But One Purpose – 290

Our 5th tradition says, Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. How do we do this? How has this supported and worked in your recovery?

In full, it reads, Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves, by encouraging and understanding our alcoholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics.

I explore how this tradition appeared in my life, in reverse order of the phrases in the tradition.

Welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics.

    • I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting with some fear and trepidation. I didn’t know what I was going to find there, and I was terrified that I’d meet someone who knew me. Of course, that happened even before I stepped into the room!
    • I really don’t remember what anyone said at that meeting, but by the end of the meeting, I knew one very important fact: I WAS NO LONGER ALONE!
    • I was welcomed with open and loving arms into the Al-Anon fellowship. That alone was enough for me to come back the next week, and the next, and the next.
    • I try to remember to extend this welcome whenever a new person comes to a meeting, but also to all members, whether new or “long timers”. This can be a spiritual practice: to smile, to say “hi”, and to listen with real interest.
    • In my experience, there is no comfort to be had that is greater than someone saying, “I’ve been there. This is what I did. It wasn’t easy, but I got better.”

Understanding and encouraging our alcoholic relatives.

    • Oh, this was hard. I was so angry and resentful of my loved one’s alcoholism. Initially, I was angry at her. Why couldn’t she just stop. Or maybe just drink normally? Why couldn’t we go back to the “way it was”?
    • I started to learn about the disease concept by attending “friends and family” days at treatment centers (and yes, there were several of these).
    • What really drove home to me that alcoholism was a disease, and that it was not a choice of my loved one, was attending AA speaker meetings. During my first few years, I must have attended 100 of these. I started to see that the “arc” of their story was the same, even though all the details were different.
    • I could hear my wife’s story in other people’s voices, when I couldn’t hear it from her. I could start to develop compassion for her struggle.
    • “Encouraging” — What does that mean? It’s not standing on the sideline shouting “Rah!” or “Ole!” or “you can do it!” At least I don’t think so. For me, it was being loving (as best I could), whether she was drinking or not. It was not berating her when she slipped, as she did many times. And it wasn’t always easy.

Practicing the 12 steps of AA ourselves.

  • This is where recovery happened for me. I had to find (at least the concept of) a higher power. I had to look at myself and ask for help to change. I had to clean up “my side of the street.” And I had to grow into a new way of living, and finding a new emotional and spiritual center for myself.

Readings and Links

I read from Courage to Change, December 20.

Upcoming

Upcoming topics include quotes. What quotes have helped you or inspired you?

A listener suggested the topic of Spiritual Experiences. Have you had a spiritual experience (large or small)? Share it and help us to put together an episode.

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.

Contentment and even Happiness – 285

The Suggested Al-Anon Welcome says, in part “… it is possible to find contentment, and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.” How can this happen?

I was recently talking with an Al-Anon friend whose loved one had relapsed. My friend wondered if it was possible to have a life that wasn’t full of anger and sadness even though there was active drinking in their home again. I tried to speak from my own experience, because I had been in that place for a couple years. I did find “contentment and even happiness” while my loved one was still drinking. How did I do that?

In my first year in Al-Anon, my wife had 8 months of continuous sobriety before relapsing. So I was at least able to start to get into the program before I was challenged to really apply the tools and principles I had been learning. It would be another 2 ½ years before she “hit her bottom” and found long term sobriety (one day at a time).

Before Al-Anon, my soul was full of anger, despair, resentment, fear, frustration, and rage. I felt that I was a failure, and didn’t understand why she couldn’t just drink “normally”. Was that too much to ask? And obviously it was my job to make that happen! Except that nothing worked.

During the next 2 ½ years, there were short periods of sobriety, or at least not drinking. But emotionally, I was in a very different place than I had been. I was definitely unhappy about the drinking, and felt frustration and anger with each relapse. But I didn’t carry those feelings with me all the time. What made the difference?

Recently, I heard her tell a friend, “I was a low bottom alcoholic”. Those words surprised me (13 years later!) I knew it was bad for her at the end, but I didn’t really know how bad. From my perspective, she had gotten to a point in her life where she had nothing to do but drink. We still had a house to live in, cars to drive, and enough money to put food on the table.

But during those months, I hadn’t put my life on hold to try to fix her. I was getting sleep, I was doing things I liked, and I definitely had periods of contentment and happiness. Also sadness that the person I loved might be drinking herself to death (and some fear that it would come to that.) Looking back, I think those gift of the Al-Anon program came from:

Acceptance and compassion

  • Alcoholism is a disease. I can’t cure it. I can’t control it. Lots of AA speaker talks (probably at least 100) convinced me of this.
  • I came to understand that she hated what was happening at least as much as I did. She was also powerless over it. (vision of her in the passenger seat, screaming, with her alcoholism driving).

Detaching with love

  • Worth a whole episode (12, 188)
  • I cannot tie my happiness to someone else’s behavior.
  • I can love someone, even when they are not behaving as I want them to.
  • 2 kinds of detaching:
    1. Detach my loved one’s self from their actions in my head.
    2. Detach myself from them. (Stay inside my hula hoop.)
  • Don’t “nag”. Only makes them mad and me frustrated.

Taking care of myself

  • Physical health, but maybe more importantly emotional and spiritual health. (Prayer and meditation.)
  • Do nice things for myself. Give myself permission to enjoy life.
  • Work the steps!
  • Live one day at a time.
  • Attitude of gratitude.

Surround myself with support

  • Go to meetings.
  • Call friends / sponsor.
  • Read the literature.

