Powerless Over What?

“Our pressures and anxieties don’t disappear just because we are sober.” –Living With Sobriety, p. 18

My father was an alcoholic. Though he never missed a day of his job as a police officer, he drank daily, and it sometimes caused him a problem. For me as his daughter, I was powerless over his mood swings, harsh criticism and belittling comments. When I got older, I couldn’t understand why I felt so defensive whenever I was criticized.

Because of the alcoholic environment, I had developed defenses that somewhat protected me as a child. As an adult, these defenses got in the way. The threat wasn’t there anymore, but I still reacted as though it was. There was no reason to be afraid, but I felt plenty scared.

In Al-Anon, I learned that even as I grew older, I was still powerless over the effects of my father’s disease. I was powerless over the effects of his behavior while he was drinking.

B is for Blaming

My sister’s three children, who are grown adults now — the eldest is forty, and the younger two are in their late thirties — like to blame her for the way their lives are now, drawing on countless stories of a “horrific” childhood raised by a sometimes absent practicing alcoholic. This is always heartbreaking for Carol but she has learned to say “Goodbye, I’m hanging up now,” when it gets redundant and too difficult.  I’m sure their childhoods were indeed difficult, but at what point does one say, “What’s happening in my life now is up to me. These are my choices. No one else is responsible and no one can change those choices except me.” 

It’s easier to blame, though. It hurts less, and pointing that sharp finger at ourselves takes blind courage. I know, because for years I went to Al-Anon meetings missing the point. I talked about the alcoholics in my life: my dad and my sister, and how they had wronged me; how screwed up my life was now because of them. Sound familiar? 😉 I reasoned that since Carol had started drinking when she was 16 and I was an impressionable three, my childhood was essentially taken away from me. I vacillated between the placater/pleaser and the lost child/adjuster in Claudia Black’s family roles  For those of you from alcoholic families, which role(s) did you play?

Naturally, I felt tons of victimization in these roles, and I played it to the hilt. Poor me, poor me, I cried at the meetings, and — I love them so much — no one at  those meetings ever  once stopped me, trusting the process.

It has taken years, and I mean years, for me to get to the place where I can sit down at an Al-Anon meeting and know I’m going to talk about some facet of my life that I need help with. Because that’s what it’s all about. Al-Anon is for me. AA is for the alcoholic.

Not that I still don’t play  the blame game every now and then. Who doesn’t? It’s  like something that almost rolls off my tongue and I have to consciously stop myself. Oh wait —noooo, what happened  was my own choice! 🙂

A is for Acceptance

Acceptance is a difficult concept to deal with, even if we’re not talking about alcoholism. None of us wants to be unacceptable, or excluded from a group, whether we’re small children, adolescents, or older adults. The synonyms for acceptance are many, among them approval and recognition.

I know a young woman who is gay. She has found a woman she loves, is very happy, and engaged to be married. Most people she knows are very happy for her happiness, but not all are as accepting. Some are even judgmental, saying she and her partner would always be welcome in their home, but they would never attend her wedding. This makes no sense to me, and seems more than a little hypocritical. If you accept the fact that someone is gay, you recognize it, you approve of the lifestyle she/he has chosen.

With my sister, it’s different, but somewhat the same. She’s been sober for a while now, and attended several family gatherings as a sober alcoholic. I don’t drink often, mostly at major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, my mom laughs at me, because I will see a drink recipe shown on The Chew or something, get all excited about it, buy all the ingredients, bring them home, and then the liquor sits in our cupboards, because I’ve immediately lost interest. :P)

Back to my sister. I never used to drink around her. I thought it was a sign of solidarity if I joined her in not drinking. Recently, I’ve realized it was actually codependency, and I was not allowing her a sense of self-esteem, and achievement all her own. She’s very capable, and strong in her own right. But I’m sure she feels that exclusion, that non-acceptance among non-alcoholics, even though she’s accepted by her recovering alcoholic friends. I still laugh when I remember going with her to an open talk AA meeting at Sacred Heart in downtown Detroit. I was so nervous I wouldn’t even smoke, even though I badly wanted a cigarette. One of her friends finally leaned over to me and said, “So, do you have any vices?”

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417)

Are YOU My Sponsor?

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” ~Rabbi Hillel

I am currently a sponsor-less (wingless, rudderless) member of Al-Anon. This year September will be three years that I’ve been in Al-Anon, but my former uber sponsor and I parted ways amicably over a year ago.

Since that time finding a new one has reminded me of the childhood book Are You My Mother? in which a baby bird is hatched while its mother is away from the nest and it goes about asking various animal species that very question, “Are you my mother?”

Seeking a sponsor has felt, not to be too melodramatic, like walking through a field of landmines. 😛 I’ve been turned down by three older women because they “don’t do ‘that’ anymore.” Whatever. I sucked it up and tried some more. I was consecutively turned down by three more younger women because they “didn’t feel up to it.” What?? Beg your pardon? Don’t feel up to it?

