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 with experience, strength and hope. Our contact page has more information about the many ways to join our conversation.
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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 with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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