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.

 

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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Taking Care of Myself – Episode 89

always in the presentWhen you get sick, do you try to just “keep on going”? When you are overcommitted, do you try to “do it all”? What happens when you do that? Today, I want to talk briefly about taking care of myself.

In Al-Anon, we are told that we need to take care of ourselves first. What does this really mean? How does it change the way we live our lives? This week, I had an opportunity to practice self-care, because I caught a cold. I am pretty sure that this cold was my body's way of telling me that I needed to slow down a little, that I was trying to do too much in my life, and that my health was being affected by that. I took a couple days off work, although I worked some from home. The big difference was that when I needed to lie down or take a nap, I could. I was also not inflicting my sniffling and coughing, not to mention germs, on my co-workers. Because of the cold, and because of a commitment I had made for the weekend, I was not able to plan for the podcast episode that I had wanted to create this weekend. Instead, I am reflecting on how self-care has been a part of my life this week, and how I had to change my plans to take care of myself.

 

Upcoming topics include trust, Tradition 10, care-taking, and triggers. 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.

 

 

Tradition 7 – Episode 79

DSC_5353

How is Al-Anon funded? Why don’t we take outside contributions? What if we all lived our lives that way? Tradition 7 states “Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”

Spencer and Ruth discuss these questions and others as we explore our understanding of Tradition 7.

  • The statement of this tradition is pretty clear. Why do you think we have this tradition?
  • How does Tradition 7 relate to Tradition 6, which says, in part, “Our Family Groups ought never endorse, finance or lend our name to any outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim.”
  • Are there other ways, besides financial, in which our groups are self-supporting?
  • How can I be of service to my meeting(s)? How have I been of service?
  • How do I use this tradition in my personal life?
  • How am I self supporting
    • Financially?
    • Socially?
    • Spiritually?
    • Emotionally?
    • Mentally?
    • Physically?
  • How have I felt when I was dependent on others?
  • Have I expected that “the world” owed me? In what ways? How did I feel? How did I act?
  • How has my self-worth depended on being needed by others?
  • Do I take responsibility for my feelings and my actions? Do I blame others for how I feel?
  • How do I contribute to my own well-being?
  • How can I be fully self-supporting?

Our topic for next week is What does it mean to work the steps?. 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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Powerless over being helped – a guest meditation by Hillery

feet

 

 

She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah

 

It's so fitting that I'm working on step one right now.

About a week and a half ago, a stool fell upon my foot. It hurt quite a bit, but after a few days, it seemed fine, so I kept about my normally busy schedule almost ignoring my foot. Well now, I'm actually learning two lessons here. Had I gone to the doctor then, practicing some self-care, I might not be in this mess right now.

This current “mess” is of being powerless. Twenty-four hours ago, my foot was in excruciating pain. This morning, I adopted a pair of crutches from the basement because I couldn't walk without hurting. So, already, I'm feeling like I have little power over my life. A fucking stool fell on my foot, and now I gotta deal with a house of kids and no way to really control them or anything else. I can't even walk through a door without difficulty or help. But, I can handle this, right? I can lay down the control a little bit and let someone else take over. What I'm having a hard time accepting is that people will help me how they want to help me, not how I want to be helped. For example, I wanted to take a bath before I went to urgent care and then I wanted the bathroom tidied when I was finished. Instead, I was drawn a bath, helped into the bathtub, and given chocolates and coffee – whether I wanted any of this or not. A kind gesture, no doubt, but not what I wanted. I felt extremely powerless and cried in the bath. I'd just realized how much I was not in control, even of my own bath, and certainly not over the actions of others. I felt like I had to take back some of that control by getting out of the bath by myself, though that could've ended badly.

I've already admitted that I am not all that great at self-care, but that doesn't mean I'm great with being taken care of, either. I prefer to do things myself. I feel strong when I can overcome an obstacle and take care of something myself. But, sometimes, I do need help. Today, I learned that when I do ask for help (or even without asking), people will help me in ways that they see fit to help me, not necessarily how (or if) I want to be helped. And, I guess all I can really do is kindly take the help that is given me, and either seek out help for what else I may need help with, do it myself, or leave it undone (like the dishes tonight).

A meditation for October 26, 2013.

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