I was directed to this on the internet by a friend, and felt it was worth reblogging. It’s a wonderful blog post, and I couldn’t have written it better myself. Please read it, it’s well worth the read. SO well written and expressive, and I don’t even need to mention the important content, do I? Peace out and be well, my friends.
A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.
So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.
It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.
A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.
So, here it is.
My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression
1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.
2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)
3) Enlist the help of a professional. See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.
5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that. Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.
6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.
7) While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.
8) If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….
9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.
10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.
11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.
12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.
13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.
14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.
15) Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process – but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.
16) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.
17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only. Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.
18) Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.
19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.
20) If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.
21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.
This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?
They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.
UPDATE: Wow, guys. Thank you. The feedback has been wonderful – all I wanted to set out to do was something helpful.
For those of you who want to see the original rant, Here it is.. http://www.diycouturier.com/post/41923259437/to-the-person-who-wrote-21-habits-…
And here’s the response to my response (?) – basically, after posting my retort, the happy people came at me with torches all over the interwebs.
Also, a few people have mentioned that having a critter is a great thing to keep you on track, that taking care of something and having something rely on you keeps you going. I went back and forth on including that, but for some, it’s just not feasible to have a cat or a dog… but my cat is my Prozac.
And, I wrote this in Canada, where we have universal health care. It breaks my heart that people don’t have access to professional support. You can sometimes find a community health centre, or sometimes your work benefits will have an employee support or assistance plan as part of your insurance. If you’re without benefits and hitting desperation, phone someone. Friend, family – even your local distress centre.
Stay well, my melancholic interweb friends…xoRR
If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.
— Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
There are two memories I’d like to share with you today, and they both concern my dad. I’ll try to be brief, so you don’t fall asleep. My dad was a difficult person to live with. He was abusive to me verbally, emotionally, and I’m told physically, though I don’t remember the physical part. I’ve always prescribed to the belief that we do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. My dad’s father was also abusive; so that’s what he knew. And he didn’t yet know Jesus Christ, the ultimate Healer and binder of wounds.
On March 5, 1997, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart and make it His dwelling place. That was remarkable on so many levels, but it’s not even the most remarkable event. Almost exactly six months to the day after I received Christ, my father prayed with me and I gave him his own large print Bible. He was 77 years old, and had Alzheimer’s for four years already, but this was a divinely appointed lucid moment when we prayed. I know I will see my dad in heaven when I die.
The other significant memory is three days before he passed on, which was December 14, 2000. All my family (I have five brothers and one sister) was gathered home from various parts of the states to be with Dad and say their goodbyes. We were keeping him home with hospice care.
Anyway, for some reason (divine appointment?) Dad and I had a rare moment alone. He turned to me, eyes quite lucid, remarkably so, and said, “I hope you don’t hate me for the rest of your life.”
I knew as clear as day he was asking for forgiveness. I didn’t even hesitate.
“No worries, Dad,” I said, “I love you.”
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.
My need to control can show itself as a need to know exactly what’s going on, all the time. We cannot always know. Sometimes, I need to let things be and trust that clarity will come later, in looking back.
Just like in this painting, I see exactly what I need to see . . . for now. It’s okay. It’s already okay. If it doesn’t make perfect sense now, it’s not supposed to.
More will be revealed. Peace out.
What would you do if you found a note written by your daughter saying she had been sexually molested by a member of your church, a friend of the family? This is the terrible truth and problem that Issy and her parents, Zara and Sam Heymer must face as Christians.
This book is based on a true story, and it is not an easy read. What I mean to say is, it is about a young teen who is sexually abused for several years by a church member/close family friend and it takes place in Australia where apparently they do not have mandatory reporting laws. Issy’s Mom, Zara, struggles so much in her faith, wondering how God could allow such a thing to happen, and she feels a total failure as a mother. Sam, Issy’s father, is helpless himself’, as Issy will not allow him to touch her. Issy herself goes on total self-destruct for a while, and, although this reader determined to remember the promise of God: “Though the bud be bruised, there will be a flower…” at times it was very hard.
Because of the topic I would recommend this book only for adults and mature young adults who perhaps have been through the same thing.
I don’t mean to seem impartial, but I loved, loved, loved this book. I know, I know, tell you how I really think, huh? It’s just, in spite of the subject matter, in spite of the fact that I cried (a lot) at times . . . I could not put it down. I read the book in two days. You know, I’d want to skip out on being a mom if I was faced with all that had happened to my daughter as well. It’s so human. Wanmer doesn’t present her characters as super-Christians; you know the type? They never get mad at God, never doubt Him, wouldn’t even dare. Zara is breakable, and she breaks, yet God is the One who puts her AND Issy back together. God is the thread that binds the whole book together.
