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.
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.
Everything was set. I had just finished straightening out the family room, the kitchen was clean, the downstairs bathroom (the one I mostly use), my bedroom . . . I was as ready as I was going to get. And I was excited. My UBERSPONSOR was coming to my HOUSE!! You have to know that I never let anyone come over. Not my friends, anyway. Mom’s friends come over frequently, and family of course.
Then, my cell rang. It was Uber, herself. Plumbing problems at the house, she couldn’t get away, was it possible for me to come to her instead?
Now, I’d been to Uber’s house a zillion times. We often meet at her house. I didn’t hesitate, just said “That sounds terrific. I’ll be there in half an hour.”
A year ago, heck, six months ago, I might have said, “Are you kidding?” I don’t care if the roof is caving in!! Do you know what I’ve been going through expecting you to come this morning? Drop everything and get your butt over here right now.”
Yeah. Not very attractive or kind, is it? Uber would not have dropped a single thing, by the way. She would have listened to me rant and rave, then very kindly have restated her problem and her position and that she was sorry she couldn’t be there today. I love her so much!!
But I’m amazed – now that I can look back – that I’ve changed that much in a year. I can be spontaneous now. It’s okay. It’s not that bigga deal. It’s not the end of the world. I can deal. I don’t have to control every single moment of my life.
“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.
So. Stuff happens. Into each life a little stress will come, some more than others. I just got off the phone with an old friend of mine, who has bipolar like I do, and she has been hospitalized twice since April because of rapid cycling. New meds aren’t really helping, so she’s dealing as best she can.
Stuff happens. It’s what we do with the stuff that either helps us or hurts us more.
One of my (for I have a few) favorite slogans in the program is Easy Does It. When something stressful happens in my life, when something goes way wrong, I have one of two responses.
Curl up like a fetal ball on the couch and watch mindless TV, or go all in. I’m absolutely sure I hold all the best cards, they will carry me through whatever decisions I have to make—if they aren’t the best cards, I’ll make them the best cards. I’ll turn them upside down, or sideways or backwards . . . somehow those cards will fit the problem facing me.
They’re the cards I’ve been dealt, and dammit I’m going to make them work if it kills me. I’m not going to ask for help, I’m not going to stop to think, not me.
Any of this sound familiar? Do you ever try to force solutions when the easiest thing to do is to step back and take a breath first?
I know not to trust my first instincts, so to go into any situation blindly, guns blazing, is going to turn out badly. I’ve learned that the hard way. It’s not been pretty. There have been casualties. I could tell you, but then I’d have to shoot you.
Now I know that, yes, I have to press pause when I get bad news. I have to talk it through with people I trust. I have to let myself feel any strong feelings I have first–get them out–before I head into the stressful situation. Maybe I’ll even knit a little bit, or take Lucy for a walk. I’ll definitely pray. God will hear about my fears and my feelings.
What about you when stuff happens?
Right, I was going to post more pics of Tweetybird. Well, I got sidetracked by preparing to write my novel, Where is Faith?, for Camp NaNoWriMo, starting tomorrow. I promise I’ll post pics tomorrow. Pinky promise.
Today I want to talk about a book I’m currently reading and about how a certain passage resonated within me. It’s a YA novel called Clean by Amy Reed, about a group of teens in a rehab together. They are asked to write essays about themselves, what got them in their situations and so forth.
One of the teens, Eva, writes so beautifully, she breaks my heart. Here is an excerpt: Do you remember? Do you remember being solid? Do you remember life before the hole? Before you were empty and needed to be filled? There was a time when everything was enough. There was a time you didn’t try to get out of your own skin. Remember.
I cried when I read that, because I do remember that time. It was when I was three years old riding my tricycle and when I was five years and my mom gave me a huge birthday party with all my friends over. I can see everything, smell the grass outside, see the trees in our neighborhood, all my friends smiling, I can remember playing red light green light, red rover (memories get mixed up, so I may have been older here).
Then there was the hole. Really it was a void. That’s why I picked that picture. It was a void so huge nothing could fill it. I tried to fill it with food, with fixing people, with trying so hard to be perfect, with trying to please other people, with anticipating every need. . . I even tried to fill it with screwing up in college when the other stuff didn’t work. I tried to fill it up with self harm and suicide attempts and dark, dark thoughts that would never go away.
Then two wonderful things happened. First, I became a born-again believer. That was a very good day. March 5, 1997. I don’t push my beliefs on anyone, but I’m not ashamed of them either. Then, I keep thinking it was longer, but it was only around September of last year, I found Al-Anon.
Now, I have that W- in front of the Hole again. I know and feel what it means to be whole. Not all the time, because sometimes I forget and slip back, but most of the time. And it feels . . . FANTASTIC.
I’m exhausted; tired down to my bones; dog tired. I have not been sleeping well the last couple of nights. I know why, and it’s because I haven’t been praying enough, and haven’t been “letting go and letting God” when I am afraid. I shouldn’t even be afraid, if I’m working my program right.
Well no, I take that back. Feelings are feelings. They come and go, like thoughts. There’s not much we can do about them.
In other news, I finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” finally. I loved this book. It’s not a book I would have picked up on my own, you know? I mean I didn’t even see the movie. But Paula Balzer, in her book Writing & Selling Your Memoir suggests several different memoirs to read if you’re writing your own. I’ve read this one now, and Drinking: A Love Story, which I also loved, for different reasons.
They are about different subjects, for one thing. “Eat, Pray, Love” is about a woman who, after her divorce goes on a pilgrimage to discover what she wants for herself and spends a year divided equally between Italy, India, and Indonesia. She eats her way through Italy, prays her way through India, and loves her way through Indonesia. It’s a funny, serious, charming, and informative book.
