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.
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.
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.
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!
Wednesday was a difficult day for me, and I thought I had lost all the ground I had previously gained in Al-Anon and then some. That was the day we picked up my sister from jail, and subsequently spent 11 hours in the car driving her around, back and forth from her probation officer to different places, only to have doors slammed in our faces and told to go back here or there . . .
I admit, I lost my cool a time or two. I don’t do freeway driving well, and I had to listen to Stella (my GPS), find the places, while trying not to worry about my 85-yr-old mother next to me in the passenger seat who had also been in the car the same length of time.
Then this morning I read this passage (April 5th) on acceptance from Courage To Change: “It’s all right to feel disappointed, skeptical, resentful, joyous, excited, or confused about our changing circumstances.” The reading goes on to say that many of us find ourselves going back to the basics even after we have found ourselves in Al-Anon for a while after the alcoholic gets sober and THEY go through big changes. What is important is what we do with our feelings. Talking them through at the tables helps. A lot.
So today I’ll go to a meeting. I didn’t have time yesterday. I have family here from out of town. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, or blaming them in any way, because I enjoy them! But I’ll have time today while they are visiting friends of theirs.
Have a great and wonderful day, gentle readers.
When we spend our lives, or the majority of them, obsessing about another person – namely a relative or friend who is alcoholic – we lose pieces of ourselves until we no longer no who we are. We become so enmeshed with the other person we forget where they end and we begin. This is also called codependency, and it affects millions of people around the globe.
We become numb to our feelings, oblivious to our own needs, unable to name our emotions.
When I watched my sister sentenced, handcuffed, and taken away to jail on Tuesday, I didn’t cry. Nor did I cry when I spoke about it with my sponsor the next day or mechanically field call after call from “well wishers” wanting to know what had happened.
I didn’t cry when my doctor spoke softly with me about my depression, and changed my medication, told me I was severely dehydrated and needed to drink more water. I didn’t cry as he poked open my burn blister to drain it and gave me silvadene cream to treat it. I didn’t cry as I explained my worthlessness to him. He asked how long I had felt like this, how often did I see my therapist? I told him as long as I can remember, and – once a week.
That evening I went to an Al-Anon meeting. It occurred to me on the way there that I’d been taking “Fake it ’til you make it” to an extreme. I had been saying all the right things at the meetings, wanting so hard to believe them. I read the Al-Anon literature, underlined the important parts, and it got into my head . . . but hadn’t traveled to my heart.
So – at the meeting, I shared my worthlessness, and I burst into tears. I apologized for them, of course. But people told me not to be ridiculous, don’t apologize for feelings. I’ve been teary ever since.
Gentle reader, I’m a big fat fake. I’m just now finding out who I am. I didn’t even know, when I bought CK 1 the other day, whether or not it was meant for women. That’s the measure of my clueless nature. I just knew I loved the smell, and I wanted it.
If I bore you, that is that. If I am clumsy, that may indicate partly the difficulty of my subject, and the seriousness with which I am trying to take what hold I can of it; more certainly, more certainly it will indicate my youth, my lack of mastery of my so-called art or craft, my lack perhaps of talent . . .
A piece of the body torn out by the roots might be more to the point. –James Agee
I dearly love you all. I DO know that much. 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.