Enabling or Empowering? – Episode 261

How have you enabled your loved ones’ alcoholism? What is enabling, anyway? How do you know when you’re doing it and when you are empowering them, instead?

  • What does the dictionary say?
  • Merriam-Webster
    • 1 a : to provide with the means or opportunity: training that enables people to earn a living
    • b : to make possible, practical, or easy: a deal that would enable passage of a new law
    • c : to cause to operate: software that enables the keyboard
    • 2 : to give legal power, capacity, or sanction to: a law enabling admission of a state
  • From Urban Dictionary
    • Enabling
      Shielding a person from the consequences of a destructive behavior; Allowing a person's destructive behavior to persist by managing or minimizing the ill-effects of the behavior.”Enabling” vs. “Empowering”Enabling: supporting a person's behavior that (repeatedly/habitually) instigates a negative or destructive resultEmpowering: supporting a person's ability or effort in a positive or progressive endeavorEnabling can be as destructive as the behavior itself . . . a person enabling a destructive behavior is motivated by their need to do so and is gratified by reinforcing their superiority or control over that person; An “enabler” holds a person in an inferior state by denying them the motivation to change and therefore, the opportunity to grow.
  • What does enabling mean to you?  How does that relate to the definitions we just read?
  • Did you understand/head you heard of enabling before you came to Al-Anon?
  • What are some ways in which you have enabled others' dysfunction/addiction/behavior?
  • How can we (especially as parents) distinguish between supporting, helping, empowering, and enabling?
    • Can we look at our motivations, expectations, fears?
    • Slogans
      • Let Go and Let God
      • How Important is it?
      • WAIT
      • THINK
    • Boundaries
    • Detaching with love
    • Clarity: “mine or not mine?”
    • “When in doubt, don’t”
    • Serenity prayer (knowing the difference)
    • “Al-Anon pause”
  • What are healthy ways to be supportive without enabling?

We read from or discussed these resources:

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Meditation on September – Episode 260

Read a transcript of this episode.What does September mean to you? How do you handle times of transition?

I've been thinking about September. I guess it started with my wife commenting, as we walked to the car, “This is the first sweater day.” She had that tone of voice, like it was the worst thing. But then she said, “I can be grateful that there’s a whole season yet to enjoy before winter.” And, that’s the thing about September. It’s the end of summer, at least here in Michigan. Sure, we’ll have some more hot days, but we know it’s trending colder until midwinter. For children (and others), it’s the end of vacation, but also the beginning of a new school year.

September is a time of transitions. It’s a time of saying goodbye and a time of saying hello. The weather is getting colder, and the trees will start turning beautiful colors. The sultry heat of summer will give way to brisk days with bright blue skies.

For many of us, it’s a time to regroup. A time to put away our summer clothes, and our summer playthings, and our summer lethargy. It’s a time to get the sweaters out of the closet, a time to get out the snow blower and make sure it works.

At my church, it’s a time we celebrate coming back together for another year. I will greet a new roomful of 7th grade youth as we begin our new journey of discovery and learning together. It is the beginning of the new year in the Jewish calendar (September 10-11 this year, 2018 on the common calendar, which is the start of year 5779 on the Hebrew calendar).

This year, September also marks a transition in the health and lives of my parents, and in the way I perceive their health and life. The first weekend of September, I drove to where my parents live, so that I could be with them for a few days, as my mother is in rehab with a broken leg that she suffered in a fall a couple weeks earlier. I have heard that stress can worsen dementia (which they both have to some degree). This certainly seemed to be true, or else I just hadn’t perceived the extent of their dementia in our visit earlier in the summer.

They both seemed confused about what had happened and what was happening. My mother did not understand why she couldn’t just go home. We had to explain that she was in the rehab facility to get better, and that she needed to stay there until she had healed enough to go home. She seemed to understand for a little while and then it was gone. My parents have been married for 66 years and have rarely been apart for more than a few days. Being separated is hard for them. Seeing their confusion and unhappiness is hard for us. Not being able to fix it is hard. Sometimes not knowing even what to say or do is hard.

Which is not to say that it’s all bad. She is recovering, regaining strength, improving in her ability to walk a few steps (with the help of a therapist and a walker!) We had some pleasant time visiting, looking at old photographs and identifying the people in them. I brought an old photo album to her room one day. It had tiny black and white photos (about 2 ½ inches the long way). She looked at the first one, which showed some sort of public event, and said “That’s Mrs. Roosevelt at the White House egg hunt!” She was there and may have taken the photo herself. We don’t know exactly what year it was taken, but it was likely in the late 1930s or early 1940s. There were photos of her and her brother with their parents, including a photo of her as a teen, posing in her bathing suit on the beach. She was a beauty.

