Transcript of Episode 249, Force and Power.
Spencer T: 00:00:01 How have you given away your power? Did you lose power over your life when you tried to force solutions? How can you recover your personal power? Welcome to episode 249 of The Recovery Show. This episode is brought to you by Michael, Marianne, Lucy and Paige. They used the donation button on our website. Thank you Michael, Marianne, Lucy, and Paige for your generous contributions. This episode is for you.
Spencer T: 00:00:25 We are friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts who have found a path to serenity and happiness. We who live or have lived with the seemingly hopeless problem of addiction understand as perhaps few others can. So much depends on our own attitudes and we believe that changed attitudes can aid recovery.
Eric B: 00:00:41 Before we begin, we'd like to state that though we at The Recovery Show may be in a 12 step program, we represent ourselves rather than the program. During this show, we will share our own experiences. The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the person who gave them. Take what you like and leave the rest. We hope that you'll find something in our sharing that speaks to your life.
Spencer T: 00:01:02 My name is Spencer and I will be your host today. Joining me today is Eric. Welcome.
Eric B: 00:01:05 Good Morning, Spencer.
Spencer T: 00:01:09 And I understand there's some construction going on around you, so we may get some noise, huh?
Eric B: 00:01:13 Yep, well, life on life's terms.
Spencer T: 00:01:19 Life on life's terms, exactly. And you found a reading for us today.
Eric B: 00:01:20 This is April 24th from Courage to Change. It says, “When something isn't working the way I think it should, I can think about the slogan ‘easy does it'. Instead of redoubling my effort, I can slow down and reassess the situation. The answer I seek may be staring me in the face, but sometimes I have to let go of what I'm doing before I can see it. I was trying to zip a removable lining back into my coat, but it wasn't working. I pushed as hard as I could, trying to force it into the slot, but it wouldn't budge. Finally I saw that I'd been trying to fit the lining's zipper into the coat's front zipper. No wonder I couldn't make it work. How many times in my life have I done the same thing, forced a solution? I've tried to ‘zip' myself to people and situations that didn't ‘fit' me, becoming frustrated and disheartened in the process. But I've learned that easy does it. I can take the time to see if I ‘match' what I think I want before I jump in and start ‘zipping'. My life is more serene because I'm not pushing to make myself fit somewhere I don't belong.”
Eric B: 00:02:37 Today's reminder: “If my plans hit a snag today, I will step back for a moment and take a calm look at the situation before moving ahead. Easy does it. Think about it. When you're in a hurry to do something and everything seems to go wrong, you'll be surprised how much this one little idea can do for you.” That's from Youth and the Alcoholic Parent. “Easy does it” is one of my all-time favorites I try to live by these days. Force is the opposite of easy does it, you know?
Spencer T: 00:03:05 Isn't it, though.
Eric B: 00:03:10 Yep, it absolutely is, and this idea of trying to zip up a coat harder, harder, harder, harder, just frustrating and causes me anxiety, and then I realize, you know, I got the wrong zipper. I'm trying to zip up something that should be buttoned, you know?
Spencer T: 00:03:25 Yup. We've got a couple of words in our show today and we always want to start with some definitions, right? So let's see. “Force” is a verb – “to make a way through or into by physical strength, or make someone do something against their will.” And I think that that second meaning is where we often fall when we think about what we were trying to force.
Eric B: 00:03:52 Yeah, solutions.
Spencer T: 00:03:56 Or trying to use strength or – physical, or, I think, mental strength, you know? Say if I just try hard enough, I can force things to be the way I want them to be, right?
Eric B: 00:04:07 Just squeeze the water so hard, I'll make a cube of ice, you know? And it just drains out of my hand.
Spencer T: 00:04:18 Somehow that doesn't work, does it?
Eric B: 00:04:19 Yeah. I mean I wrote in the margin here, push and exert. And you know, it's just draining to try to force things to change that are out of my power to do so. But what's more interesting about the definition is the verb – tell me this doesn't speak to our program. It says, “makes a way through or into by physical strength; break open by force; drive or push into a specified position using physical strength or against resistance; propel, push, thrust, shove, drive; achieve or bring about something by coercion or effort; push or strain; artificially hasten the development and maturity; extract, elicit, exact, extort, wrest; make someone do something against their will; compel, coerce, make.” You know, that is how I thought I could do it when I thought I could control it, I could cure it, and I thought I could force a solution. So it's this – you know, force is what I came in to get away from. And it's – all the connotations are typically pretty negative.
Spencer T: 00:05:30 Yep.
Eric B: 00:05:30 And scrabble points, only 10.
Spencer T: 00:05:36 Yep, and not a very “forceful” word.
Eric B: 00:05:36 (Laughs)
Spencer T: 00:05:36 Okay. And then we have “power” and its related word, “powerless,” which we talk about a lot in this program, but I'm going to talk a little bit about power today and I think we'll talk about losing power and gaining power. So I guess powerlessness is in there, but what do you have for a definition here?
Eric B: 00:05:57 Yeah, well, “ability, capacity, capability, potential, influence, right, warrant, license, strength, might, force.” Obviously when we look through our indices in the books, you know, “power” is referenced hundreds of times in conjunction with “higher power.” But that's not really what I'm talking about here. I'm really – what's suggested is “powerful,” not “higher power” but taking back our power, which was drained out of my life. My power was completely drained. So, rather than “power,” I looked up “powerful” and got a couple more, perhaps similar, but you know – “sturdy, influential, strong, commanding, compelling, convincing, persuasive, forceful,” you know, all very positive attributes to “powerful”. The contrast between “force” and “power,” you know, power, taking back my power is what really I kind of was getting to with this idea for this topic. Not surprisingly, “powerful” – 16 scrabble points. Yeah, much better.
