Holiday Expectations – Episode 229

Goodbye Jake. April 17, 2005 – December 17, 2017.

As we enter into a season where many of us are celebrating an end of the year holiday — Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, New Year — what expectations do we have? What anxieties does this season provoke? Do you look forward to spending time with family, or dread it? Or are you spending this time alone? How can expectations be deadly, this time of the year?

  • By expecting it to be just like it was.
  • By having unrealistic expectations.
  • This year, everyone will be happy and glad to spend time together.
  • Dreading family dysfunction.
  • How can we set realistic expectations or let go of expectations?
  • How can we protect our serenity?
  • What can we do differently?

I was inspired, in part, to this topic by the following article in the June, 2017 issue of the Forum, which reminded me of an experience I had when I was just a couple of years into recovery.

I Asked God To Guide My Words

By Anonymous

One of the countless new skills I began to learn when I came to Al-Anon was managing my expectations. My need to improve in this area was especially evident whenever I was anticipating a visit with my alcoholic son, who lives in another part of the country. Beforehand, I would build up the visit in my mind’s eye, picturing our family laughing together, doing fun things, talking easily and affectionately about our lives.

But it was never like that. Conversation was constantly strained. It was hard to find any safe topics. Our son didn’t seem to want to talk about his work, social life, whether he was working his program or much of anything else. He wasn’t particularly interested in doing any of the things I thought would be fun. My rosy expectations bore absolutely no resemblance to what really took place.

As a result, these visits left me feeling hurt, disappointed, frustrated, sad, regretful, hopeless and even a little angry. I definitely had to get my head into a better place.

With my Sponsor’s guidance, I began to study Al-Anon literature on the topic of expectations. I soon discovered that there is a close relationship between my expectations and my level of acceptance—or lack thereof—regarding the circumstances of my life. My expectations were unrealistic because I had not truly accepted the realities of my son’s life and their impact on mine. I was simply turning a blind eye to how things really were—not denial, but not full acceptance either.

In preparation for the most recent visit, I armed myself with lots of study, prayer, reflection, writing in my journal and a commitment to constantly seek my Higher Power’s guidance. I literally asked God to guide every word I said and everything I did. While I hoped the visit would be, at the very least, pleasant and congenial, I no longer harbored glowing images that had no roots in reality.

The visit went better than any of the previous ones, and afterward I felt somewhat at peace. There had been times of real connection and other periods when each of us just went our own way, giving each other plenty of space. I relaxed and didn’t try to force things into a mold that would never fit our life. I hope future visits will be even better, but I’m grateful to have learned a new way of dealing with my expectations that I can apply to all areas of my life.

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

I’m planning some episodes about parenting, but I need your help. Share your experience as the sober parent. What have you learned about being a parent to your alcoholic or addict child? How has recovery changed how you are a parent? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with experience, strength and hope. Our contact page has more information about the many ways to join our conversation.
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Families – Episode 138

unityAnother conversation about families. What did you learn from your family of origin? How have you found new ways to relate to families in recovery?

Tom joins us, and talks about what his family was like growing up, what he brought from that into his adult life, what he rebelled against, and how he is using his recovery programs to find a more balanced way of living and relating to his families — his family of origin and his recovery family.

As with last week’s conversation, we were guided by these questions:

  • Describe, generally, what kind of family you grew up in.
    • Was there (active) alcoholism or addiction?
    • Was there codepenency?
  • What did you learn in your family of origin?
    • About relating to other people?
    • About keeping secrets?
    • About love?
  • How did these affect your life before recovery?
    • Your relationships?
    • Your ability to take life on life’s terms?
    • Your desire/need to control others and your environment?
    • If you are a parent, what patterns from your parents did you bring into your new family?
    • etc?
  • Alcoholism is described in our literature as a “family illness”. In what ways do you now understand this description?
  • How has alcoholism or addiction affected you and your family (current or family of origin)? How has your perception of this changed in recovery?
  • How has recovery helped you to develop / discover new ways of being in family?
  • How has recovery helped you to be with your family of origin?
  • How do you use the principles of the program (including traditions and concepts) in your family or other relationships today?

An upcoming topic is the first “gift of Al-Anon”.  It says “We will become mature, responsible individuals with a great capacity for joy, fulfillment, and wonder. Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential.” How do you see this gift appearing in your life? Or are you still waiting for it? Another topic I’m thinking about is “We”. What does it mean to you that this is a “we” program? How does hearing the experience of others and sharing your own lead to recovery? To me, this is both the core and the mystery of our program.

