Applying the Serenity Prayer – 289

How do you have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference?

I reflect on how many times I have applied the serenity prayer during a weekend vacation.


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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 with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
Continue reading “Meditation on September – Episode 260”

Maria – Beyond Recovery – Episode 185

How do you use recovery in your life?

Join Spencer and Maria as they explore how she has found a new way of living, beyond recovery.

Before coming to recovery, Maria's life was “good enough.” The tools she gained in the Al-Anon program have enabled her to face two major life choices, and to decide to make a huge change in her direction.

How about you? What does your life look like, beyond recovery? Please contact us: 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 was helped by the meditation “A god of my understanding.”

Start where you are – Episode 173

DSC_0379Start where you are. Bring your angry self. Bring your despairing self. Bring your resentful and frustrated self. Bring your confused self. And we will meet you there.

Sometimes I think I need to be “ready” before I can do something, before I can make a change. But that’s not true of our program. I was able to start where I was, and I can still start where I am. How does this work? How was I able to “start where I am” at each point along the path of recovery? Because recovery is a process, not an event.

  • Walking into my first meeting.
    • You met me where I was. You didn’t require that I know anything, that I agree to anything, you just welcomed me.
  • Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    • My first challenge – what does “powerless” mean? Can I admit that I am “powerless”? How do I recognize the unmanageability of my life? Is this where I am right now?
  • Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    • I start into this step where I am: questioning the very existence of a Higher Power. Some start into this step with a vengeful, angry God. No matter where we start, we can find an understanding of this step.
  • Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    • If my starting point is “the meeting is my HP”, I can look for guidance and wisdom in the meeting, and try to follow that.
  • Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    • This step has always met me where I was. As my starting point has changed, the inventory has also changed. My new point of view has revealed other aspects of myself, which were not visible earlier.
  • Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    • My first starting point for this step was “no way!” My second starting point was “there’s some stuff I’m just not going to talk about.” I *think* that, at this time, I’ve admitted all my wrongs, but I might be wrong about that.
    • Each time, there was power in the step, no matter where I started, and how “well” I did it. The point is to take the step, not to take it perfectly.
  • Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    • Again, my starting point has “moved” with time. I’ve gone from “well, of course” to “um, not that one!” to “please help me to become willing”.
    • I didn’t understand this step the first time I “took” it, but I did it anyway.
  • Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    • What does this step mean if I don't have a concrete idea of G-o-d?
    • But, I found that, when I ask for help, I find it, and I change.
  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
    • The literature suggested that I can group my list into: people I am willing to make amends to, people I might be willing to make amends to, and those people who I was not willing to make amends to.
    • I started there, and found that my lists changed as I moved into Step 9.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    • Do the easy ones first, and don't worry about doing it perfectly!
  • Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    • I started doing this step before I actually got to it. Because I didn't want to add new things to my “Step 4 inventory.”
  • Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
    • Wow. What is prayer? How do I do it? You suggested I start with the Serenity prayer. And I was able to do that.
    • Meditation? How? When? “Just try. Sit with me. Breathe.” It's a start.
  • Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    • My awakening came gradually, as I moved in recovery, I became more awake, where I was.
  • Sponsorship!
    • I was not “ready” (in my mind) to be a sponsor the first time I was asked. But I said “yes” and did the best I could.
  • Gratitude
    • Finding gratitude in small things helped to to develop an “attitude of gratitude”.

So, start where you are, and we will meet you there and welcome you into the beginning of your path to recovery.

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

Fathers – Episode 117

IMG_0786.JPGFathers Day is a holiday that recognizes fathers and honors fatherhood. What is or was your relationship with your father? Are you a father yourself? How can recovery help us to be better fathers? Or to improve connections with our fathers?

In this episode, Spencer reflects on how his father affected his life, and on how he has been a father to his own children, while walking through the woods and fields behind his church.



IMG_0778.JPGUpcoming topics include worry 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.
Continue reading “Fathers – Episode 117”