Peace, both individual and world peace in general, has everything to do with the 3rd step I’ve learned in Al-Anon – made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
I have had to revisit Step Three a whole lot during the last few weeks. Because of my codependency, I sometimes still have issues with boundaries. I let other peoples’ feelings leak over into me, and think that my positive feelings about the season should be enough to lift anyone’s spirits. It’s like I forget about the invisible line that separates me from other people.
It used to be for me, if you and I went to a movie and you didn’t enjoy it, it became a personal affront. I almost couldn’t stand the idea that you didn’t like it, didn’t have a good time, and felt like what you were saying was “I didn’t like you. I didn’t like being around you.”
In the past while, since Thanksgiving, I’ve come across several people I care about who are – to put it bluntly – humbugs this year. They would rather the season pass, the days go by, without acknowledging anything special. It started to bring me down. A couple times I even got angry. I was losing my own joy and inner peace. My serenity felt lost at sea.
Then I remembered that part of the Third Step is turning other people and their lives over to God. I remembered, when the alcoholic in my life was drinking, that I used to pray, “God, this is too big for me to handle. I don’t know what to do. But nothing is too big for You, so I’m turning this (person, situation) over to You.” And I would feel, if not immediate, then very soon after a peace wash over me.
That helped me this morning, when I logged onto Facebook and again saw an expression of humbug over Christmas. I turned that person over to God, and I let it go. Peace and happiness over Christmas day are both an inside job. Nobody can ruin that inner peace unless I let them.
I wish you peace and joy this holiday season. And I hope your day is lovely. I pray we can focus on the people around us, the loved ones we are with, thankfulness for what we already have as opposed to what we don’t, do only what we can, or do even less, and remember that serenity doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free existence. It does mean that we can maintain inner peace though the troubles. I pray we can look on the brighter side, and let go of what we can’t control.
So sorry I haven’t been posting a while. Haven’t been well, almost had to go into the hospital, my doctor had to change a bunch of my meds, and on top of that I’m in a senior choral production of Broadway show tunes. So I have been very busy, very sad but with that fine-fine face that I know some of you will know what I’m talking about.
However, that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Some kind of transformation has taken place in me through all this, you know, “stuff.” It’s made me stronger, braver, and not afraid to say the truth. Sometimes my voice shakes when I say it, but I still speak the truth.
It was never brought home to me more than Friday afternoon when a friend of mine, who was my sister’s friend first (so, you get that she knows both of us) called and asked how I was doing. Then she said, “How’s _____ doing?”
“_______’s great.” I said.
“What’s that mean?” she asked me.
“You know what?” I said. “Why don’t you call ______ and ask her what it means?”
“Oh, I will, I will, I was planning on calling her.”
Whew. I tell you, that was THE hardest conversation I’d had in a long time. This is someone who is used to pumping me for information about my sister. And in the past I’m ashamed to say I doled it out.
You know what? It’s not ME she needs to ask how my sister is doing, and it’s not my place to give out that information.
She never did call my sister. Not as brave as the average bear, eh, Booboo? It would involve apologizing for not being there for her in the past, and maybe she’s not ready to go there. I don’t know. That’s HER inventory. I’ve got enough on my own plate.
May I just say that I am boot-kickin’ proud of myself? So is my sister. I told her, in preparation for a phone call from this friend.
How have you been bold, bad, and beautiful lately? It’s show and tell time. So COME ON DOWN!!! W00t W00t!
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.
Okay. Who remembers with me being a kid and setting a boundary down the middle of the room you shared with a sister or brother, perhaps with tape? “THIS is how far you can cross and NO farther!” Ha ha! I remember, because I shared a room with my sister until she left home at an early age.
Some boundaries don’t shift at all. Property lines, for one thing. That’s why you’ll see NO TRESPASSING signs, and yes, people have the right to bear arms if you trespass and don’t leave when asked.
Our bodies, if they can be considered property (just go with me here for a second), don’t shift (much, except some sagging with the aging process, or gaining and losing weight). Our skin is a boundary. It keeps all our parts together. That’s what I meant.
The ocean’s basin is a boundary. It holds all the oceans’ waters in their place. When there is a flood or a hurricane, the boundaries overflow, but for the most part, those boundaries stay intact.
Can you think of other boundaries that are non-shifting?
Shifting boundaries are the boundaries we set with others or for ourselves. We might think we have to be perfect when setting a boundary and therefore agonize and stay up til the wee hours coming up with boundaries we can live with forever.
That’s crazy-making behavior. We change. Other people change. Our behaviors change, and so do theirs. Thought patterns change. We grow, and hopefully so do they. So naturally, our boundaries need to change with the times.
An example: I decided to make a boundary for myself that I would not drive my sister places, and force her to become more responsible for finding other rides.
Then, I went and picked her up from jail during that 11-hour debacle because I was the only one with a GPS in my car.
That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in my first boundary. It means sometimes it has to shift to fit the situation at hand. And that’s okay. I lived, and I learned something about myself in the process.
I sure hope this made sense, and was somewhat useful to you. Have a fantastic Friday!
“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.
Sometimes the limited choices we have can make us feel as if we’re caught between a rock and a hard place.