Spencer T: 00:07:09 What's interesting is, we think that if we have power, we can use force, right?
Eric B: 00:07:11 Right.
Spencer T: 00:07:15 And what we have found is, that most often doesn't work when you're dealing with other people. Hmm. Okay. So, we sort of outlined this in three sections. The first is how have we, how did we, or how do we give away our power? So one of those that came to mind really quickly was enabling, right?
Eric B: 00:07:38 Yeah.
Spencer T: 00:07:40 And how does, how is enabling giving away power?
Eric B: 00:07:43 For me, it's just completely emasculating. And you know, I would just say “yes” to unacceptable behavior, say “yes” when I meant “no” to avoid confrontation. That's enabling. Which led to feelings of resentment and bitterness and anger. Even engaging, taking the bait and picking up the rope and engaging in that toxic tug of war was giving away my power. I mean, I no longer do that. And it's empowering to not engage. It's empowering to set boundaries. It's empowering to say “no” when I don't want to do it. And you know, the answer to why when I say “no”, it's very acceptable now for me to say “because I don't want to.” (Laughs) Who would have thought it was so simple? You know, I gave away all my battery strength, all my power. Someone recently equated relationships as, you know – if you're, imagine you're playing a video game and, you know, you have a remote control that has a little power bar on it, and as you give away your power, you watch the battery drain. And I came in drained of my power. Drained. I was at the mercy, at the beck and call and at the whim and insanity of the disease because I just didn't want confrontation. I didn't want the fighting. I wanted it to all go away. I wanted calm and peace, but instead I fed the disease. So, that to me was giving away my power. I was feeding the disease by enabling it and not standing up for myself. I'd been beaten down so badly and felt like such a doormat, and I felt the only way to survive was to continue to allow myself to be trampled. And that was just not healthy.
Spencer T: 00:09:30 That makes me think about this notion that enabling is feeding the disease, and that we do it because it's easier than trying to use our power to somehow change things. Or – and this I think was true for me – I spent a lot of the power that I had, thinking about this power level, this battery, which is a great metaphor, that I spent all of my power trying to change the situation, trying to make my loved one not drink, trying to force my loved one to not drink. And so I was using my power in this forcing solutions that didn't work, and that drained me. And then it was just easier to say “yes,” as you say. I'm a great one for avoiding confrontation, so I would say “yes” because I didn't want to fight.
Eric B: 00:10:37 Right.
Spencer T: 00:10:37 And then I would pick a fight over the most trivial things. And of course, picking a fight, being in a fight drains power, right?
Eric B: 00:10:43 Right.
Spencer T: 00:10:43 It takes energy that I don't need to spend. It takes energy that sometimes I don't have. And then I find myself acquiescing out of tiredness. And you talked about a couple of concepts here that we use as shorthand, and one of those was “picking up the rope”. There's a reading from our book How Al-Anon Works. It's on page 30. It says, “It's as if we were holding one end of a rope and an alcoholic grabbed the other end and started to tug. Most of us would react automatically. We would tug back. It never occurs to us that we don't have to play. If we knew we had options, we might choose to drop the rope. There is no tug of war unless both players hang onto their ends.” So we talk about dropping the rope, or even better, not picking it up in the first place. That's something that I didn't understand. I thought that if I was provoked, I had to respond. I thought that if my alcoholic said or did something ridiculous or harmful, that I had to fight back. And just learning that I could turn away – it gave me so much power.
Eric B: 00:12:02 Yes.
Spencer T: 00:12:03 Another thing that I thought of in terms of giving away power is denial. That when I'm in denial, I don't see where to put my power. I mean, that's another way of giving it away. If I don't know where to apply what I have, then it's not going to do me good. Right? I don't know if you can reflect on that a little?
Eric B: 00:12:27 Of course. I mean, I think anyone would understand exactly what you're talking about, you know? I mean, again, I use this analogy all the time. I felt that I had to fight fire with a blow torch. You know, I mean, when I was approached and my – again, it sounds like it's similar in your case – my alcoholic was a provoker, just looking to fight. Any reason to cause or create confusion and chaos fed her disease and I stood there, you know, with a bucket of gasoline thinking that I'll just make it bigger until I'll win, you know? I'll create a bigger fire. He who's loudest last wins. And it's just absolutely, force with force, it just creates more force. It just creates an explosion. There's another good reading on this on March 8th from Courage to Change I'll share now.
Spencer T: 00:13:21 Mm-hmm.
Eric B: 00:13:22 “One of the wonderful benefits I received by going to Al-Anon meetings is that I find new ways to work my program. The chairperson at one of my favorite meetings passed around a basket of Al-Anon slogans and suggested that we each take one and try to apply it to this day. It was remarkable how many of us seemed to get the perfect slogan. The very next day I found myself in a stressful situation. I was struggling to solve a tough problem, growing frustrated and upset, but no closer to a solution. I asked my higher power for help and suddenly remembered that basket. In my mind, I imagined myself reaching once more into the basket full of slogans. Again, I got exactly what I needed. The slip of paper I pictured reminded me that easy does it. I stopped trying to force a solution and waited until I could approach the problem more gently. I felt much better. My thinking was clearer, and in time a solution appeared.” Today's reminder says, “It's not always easy to know which Al-Anon tool to apply, especially in the middle of a crisis. I'm grateful for a higher power who knows my needs and for meetings that help me to find new ways to put these tools into my life.” And the quote from One Day at a Time: “As we learn to depend on our higher power through applying the Al-Anon program to our lives, fear and uncertainty are replaced by faith and confidence.”