I was very challenged in my faith reading the book. I got mad at the church members with Zara. I didn’t understand. I don’t like change very much, either. So yes, I had to trust God a lot while I read the book, knowing it was based on true happenings.
I would highly recommend this book. In case it’s not obvious, I mean!
Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through theBookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Happy Friday! Peace out.
A few posts ago I declared myself a fraud and think I also said something about being worthless, perhaps. I would like takesies-backsies on both of those.
Since then, I have spoken with both my Al-Anon super sponsor, and my therapist, Heather, and they have helped me learn something valuable.
I thought I was a fraud because the nearly year-long time I had spent going to Al-Anon had only gone into my head-sense, but had not traveled the 12 or so inches to my heart.
Both my super sponsor and my T. heartily disagreed, and I have to say I finally understand. I’ll explain why. It takes everyone WHATEVER IT TAKES and AS LONG AS IT TAKES to get to the next level in the program.
Just like it might have taken my sister getting arrested to get straight finally, it might have taken MY SISTER GETTING ARRESTED for me to take the focus totally off her and put it completely on me where it belongs. I gotta tell you it feels weird, but freeing, because I get to learn about my needs, and get to learn a lot about myself for the first time in a long time.
I don’t jump every time the phone rings anymore. In fact, the phone is eerily quiet. I’m journaling, and I’m eight days self-injury free.
The freedom that comes with accepting yourself right where you are means you don’t need to pretend. You don’t need to say you’re fine when you’re not. You don’t have to paste on a fake smile until your face hurts at a party. If you need to you can slip out and take a break. Or *gasp* not go at all. You don’t have to put yourself in situations that threaten the core of what you value, if you know those values. If you don’t – there’s freedom in working that all out.
The best part is we are not alone wherever we are on our journey. Our Higher Power (mine is God) is with us, talking us through it, holding our hand at the scary parts, walking ahead of us, lighting the way. He’s been there before. He’s done that. He knows exactly what it feels like. More importantly, He knows us way better than we even know ourselves.
This has been a post for the Christian Writers Blog Chain. The theme for July is FREEDOM!
As always, love you big. Peace out.
The 7th step says: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
This is an image of the 3rd Step Prayer Book Marker available at hazelden.org, in their bookstore. On the other side is the 7th step prayer, which reads as follows:
My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.
That prayer is taken from p. 76 from the Big Book of AA.
To me, Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 are all closely linked. We take our inventories in step four, so that we KNOW our shortcomings and character defects, then we share them with our higher power, ourselves and someone else we trust in step five; in step six we become entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character, and in step seven the READINESS and WILLINGNESS turns to ASKING.
I’m on the first two of these action steps. I’m in a small women’s group, going through the Blueprint for Progress, which is a detailed fourth step. We share with each other the progress we are making, and it’s very intimate sharing, sometimes much like a fifth step. Of course I will share again with my super sponsor when we are finished with the book.
But I’m getting practice now. And every day I ask God to remove my shortcomings, of which there are many. I still operate from fear a lot of times when I should be operating out of trust in Him. I procrastinate. I get lazy. I walk my dog before the sun rises in the early morning because I worry I won’t be able to handle her around other dogs or people. I don’t trust myself to write the stories I want to tell. I miss meetings I need to go to. I don’t call my sponsor when I get scared. I watch mindless TV instead of writing in my journal. I haven’t knitted in days and days. I don’t call my friends.
These are all shortcomings. They are my weak, sore spots, and I cry out to God to remove them. Thankfully, He doesn’t do it all at once, and He is gentle with me. But He will do it, because He loves me too much to leave me the way I am.
There’s something so much better out there.
Humility is key. Never be to proud to ask for help.
Love you guys. Peace out.
When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other. ~Alan Alda
I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. ~Woody Allen
Here’s the thing. I’m a perfectionist. I never would have thought of myself that way before yesterday. But when I came home from the Saturday meeting, and Mom wanted to watch a movie on Lifetime with me while I really needed to post to this blog, I almost cried. About a post to a blog! What would I do if I got sick? Post from my sickbed?
Seriously. Sometimes you gotta laugh.
