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.
Taking care of ourselves also involves just trying to BE ourselves. That’s easier said than done. We see billboards and commercials for thinner, better versions of the people we’d like to be. For the record, I count our own mirrored images as distorted comparisons as well.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 13.8 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures (both surgical and minimally-invasive) were performed in the U.S. in 2011, up 5% since 2010. Also 5.5 million reconstructive plastic surgery procedures were performed last year, up 5%.
My sister and I couldn’t be any more different if we tried. She’s small-boned, very petite, and weighs probably 115 lbs soaking wet. When she’s stressed, the last thing she thinks about is food. I’m tall, bigger-boned, not at all petite, and – well, we don’t need to go there. I’m a stress eater, unless I’m very anxious. Then I don’t eat.
As artists and craftsmen, how often do we compare ourselves to others? Whether you are a writer, knitter, painter, sculptor, mixed media artist, scrapbooker, playwright, actor, or carpenter . . . how many times have you looked at someone else’s work and said, “Why couldn’t I have done that?” OR conversely “I could have done that blindfolded with both hands tied behind my back!”
It takes a very secure person to be happy for another’s success, without reservation. In a book I’m reading, The Sister Knot, the author states it’s almost normal for sisters – or anyone, really – to feel jealous of each other at certain times throughout their lives.
At my meetings, it’s still, after over 1 1/2 years of attendance, difficult for me to share. I worry that I will sound funny. I think my share will seem thrown-together, not cohesive, and not nearly as fluid and confident-sounding as the OTHERS in the group. At a group I went to last Friday, a man shared. He stuttered, stammered, and it was very hard for him to share just a few words. After he spoke, I felt ashamed of myself.
Why do we do that? Why do we bother to compare? There is only one me. There is only one you. As far as writing or projects go (even if they have nothing to do with writing, if you are an artist this applies to you) I’m reminded of a sticker I often turned to during National Novel Writing Month last November. When I got discouraged I would look at it to boost me.
It said, simply, “Your story matters.”
Whatever you do, be it welding, gardening, crocheting, quilting, dog-training, remember that. YOUR STORY MATTERS.
Whatever your size, your eye/hair color, nose/lip shape . . . YOU. MATTER. SO. MUCH. Just the way you are.
Okay. I know for a fact that how we say things is just as important if not more important than what we say. I’ve been attending these lectures on alcoholism and have been learning better ways of communicating, how to express “I Statements.”
(Stay with me for a minute, here, I know this is technical but it’s important for later on.) There are three steps to an I Statement:
1. State very specifically what behavior led to your feeling.
2. State what you are feeling.
3. Explain the consequences of the behavior for you.
In correct usage, it might look something like this:
1. I feel “I feel scared . . .
2. When when you stay out all night
3. Because because I don’t know where you are.”
Simple, right? Well, Saturday afternoon, I forgot all about these I statements when my sister called and said she had just gotten through a therapy session and her therapist told her she needed to work on anger. Mind you, I knew she had already been through one crisis that day. She’s an alcoholic, and I try to be careful about putting too much on her at once. I save my verbal “vomit” for my sponsor because I figure it does no good for my sister to know all the irritations and frustrations that go through my mind regarding her.
But when she said that, all my good intentions flew out the window. Everything I had learned just kind of took a back seat and my mind went on autopilot. Verbal vomit flew out before I could stop it.
“Well, you do have problems with anger,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you know that every time you get drunk – or even when you’re sober – you complain to Mom that I got sent away to college to live in a dorm and you had to go to a local college?”
“Yeah, I do know that,” she replied.
And the verbal diarrhea continued, unchecked.
“Do you know why Mom sent me two hours away to college?” I asked, and I knew there was some sarcasm in my voice.
“Because I had become a permanent babysitter for your three kids who were all living with us at the time. She wanted me to get away.”
“There you go, coming up first again. Mom always thought of you first.”
“Oh, and taking you and your whole family into her house to support didn’t count.”
“You babysat my kids? Well guess what? I babysat all you kids from the time I could walk.”
I laughed at that point. I couldn’t help it.
Eventually we talked it out. We can never stay mad at each other very long. In a family of seven siblings, we are the only two sisters. But – she’s the reason I’m writing a book about alcoholism, because I truly believe her drinking changed my whole life and a lot of the choices that might have been available to me. I wish I could say I’m better, but I’m still such a sick codependent. I don’t ask her anymore if she’s going to meetings, or if she’s working her program.
I have a smaller hoola hoop now, and I’m only concerned with my own program. It’s enough for me. It’s enough for a lifetime.
I’m a writer, but that’s a separate journal. This journal is a place for me to vent, to talk about what the heck is going on in my life, and to figure things out. I’ve been told by some that I’m the most functional in a very dysfunctional family, which is saying a helluva lot, since I struggle with borderline personality, bipolar, and obsessive compulsive disorders. Lots of times I’ll just be ranting, and if it helps you, I’m happy. I certainly don’t want to add to anyone else’s angst.
Carol (my sister) drank yesterday. She’s an alcoholic. She turned 58 this year, and she’s been drinking since I was three years old. I’ll be 45 this year. I can’t figure it out. She finally got her driver’s license back after ten years of not having one (three dui’s in Michigan and that’s it). It’s restricted for a year, where she has to blow into one of those things every 15 minutes, but she has a car, and she was really excited.
I’ve joined al-anon, and went to my second meeting this past Monday. When this all happened yesterday, I called two people from my phone list to ask what to do, because everything our family has tried in the past hasn’t worked. If we’d taken her to a hospital, she would have just signed herself out the next day (or hours later) AMA.
What I learned is that I have to take care of myself first. And that by rescuing Carol all the time, it sends her a message that she’s worthless, that she’s not worthwhile, and cannot take care of herself – which of course she’s perfectly capable of. She has tons of friends in AA, all of which she could have called (BEFORE she picked up a drink). She has a schizophrenic adult son. She’s in a relationship that’s about to breakup. Problems with her two daughters. There are lots of reasons to drink.
Oh hell. I’m done for now. Anyone else out there have alcoholism in their families that has some experience, strength and hope to share with me?d