Healing the Trauma of Alcoholism – Episode 237

What trauma has alcoholism brought into your life? How are you healing from it?

I didn’t realize it, but by the time I came to Al-Anon, I had been traumatized by the disease of alcoholism. Al-Anon is helping me to heal from this trauma. I recognized recently that it’s not over, even almost 16 years later.

Recently, I heard of 3 simple steps that can help us to heal from traumatic stress. (Simple, not easy!) I have to admit that I don’t completely understand how to apply them, but what I know is that my progress in Al-Anon has followed these 3 steps. They are:

  • Act
    • I came to Al-Anon. I wasn’t sure why I came, except that I didn’t know what else to do.
    • I kept on coming, just because each time I felt a little better.
    • I listened and identified with what members said in meetings.
    • I read Al-Anon literature (this was huge for me in reducing anxiety and enabling me to sleep.)
  • Act with others.
    • I can’t do it all by myself. That is the essence of Steps 2 and 3:
      Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
      Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
    • I asked another member to be my sponsor. This was my first step to acting with others. I didn’t use my sponsor very effectively, but I did call when I didn’t know how to act or deal in a situation.
    • I met with other members and formed a step study group (AWOL = A Way Of Life). We met weekly for about 2 years, working through the 12 steps together.
    • Working through Step 4, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”, with others helped me to see that I am not uniquely broken, and that other people have suffered similar trauma.
    • Step 5, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”, has been essential in healing my guilt and shame over my past actions. Until I open up to another person, I am not relieved of my pain. In this way, Acting with another is essential to my recovery.
  • Act from your wise mind.
    • The concept of “wise mind” comes from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). It has been described as the combination of intellectual thought and emotional thought. OK. What’s that mean for me?
    • One way I see this action in my program is in Steps 6 and 7. In working Step 6, I try to reach a fullness of understanding and acceptance of my “shortcomings”. Some shortcomings are easy to accept intellectually — I can see the negative effects of my procrastination — but hard to accept emotionally — I am somehow driven to procrastinate but I don’t really know why. Practicing mindfulness can help here. By letting my thoughts just pass by, I start to find acceptance of what is true rather than what I want to be true.
    • Other shortcomings are obvious emotionally but not so much intellectually. My fear of financial insecurity is/was one of these. I knew I was afraid, but I didn’t know what I could do about it. I couldn’t get out of it by reasoning. In fact, my reasoning mind told me that I should just do the things I was afraid of: check the bank balance, pay the bills on time, make a budget. I had to bring the emotion and the reason together to accept that I needed to ask for help.
    • When I have reached intellectual and emotional acceptance of a shortcoming, then I am entirely ready to have it removed, and I can move on to Step 7 where I ask for just that.
    • Many of the components of the Al-Anon program help me to act from my wise mind, by reaching understanding and acceptance of what is true.
      • The disease concept of alcoholism was foreign to me and I rejected it at first. I had to learn about how addiction affects the brain, and I had to listen to lots of other people’s experiences to really accept it. (From both alcoholics and Al-Anon members.)
      • I came to see that I truly could not “fix” my loved one. By “accepting the things I could not change”, I could seek “the wisdom to know the difference” and the “courage to change the things I can.” When I kept on trying to do the impossible, I did not see what I could change to make my life better.
      • Tools and slogans that help me to “act” rather than “react”.

I recently heard a story of a person who was working to make change in their life. It was hard, and most days they weren’t sure they could do it. On the way home each day, they would walk through a park. In the park was a bench, and sometimes they were so overwhelmed that they would just sit on the bench and cry. After a time, they found the energy and the will to get up and continue the journey home. Until the next day…

I’ve been on that bench at times in my life. When I said to myself “I can’t and yet I must”. And I just cried from the seeming impossibility of my task.

Al-Anon helped me to get up from the bench, to start to act for myself. Other members shared their experience, strength, and hope with me. And also shared their pain, so I could know that I was not alone. They showed me how they had found the strength to get up from the bench, and I saw that I could do the same thing. If only for an hour or a day. And that was enough for then.

So if you’re sitting on the bench, crying, not knowing how to heal your trauma, come to us. Act. We will welcome you into our fellowship. Act with us, and start to find your wise mind. You are not alone. Al-Anon is a community where we don’t have to pretend everything is ok. You can find healing, but you must act. You can take one small step and reach out for help.

 

Upcoming topics include freedom and parenting. 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.

