Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Compassion For Those Who Do Not Understand, and For Ourselves,

Those of us who deal with active addiction have an unfortunate knowledge, not granted to those who live their lives escaping the ravages of alcoholism. I would once have considered them lucky and myself unlucky, but my years in Al-Anon have been such an enormous gift and a blessing, that I now gaze at the past with a completely altered attitude.

People who have never have a loved one struggling with alcoholism, may make off-hand comments meant only as conversation, which when we are newcomers to program, and still suffering terrible torments of mind and spirit, can slice us to our core.

I have raged and agonised over those little throw-away remarks in years past, wondering "How could they could be so light-hearted about it, so unkind, so unthinking!'

It is rarely cruelty truly meant, it is so much more often innocence of the reality with which I deal, when I love an alcoholic.

Those who are only really aware of social drinking, can have little understanding of what I may be enduring. And I didn't help matters by keeping secrets and putting on a façade of happiness and satisfaction while inwardly I felt used-up, bereft, and painfully lonely.

I have learned to have compassion for those who don't know about, deal with, or battle the effects of alcoholism on friends and families of alcoholics. I allow them to say whatever they need to say, and do my best not to take it personally. I try not to substitute their judgement for my own; when they say that "The alcoholic is bound to fail, they always do at first" I have no need to accept that as truth.

I pray to have compassion for myself, so that I also allow myself to feel my own feelings, sit with them for a while, then release them, and let them go.

When I am practising compassion, I feel more loving, more loved, and more at peace.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Accepting Powerlessness.

Some days are easier than others, even in long-time recovery.

Today I've been having a struggle, with the part of me determined to be offended by what someone I love is doing. I've had to ask for help from my Higher Power over and over again today, because I've been obsessing, and when I manage to stop, with the help from my HP, I seem to take a short break, then start right over again. I don't get times like this very often anymore, but I do get them, and they can be relatively lighthearted (a weird way to describe obsession, I know) or they can be supremely difficult to handle.

Why do I want to take personally, that which has nothing, (the rational side of me knows this with a kind of crystal clarity) absolutely nothing to do with me, but is just the way the alcoholic deals with stress? I believe it has to do with ego, and my wishing they would deal with their stress in some other fashion. I want to "help," I want to get in and meddle about and show them a "better" way to deal with it, I want to spout program, I want to control.

Ugh. Even after so much time in program, I can still display control freak tendencies.  If I'm under stress myself, and triggered in a certain way, the record drops onto the turntable, the arm swings over, the needle lowers, and it's the same old song.

The difference is that now I know this fact, and am aware enough of my own internal dialogue, to be able to hear myself singing that old refrain. In the same way that the occasional catchy song can turn into a brain worm, which burrows mercilessly into my head, so that I find myself singing one line from the darn thing repeatedly for two days, until I'm ready to scream with frustration,  obsession about another person's behavior or choices can get me by the throat with an iron grip.

This hasn't happened to quite this degree, since a while before the cancer - with lowered defenses,  more stress, and about ten months of missed meetings, I have backslid some way down the control hill. I need to be more vigilant in my self-assessment, and more questioning of my thinking, I can see that for certain.

I have my Step Group meeting tonight, for which I am deeply grateful - and I spoke to an Al-Anon friend for a while today. My sponsor was working, so I didn't want to be bothering her with my insanity this afternoon. I'm hoping we can spend some time together this weekend, she's such fun, and a voice of reason. I'm so grateful for the program, my friends, my partner, all of my blessings.

Hope you had a day with little or no insanity!

Thoughts On a Sunny Day

As time goes by, and the readership of this blog slowly grows, I am receiving more often, emails asking if the writer can please use my blog for their own agenda. They have a book they've written that they want to publicise, they own a recovery facility they want to advertise, they have a blog which doesn't pertain in any way to Al-Anon; the requests are varied, and interesting.

Interesting because if you look to your right, at the top of the page, is a note with the first part of the Sixth Tradition: "Our Family Groups ought never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any outside enterprise..." beneath a title stating that this blog is advertisement free.

Perhaps people don't bother to read that, or they think they have a cause which would be acceptable to me, or they imagine me to be swayed by promises of monetary compensation. Whatever the thinking, I continue to receive requests from people wanting to use my blog for their own ends.

I find it interesting also, because I was raised by a woman who got her own way with the sheer force of her will - she wanted what she wanted when she wanted it, and it was either going to happen, or those involved would suffer the results. She still behaves this way to my brother, her blood child ( I was adopted at the age of six) calling him at all hours of the day or night, with no understanding that he is employed full-time, and cannot always return her calls within a few minutes.

She will call him at 3am, ranting about someone with whom she is having a feud - lots of those - about something from the news, about her medication. She is a woman who does not hear what she doesn't want to hear, and doesn't see what she doesn't want to see. I feel grateful not to have her in my life anymore, and I feel for my brother, who is enmeshed, and cannot seem to break free, or get her to hear him when he protests.

Not having to deal with her is on my gratitude list.

So is having program friends who support and encourage me.

So is a partner who makes me laugh uncontrollably, and is a man of integrity and kindness.

So is life in general. I'm grateful to be alive and feeling relatively healthy on this gorgeous sunny day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Intermediate CT Scan Results

I had an appointment with an oncologist this afternoon. I had been nervous prior to the CT scan of yesterday, but that was more about the test itself, than fear of the results. I'm  very claustrophobic, so being run through the hole of a large metal donut is not my idea of a relaxing time.

