Roll Away the Stone – Episode 199

Is there a stone blocking the tomb of your soul? Have you crawled inside to escape the pain of life? How can we roll that stone away?

Yes, it’s Easter again. At this time, I am reminded of the biblical story from Mark 16:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

They were sure that they would not be able to roll it away themselves. And this is where many of us were when we came to Al-Anon. We were closed into the darkness of the tomb by a large stone, which we don’t know how to roll away and let the light in.

How did we get there?

I can speak only for myself.

Over the years, I slowly withdrew from active participation in life. I took “refuge from the world” and wrapped myself “in the security of darkness.” Although my life may have appeared normal on the outside, inside, I was numb and withdrawn. There was so much I (felt I) couldn’t share. So much shame and fear and anger and resentment that could not be expressed. I carried those “secret yearnings, pains frustrations, loneliness, fears, regrets, worries” hidden in the tomb, behind the stone.

Each time I failed at my self appointed task of “fixing” my loved one’s drinking … Each time I found a new reason for frustration and despair … Each time I followed my fear down the rabbit hole to inevitable ruin… Each time I exploded in rage at some slight provocation … Each of those times, I retreated further into the darkness of the tomb of my soul.

There is surely some comfort in numbness, in darkness, in retreat. I could turn inward and curl up, and escape the worries for a time. But even if my soul was entombed in darkness, my body still had to live in the world outside. There was no permanent escape, and each day I dug in a little deeper, numbed a little more.

As with the biblical story, I did not know how (or if) I could “roll away the stone.” And, actually, because the change had been so gradual, over such a time, I really did not recognize the depth of my entombment. It took a brief awakening, a “moment of clarity” to see that I was in the dark, and that I needed help.

The book of Mark continues “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe …”  They had the help of a power greater than themselves, symbolized by the “young man dressed in a white robe”.

And so it is with many of us. We need help to roll away our own stone, to let the light in and ourselves out of the place we have  walled ourselves into. I found that help in Al-Anon.

My stone was not immediately removed, but I did start to let some light in. I began to open a crack in the shell around my fears, my despair, my resentments, and my anger. I found a place in meetings where I could shine the light of day on my shame. I found a place where life didn’t hurt so much. I found a place where the facts of my life with active alcoholism were accepted and understood. I found a place where you loved me even when I didn’t love myself.

This didn’t come for free. I had to do my part. At the beginning, my part was just coming to meetings. The hardest step of all, for me, preceded “Step 1”. It was the step into the room of my first Al-Anon meeting.

Another step was practicing “Let go (and let God)”. At first it was just “Let go”. Let go of trying to control the drinking. Let go of trying to protect her from the consequences of her actions. Let go of trying to force consequences! This was letting go without any belief in a higher power that might protect her and lead her to recovery. But even so, letting go let some light in.

As I worked to accept Step 1 “… that we were powerless over alcohol”, the crack widened and more light came in. I started learning about the disease of alcoholism, and began to see the effects of that disease on me, in the ways that I reacted to the behavior of my loved one’s disease. I came to understand that her actions were not directed at me, but were a symptom of the disease that had her in its grips. I developed compassion for her struggle. All of these came through listening to the sharing of others in our fellowship, from reading the literature, and from listening to the stories of other alcoholics.

One day, I woke to the fact that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb of my soul. One day, I recognized that I had not been angry, had not been fearful, had not felt despair for the whole day. I said “this must be what serenity is like.” It was a gift from a higher power. The external facts of my life had not changed. My loved one was still drinking. Alcoholism was still in full flower. But I was OK.

There was no “young man dressed in white” at my side. Instead there were all of you. You, with whose help I rolled away that stone. You, who knowing or unknowing added your little push. Maybe by sharing your experience. Maybe by sharing your strength. Maybe by sharing your hope. Maybe by just being there, in the room, and by your presence telling me “you are not alone.”

I thank you.

I thank you that, on this Easter, I can stand in the light. I thank you that I no longer need to “wrap myself in the security of darkness.”

I thank you.

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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Father Tom W Open Talk – Episode 198

As promised, here is one of my favorite recovery speakers, Father Tom W. sharing his experience, strength, and hope in Al-Anon.

Upcoming topics include being the sober parent and Alateen. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Obsessive Thinking – Episode 197

Do you obsess over your loved one’s drinking? Do you keep chewing over past actions or wrongs done to you? How can we stop?

