Keep it Simple – Episode 181

the tomb of the soulDo you overcomplicate your life? How can we “Keep it Simple”?

Let’s look at the section of How Al-Anon Works about the slogan “Keep it Simple”. How would you relate each of these sentences to your life?

  • When coping with the baffling and often overwhelming effects of alcoholism, the simpler and more straightforward the approach, the better. The slogan, “Keep It Simple,” makes just that point.
  • When life seems unmanageable or confusing, many of us unknowingly complicate matters even further by trying to anticipate everything that could go wrong, so that we will be prepared to respond.
  • This slogan reminds us that we can’t control every possible outcome to every situation and that trying to do so makes our lives more difficult and more stressful than they already are.
  • When we “Keep It Simple,” we try to take things at face value,
    • looking at what is actually happening
    • rather than the 50 things that might or might not follow.
  • Perhaps we can approach large projects and challenges slowly, step by step, in manageable stages rather than all at once.
  • Sometimes we must act with haste,
    • but not every new task or unexpected event is a crisis.
  • Our initial, fearful responses may arise more from habit rather than necessity.
  • In time, we learn that if we are feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed, we may be complicating matters
    • or taking on more than we can handle for this moment or this day,
    • and that we may have better luck by simplifying what we are trying to accomplish.
  • We can relax and try to be more gentle with ourselves,
    • trusting that by putting one foot in front of the other, we will eventually get where we are going.

And a couple of related slogans:

  • Easy does it.
  • First things first.

Our topic for next week is anger. 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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Being Thankful – Episode 180

DSC_5126How are you thankful? Can you be thankful even when life isn’t going well? How can being thankful improve your situation?

As I approach the US Thanksgiving holiday, my thoughts naturally turn to thankfulness.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, we find this bit of conversation between Hamlet and Rosencrantz. Hamlet has just remarked that Denmark is a prison, and Rosencrantz says that he doesn’t find it so:

HAMLET: Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is
nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it
so. To me, it is a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Why, then, your ambition makes it one.
’Tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
count myself a king of infinite space, were it not
that I have bad dreams.
And don’t we all (have bad dreams)? How can we be thankful in spite of them? How can being thankful actually help us drive away our bad dreams?

Let’s look at the reading from How Al-Anon Works on gratitude.

  • “Actively practicing gratitude is one way we can promote attitude adjustment. Instead of taking for granted the many blessings in our lives, we make a point to mentally acknowledge them until doing so becomes a habit.”
    • I don’t “notice” when things are going well, but
    • I dwell on the times when things went poorly.
  • “Writing them down in a “gratitude list” and then reading the list to our Sponsor or sharing it with other Al-Anon members helps us realize that there are many things in our lives for which we are truly grateful. “
    • A to Z gratitude list
    • How I felt afterwards
  • “Gratitude enables us to savor the unrecognized good that surrounds us, no matter what the circumstances. As we become accustomed to noticing the positive aspects of our lives, we begin to recognize small, subtle gifts and cloaked opportunities when they appear in our day-to-day experience.”
    • My winter day story — a friend helped me to see the good that had happened that day instead of “moaning” about the bad
    • I remember this story and it helps me to see the positive as well as the negative.
  • “ Eventually, as we continue to practice, we actually do find something to be grateful for, even in painful or difficult situations. We replace our victim mentality with an attitude of gratitude.”
    • Psych ward story.
  • “Instead of feeling drained, overwhelmed, and stressed by the circumstances we encounter, we begin to feel empowered and capable of coping, even flourishing, because we have learned that our Higher Power can use every situation, every relationship, every experience, to enhance our lives and foster strength, faith, and personal growth. Thus, everyone and everything has a special gift to offer us.”
    • Visiting with my aging and ailing mother.
    • How I felt, how I grew.
  • “We need only open our eyes to see it.”

Previous episodes and blog posts on gratitude are

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

Say what you mean and mean what you say – Episode 179


Say what you mean,
mean what you say,
and don’t be mean when you say it.

Many of us have formed patterns of communication that linger even though they may have outlived their usefulness.

  • How did I keep quiet or agree to unreasonable requests in order to avoid conflict?
    • Do I continue to do that out of habit?
  • Have I made promises or threats that I did not/had no real intention of carrying out?
  • When did I say “yes” when I wanted to say “no”?
  • When have I kept my feelings and wants to myself?
    • Because I expected my loved ones to “just know” what I wanted?
    • Because I was afraid you would disagree with me?
    • Because keeping another person happy was more important than getting what I wanted?
      • When is this OK?