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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Family – Episode 137

DSC_4706What did you learn from your family of origin? How have you found new ways to relate to your family in recovery?

Spencer and Mara talk about family, guided by these questions.

  • Describe, generally, what kind of family you grew up in.
    • Was there (active) alcoholism or addiction?
    • Was there codepenency?
  • What did you learn in your family of origin?
    • About relating to other people?
    • About keeping secrets?
    • About love?
  • How did these affect your life before recovery?
    • Your relationships?
    • Your ability to take life on life’s terms?
    • Your desire/need to control others and your environment?
    • If you are a parent, what patterns from your parents did you bring into your new family?
    • etc?
  • Alcoholism is described in our literature as a “family illness”. In what ways do you now understand this description?
  • How has alcoholism or addiction affected you and your family (current or family of origin)? How has your perception of this changed in recovery?
  • How has recovery helped you to develop / discover new ways of being in family?
  • How has recovery helped you to be with your family of origin?
  • How do you use the principles of the program (including traditions and concepts) in your family or other relationships today?

 

Upcoming topics include “We”, and the “gifts of Al-Anon.” 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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Holiday Survival Kit – Episode 134

Holiday lightsDo you dread the holidays? Do they bring out the worst in you or your loved ones? Are you not sure how you’re going to survive visiting (or visits from) your family? What is in your holiday survival kit?

Here are some items from my and my friends’ holiday survival kits:

  • Plan ahead
    • Take Al-Anon literature with you.
    • Talk to Al-Anon friends or your sponsor — get numbers you can call if you need to. Make sure they are in your phone or carry a phone list with you.
    • Talk about your anxiety or fears with a program friend.
  • Don’t set unrealistic expectations.
  • Don’t try to meet others (or your own) unrealistic expectations.
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Get enough sleep.
    • Eat properly.
    • Get enough “self time” — don’t spend all the time with your family (toxic or not!)
  • Have an exit plan.
    • Where can you go to be alone?
    • Have a way to leave if you need to (drive yourself, for example.)
    • Stay at a motel instead of in the family home, if possible (see above about others’ expectations!)
    • Go for a walk.
    • Make a phone call.
    • Stay only as long as you want to.
    • Sit at the “kids table” (they’re usually more sane than the adults!)
  • Plan to attend meetings.
    • If you are traveling, check the local Al-Anon district website for meeting times and locations. (Google “Al-Anon in city” works pretty well.)
  • Take the podcast with you.
  • Pray and meditate — keep up your recovery routines.
    • This can be hard when you are not in your own space. Maybe you can’t do it exactly as you do at home, or for as long, but you will feel better if you keep up whatever P&M you normally do.
  • Take it one day at a time, one hour at a time.
  • Remember, “this too shall pass.”

Upcoming topics include Concepts 11 and 12. 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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Family of our Dreams – Episode 54

Family-1In the book, How Al-Anon Works, in the discussion of Step 1, it says, “We may never have the family of our dreams…” What is the family of your dreams? How does your family fall short of your dreams? What have you tried to do about it? How has recovery helped you to relate to your family, whether the family of origin, family of choice, or “recovery family”?.

Spencer, Maria, and Nic address these questions and others, very roughly following this outline.

  • What is your understanding of the phrase “family of our dreams”?
  • How do you envision your dream family of origin?
  • How do you envision your dream family of choice?
  • How do your real families fall short of your dreams? (Pick 1 or 2 examples!)
  • How have you used / can you use your Al-Anon tools and principles in your families?
  • Setting boundaries.
  • Keeping expectations realistic.
  • Accepting others as they are.
  • We may not receive love in the way we want it, but recognizing it in whatever form it may be offered.
  • Maintaining our own recovery in the face of non-recovery.
  • Recognizing/breaking out of old unhealthy patterns.
  • Detaching with love.
  • Refraining from controlling behavior.
  • Recognizing when we are shopping for bread at the hardware store.
  • Keeping the focus on ourselves.
  • Reflect on how your view of / interaction with / tolerance of / participation in your family(s) have changed in recovery.

Our topic for next week is Tradition 1, which says “Our common welfare should come first; personal progress for the greatest number depends upon unity.” 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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