I’ll tell you the God’s honest truth, and that is this. I’m pissed off. If someone were to approach me today to ask me to be her sponsor, even though I don’t have one myself. I would pray, ask God for help each day, and do the very best I could by that person.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Tomorrow morning I’m going to my home group meeting “Peace at the End of the Road.” I’m not leaving without a sponsor, even if it’s just temporary. I’m tired of hearing my own voice bounce off the walls. We all need a little help sometimes.

Wish me luck, say a prayer, send good thoughts….could use it all.

Peace out, peeps. xo sober

The Problem and The Answer

Speechless_Bubble_by_applesauce_x3 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.

Peace out.

Steps To Save Your Sanity!

sharing-light1 I hope it doesn’t make me heartless to not write about the tragedy in Connecticut yesterday. I’m just as shocked and broken up as any of you, but I’m just choosing not to write about it.

Today, keeping in the holiday theme of the month, I thought we’d talk about how to hang on to our sanity during this time. It can be difficult with family obligations, financial crises, or other high stress situations.

Just fill in this blank: “The toughest part of the holidays is most definitely _____.”

Now, let’s figure out how to deal with whatever you (or me, which for me, it is family stress for sure) wrote in the blank.

1. Keep conscious contact with your Higher Power: I didn’t always believe Step Two. It took a long time for that step to work its way down from my head to my heart. I had been burned by a church and burned in my family, and I felt betrayed by God. So I prayed, because I thought it “worked” for other people, whatever “it” was. My prayers were wooden and automatic at first. When I read passages in the Bible about people crying out to God, I could never imagine myself getting that passionate. In anger, maybe. Even that, I felt more numb–like a shell-shocked victim. It’s been very gradual . . . years of tilling the soil, planting seeds, just . . . sitting with God without talking . . . times like that. But I do maintain daily contact, even if I’m so busy all I can manage to pray is Help! and Thank you! It’s a relationship. It’s different now. And when we speak, it’s as if it was just minutes ago.

2. Get support: Find a place that gets to feel like your home away from home, whether it’s a recovery group, Bible study, therapy group, prayer circle, knitting circle . . . even a book club if you all get close enough that you can share your deepest darkests. You know? I don’t know what I would do without Al-Anon. Or my knitting circle, for that matter! 😉

3. Have a sponsor: I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a sponsor, and establish boundaries and guidelines from the get-go, about how often to keep in touch, when to call, how often to meet, and so forth. I do have the best sponsor in the whole wide world, but you might could find the second best . . . 😉

4. Use a phone list: Each time you go to a new meeting, and you like it, and you start to make friends there, get phone numbers. If the meeting has a phone list, get that. Then, use it. People put their names down on phone list because they want to be called. So go ahead. Make someone’s day.

5. Read some recovery-endorsed literature daily: I have several daily meditation books, but only . . . hmm, I think four, are endorsed by Al-Anon as conference-approved literature. So I make sure every day to read from at least one of those, usually a couple, because they are each so different. I’m reading the Al-Anon Bible through for the 3rd time.

6. Help someone else: When you light someone else’s candle, your own light never goes out. Ever notice that? Even if all you feel able to do is to hold the door for someone coming in after you, or to get an extra chair for someone who came in late . . . whatever you can do to help someone during this holiday season . . . maybe you are in the parking lot and you notice someone burdened with many shopping bags. Carefully approach and ask if you can help. We just don’t do things like that anymore. Let’s start a revolution . . . a love revolution.

You’re beautiful. You know that, right?

Peace out.

Feelings Aren’t Facts: Make it a Mantra!

reality checkMaybe in your past you grew up in a chaotic or even abusive alcoholic family. Or maybe your family was dysfunctional in another way. No matter what, you learned to rely on your feelings as a barometer for what to do. If you felt scared, you ran and hid. If confronted by unwarranted anger, you might have also run and hid, or you might have fought back. We are all different. Some of us were little scrappers, which got us into further trouble. 😉 Some of us cried when we were sad, some simply withdrew. Some of us were shy, some larger than life.

Everything was black or white. There was no room for negotiation. It was either a big scary monster or it wasn’t. Simple as that. If we made choices based on our feelings, as if they were facts, then the only choice was to flee.

Now, as adults, though it is by no means easy, we can see that we have varied choices. In Al-Anon meetings, I am learning that I (yes me) am a compelling, multi-faceted individual. I can have two feelings at once, for instance, and this is perfectly valid. And guess what? I can and do survive them. Singing in a Christmas concert recently, I felt beyond nervous and excited at the same time. My feelings told me I couldn’t possibly do it! Sing in a Christmas concert! No way! But I now know that feelings aren’t facts, so I did it anyway. And the concert was a smashing success. 😉 We can love someone and be angry at them. We can even love and hate someone at the same time. Yes! It’s possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s a fact that we hate them. It’s a feeling. And we move through it.

Lots of feelings will come up this holiday season. You’ll meet old friends and maybe make new ones. You’ll see family you perhaps haven’t seen in a year. But chin up. It’s just a feeling. It’ll pass.

Peace out.