At the meeting yesterday, we talked more about detachment, because two of the women at the meeting know my sister and love her too. They understand all about detachment from the perspective not only of Al-Anoners but as alcoholics. As they shared, these beautiful women, they laughed. They shared memories from their own drinking days, and looking back on it, they laughed at the insanity of it. Everyone else laughed with them.
Finally, through my tears after just sharing my own worries, I laughed too.
Because sometimes you gotta laugh.
Often, when people get to the 2nd step, Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, they are not quite sure what to do.
Many (including yours truly) have come from a place where they felt so beaten down they didn’t believe anything or anyone could fix it. I was told “Keep coming back.” So I did. I came. That’s all I could do for a while. I came and got my butt in the chair and I listened.
I came and then I came to and then I came to believe.
It’s a process, and it looks different for everyone because everyone is an individual.
Here’s the problem, though. Sometimes, people in the program will make another person their higher power. Like, say, a sponsor. So what do you suppose happens if that sponsor should happen to get really sick, or die?
The difficulty is people are fallible. They are HUMAN. They make mistakes. Sometimes they fall down. Sometimes they’re late, or they forget to call, or they don’t show up at all. If we rely on another human being — someone with 10 fingers and 10 toes, just like us — we are in for a world of hurt.
I found myself thinking this morning “What in the world would I do if Super Sponsor died?” (I don’t really call her that in my mind, but this is an anonymous blog.) The fact is, I’d be really sad. I’d probably cry for a long time, because I love her a lot. She’s a great person. But I’d have to move on with my life, because she wouldn’t want me to suffer for too long.
My higher power is God. He doesn’t go on vacation. He’s never late, He is always there when I call, He doesn’t have voice mail, is never in a pissy mood, always has time to listen, loves to hear me go on and on about things I have on my mind, and has the best solutions if I just listen.
Who’s your higher power?
Have you ever just felt like you were going to explode inside? Like you had all these pent up feelings you didn’t know what to do with? I feel like Mt. Vesuvius ready to blow, and I worry for whomever might be in my path in the next few days.
I really want to just get in my car and drive. I mean for a distance, and for a long time, until I’m somewhere I’ve never been where no one knows me and there aren’t any expectations, no one hanging on me for this or that, or rides here or there… I’m just . . . grrrr. So – EDGY. I feel like I want to throw things and jump up and down like a two-year-old, and I’ve never felt like that in my entire life.
So glad I’m going to a meeting this morning, because even though I can’t “dump” all this at the meeting, I can talk about the edginess, and the newness of these feelings. I can dump the wanting to run away with my sponsor and talk about what to do with that. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS RUN AWAY??? When everything within you is screaming, “Go away! Very fast! Now, while you still have a chance and before you get sucked into the mire and can’t get out at all!!”
Dear God, I don’t even know where these feelings are coming from. Dear Reader, I don’t expect you to have the answers. This is just my safe place. My go to place, where I can come and lay it out. It WILL work out. I’m scared because these are quite unexpected feelings for me, that’s all. It’s normal and perfectly all right to be scared.
It’s already okay, right?
In it I put things like…peace of mind, acceptance, courage, certain weird prayers.
Today I finally put my sister in the God box and I closed it.
I generally don’t revisit the God box unless a prayer has been answered, and then I open it to write a thank you to God.
Tomorrow is court date.
We leave at 12:00, have to be there at 1:30 p.m.
Do you have a God Box? What kinds of things do you add to your box? Is it hard for you to leave it closed?
My prayers have been fervent and many of late.
At the Al-Anon meeting this morning, I asked for a table on Hope, because I thought that’s what I needed to talk about. The thing about the fellowship, I learn so much more from them than they could ever learn from me.
I ended up learning what I need to sustain me during these next difficult days with my sister is faith. I listened to stories around the table about faith, and I wrote things down, but mostly I remembered what God had said to me when I got on my knees and prayed before. “It’s ALREADY okay.”
So I opened my Bible, which has not gotten much attention over the past couple of weeks, I’m sorry to say. I found one of my favorite Scripture passages about faith: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV
I looked at that picture of mustard seeds on Wikipedia. Taken by themselves, they are almost impossible to see. I think I can muster up the faith of a mustard seed.
It really IS already okay.
Okay, so I can totally relate to this picture here. When it comes to the Third Step, Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him, I’m a total control freak with the big things.
And what exactly ARE the big things? I mean, I can turn over parking spaces, book ideas, my dog’s ear infection and different things like that.
But when it comes to people I love it’s an entirely different story. I have a pretty big deal coming up on the 29th, next Tuesday, and I’ve been talking around it, and in vague terms. Today I’m just going to come right out and say it, because I could use your prayers or comments of support, whatever you can offer me. Even just your “likes” on this post will send my heart soaring. Honestly.