  • What is obsessive thinking? What are some other words?
    • Wallowing (in negativity/fear/anger)
    • Resentment (as we discussed last week)
    • Ruminating / chewing over (past wrongs / future problems)
    • Looping
  • What sorts of obsessive thoughts do I have? (… have I had?)
    • Getting the alcoholic to stop drinking.
    • Counting drinks.
    • The problems I had in my life (as a result of the drinking).
    • Money problems.
    • What could happen (the worst, of course).
    • Things I did that I feel shame about (kicking myself over and over.)
  • Why is it a problem?
    • Takes time from things I can do.
    • Depresses my mood.
    • Sleeplessness.
    • “We who have been affected by someone else’s drinking find ourselves inexplicably haunted by insecurity, fear, guilt, obsession with others, or an overwhelming need to control every person and situation we encounter.” How Al-Anon Works Chapter 1
  • Tools for relieving obsessive thinking?
    • Detachment
    • Slogans: “How important is it?”, “One day at a time”, “Just for today”, “Let go and let God”
    • THINK / Pause (Courage to Change – Mar 4) Before I get into trouble, before I open my mouth to react, or get lost in obsessive analysis of another person’s behavior, or worrying about the future, I can Stop. Then I can Look at what is going on and my role in it. Then I can Listen for spiritual guidance that will remind me of my options and help me find healthy words and actions.
    • Letting go
    • Gratitude list
      • Often I’ll detour at a particular letter and find myself giving thanks for apples and alexandrites, apothecaries and astronauts, ants and anchovies, or bottles and bakeries, bumblebees and blueberries, bathtubs and brushes. The more overwhelming the problem I’m entertaining, the more my gratitude list helps me. First, by taking my mind off of my obsession, and second, by reminding me of the multitude of delightful and peculiar items in the world around me. (Having Had a Spiritual Awakening Chapter 8)
    • Think of something positive: “… when my thoughts race out of control, I need to stop. I may do this by breathing deeply and looking at my surroundings. It can help to replace the obsessive thoughts with something positive, such as an Al-Anon slogan, the Serenity Prayer, or another comforting topic that has nothing to do with my problem.” Courage to Change Nov 1.
    • Do something: listen to music, go for a walk, play a game, do a puzzle …
    • Serenity Prayer (praying for HP will)
    • “God Box”
      • On a note, I write down the name of the person about whom I am so distressed or angry, or describe the situation that is killing me, with which I am so toxically, crazily obsessed, and I fold the note up, stick it in the box and close it. You might have a brief moment of prayer, and it might come out sounding like this: “Here. You think you’re so big? Fine. You deal with it. Although I have a few more excellent ideas on how best to proceed.” Help, Thanks, Wow (p. 36).

    Some other links:

    Deepak Chopra: How to stop anxiety and obsessive thoughts

    Georgia Psychological Assn: How to Stop Obsessive Worry

    Upcoming topics include Alateen, parenting, and the “adult child” experience. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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    Resentment – Episode 196

    Do you hold a grudge? Why is this harmful? How can our program help let go of our resentments?

    • What is a “resentment”?
    • Why is it a problem?
    • Where do you find your resentments stem from?
      • Anger at a past injury?
      • Others not doing things “your way”?
    • One method of working Step 4 (“searching and fearless moral inventory”) starts by listing resentments.
      • Why do you think that is?
      • Why can this be a useful way of digging into our inventory?
    • The book How Al-Anon Works talks about resentment in the chapter titled “Detachment, Love, and Forgiveness”.
      • How do these tools help relieve our resentments?
      • What other tools do you use?
      • Gratitude
      • Inventory
      • Taking a fresh look — maybe the behavior has changed and I don’t recognize it

    Upcoming topics include Alateen, Parenting, and Obsessive Thinking. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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    What is Al-Anon – Episode 195 – Episode 10 redux

    What is Al-Anon? Why do we, who don’t have a drinking problem, need the 12 steps?

    In this “retro” episode, Spencer, Kelly, and Swetha talk about what brought us to Al-Anon, what we found, and why we keep coming. And, maybe, why Al-Anon might help you, too.

    Upcoming topics include resentment. What do you resent? How is that hurting you? And what can you do about it? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

    A listener mentioned the book Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses
    book cover
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