Try and imagine the following situations, and think of how you would honestly respond:
The telephone rings. You answer it before checking the caller I.D. It’s your alcoholic loved one.
“I need a ride to get cigarettes/to get to a meeting/to get groceries/to get to my doctor appointment. I wouldn’t bother you, except I’ve tried everyone I know.” You know she’s had her car taken away due to four DUI’s but also know she lies and manipulates.
“Will you drop me off some cigarettes/take me to a meeting/to the grocery story/my doctor appointment?”
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND? THE EASY WAY OR THE TRUE-TO-YOURSELF WAY?
The easy way would be to drop whatever you are doing and take care of what she needs. Even though it’s inconvenient, and it might cut into your day, and you grumble about it to whomever is within earshot, it’s still the easy way. The true-to-yourself way, and the harder way, is – simply – to politely say “no,” without even having to explain (that invites argument and more manipulation) and then say, “if there’s nothing else, I’m hanging up now. Good bye.”
Yeah. It sounds harsh, I know, because I’ve had to do it. And my heart aches afterwards. But it’s SO much better for the alcoholic, and that’s what I remind myself. We BOTH have to grow up, and the easy way doesn’t allow for growth.
How about one more example? It happened this morning.
The telephone rings. You check the caller I.D. but don’t recognize who it is, so you answer. It’s a collect call from jail. Your daughter is trying to reach you, and in order to talk to her you will have to set up an account on your credit card for fifty dollars, after which it will cost you another twenty-five dollars just to talk to her. You know she’s fine, and have everything she needs. If she’s sick physically, they have doctors there. All she might need are cigarettes, and you’re not willing to take a collect call for cigarettes.
This happened to my mother early this morning. She was unsure what to do, and I happened to be sitting right there. I told her to say no, and she did, and then felt worried and guilty for an hour afterward. I called my super sponsor and asked if we had done the right thing. She said absolutely, because for one thing – jail is like discipline and getting to make a collect call would be like having an ice cream cone. You don’t get an ice cream cone when you’re in jail. Also, we’re staying out of God’s way when we don’t take the call. She has to lean on the resources she has there in the jail right now, and we are not them.
Is it normal to feel like crap when you don’t take the easy way? Absolutely. Expect it. Pray through it. It will ease up.
Sorry this was so long. It felt important.
As always, love you bunches. Peace out.
You cannot set boundaries and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time. –The Forum, September 2000 p. 28
He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that no one can pierce. –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sometimes my recovery is two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes, like last night, it’s one step forward, three steps back. But I learn. I always learn something from the experience, whether positive or not so positive. So I share what I’m going to share with you today in the hopes it will help you. As always, take what you need and leave the rest.
Last night, I picked up my sister for a meeting. She lives on my way there, and it’s at a treatment center that has both AA/Al-Anon meetings. When she came out of her apartment she was weaving slightly while she walked, and had to lean on my car before she got in. My drunk radar went up, but I decided instead of assuming, to ask her about it.
I asked her if she had anything to drink that day. She emphatically denied it, slightly slurring her words, and would not meet my eyes. This should have been a major clue. If my sister is being honest, she looks me in the eye. I asked if she’d taken any anti-anxiety meds. She said she took ONE, early in the morning, so she could sleep because she didn’t want to think about her life, plus she was out of cigarettes.
“That is still affecting you right now? That one pill?” I asked, not really believing her, but wanting to.
“Yes. And well, I just woke up when you called to pick me up.” It was 7:00 in the evening.
So I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. It couldn’t hurt for her to go to a meeting, anyhow. I let her bum a cigarette off me, knowing that I would have to stop for gas on the way home and she could get her own then.
Half-way there, as she was exhaling smoke and mumbling about something I couldn’t hear, I smelled it. I smelled the fumes of alcohol coming off her. The old me would have ignored it. But not now. I was tired. Tired of messing around, tip-toeing around, and mixing up my role of caretaker.
“When did you drink?” I asked her.
She looked straight out the windsheild. “Yesterday. I drank yesterday.”
“I can smell it on you right now. You must have had something to drink today.” It felt terrible to do this, but I was DRIVING her to an AA meeting! It felt ironic to say the least and too late at worst.
“I had two glasses of wine today. Just two.”
Liar. I knew it as well as I knew I could never give up smoking cigarettes on my own.
I should have just turned around. But I knew of other AA meetings where members would rather welcome people drunk to their tables than not at all. So we continued on. She went to her meeting. I went to mine.
On our way out the door, one of the staff members said to me, out of my sister’s earshot “Next time bring her sober.” Yeah. Thanks. I’ll be sure to do that. This is all my fault. Of course it is.
So this morning when I spoke to my sister, she was all cheery, said she felt fine, she’d slept great (I didn’t). I told her my new boundary.
“I won’t take you to meetings drunk anymore. If you had told me you were high immediately when you got in the car instead of f***ing around about it, I wouldn’t have been halfway there before I knew. Just be honest about it. Why would I get mad if you’re honest? We would’ve just gone to the meeting another time. Relapse is a part of recovery. Remember that.”
She was just quiet. Apologized. Said thank you.
Geez. Why does it all have to be so hard? I just want to sleep now.