Links

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (Wikipedia)

A couple of links about “wise mind”: link 1, link 2.

Music from the show

Julien Baker: Appointments

Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive

Diana Ross: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

 

 

Conferences and conventions – Episode 125

LIberty Bell - We Shall OvercomeHave you attended an Al-Anon or AA conference? Maybe you went to the AA International Convention this year. Or do you wonder what’s the big deal? What might you bring home from a gathering of people in recovery?

Spencer talks with Annie and Alvin about their experience attending recovery conferences. Our discussion is guided by these questions.

What prompted you to go to a conference the first time?

What did you expect? The first time? The second time?

Talk about your first convention experience.
– What did you like?
– What didn’t you expect, but moved you?
– What didn’t you like?

What did you come home with? How did your understanding and feeling about your experience change with time?

You went to the AA international convention in Atlanta this year.
What was that like?
High points and low points?
If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?

How did attending these conventions benefit your recovery?

What would you say to someone who has never been to a convention?

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.
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Gather your chairs in a circle – Episode 116

unityA couple of weeks ago, at church, we honored our graduating high school seniors. The sermon that day was in the form of advice to those setting out into adult life. What caught my ear was the second point, to “gather your chairs into a circle.” What does this mean, and how does it relate to recovery?

  • We are in community when we “gather our chairs into a circle.”
  • We sometimes “turn our chairs away” and isolate ourselves, especially when life is hard.
  • I did this.
  • At most of my meetings we sit in circles or around a table, facing each other.
  • In our circle we are not alone.
  • In our circles we discover shared experience and share strength and hope.
  • So come into the circle, or find some others and gather your chairs into a new circle.

I also talked a bit about stress and how it has affected me recently. I have been putting my very busy work ahead of “the rest” of my life. When I come home, I just want to “veg”. I feel overwhelmed by all the things I have to do, and so I shut down and don’t start any of them, because it’s “hopeless” to think I could ever do them all. Which, of course, leads to guilt over not having done them. How am I working my way out? First and foremost, recognizing the problem. Admitting it, asking for help. “Doing the next right thing.” Shedding some responsibilities, and deciding what is most important, and putting that first.

In “my life in recovery”, I mentioned an episode of the podcast Podcast Answer Man, which touched me deeply.

Upcoming topics include worry, obsessive thinking, and some more Concepts of service. 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.
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2 Years – Episode 99

4529789618_fca6f88bf4_bIf you’re new, do you wonder why members have been coming for years? Doesn’t there come a time when we’ve learned it all? What do we gain from keeping on keeping on?  It amazes me that The Recovery Show is 2 years old this week!

Spencer thinks back over the last 2 years, about the journey, about what this podcast has meant for him, and maybe for you. Here’s a rough outline.

  • How and why did we come to start the podcast?
  • Early experiences podcasting.
  • Guest hosts.
  • Including your voices.
  • Losing my co-hosts.
  • Focusing on the podcast
  • Providing value.
  • Your feedback and support.
  • Challenges.
  • “electronic” co-hosts.
  • Value to my program.

Next week will be episode 100. We’ve invited some past co-hosts to reflect on their experience participating in The Recovery Show.

Upcoming topics include growth in the program, discovering ourselves, and healthy support vs caretaking. As we approach the end of the year, and the start of the new year, what “resolutions” are we thinking about for 2015? We’d love to hear from you. 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.

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Hope – Episode 65

Wow!“… we shall hew from this mountain of despair a small stone of hope.” — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is hope? How do we find hope when we are overwhelmed by a mountain of despair? Spencer, Maria, and May talk about their experiences of finding hope in the midst of their times of confusion, fear, and despair.

Some of the questions we used to guide our discussion included these:

  • How did you experience hope before you came to the program?
    • Did you “hope for” particular outcomes?
  • Has your conception or experience of hope changed as you have worked the program?
  • Do you see a difference between having a hopeful attitude versus an optimistic attitude?
    • The “Stockdale paradox” is that the POWs in Vietnam who didn’t survive were the optimists.
  • In his “dream” speech, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  said “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
    • What does this say to you?
  • Does faith support or engender hope for you? (Faith in a higher power, faith in the program, faith that there are good people, faith…)
  • How can we find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation?
  • Can hope lift us from despair, as King suggests?

Upcoming topics are forgiveness, co-dependency, and Tradition 4. 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.

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