Liz Gilbert also has a totally different voice than Caroline Knapp, of “Drinking: A Love Story,” which I had finished just before I started Liz’s book, so that took a lot of getting used to. Caroline’s story is starkly honest, and is exactly what the title says. It’s about the love story between a woman and wine and other alcoholic beverages, but her first love is a crisp, white wine.
Caroline takes us on her journey with candor and also wit, but pulls no punches, and we are led all the way through to her struggles in rehab and through that to living life sober, to making friends soberly, shopping for groceries stone-cold sober, going to a party sober, etc. Highly recommend both.
Now I’m reading Lighting Up: How I Quit Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved In Life Except Sex. It’s another memoir, not recommended by Paula Balzer, but I’m reading it because I read it once a long time ago, and with chronic fatigue syndrome I can read things a second time and it’s like reading it all over again for the first time.
Susan Shapiro is seeing a psychoanalyst to quit smoking. Her voice is wry and emotional, and the book is hard to put down.
I pray I sleep well tonight, and that you do too. What do you do when you don’t sleep well? How do you help yourself sleep?
After being in Al-Anon a while, I learned about the acronym H.A.L.T., which teaches us never to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
I’ve been rolling along all right, I guess, with the hungry and tired part . . . you know, eating enough (while not correctly) and sleeping enough. But I’ve been slipping in the anger department lately.
And I’m devastatingly lonely. There, I said it. I don’t have any real/life friends other than my sponsor, and– Oh God, that sounds absolutely pathetic. But it’s really not. Because for the most part I enjoy my own company and have been perfectly fine spending time alone, which is different by far than being lonely.
The difference has spiked I think because many of my close circle of online friends are experiencing personal stressors of their own, or are extremely busy, or are in general freaking out. sigh It’s a sign of the times, you know? Life is precarious at best and a thin, delicate thread at worst. Striking a balance within that is like trying to draw polka dots on a King Cobra. A bit scary and breathtaking.
So, after I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more, then cried as I drove to the meeting, I did something quite uncharacteristic for me. I asked for help.
I shared that I’d been ignoring the L. part especially of H.A.L.T., and talked about how that was SO not working for me. Then – before my hands could shake too much – I passed around the sheet of paper and asked if, you know, they wanted to be friends and, if that was they case could they write down their number for me so I could call them and ask them out for coffee or something? lol
I DID. That’s exactly how I said it too. There were five women at my table, and I got four numbers.
I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to do it at tomorrow’s meeting too.
Is it hard for you to ask for help? When was the last time you did, and were the results surprising?
When I was a kid, out attending my sister’s wedding in Miami, when my nieces and nephew were still just a future twinkle, we all went down to the ocean.
I loved to swim. I mean LOVED it. Had been swimming since around three, and if there was water, it was nearly impossible to get me out of it. Every time we went on a family trip that involved an overnight stay, my parents tried to find a motel with a pool, because they knew I would make good use of it. And our neighbors, the Warrens, who still lived on Faust in Detroit, had a pool that we took full advantage of.
I was twelve years old this time, I think, and we were warned to stay close to the shore. To stay where we could feel the sand beneath our feet, was the warning I remember. But something terrifying happened that day, something I remember with startling clarity.
I don’t recall exactly how it happened. I do remember that I couldn’t feel the sand under my feet anymore, and when I looked at the shore it seemed much further away than it had been just moments before. I was caught in an undertow, and it sucked me down, hard and fast. I managed to pull up enough to cough out a yell for help before being pulled under again. My sister, who was probably only feet away but seemed miles away, did what in retrospect was a very stupid thing to do and swam out to me.
Then she too got caught in the undertow. But she is 13 years my senior, and her first instinct was to save me. The lifeguard came out and rescued us both. I coughed up a lot of water that day, and could have killed my sister for coming out to get me. But I love her to death, and would have switched places with her had the shoe been on the other foot.
There are many things in life that draw parallels to “undertows” in life. Alcoholism is one such thing. It can drag us under if we are not careful. Finances, love, among other things.
Have you had an “undertow” experience? A real undertow or a metaphoric one? Care to share?
I’m a freakish researcher. Seriously. I would’ve made a great legal or research assistant, because I research things to the extreme. It takes a gentle nudge from my sponsor to let my know that maybe I’ve done enough and it’s time to stop.
Two examples: When I came to Al-Anon, the qualifying alcoholic in my life was still sober. But then she relapsed.
In my helplessness, and because I was not yet ready to turn that over to God, I researched everything I could. I took books out of the library. I have nearly 50 books downloaded on my Kindle just under the category of Recovery. I read websites. I read my Al-Anon literature with new eyes.
It didn’t change anything. It didn’t change the alcoholic. It didn’t even really give me any peace. What finally gave me peace was letting it go.
The second example is when I found out that sugar suppresses the immune system, and that – since I have chronic fatigue system – I have no business eating sugar, which I secretly carry on a love life with.
BOOM. You guessed it. Research-mode. Went to the library the other day. I currently have five books out about sugar addiction and two on hold, but only one downloaded to kindle and that’s ALL I’m going to download. PROMISE. My sponsor and I laughed about it this morning, because she knew as soon as I told her I found out about sugar and the immune system what would be happening.
I’m sure it’s a result of growing up in a family of such extremes. I learned to cling to the extremes and hold on for dear life. I take full responsibility for the decisions I make now, don’t get me wrong. But it was so chaotic growing up, and abusive.
Gentleness is my go-to word with myself. Be gentle and find BALANCE. Slowly I’m learning to let go of or accept the things I cannot change and change the things I can. I’m learning it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can do the best I can and LET IT GO. Someone – maybe just one person – may be touched by the words I have spoken. Or not. I’ve done my best.