The last few months weren’t the best time of my life, but they also were, by far, not the worst. Using the tools and principles of the Al-Anon program, I made a life that didn’t depend on my loved one’s sobriety. But also, it didn’t exclude her, and I was able to be there on that day when she woke up in the morning and said “I don’t want to drink today, and I don’t want to drink tomorrow either.” (I also know that my happiness was not depending on that event coming to pass. I am certainly immensely grateful that it did!)

Readings and Links

We read from Courage to Change, August 1.

I talked about the reading about Concept 8 in Paths to Recovery.

Erin sent a link to a STOP acronym on Pinterest.

Contact us

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.

 

Do you like yourself? – Episode 279

Do you like yourself?
Can you love yourself?
Can you trust yourself?

In a recent meeting, the topic was Step 5, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” One member shared that she often had a hard time even liking herself, and that this was a barrier to working Step 5. If she hated herself for some of the things she had done, how could she ever admit them out loud?

I definitely identified with that feeling. There are some events in my life that I felt a lot of shame about. That I did not admit in my first 5th step. One, in particular, that I didn’t admit in my second 5th step, had haunted me for over 30 years. Every time I remembered that incident, a flush of shame and self-loathing washed over me. Finally, probably after a meeting in which the reading included the saying that “we are only as sick as our secrets,” I realized I had to talk about it. I met with the person I had done that 5th step with and said “I’ve got some more.”

It wasn’t easy. I had admitted it to my Higher Power and to myself, but never to another person. But it was something I felt I had to do. The amazing thing is that since that time, the memory of this event has lost its power over me! I’m still not pleased that it happened, but I don’t feel the shame that it used to impose on me. That hard admission brought me some peace and some more love and compassion for myself. Even for the 40-years-younger me that made a really poor decision (doing the best with what he had.)

And then, a day later, the sermon topic was “Trust Thyself”. Oh, boy, there’s a message: loving myself and trusting myself, all in the same weekend. You know, the feelings I have that lead me to not like myself and to not trust myself are very similar. You’ve probably heard those messages from the judgey part of yourself, too: “You’re not good enough.” “You can’t do it right.” “You can’t do it at all.” “You’re always wrong.” “You’re so stupid.” “What were you thinking? I can’t believe you’d do that!” And so on, and so on.

In her sermon, our minister presented the “4 Cs” of trusting yourself. Well, I’m a sucker for alliterations, so I perked right up! What are these 4 Cs?

Clarity: Seeing ourselves and the world for what we (and it) really are. In the program, this is Step 4 (probably 5, 6, and 7 too.) Also, Steps 8 and 9 bring more clarity.

Connection: Get out of my isolation. I know that I can’t always see myself clearly, and I need someone else to help me. In other words, go to a meeting, call a friend, get a sponsor (and use them!) And, of course, there’s the connection to a Higher Power we find in Steps 2 and 3!

Compassion: This is also about getting out of myself. When I can have compassion for other people, and when I can identify with their fears and pain, but also their joys and successes, then I can start to see the same in myself. And I can start to have compassion for myself. I would never talk to someone else the way that I sometimes talk to myself.

Commitment: Make a commitment to keep away from the negative self-talk, to continue to work on the first 3 Cs. Step 10 is my commitment to continuing to seek clarity. Steps 11 and 12 are commitments to connection and compassion.

Yup, there’s the recovery part of the program (steps 2-12) captured in 4 Cs. How did this work in my Step 5 experience?

I gained clarity by taking an inventory of the incident. What was motivating me? Which of my needs were involved? I began to understand the “exact nature of my wrongs” in this incident. In talking with my friend, I got a little more clarity as I explained what happened, but I also made connection with another person — I was not alone. That person’s loving acceptance of my sharing deepened that connection, and assured me that I was not a broken person. This helped me to have compassion for my previous self. And you know what? I liked myself a little better. And I trusted myself to be able to do the right thing a little more.

Readings and links

I read from Courage to Change, May 22 and January 24.

After the service, I was talking to the  minister and she mentioned Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I was pretty sure I had mentioned that here, and indeed: episode 122, Imperfection.

Upcoming

Thinking about acronyms and alliterations as a topic. You know, acronyms like QTIP, FEAR, etc. Alliterations like “3 As”, “4 Ms”, etc. What is your favorite Al-Anon acronym or alliteration? Why? 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 “Do you like yourself? – Episode 279”

Feelings, Recovery, Compassion, and Forgiveness – Episode 192

Diana shares a powerful story of recovery, of discovering her own feelings, and finding compassion and forgiveness for those who harmed her.

Upcoming topics include obsessive thinking; Alateen; 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.
Continue reading “Feelings, Recovery, Compassion, and Forgiveness – Episode 192”

Alcoholism – a Personal Journey – Episode 85

find meWhat did you think when you first heard the statement that alcoholism is a disease? Did is seem like a cop-out? Did you feel that your loved one just needed to drink normally!? Today, Spencer explores his personal journey of coming to an understanding of this cunning, baffling, and powerful thing called alcoholism.

Here's a rough outline of the journey in bullet points:

  • Alcoholism? Is that a thing?
  • Alcoholic? Certainly not!
  • The poster.
  • Early explanations
    • Genetics
    • Brain chemistry
    • Recovery and relapse
  • Open talks
    • Eye opening
    • Coming to see the arc of the story — one story in many lives
    • Finding hope
  • Disease concept
    • Brain chemistry?
    • A disease that denies itself
    • Chronic, Progressive, Fatal unless arrested
    • No known “cure” but can be treated
    • Like cancer in remission
    • Lifetime treatment (like diabetes)
  • Compassion

Upcoming topics include “Caretaking or healthy support?”, “Triggers”, and Tradition 9 (Our groups, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.) 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 “Alcoholism – a Personal Journey – Episode 85”