It is a time of transition for them, and for us. This was a sharp awakening to the realities of their life in their late 80s. Visiting their home, and working to make it ready for her to come home, possibly in a wheelchair, also opened our eyes to how much they had been struggling to just live normally. We cleaned and cleaned, we washed loads and loads of clothes, we moved furniture and other obstacles to make a clear path between bedroom, bathroom, and living/dining room. It is clear they needed help, but they didn’t ask for it. We, their children, must now step up and start parenting our parents, so that they can enjoy the remainder of their life as best as possible. September is a month of transition for me today.

With change, with transition, comes a measure of grief for the days gone by. As I enter, perhaps, the autumn of my life, as my parents are clearly in the winter of theirs, I am grieving the things that are no longer there, no longer true. My parents are no longer the rocks that were always there. They are no longer people to whom I can turn for support. Instead, I must now be a rock supporting them. The Al-Anon book Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses talks about grief and about living and dealing with grief, as in the reading I opened the episode with.

It also talks about how we can use the tools and principles of the program to help us move through grief into new life. What are these tools? How have I used them?

I read from Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses, pages 102-104. I mentioned the reading from Courage to Change for September 4.

Our topic for next week is enabling. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Meditation on September – Episode 260”

Mary Pearl T, Step 1 – Episode 259

Mary Pearl T shares on Step 1, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

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

Perspective – Episode 258

What does it mean to “place our problem in its true perspective”? Can a change in perspective change everything?

    • Our suggested opening says “as we learn to place our problem in its true perspective, we find it loses its power to dominate our thoughts and our lives”.
    • What is perspective?
      • From dictionary.com:
      • the state of one's ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship: You have to live here a few years to see local conditions in perspective.
      • the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship: Your data is admirably detailed but it lacks perspective.
      • a mental view or prospect: the dismal perspective of terminally ill patients.
      • a way of regarding situations, facts, etc, and judging their relative importance
      • the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it; objectivity: try to get some perspective on your troubles
      • Scrabble points: 26
    • Perception and attitude: perception is how i see things. Attitude is how I react. (http://sarahtauber.com/interesting-words/perception-vs-attitude-difference/ )
    • How do I lose perspective?
      • (Over) reacting in the moment.
      • Dramatizing / awfulizing
      • Minimizing (denial)
      • Not looking at “the bigger picture”
    • What happens when I lose perspective?
    • How can I “put things in perspective” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/201702/putting-things-in-perspective)
      • Ask yourself what is the cost to you and others of your reaction?
      • Observe and describe rather than judging.
        • HALT (Am I hungry angry lonely, or tired?, WAIT (why am i talking), THINK (thoughtful, honest, intelligent, necessary, kind)
      • What can you still do? (Serenity prayer, first things first)
        • Pause
        • Serenity prayer
      • Ask how you will feel in a week? A month? A year?
        • Regret, shame, guilt? 8th step list?
        • How important will this seem in the future?
      • Consider it as an inconvenience instead of the “end of the world.”
      • “Rational” comes from “ratio” — consider proportion
    • Making crisis work for us (https://al-anon.org/blog/affairs-making-crises-work/ )
      • Breaking through denial
      • Slowly rising awareness
      • Sudden revelation
    • TED talk “transformative power of classical music”  — Story (from The Art of Possibility) about shoe salesmen in Africa, opportunity, and perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LCwI5iErE\
    • Program tools
      • Serenity prayer
      • Let go and let God
      • How important is it?
    • Quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/perspectives and https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/different_perspective


How Al-Anon Works:

  • Chapter 16: Tradition 1
  • Part 2, Chapter 16, “A Nun finds Spiritual Peace”
  • Part 2, chapter 31, “Letting Go of a Loved One’s Alcohol, Drug, and Money Problems”

Courage to Change

  • January 27, “sometimes dirty dishes are just dirty dishes” (How Important is it?)
  • June 24 — “It wasn’t much of a day for egg-laying, but it was a great day for music!”

Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Perspective – Episode 258”

I am Powerless – Episode 257

Read a transcript of this episode.Flowers in the hospital room

A “first step” meeting came at just the right time for me, this weekend. My mother had fallen and broke her leg. She lives almost 500 miles away, and I am powerless over the fact that she broke her leg, over the treatment that she gets, and over how she is feeling. I am using the tools of detachment with love, of finding the wisdom to change the things I can, and accepting the things that I cannot change. How do you find power is your powerlessness?

I read from Courage to Change, October 10.

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