Al-Anon meetings. It’s easy enough and gives one a reason to show up and help out. At least you know you have to be there because without you there’s gonna be coffee-less angry people. Not a pleasant thought.
Other people help put the chairs back the way they were before, or throw away paper cups, or meet and greet people at the doors. The possibilities are endless.
What will YOU do this week as a way to push out of your comfort zone?
Today’s reading in Courage to Change absolutely blew me away. It was ostensibly about sponsorship and how important a sponsor was to this sponsee. But really it was about love. She learned about her worthiness as a person through her sponsor.
I was at an Al-Anon meeting (stop me if I’ve told you this story before ), where there was a double winner (a person from AA who also had Al-Anon issues). She was celebrating 26 years of AA. She told us that at the meeting, in passing, and we all asked, as we do in meetings, “How’d you do it?”
“With a whole lot of love,” she replied.
Maybe it’s a cliche that love makes the world go ’round, and maybe it’s not even true. But love sure as hell helps. Ask babies who are never touched or held. Ask the homeless person who gets brushed by on the street without a second glance or a “How d’you do?” Ask the little girl who’s mom is too depressed to get out of bed, so she has to get her own breakfast, cheerios (if she’s lucky) without milk.
Without love, without someone in our corner supporting us, helping us to come up in the world, putting a hand around our shoulder, clapping us on the back to acknowledge our presence, we will wither on the vine.
We are ALL put here for a reason. Have you discovered yours?
2. You never do anything for someone that they are quite capable of doing for themselves.
3. You aren’t loaded up with guilt and shame for things you didn’t do.
4. You detach with love, and not resentment.
5. Far from perfect, you are a work in progress, and you take your own inventory (take stock of what’s going on inside) regularly.
6. You don’t worry about what the loved one in your life might do, say…etc.
7. You take care of yourself.
Sometimes it can seem like a balancing act between saying “yes” and saying “no” and we feel ourselves teetering in Maybe-land. Saying no is not a bad thing. Neither is saying yes. It is YOUR recovery. It takes you as long as it takes you to get wherever you need to get. And that’s up to you and your sponsor, or your higher power, or whomever you decide to take along the journey. I have had to learn to say no for my own sanity and self-care. It has not been easy. I’ve been met with tears, and pleading, manipulation, threats . . . what has helped me the most is this simple statement. I give you the dignity to figure it out on your own. More than anything, addicts need their dignity back. It has been taken from them with this disease. Giving in to every manipulation, every desire, every pleading, everything that they are able to do for themselves, does not dignify them. Not in the least. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter. Am I too harsh from being immersed with alcoholics for nearly 50 years?
Please do tell me what you think. I’m all ears. And It’s a good day. No self-harm today.
I hope you are awake, Gentle Readers, because I need your advice this morning. There is an anniversary celebration at my “home” Al-Anon meeting, the Peace at the End of the Road meeting this morning. There will be a breakfast followed by an Al-Anon speaker, an AA speaker, and an Al-Ateen speaker. I’m psyched about it.
Except for one thing. The Al-Anon speaker will be Karen, and she’s someone who REALLY hurt my feelings at a non-al-anon function, trying to “school” me in how things were done (when there weren’t any hard and fast rules). Actually, she brought me to tears in front of a bunch of strangers.
I’ve since forgiven her, but still–my feelings are there, you know? I feel extremely uncomfortable around her and it’s hard to trust anything she says, it’s hard to trust mySELF with her for sure. I would never feel comfortable to speak at a table with her again.
I want to go SO BAD, but everything in me is screaming AVOID – be afraid, be very afraid. My ubersponsor will be there, but even that doesn’t seem safe enough.
What do you all think? PLEASE, I need some honest opinions, and I need them by at least 9:00 EST.
That’s part of the inside of my car. The back seat is still pristine. My point is, I think a lot of times we get wiser from making mistakes.
Progress not perfection. I’ll clean it today.
Just a couple things about this step. Some people, in their zeal to “come clean,” list every single person they think they have every harmed, including their children if their feelings got hurt when they were grounded, and things like that.
I am not responsible for other peoples’ unfulfilled desires. Simple as that. Other peoples’ expectations are not my responsibility unless I have helped to create them.
Also, willingness is key here. Some people find it helpful to divide their list into three parts: the people they are willing to make amends with, the people they might be willing to make amends with, and the people whey never will be willing to make amends with. As they work through the list, they find that some of the “mights” become “willings” and some of the “neverwills” become “maybes.”
Just something to chew on. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly. It just has to get done.
I am grateful for so many things today.
-we got three days in a row of much needed rain, including a flash flood
–it’s sunny and beautiful today
–I got to enjoy some out of town family for about a week, which was awesome
–I see my therapist today, and I’m truly grateful for her in my life
–I emailed the Samaritans in the wee hours, and they actually replied back this morning. Who would have thunk?
–my doc is going to see me once a week when my T is on vacation at the end of August
–there are, right now, many people who love me, even tho I cannot feel it, God especially
–my submission to Glimmer Train Press has not been rejected yet
For this and so much more, I’m grateful today.
How about you?
“Standing with my arms extended and turning in a full circle gives me a visual marker of my responsibility. If it doesn’t come into my space, I leave it alone.”–Hope For Today, p. 209.
I love this quote. It reminds me of the “hula hoop” metaphor I’ve heard talked about at tables. Place a hula hoop around yourself, then drop it. Okay, so you’re standing in the center of the hula hoop. Whatever falls within the hula hoop is your business; whatever happens outside the hula hoop doesn’t concern you. LOVE that. It has helped me so much!
This past Wednesday my sister got an alcohol tether placed on her ankle. She informed us, as she got back in the car, that she has to have it read by her probation officer every week, once a week, for six months. After that, it will be once a month, for the rest of her probation.
I turned around from my position in the front seat, and said, “I hope you’ll get other drivers lined up to do that, because I’m not one of them. I won’t be bringing you to your probation officer.”
This morning at my Al-Anon meeting, I asked my friends if they thought that was selfish. They said no – it was self-caring. There’s a difference.
I’m still learning, but I’m loving the journey.
Happy Saturday, my friends. Peace out.
Happiness is risky. But as I begin to recover from the effects of alcoholism in my life, it’s worth it. It’s not enough just to avoid being let down. I want a life filled with joy and happiness as well as the inevitable sadness.
I crave excitement; I’m an excitement junkie. But this time on MY terms, not on the roller coaster hump of the alcoholic. You know?
I won’t let my fear of being let down prevent me from enjoying this day. I have a HUGE capacity for joy.
What about you?
Hope you are having a fabulous Tuesday, my friends!