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 Although my life may have appeared normal on the outside, inside, I was numb and withdrawn.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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Music from the show
Rolling Stones: Paint it Black
Ben E. King: Stand by Me
Mavis Staples: If it’s a Light