My sister was arrested for her 4th drunk driving and I’m driving her to court on Tuesday. She faces from 1-5 YEARS in prison. There is a possibility of treatment instead, so we’re praying about that. Fortunately, she didn’t hurt anyone else while she was driving (or herself), so she’s not dealing with manslaughter charges.
I’ve been doubling up on my Al-Anon meetings, and talking to my sponsor a lot, because my sister calls me often to speak to me, looking for reassurance, or just to talk. She speculates much about the future, and I try to help her take it one day at a time, and one hour at a time if she needs to. We just DON’T KNOW what will happen. Only God knows.
That’s where I get hung up. I get all twisted up inside when I think about Tuesday. As much as I’m reassuring her, I think of how much I will miss my sister. No matter what happens, she will go away for quite a while. If it’s treatment, it will be long term somewhere. I talk to her every day without fail except for when she is drinking. Then I miss her the most.
The only time I have peace with this is when I’m sleeping. I try so hard to turn her over. I pray to my higher power, which is God, and I say, “I know she belongs to You. She was Yours way before I ever even knew her. You can take such good care of her if I just let go. Help me to let go. Please.” *laughing* Praying a prayer for help to turn someone over doesn’t even seem to make a lick of sense, does it?
But it’s the best I can do for now.
Sponsorship is one of the tools of recovery in Twelve Step programs. I, however, would call it more than a tool. I would call it absolutely necessary for honest recovery. Whereas I can fool myself pretty much all of the time, I can never fool my sponsor for very long. Nor would I want to.
This morning, I went to an OA meeting. I admitted that I’m still in deep denial about the whole process. I didn’t even admit that I’m a compulsive overeater. I merely said “Hi, I’m Chris” and began my sharing.
The miracle though, the one I’m referring to with the picture I’ve inserted here, is what I did even before the meeting started. I approached a woman I’d been thinking about whom I listened to at my very first meeting. Her name is Mary, and she has a strong program, I can tell. Plus, she seems like she would know what to do if you called her in a panic. You know what I mean?
I already have a strong Al-Anon sponsor. But Dori would not know what to do about compulsive overeating because she does not struggle with that addiction.
So I saw Mary getting out of her car, and even before the meeting starting I walked up to her and asked her. “I’m still in deep denial about the whole thing. I just thought you should know.” I told her. “But I’m willing to do whatever you ask me to do. Absolutely anything.” She never hesitated. She wrote her phone number on the inside of my Big Book of AA (our basic text for OA).
I’m calling her at 6:00 tonight. I’m SO looking forward to it.
Often, around the tables, we will hear the acronym F*E*A*R defined as “F*ck Everything And Run.”
I’m sorry if that offended anyone, but lately it is more my intention to be honest and as upfront as I can . . . I try also to be kind, but sometimes they do not go hand-in-hand, when the truth is so very important.
Yesterday, just before I left for my meeting, I received heartbreaking, devastating family news. My heart literally broke into pieces at the same time I could feel my pulse begin to race and mouth dried up like the desert.
I had two choices. I could stay home and wait by the phone for further news, or I could go ahead to the meeting where I knew I would get help.
I had my phone with me. I told my mom it was turned on, that I would take it into the meeting with me (normally a strict “no-no”, but this was a looser meeting) and duck out to answer it if she called. I prayed so hard for my family member that day on the way to the meeting, for a future forever changed by one choice. I prayed for protection, for guidance, for comfort against fear . . . all the things that people pray when they are concerned.
My biggest fear, one that I need to turn over many times a day to God, because I keep doubting, and having to grab onto faith again, is that my loved one will forever hate me. Because I am changed today, because I make different choices due in much gratitude to the Al-Anon program, there is one big thing I did not do yesterday . . . to rescue.
I am in constant prayer. I keep a candle lit. They have no idea how much we love them and how difficult these choices are. It’s not just a flip I switched in my mind and was like “Oh, I think I’ll torment someone today. I think I’ll make them spend the night in hell. See how that feels.” It’s not like that at all.
Faith doesn’t pull any punches, though. Faith knows what it knows and it still believes . . . and acts.
“All I have to do is keep my hands off and turn my heart on” –…In All Our Affairs
Detachment is the ability to let go while living with or loving an alcoholic (or in any other destructive or codependent relationship).