Eric B: 00:14:41 The point is, you know, forcing a solution – I mean, how many of us came in thinking we could force a solution? I truly believed that if I read all these books, at the end, they're going to tell me what to do, you know? And I'll just go do it. (Laughs) How, uh, incredibly naive. You know, and I wrote down something the other day my sponsor said to me, he said, “Well, you're certainly working the program hard.” And I said, “Yeah, well, let me just think about what you just said, because I used to think that.” I used to think that I could force myself to work this program so bloody hard that I'd get to serenity faster. I said, “You know what? I think I'm now working the program easy, not hard.” Working it hard was forcing myself to try to believe – and I thought I could force this program down my throat, into my head faster than it was intended to be received. I could force myself into recovery, just as I thought I could force my alcoholic into recovery. It never happened. I had to slow down. I had to work the program easy, not hard. And that kinda ties into how force applies to me. Sometimes I force myself to do things, thinking that if I just, again, squeeze it harder, I'll be more successful. You know, read 10 chapters today. I've learned that that “easy does it” seems to be the slogan that pops up again and again and again when we look up, you know, forcing a solution – “easy does it” seems to be the takeaway pocket change from this particular part of this episode.
Spencer T: 00:16:22 That's an interesting observation about working the program hard versus easy. I was listening yesterday to a talk by Tom W., who gives both AA and Al-Anon talks. This was – happened to be an AA talk, but there's so much wisdom in it. At one point he said, “I don't believe it works if you work it, I believe it works if you let it.”
Eric B: 00:16:45 Oh, perfect.
Spencer T: 00:16:47 That just resonated with what you just said and came to my head here.
Eric B: 00:16:53 That's great.
Spencer T: 00:16:53 How do we lose power when we try to set boundaries and end up setting ultimatums that we can't keep, making threats instead of setting boundaries? And we talked about this in our Consequences episode recently, but I think it comes back here. Because for me, if I set an unrealistic boundary, or just didn't set a boundary, then I gave away power to influence the course of my life. Right?
Eric B: 00:17:25 No one, no one's going to believe you. If I set an unrealistic consequence – “if you drink again, I'll leave you.” I did that. I mean, I did that many times in early stages and never did it. You know, I never did it. It was a hollow threat and it lost complete power. I mean, it had no power. And that's it. Same thing with my children, you know, my teens. If I make an idle threat, you know, “if you do this, I will ground you, take away your phone, take away the car keys,” and then I don't do it, it's completely powerless and it loses all or any – it becomes laughable, and, uh, and enabling from it, frankly because it's unrealistic. I love that quote by Tom W. that said – what'd you say?
Spencer T: 00:18:15 “I don't believe it works if you work it, I believe it works if you let it.”
Eric B: 00:18:18 It works if you let it. Yeah. Well, you know, it still, it still requires that I do the work, quote unquote. About – which means, you know, being true to the program, following it on daily basis, you know, taking what I used to call the “medicine”, now I call the “vitamins” of daily readers and prayer and meditation. That lets my higher power have some room, you know, to give me some guidance that I need. And my prayers are very simple these days. I mean, my prayers basically are “God help me.” Wake up in the middle of the night with some fear or anxiety, I say “God help me.” Nothing more. It's not really asking for anything more than help. Whatever He decides is what I need at that moment. Maybe it's to get back to sleep. Maybe it's to just change my thoughts, but “God help me” is a very powerful way to ask for help. And asking for help in that regard is powerful. If I don't know what to do, by just plowing ahead blindly – you know, I've been referred to, years ago, as a bull in a china shop. Just trying to just bull my way through, just go through it, around it, under it, explode it, to get what I want. And boy, that just leaves carnage and chaos and uh, a lot of dysfunction and resentments among the people I love by my just trying to force it.
Spencer T: 00:19:44 Sure does. I think you talked about just wanting to keep the peace.
Eric B: 00:19:51 Yeah.
Spencer T: 00:19:51 And there are a lot of different ways in which I know that I did things that didn't feel right to me, that, that weren't what I wanted, in order to keep the peace. Certainly enabling, going out and buying alcohol when she ran out, even though I did not like to do it – it was easier for me to do that than to provoke a fight, you know, whatever might have happened. Whatever might have happened. And so – but another one is, that I wrote down here, apologizing for things that weren't ours to keep the peace.
Eric B: 00:20:26 Oh yeah. The weather.
Spencer T: 00:20:30 Hah. My parents.
Eric B: 00:20:32 The traffic. Oh, I'm sorry it's raining. I'm sorry we're stuck in traffic. I mean what – what? Really. Seriously. What the hell did I have to do with that? But I would apologize for it. I've said this before, I had “I'm sorry” tattooed on my forehead. Just to try to keep the peace. Man, I was giving away buckets of power. I got nothing. I got no dog in this fight. This – I didn't cause the weather and I didn't cause the traffic.
Spencer T: 00:20:56 Yup.
Eric B: 00:20:57 I'm not going to apologize for it anymore.
Spencer T: 00:20:59 So we've talked a little bit about ways in which we can, we recover our power, that the program helps us to recover our power. I know that the two readings that you had definitely had some solution in them. That slogan “easy does it” is a big one, that not trying to force something that is not ours to force gives us power to work on the things that really are. You had a nice phrase here that, about – what is this power that we're looking for, anyway? Cuz, there are a lot of different ways to think about power, and sometimes when I think about power, I think about, well, the power to force things, right? And that's not what we're talking about here. And you said we want the power that we were born with to live our lives with peace and serenity.
Spencer T: 00:21:48 Like, yeah, okay. That's power. That's a different kind of power. That's a power that, for me, comes from this higher power that I've discovered. And here's that word, that word “higher power,” right? Comes from the higher power that I have discovered in this program. The power to find gratitude even when there's stuff that's not going right in my life. And you know what, a lot of the time there's – there's always something that's not going right in my life, okay? Uh, right now, our dryer broke. Okay. It dries really slowly and sometimes it doesn't want to dry at all. I'm powerless over the fact that the dryer is broken and I – although we do have repairman coming on Tuesday, but I need to do laundry today. So, I can find gratitude in the fact that there is a laundromat a couple of blocks from my house that, if I need to take my clothes over there and dry them, it's available to me.