It is worth noting, however, that if we are dealing with someone who is drunk or violent, this kind of honesty may be ill-advised. Real communication requires at least some participation by both parties, and if one of those parties is not in his or her right mind, the effort is likely to be wasted. It may even be dangerous.

  • When/how did/do I say whatever is on my mind without considering whether it is appropriate?
    • When do I give unsolicited advice or criticism?
  • When do I repeatedly say something?
    • Why?
  • When do I say things I don’t really mean?
    • To “get along”?
    • By rote? (such as greetings or thanks)
  • Do I pay attention to my tone of voice, facial expression, and body language?
    • When does my attitude convey a different message from my words?
  • What are some tools and principles that can help me to “say what I mean”?
    • Inventory — I may not know what I believe / want / need.
    • Sponsor — particularly when I was new in the program.
      • Help me understand what I want.
      • Help me with how to say it.
    • Prayer and meditation.
    • “Pause button”
  • What are some tools and principles that can help me to “mean what I say”?
    • I can change my attitude (my “angle of approach”).
    • Acting my way into better thinking.
    • Forming an intention before speaking.
    • “Pause button”
    • Considering my motives (a sponsor can help with this!)
  • How can not “be mean when I say it”?
    • HALT — if I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, I am more likely to “be mean”.
    • THINK — ask myself “Is what I am about to say Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary, and Kind?” If not maybe I shouldn’t say it.
    • Prayer and meditation — to help smooth emotions before speaking.
    • “Pause button”
    • “Drop the rope”

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

178 – Boundaries “Best of” episode

This “retro” episode was originally published as Episode 103.

find meHave you ever set an ultimatum? What did you do when it wasn’t honored? How do you deal with unacceptable behavior from your loved ones? Spencer and Maria talk about boundaries.

Last week, we read an email from a listener who asked these questions:

  • Do any of you out there have any personal experiences setting ultimatums with your addicts that were not respected, acknowledged or met with insult?
  • How have you handled the negativity from your addict, and the anxiety and heartbreak of not knowing if the relationship will ever be restored?
  • What has it looked like for you to practice loving detachment with an intimate partner through a separation or divorce?
  • What is the next right thing to do once a boundary has been communicated?

So we thought, “maybe it’s time to talk about boundaries again.” We actually had a couple of earlier shows around this topic. Our very first episode was a 20 minute discussion of boundaries, and then in episode 44, we talked about setting boundaries without controlling.

Some discussion/thought questions about boundaries:

  • What is a boundary?
  • How does it differ from an ultimatum?
  • How can I set a boundary that involves someone else’s behavior?
  • What can I do when my boundaries are not respected?
  • How do I feel when my boundaries are not respected by someone I love?
  • How can loving detachment help me to maintain my boundaries?
  • What if I don’t want to follow through with the consequences of my boundary having been violated?
  • What happens (to me) if my boundaries turn out to be expectations?
  • How does a boundary with my own behavior differ from a boundary with someone else’s behavior?
  • How can I set up and follow through with consequences on a boundary with myself?

During the show, we referred to several earlier episodes, including relapse, face to face meetings, Tradition 1, and getting started in Al-Anon.

Our topic for next week is judgement. How does having judgement differ from being judgemental? Can judgement be both a character asset and a character defect? How do you judge others? How do you think others judge 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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Knowing myself – Episode 177

Stepping StonesStart where you are. When change comes, as it always does, it helps to know who you are.

  • Why is it important to know “who I am”?
  • What does it mean to know “who I am”?
  • How have the Steps helped me in knowing myself? (Step 4 is the obvious one, but what about the others?)
    • Step 1: starting to break through denial. My image of my life is not realistic.
    • Step 2: Starting to see that I am not the center of the universe, and that I can ask for help.
    • Step 3: Recognizing how much I want “my will”. Making a decision to ask for help, to follow outside direction. How hard it is!
    • Step 4: Looking in detail at myself, admitting my assets and my shortcomings.
    • Step 5: How much I really don’t want to expose my “failings”! How much I fear your judgement.
    • Step 6: Coming to own my inventory. Starting to recognize some of the “why” about what I do (and don’t do).
    • Step 7: Humility: I can be teachable.
    • Step 8: Recognizing the ways in which my shortcomings have caused me to harm others, whether deliberately or by oversight.
    • Step 9: Seeing my shame, my fear of rejection, my fear of judgement. And also my courage and honesty.
    • Step 10: Continuing to know myself more deeply.
    • Step 11: Getting in touch with my own spirit, getting “out of my head”. Who am I when I’m not “chattering” away in my mind all the time?
    • Step 12: Recognizing the ways in which I have awakened.

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Continue reading “Knowing myself – Episode 177”