In the lovely booklet Detachment: The Art of Letting Go While Living with an Alcoholic, Evelyn Leite says, “Before you begin to list real solutions to the problems of living in an alcoholic family, you need to understand that nothing you can do is by itself going to stop the drinking.”
That’s pretty basic and crucial stuff to understand. Also not easy. Simple things in Al-Anon, or in codependency and abusive relationships for that matter, never are. It takes a while to let these things sink in. I know when I first started attending Al-Anon, it took me forever even to start to read the Big Book, How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics. It was easier for me to take in and understand the shorter bursts of Courage to Change, One Day At A Time in Al-Anon, or Hope for Today.
But that was enough. That, listening to the people at the other tables, and sharing my own story, got me through.
Detachment, however, at least physical detachment, wasn’t that difficult for me. One of my biggest survival strategies growing up was isolation, and I can still get into it if I’m not uber-vigilant today. It’s easy for me to walk out of a room, away from a situation that is too difficult for me, all in the guise of wanting a smoke, or checking my email, whatever.
Detachment, emotionally, has been trickier. Doing it with love I might classify as an Olympian event. I read in meditation book (can’t remember which one just now) that an Al-Anon-er thought she’d conquered detachment when she’d learned to leave her drunk spouse on the floor as he fell out of bed and step over him to get into bed herself. LOL I can laugh, see, because that sounds so much like me.
Later, as she grew in Al-Anon, she decided that detachment in love meant she still didn’t need to rescue him from the floor when he fell out of bed, but she could cover him with a blanket before she stepped over him.
When my nephew passed out in my house that day and could not be moved for the life of me (trust me, I tried), and I later shared about it at table of women at Al-Anon, I was surprised at the number of people who came up to me afterwards and said they would have “kicked the bum out” or “made him sleep on the porch.”
I understand people care about me and those are mostly knee-jerk responses, but to me that’s not even close to detachment with love. When he woke up – or came to – the next day on the couch, he felt terrible and to my knowledge has not had a drink since.
It’s possible to love the person and not like what they do. I know for a fact that not everyone likes what I do, but I sure hope they still love me. I make as many mistakes as the next person, probably more. That’s detaching emotionally, to be able to take a step back and say, “Without the alcohol (insert whatever behavior you need to here), this person is the one I’ve always loved.”
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?
As you may have noticed when you happened onto my page this lovely morning, things have changed around here. When I first began blogging, I thought my blog was going to be about knitting and writing, with some posts thrown in here and there to reflect my Al-Anon journey.
Since I’m going through the Blueprint for Progress with a small group of women, which involves the 4th step adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, I have to get real about this blog.
It’s an Al-Anon blog, with some posts here and there about knitting and reading, writing, stuff like that. As I made this decision, I understood the fearless aspect of getting honest for the first time. Well, not really. I’m still afraid I’ll lose readership. You see how I have to beat off the comments as it is now.
But I like the new feel, the new look. It’ll have pages added to it, as I get off my lazy butt and put them in. But for now, what you see is what you get. By the way, Route 66 no longer exists, except in a historical preservation sense. It’s in one state (can’t remember the name now) and it leads nowhere, just a nice scenic drive.
That is a bit of a metaphor for what I want for you, gentle reader, and me. I want to take the scenic way home. I want this to be a long trip, and – will you stay with me?
Oh. Time for a meeting.
It’s no secret that I grew up in an alcoholic home. I lived my childhood and most of my adult years and sometimes still today thinking I
had to be perfect and that I was responsible for everyone around me. When I became a born-again believer on March 5, 1997 I clearly understood God’s grace for my life, and that there was nothing I COULD do that would ever make me perfect or even NEAR perfect compared to Christ and what He had done for me.
The amazing thing about grace is it’s there for me to call on whenever I need it.
According to Dictionary Online, grace means, among other things: mercy, clemency, and pardon. It also means LOVE, favor, goodwill, and kindness. How cool is that?
My sponsor and I have talked about this many times, as she is also a Christian. We have talked about the idea of speaking the truth with grace to others, and how difficult that is, both growing up in alcoholic homes. When you haven’t been raised with grace, it’s hard to know what that looks like, feels like.
So the best we can do, we decided, is to speak the truth with kindness, gentleness. Even being polite, respectful.
When I’ve tripped and stumbled in my walk, when I’ve made a mistake, it still takes me a bit to get back up and approach God. I’m not quite at the point where I can run to Him and agree freely that I’ve blown it.
I’ll get there. It’s a journey, and I’m not going anywhere.
Happy Easter, friends. Grace to you!