Spencer T: 00:22:49 So even in the midst of a – it's a small thing. It's a really small thing in the big picture, but it's still an annoying thing, but I don't have to be brought down by it. Because I can find gratitude in the day, in the fact that there's a laundromat. I can find gratitude in the fact that here, it's a beautiful sunny day. I get it. You're having some drizzle. It's a hot day, but hey, it's pretty. And we're going to have some time to get outside later today and plant flowers and then our deck will, and our front porch will have some beauty on them and that's something I can be grateful for. And that gives me some of that power to live my life with peace and serenity. When I can find gratitude instead of finding gripe.
Eric B: 00:23:34 Gratitude versus gripe sounds like another topic.
Spencer T: 00:23:38 (Laughs)
Eric B: 00:23:38 You know, there's some quotes I'd like to do before we move on.
Spencer T: 00:23:41 Oh yeah, sure.
Eric B: 00:23:41 A couple of really good ones from Brainyquotes. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively, with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to harm, to hurt, to humiliate and to humble.” That's somebody named Yehuda Berg. And it touches on both power and force in that reading.
Eric B: 00:24:12 Here's a good one. Pretty smart dude. Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” You know, this uh, really is amazing. Speaking on both of these, about, you know, our chapter 13, about communication. About words, the words we use and the power we have to help or heal, hinder or hurt. And it's how we say what we say, the words we choose to use.
Spencer T: 00:24:41 Yep. Here's one that connects with what I was just saying. “Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed, or offended. But what you're doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose not to let the little things upset you.” That was Joel Osteen. Not sure who he is, but obviously a smart guy.
Eric B: 00:25:02 Oh yeah that's under “power” quotes.
Spencer T: 00:25:04 Yeah, “power” quotes. I – sorry, you were looking at “force” I'm looking at “power”. Leo Buscaglia, who I've definitely heard of – “Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” So, small powers, small powers.
Eric B: 00:25:25 Yeah. “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey. Yeah. You know, I mean, that means just – that's uh, live and let live. That's what that means to me. You know? Live the part. Live. I've been using that one most recently in – living. Enjoying things. Going out and having fun. How novel of an idea (laughs). So, if you want I'll move on to power?
Spencer T: 00:25:51 Yeah, absolutely.
Eric B: 00:25:54 So I have a couple readings here. The first one is right out of our Welcome. It's uh, as we all have heard many, many, many, many times over the years if we go to meetings, which is in the paragraph that says, “We urge you to try our program. It has helped many of us to find solutions that lead to serenity. So much depends on our own attitudes, and as we learn to place our problem in its true perspective, we find it loses its power to dominate our thoughts and lives.”
Eric B: 00:26:22 So, losing power is the – losing the power of someone else's disease to dominate our thoughts and lives. But where I prefer to focus on is regaining our power. And so this reading is about that, and more or less the rest of my shares are about taking back our power that we kinda got sapped of – our born, innate, and inalienable right to be serene and happy and joyous and free that we were born with. That's power. And how to get it back has taken years because of this disease and the power it had to dominate our thoughts and lives.
Eric B: 00:26:57 So this is from How Al-Anon Works. Page 244. “I can remember feeling exhausted when I was trying to manage everything and everyone in my life. I stopped feeling exhausted when I learned to stop ‘playing God.' Again, the steps, especially step 3, ‘made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,' were the key to my release. I became free when I finally turned the game of life over to my higher power. Everything is so much easier today because I'm learning to let go of the things over which I have no power and to allow God to take control of them. I was amazed to find that letting go doesn't mean becoming an unidentifiable blob without strength, emotion, or desire. I found just the opposite. In surrendering the things over which I am powerless, I'm able to see where I do have power – over myself, my reactions, my attitudes, my choices. As a result, I've found a deeper sense of identity and self worth. All that has been required of me is some willingness.”
Eric B: 00:28:00 I mean, the rest of this is really good. I had trouble stopping, but it's, you know, I mean this whole next page and a half – I'll just skip to the page 245. “I'm opening up to others instead of closing in on myself. I'm smiling more. The questions that tormented me about my purpose in life, my vocation, the value of my existence are finding priceless answers as a result of my applying the program to my everyday world and turning my life over to God, not just in words but in actuality.” And there it is. That is from Al-Anon Promises. Number 12. We will laugh more – “I'm smiling more.”
Spencer T: 00:28:38 Can you give me the chapter title, chapter number so that I can refer to it?
Eric B: 00:28:43 16.
Spencer T: 00:28:43 And this is chapter 16 in the stories?
Eric B: 00:28:47 Chapter 16 in the stories. “A Nun Finds Spiritual Peace” (laughs). Yeah.
Spencer T: 00:28:52 So a lot of that is about using tools of the program, and we've mentioned some slogans – “easy does it” certainly came up a couple of times. “Let go and let God” is what I heard in the reading you just had, that, you know, asking higher power for help, asking higher power for guidance means I'm not spending time and energy on the things that I don't need to spend them on, right?
Eric B: 00:29:20 Well, I think asking for help is powerful. I mean, I used to think it was weak. It's actually very powerful to say “You know what? I don't know. Maybe He does. I think I'll ask.” You know? Almost that simple, but it's really powerful to admit that I don't know. Much more than to fake it, I mean, and just say, “Oh yeah, I'll do this.” I, I'm really comfortable now saying “I don't know.” You know, it's one of our neutral responses I love now too. When I go to my co-parenting meeting once a week, man, I come armed with neutral responses. And “I don't know” is something that completely diffuses the, my feeling of necessity I used to possess, to have to have an answer. Anybody familiar with that? I mean, yeah. (Laughs)
Spencer T: 00:30:06 Just clarify for me and the listener, co-parenting is where you and your ex get together to decide how to parent your children as a couple? Or what is it? What is this?
