Why I Don’t Like Al-Anon Meetings

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sinceOkay. This post might make a whole lot of people angry. Let me just start by saying I love Al-Anon itself. It literally saved my life and my relationship with my sister. So let’s just clear that up, while you are looking at the silly meme on the left. It’s not about Al-Anon as a whole. Whew. There.

This is why I don’t like the meetings anymore:

1. People complain about the same old things. I’ve been to a lot of meetings, and okay. I get that some things are harder to let go than others. But it’s really tiring and sad to hear the same person time after time not healing over the same issues. Why aren’t we helping each other?

2. The same variations of experience, strength, and hope are usually shared. Similar to the above, when I go to meetings, what I seem to hear are almost “rehearsed” sharings. I’m afraid that when they hear me talk they might be to shocked from a sound slumber, because — well, I stutter, I cry, sometimes I’m unsure of myself . . . very un-put-together.

3. People generally don’t talk about THEMSELVES. They talk about “their” alcoholic. Last time I went to a meeting I didn’t have any time to waste. I was going through a personal crisis, me. It had nothing to do with the alcoholic, it was all about me. I don’t think I mentioned my sister’s name even once. Now, maybe people are wondering, “Why have a group like that, if you aren’t going to talk about the drunk in the room?” Because, my friends, the alcoholics hove a group that’s all about them. It’s called AA. Al-Anon is and should be all about us.

Please, please, tell me how you feel about all I’ve just said. I know people read this blog; so, while your reading it, take your time and comment about what you’ve just read.

I welcome diverse opinions! I like the interplay of discussion. Please, let’s have a discussion about Al-Anon meetings!

I wish you the best of days. Peace out. xx

The Problem and The Answer

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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!

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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!

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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.

It’s August – That Must Mean Step Eight!

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Step eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

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.

Peace out.

Six Steps To Break The Cycle Of Codependency!

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Ever feel like you are handcuffed to the person next to you, or stuck in a situation you can’t get out of? That’s codependency. Here are some steps that help me, and I hope they might help you as well:

1. Breathe.  I’m a notorious shallow breather, which doesn’t help my anxiety. Remember to breathe deeply, from the diaphragm. It makes everything a little easier.  And it can’t hurt to say the Serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

2. Say no. It’s a complete sentence. It needs no explanation, no excuse. If you can’t do something, just say no. Practice it in front of the mirror if you need to. It’s SO empowering once you get it down pat.

3. Detach. Detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It does not imply judgement or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. Separating ourselves from the adverse effects of another person’s alcoholism can be a means of detaching: this does not necessarily require physical separation. Detachment can help us look at our situations realistically and objectively. Alcoholism is a family disease. Living with the effects of someone else’s drinking is too devastating for most people to bear without help. In Al-Anon we learn nothing we say or do can cause or stop someone else’s drinking. We are not responsible for another person’s disease or recovery from it. Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with another’s behavior and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives, lives with dignity and rights, lives guided by a Power greater than ourselves. We can still love the person without liking the behavior. –From Al-Anon Family Groups

4.  Set clear boundaries. A boundary is an invisible line that tells someone where not to cross over. It could be a property line, a privacy line in your mind, whatever you wish. If you have trouble defining boundaries for yourself, an excellent book that helped me is: Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine. She’s quite readable and defines all this in simple, easy to understand terms.

5. Hula Hoop strategy. Can never talk too much about the hula hoop. Buy a hula hoop to KEEP in your house. Heck, they’re cheap, buy two. 😉 Slip one over your head and let it drop to the ground. Now look at the space within the circle of the hula hoop around your feet, your body. Whatever is in that space is what concerns you, your business. Anything outside the hula hoop is none of your business.

6. Support group. Find a support group, whether it’s Al-Anon, CoDA, or another 12 step group. Get involved with others who are experiencing the same issues you are. There’s strength in numbers, no doubt about that. Two heads are always better than one, and you will find companionship and friendship at the tables.

Hope this helped. Have a wonderful day!

Peace out.

 

Asking For Help With H.A.L.T.

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I'm Mrs. Lonely

After being in Al-Anon a while,  I learned about the acronym H.A.L.T., which teaches us never to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. 

I’ve been rolling along all right, I guess, with the hungry and tired part . . . you know, eating enough (while not correctly) and sleeping enough. But I’ve been slipping in the anger department lately.

And I’m devastatingly lonely. There, I said it. I don’t have any real/life friends other than my sponsor, and– Oh God, that sounds absolutely pathetic. But it’s really not. Because for the most part I enjoy my own company and have been perfectly fine spending time alonewhich is different by far than being lonely.

The difference has spiked I think because many of my close circle of online friends are experiencing personal stressors of their own, or are extremely busy, or are in general freaking out. sigh It’s a sign of the times, you know? Life is precarious at best and a thin, delicate thread at worst. Striking a balance within that is like trying to draw polka dots on a King Cobra. A bit scary and breathtaking.

So, after I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more, then cried as I drove to the meeting, I did something quite uncharacteristic for me. I asked for help.

I shared that I’d been ignoring the L. part especially of H.A.L.T., and talked about how that was SO not working for me. Then – before my hands could shake too much – I passed around the sheet of paper and asked if, you know, they wanted to be friends and, if that was they case could they write down their number for me so I could call them and ask them out for coffee or something? lol

I DID. That’s exactly how I said it too. There were five women at my table, and I got four numbers.

I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to do it at tomorrow’s meeting too. 🙂

Is it hard for you to ask for help? When was the last time you did, and were the results surprising?