Eric B: 00:30:22 No, we try to get together with a therapist to talk without killing each other.
Spencer T: 00:30:26 (Laughs) Well okay, that's a different way to put it.
Eric B: 00:30:29 Yeah. I mean, to try – well, I'm being facetious, I'm being funny, but it's, it's trying to communicate again where there's been just so much damage and so many bridges burned. And so much anger, mostly on her part, that I've detached from. I no longer engage, you know, in a losing battle. But that means we haven't communicated much. And so we are doing this once a week with the therapist in the room. And I defuse the meetings now. I've decided to use some of our most – harder, but has become easier, which is humor. And the whole, the whole atmosphere of these meetings has changed by my lightening it up and deciding I'm going to smile instead of scowl, and I'm going to, you know, stop her if she's doing something that offends me. And saying “You know what? I don't see it that way.” Or “you might be right,” or “aha,” or “wow,” or “oh,” instead of “are you out of your freaking mind?” You know, which was the old version of confronting someone that has a crazy thought. I would say, you know, “you're completely ridiculous.” And instead I'll just say, you know, “I don't quite see it that way,” or, or just say “let me think about that.” A great way to just get out of a sticky situation using our neutral responses that I came across one day.
Eric B: 00:32:00 And it's working because, you know, we, uh, we ended up laughing during the meeting. I mean, we went to court the next day and my attorney said, who is this woman that you brought that came here today? She's completely different. And it's because of – my attitude changed. My attitude towards these meetings changed. As they say, as we say, the family situation is bound to improve as we apply the Al-Anon ideas. So I decided to bring with me to these co-parenting meetings some of the ideas that, you know, we can, uh, laugh more. And my attitude can change the situation for the better by just refusing to engage and not accept someone's blame, anger, hostility. I just, you know, “I don't see it that way.” Instead of, you know, “you're out of your mind.” You know, that's just – and we'd, fortunately we have a very good therapist who sees what I'm doing and he follows through with it, and he said, you know, “Eric didn't quite say it the way you heard it. Let me rephrase it and perhaps you can understand. What he was trying to do was saying he doesn't understand your point of view, but he respects it.” That! And all of a sudden she felt respected and the situation was defused. That took back my power. That's what it's about. I felt empowered to not get, you know, enmeshed in this ridiculous and unwinnable tug of war, if that makes sense.
Spencer T: 00:33:24 Definitely. We talked about neutral responses in episode 201, looks like, which was “In All Our Affairs”. Was that us?
Eric B: 00:33:37 Yeah.
Spencer T: 00:33:37 Yeah, yeah. So I'm – on the show notes for episode 201, which is at therecovery.show/201, there's a picture of a page that has a bunch of neutral responses that – you sent me the picture and I posted it there. So if you're looking for some neutral responses, go to therecovery.show/201, scroll to the bottom and there's at least a couple dozen there, including “wow” and “hmmmmm!”
Eric B: 00:34:08 (Laughs) “Oh!” My favorite is just simply “oh.”
Spencer T: 00:34:12 Oh.
Eric B: 00:34:13 Yeah.
Spencer T: 00:34:14 Yup.
Eric B: 00:34:14 And I strongly suggest, as many of the people who have shared these within my meetings do, printed it and put it in their pocket and use them when they're going into a stressful situation. And I even carry my little index card in my wallet, my favorite.
Spencer T: 00:34:28 Sounds like a plan. Yeah.
Eric B: 00:34:31 You know, there's a, getting back to “power,” there's a good reading, I'll finish with this one. And it talks about the use of power in the serenity prayer. “The serenity prayer helped me to sort things out. I needed to accept the things I could not change. I could not make my husband want to help. I could not make him answer my questions clearly and honestly. But I did have the power to change the things I could. I could choose to stop expecting a non-answer to mean “yes,” I could stop expecting him to do what I wanted just because I wanted it, and I could learn that just waiting in silence rarely initiates change or encourages other people to meet my needs. It only feeds my martyrdom. I felt foolish about being unable to discuss the situation further with my husband, but I simply was not able to do so at the time. Here was something I could work on, something I could change. So it's about the power to change the things I can.” That's power. And that's the power I'm referring to with this, today's episode. Power to change the things I can. That's all personal. Not changing someone else by force. Changing myself is empowering. That's kind of where I was at with this topic. Yup.
Spencer T: 00:35:43 Absolutely. And I, we've mentioned a couple of other tools that are helpful in getting that power to change the things we can, and one is detachment, detaching with love. Again, I think that helps us to not waste power trying to force solutions, right?
Eric B: 00:36:00 Right.
Spencer T: 00:36:00 Setting healthy boundaries can help to enable change, at least in my life. It may not change what my partner does, but it can change the way in which I react to it. It can change the way in which I live my life. When I set a boundary of not engaging in fruitless argument, my life gets better.
Eric B: 00:36:26 Yeah. You're more empowered.
Spencer T: 00:36:27 And maybe her life gets better too because we're not having fruitless arguments. Hey, double win, right? Saying “no.” Again, saying “no” when I mean “no.” Saying what I mean without saying it mean. Right? Or meanly if you want it, uh, grammatically correct.
Eric B: 00:36:49 Mean-ish.
Spencer T: 00:36:50 Mean-ish, yeah. Saying “no” without saying it mean-ish.
Eric B: 00:36:54 (Laughs) Meanly.
Spencer T: 00:36:55 Yeah. Both of those prevent me from setting up future resentments. The less resentment I'm carrying, the better my life is.
Eric B: 00:37:05 Lighter…the lighter my rucksack.
Spencer T: 00:37:07 Yeah.
Eric B: 00:37:08 That was one of the rocks that I carried around in my rucksack. Resentment. And blame and, all of those. All of those heavy stones I used to bear on my back. There's some good other quotes in our BrainyQuotes for “power” – “if you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” That's something called Peace Pilgrim. And again, power to change what we can – we can change the way we think. I can change the way I think. That is power.
Spencer T: 00:37:39 Mm-hmm.
Eric B: 00:37:39 Here's another one from Marcus Aurelius. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” Power and strength, you know? Strength to live our lives the way we wish and without being at the whim and control of someone else's behavior.
Eric B: 00:37:58 And lastly, this one is a good one, it's short. William James. “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” Changing our thoughts, thinking positive things and positive things happen. Do the right next thing. You know, do someone a kind deed. Smile. Go out of your way to help someone and don't ask for anything in return. All these things are power-building, and taking back the self-esteem, and my courage. You know, I was so beaten, you know, when I came in. My confidence, my self-esteem, my happiness was all just in the gutter. And by using, you know, the distinction between “power” and “force” and using the power to change myself, I'm becoming more confident, my self-esteem is higher, I'm happier, I'm smiling more, I laugh more. The promises. You know, we've referenced so many times in our episodes that almost all of them have materialized in some form or another. That's power. “Our secrets will no longer bind us in shame.” That's powerful. “Our lives, no matter how battered and degraded will yield hope to share with others.” “Courage and fellowship will replace fear.” Talk about power. You know? I'm getting my power back, my internal power.
Spencer T: 00:39:19 Yep.
Eric B: 00:39:19 My power to be the person I was intended by my higher power to be. I was born with the inalienable right to have peace, happiness, joy, freedom. That's power. That's power. It got robbed for a while. Someone stole it. I'm building it back by the use of the tools of this program.
Spencer T: 00:39:39 Yeah. All right. Thank you. And on that, first song that I picked, and you can listen to these songs at therecovery.show/249, it's by Linkin Park. The title is “Powerless”. And here's some lyrics that spoke to me about the way in which I was powerless: “I watched you fall apart and chased you to the end/I'm left with emptiness that words cannot defend/You'll never know what I became because of you/Ten thousand promises, ten thousand ways to lose.” Chorus: “And you held it all but you were careless to let it fall/ You held it all and I was by your side powerless.”
Spencer T: 00:40:30 In this section of the podcast, we talk about our lives in recovery, what's happening in our meetings and in our lives this week. And I'm thinking back over my week and I'm like, “how did I use program in my life this week?” Oh yeah, well, work is one that, work for me these days is all about knowing what's important and only doing what's important. And the tools that I learned in Al-Anon of inventory, of taking some time to think about what's going on – I think about step 10 in particular, a daily inventory and “when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” And that includes admitting it to myself, like, “oh, this was not the right thing to do. Let's set it down.” Learning that it's better to set down something that's going in the wrong direction than to finish it, just because I feel like, “oh, I have to finish it because I started it.” Those are principles that somehow I learned in Al-Anon, I'm pretty sure, because I didn't have it before. It definitely came from my recovery experience.
Spencer T: 00:41:38 Dealing with adversity and things that go wrong. The power of step 5, that – which is also part of step 10, “when I was wrong, promptly admitted it” – that when we, you know, we did some things that turned out, had some consequences. And it's just so much easier for me now because of the practice that I've had in this program to step up and say, “oh, this went wrong. This is what we're doing to fix it, this is how it shows up and this is, you know, this is what you can expect to see because of this thing that went wrong and this is how we're going to fix it.” So much easier to step up and say that than it used to be. Used to be, something went wrong, I would, like, hope nobody noticed and try to fix it real quick. Might have had the same end effect, but the way I felt about it was not so healthy for me. Right?
Spencer T: 00:42:32 And speaking of health, I committed myself to run a 5k race next weekend and I'm practicing for it and one of the things that – heh, relevant to today's discussion – is that I can't force it. I would like to be able to finish that race in 30 minutes, but I cannot. There's absolutely no way I can force myself to finish that race in 30 minutes. If I try to do that, if I try to run at a pace that I would finish it in 30 minutes, if I could continue to run at that pace, I exhaust myself. I can do 1k, maybe 2 on the flat at that pace. This race is not on the flat, it's got hills and ups and downs. A couple of weeks ago I started out at a really nice pace and I forced myself to keep running at more or less that pace up the first big hill and that was it. I ended up walking a whole bunch of the rest. I mean, I still finished it, but I made a worse time than I did yesterday when I recognized my limitations, when I recognized what I actually could do and I finished actually in a shorter time than I did the day when I tried to force it. Even though I started out kind of slow. I still – my legs were kind of stiff and sore, when I started out. And of course, one of the things that I've found is that if I actually do the thing, then they feel better after a little while, you know, all the old lactic acid gets pushed out or whatever, I don't know. But anyway, working on health there, um, that's a good thing.
Spencer T: 00:44:04 Family. Spending time with my family, with my wife. And yesterday – our daughter participates in Morris dance, which, I don't know if you've heard of Morris dance, but it's this old English dance where they, it's a group dance and they have, generally, bells on their legs and sometimes sticks that they bang against the sticks – each other's sticks, not against each other. And I guess there's a version with swords, but they don't, they don't do that. At least my daughter's group doesn't. So anyway, there was this big gathering of Morris dancers from mostly the Midwest, but there was a group from Florida, there was a group from Colorado, and they all get together on Memorial Day weekend. And this year's gathering was both sponsored by the local group and nearby. So we went up for the day to Port Huron, which is about an hour and a half away from where I live, and watch them, watch them do their thing and it was fun.
Spencer T: 00:44:59 And we got to spend some time in the car, played a couple of open talks on the way up and back. So we had some recovery while we were there. And I'll tell you what, the talk I played as we were driving up by Father Tom W., which – I've talked about him before. He's a – in fact, I talked about him earlier in the episode. He's a Jesuit who speaks in both AA and Al-Anon because he participates in both programs. I find the depth of his insight, or the depth of his ability to express it, maybe is more to the point. I find it really inspiring every time I hear him talk. Last year at the local, one of the local conferences, he was the Al-Anon speaker. This talk we listened to on the way up was as an AA speaker. I really am planning to, uh, to put it into my podcast as an open talk because although he's speaking from the AA perspective, so much of what he says about recovery resonates with my experience. It's just the alcohol part that doesn't resonate. He also talks insightfully and personally about the disease of alcoholism and I feel like, as an Al-Anon, I need to hear that stuff. I need to, to understand better how alcoholics are affected by this disease in order to have compassionate understanding as we're enjoined in, uh, I think it's tradition 5, understanding our alcoholic relatives, and so that was great. On the way back, listened to actually another AA speaker. There's a podcast I've started listening to recently called Sober Speak. The host has one person on per episode and just sort of interviews them through a first step talk. And again, a lot of, a lot of good stuff in there. And there is one episode with an Al-Anon speaker who was also on The Recovery Show, Megan.
Spencer T: 00:46:57 That's a bit of what I had going on in recovery this week. How about you, Eric?
Eric B: 00:47:03 (Birds chirping)
Spencer T: 00:47:03 I hear you got some birds going on, too?
Eric B: 00:47:08 Yep, I just walked outside, and now I've got drilling going on in my office, so. This week, it was a little difficult to get to meetings this week because a lot of personal things going on. Trying to get my older daughter set up to leave for the summer for a summer job in Vermont, which she was supposed to do yesterday. Supposed to, I emphasize the word “supposed to.” Did not. I chose not to force it, tying into our subject today, although it was very frustrating because she had two weeks to prepare. Was completely unprepared. I basically suggested all the things that I would do if I were leaving for four months, like check that your medications are updated and you have prescriptions before you go. She didn't. Didn't do that. Check that your paperwork and license and registration, insurance and such are with you. Uh, your laundry, and shopping for all the things you might need. She left at 8:30 on Sunday morning to go to the mall. I said, you know, I don't think the mall's open.
Spencer T: 00:48:12 At 8:30 on Sunday? Probably not.
Eric B: 00:48:15 Lo and behold, it was not. So, you know, a series of those kinds of things. And I just breathed my way through it. Called my sponsor a few times and then said, uh, you know, it is what it is. If she gets there, I mean, you know, there's a great thing I actually wanted to suggest we include in this episode, it popped into my inbox on one of the various websites that send me inspirational things and it's called “maybe so, maybe not.”
Spencer T: 00:48:43 Mmm.
Eric B: 00:48:43 And uh, have you ever seen that?
Spencer T: 00:48:45 Yeah, yeah. In fact, had somebody write in about it recently asking, asking that story, yeah.
Eric B: 00:48:50 I think I actually sent it to you too. It's basically a proverb that says, uh, things could go wrong, and they, things could go right, you know, you never know.
Spencer T: 00:49:00 Yep.
Eric B: 00:49:00 And not to sweat it. And I chose to adopt that fable, or, wise man's quotes on this subject. You know, it's just as equally to happen to our favor, or her favor, or someone else's, as it is to not. When I was asked by my sponsor on Saturday – says, “Oh, you're leaving for Vermont tomorrow with your daughter, right?” I said, “Maybe so…”
Spencer T: 00:49:25 Maybe not! (Laughs)
Eric B: 00:49:25 Maybe, maybe not. (Laughs) It turned out to be maybe not.
Spencer T: 00:49:33 Mmhmm.
Eric B: 00:49:33 So was it a good thing or a bad thing? And it ended up, actually, to my surprise, being a good thing. Because even though it was disappointing for me because I'd planned to go behind her in my car, help her get set up when she got there, get her some groceries and, you know, do fatherly things in a loving way, and then, you know, pat her on the butt and say goodbye, you know, and have finally a few months without her under my roof for the first time in five years, which would have been pretty refreshing – it ended up that she ended up with her youngest, my other daughter, my 16 year old, about to be going over to spend some time with her mom, which hasn't happened in eight months. And apparently that went pretty well. So, you know what, maybe so, maybe not, but who knows? And it turned out to be pretty good, I think, for everybody in my family.
Eric B: 00:50:26 So that, uh, that was uh, what yesterday was. But earlier in the week, like I said, just trying to get, you know, trying to – worry about things that she wasn't doing was kind of consuming me. So it was helpful that my Saturday morning meeting I went to is on the subject of worry. Thursday I was in court with my ex, I mentioned earlier, and that went okay. Wednesday was a, you know, a co-parenting meeting with my ex which went okay. So, really, I did, you know, some of my own work with meditation and prayer and calling some people, uh, in program. Last Sunday's meeting was step 8, so that was helpful. And then, um, you know, just by, you know – we have something every year in this town called the Town Party, the Greenwich Town Party, and they usually get really, really headline artists to perform for a nominal fee of – residents can buy tickets online for about 80 bucks. And last year it was Dire Straits. And again, I just happened to be on a date with someone who said, do you want to go tonight? And I said, are you kidding? Of course.
Spencer T: 00:51:37 (Chuckles)
Eric B: 00:51:37 And we ended up there, you know. And for those – those tickets were like $30, it was incredible. And one of the great events is outside on the water. And likewise this year was to be Eric Clapton. And when the tickets first went on sale on the website, on The Town, everyone thought it was a complete hoax because they were sold out in about 45 seconds. And there was a lot of disgruntled people pinging, you know, pinging around the internet and unhappy, and “this is a conspiracy” and there's some, you know, “bots” that are buying all these things to resell them. So, you know, as of yesterday I had no real plan, although I highly, highly desired to go. I do sing some Eric Clapton songs and obviously he's an icon and near the end of his career. And I stopped in to the restaurant at about 4:30 to lament, and someone overheard me talking and said, “Hey, I just heard you saying about the concert tonight. We have an extra ticket, do you want it?” So, I'd given up at 4:30 and at 7 o'clock I was at the concert. So I saw Eric Clapton, and probably one of his Swan Song performances. And he was incredible. He was in terrific voice. Uh, so that was kinda my, uh, my week, this last week. All in all, not too bad.
Spencer T: 00:52:59 No, not at all. Upcoming – somebody asked last week again about experience with children who are in active alcoholism or addiction and still living at home, and how, how to live with that. And I remembered that I talked to a couple people earlier this year about coming on the show to talk about their experience. They both had teenagers who were, I believe, in addiction, I don't remember the details and I will find out. Uh, so I'm going to reach out to them and see if I can get them into the studio in the next few weeks as – we're moving into the, you know, summer vacation time, so that may be difficult. So, if you've got experience with a child, a teenager typically, who is in active alcoholism and addiction, you want to share your experience, strength and hope – or your questions, because, uh, having a nice set of questions to ask people is always helpful – please call or write. And Eric, how can they do that?
Eric B: 00:54:01 Well, uh, they can call me.
Spencer T: 00:54:03 (Laughs)
Eric B: 00:54:07 (Laughs) You, you can call me. You can leave us a voicemail at 734-707-8795. Call right now. 734-707-8795. You can also use the voicemail button on the website to join the conversation from your computer. If you prefer not to use your voice, you could send email to email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you. Share your experience, strength and hope or your questions about today's topic of force versus power or any of our upcoming topics. If you have a topic you'd like us to talk about, let us know.
Spencer T: 00:54:42 Yeah. And our website, which is therecovery.show does have all the information about the show, including notes for each episode, videos for the music we talk about and so on. And also- the Contact Us page at therecovery.show/contact has the phone number, the email address, et cetera, uh, details about contributing your voice to our conversation.
Eric, you picked us a song here.
Eric B: 00:55:09 This is one of my favorite artists, John Mayer. One of a lot of people's favorite artists. The song's called Gravity. And, interesting, in the, uh, notes about the song, what the artist has to say, believe it or not – I never knew this. He says – this is John Mayer – “This is the most important song I've ever written, it's a time capsule song. I will listen to it every day of my life if I need to. It's honest to God the most important song I've ever written in my life and it has the fewest words. I was in LA, and I was there for the summer, just writing tunes, and I was in the shower. And I don't know where it came from, but it's the damn truth you know, and I just sang, ‘gravity is working against me.'” He goes on to say, “This is a song about making sure you still love yourself, making sure you still have your head on, making sure you still say ‘no' the way your mom would say ‘no,' and I will need it every damn day of my life because it's easier to mess up that it is to stay here.” So, pretty amazing. I did not know that this was such an important song to him and it really speaks – so, physical gravity, but it's obviously meant to be taken, you know, as a metaphor. “Gravity is working against me/ gravity wants to bring me down/I'll never know what makes this man/with all the love his heart can stand/dream of ways to throw it all away.”
Spencer T: 00:56:35 Hmmm.
Eric B: 00:56:35 So pretty amazing.
Spencer T: 00:56:36 Yeah. Great Choice.
Eric B: 00:56:38 Yep.
We are not publishing transcripts of emails and voicemails, to preserve anonymity and privacy.
Spencer T: 01:12:12 And the last song that I picked is, is a sort of a regaining power song or having power song. It's an oldie but, uh, still good. It's by Kenny Loggins titled “I'm Alright”: “I'm all right/ Nothing worry about me/Why you gotta give me a fight/Can't you just let it be?” And man, there's some Al-Anon right there. Why you gotta give me a fight? Can't you just let it be? And when I learn to just let it be, then I keep the power that I would have given away, uh, engaging in the fight. “Do what you like/Doing it naturally/But if it's too easy/They're going to disagree./It's your life/And isn't it a mystery?/If it's nobody's business/It's everybody's game.” I would probably change that last line, “if it's not my business, it's not my game.” But you know, that's program.
Eric B: 01:13:02 That's the theme song from Caddyshack.
Spencer T: 01:13:04 Yes it is, yes it is, that's right.
Eric B: 01:13:07 (Laughs) “Hey, Lama, hey, you gonna stiff me here? How about something for the effort?”
Spencer T: 01:13:11 Yep.
Eric B: 01:13:11 So he says, “Gunga degungula,” which means “on your deathbed, you are to receive eternal consciousness. So I got that going for me.” (Laughs)
Spencer T: 01:13:20 Yeah. (Laughs) Yes, I do remember that line. Yeah. Got that going for me.
Eric B: 01:13:27 Which is nice.
Spencer T: 01:13:30 Yeah, yeah.
Eric B: 01:13:30 Alright.
Spencer T: 01:13:30 I appreciate the, uh, the seagulls chiming in there too.
Eric B: 01:13:39 Oh yeah, perfect.
Spencer T: 01:13:40 Thank you for listening, and please keep coming back. Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them too. If we did not talk about a problem you are facing today, feel free to contact us so we can talk about it in a future episode. May understanding, love, and peace grow in you one day at a time.