My scan hadn't been "read" yet, but the oncologist went to have a look at it online, and came back saying that she could find no signs of metastasis, that my liver and my lungs are clean, so that's wonderful news. With luck, when it's been properly "read" by whatever experts do that, the rest of the news will be as positive.

I'm still waiting to hear if I will be allowed to take another 12 rounds of chemo after I finish this batch. That's usually only permitted if the patient is tolerating it well, and if the results are noticeable, which so far, mine are.

So I'm feeling fairly positive today, just had a nice walk home from the library, after Robert dropped me off there, and went off to run his errands.

I stopped in at the Cathedral on the way home, and spent a few minutes in silent prayer and meditation, thanking my HP for everything with which I've been blessed. I hope for you all a good weekend, in whatever fashion you define "good.'

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Lamb Has Wolf Whiskers.

Silly title, I know, but it was only recently that I came to the realisation that once again, I have been sucked into the "orbit of self" of a sober alcoholic. I was gobsmacked when I began to see the pattern.

The details are irrelevant, what does matter is that I am still, 2 1/2 years out of my long-time marriage to an alcoholic, susceptible to some of the behaviors.

I have spent many years trying to be a use and a comfort to those in need - on the Crisis Line, in Victim Services, as a sponsor, so it takes me a while to stand back and say, "Wait a minute, I'm not comfortable with this - why is that?"

This time, it took me a couple of days, but when the light finally dawned, it illuminated some of the old, old patterns of behavior I've fallen into, so many times in my life. I can still get sucked in to the "Poor Me, See How I Suffer" dance, and be whirled around the ballroom a couple dozen times before starting to think, "I'm feeling some dizziness and deja vu, what's really going on here, inside my head?"

I can start out wanting to offer encouragement, support and help, do it willingly and gratefully, and it can take me ages before I am able  to see that the supply line is only going in one direction. In good friendships, it goes both ways. In times of trouble, there can be a momentary shift, but it will soon settle back into a mutual give-and-take.

I'm deeply grateful for a sponsor who has the directness of honesty, the love of program, and the willingness to suggest oh-so-gently that I'm, well, barking mad on a particular subject. She's off on holiday right now, and I hope she's having a magnificent time. She made a point of letting me know that I could still reach her by email, and we've exchanged a few. Whenever I think of her, I smile, because she's such an enormous gift in my life. It's powerful to know that this person I love will take me to task if she thinks I need it, but do it in such a gentle way that I can hear what she is saying, and feel nothing but gratitude.

Yesterday I had a visit, from the partner of the friend whose death propelled me to look with clarity at my life and my marriage of 17 years, and was thereby instrumental in getting me out, into this new and amazing life with Robert and my program friends down here.

Their anniversary, and my dead friend's birthday are coming up, and his partner is struggling with his grief this time of year. We sat and talked and laughed, because like Robert, my friend was one of life's great masters of humour, able to use it to comfort, to enrich, to warm, and I spent many hours with him, laughing so hard I'd have tears in my eyes, having to take off and wipe my glasses, and beg him to stop, oh stop, my sides hurt from laughing.

He was such a gift, my friend, he and his partner would still, after 21 years together, light up at the mere sight of one another. I remember being delighted at the strength of their union. With Robert, I understand for the first time in my life what it is to feel safe, loved completely, and know that this wonderful man walking in the door, will have me laughing myself silly in no time. We spend a lot of time laughing together, over life, and over nothing at all.

I'm going for a CT scan on Nov 6th, in the hopes that it will show the cancer to have been reduced somewhat. I wasn't nervous about it at all, because the two lumps I have which are palpable, have been greatly reduced in size, and that's good news. But Robert admitted that he is a little frightened.
I know I would be, too, were our positions reversed.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Qualifies as "Gossip or Criticism."

I was raised in an adoptive family in which the major form of humour was sarcasm. I picked it up along with some other bad habits, and used it right into the doors of Al-Anon.

Before progam, I used sarcasm as a weapon, as a rebuttal, as a defense, and to score points in an argument.

 I spoke to my first sponsor about it, and she reminded me that in our closing, we read, "Talk to each other, reason things out, but let there be no gossip or criticism of one another. Instead, let the understanding, love and peace of the program grow in you one day at a time."

I define "let there be no gossip or criticism of one another" very narrowly. Many times, a new sponsee will ask me who my other sponsees are. I don't tell them, because that runs up against my strong belief in keeping confidences. If one sponsee wishes to break that confidence by talking about who their sponsor is, that's up to them. Nobody is going to hear it from me.

I'm not comfortable in hearing about who irritates or bothers you at a meeting, because they are too this or that. I am not at a meeting to sit and fume because someone has a personality quirk I find irritating. I am at a meeting to share the experience strength and hope I have to offer, to bask in the atmosphere of love and acceptance, and to learn.

My experience in this program has taught me right from the start, that it would invariably be the person who was irritating me the most, who had the lesson I most needed to hear at that time.

In my second group, which was a home-group meeting, we went to a member's apartment, and we were no further that just inside the door, before I was silently judging her for her décor. (I was a supremely shallow person 30 years ago, I lived in anger, fear, and judgement.)

During the meeting, I was judging this same woman for the way she spoke, her choice of clothing, her speech patterns; everything about her, got my goat. The meeting ended, I went home, and found that one thing she'd said, was getting more and more powerful the more I thought about it. It applied to my own character defects, and it stuck in my head all week, like a cocklebur seed to a sock. It poked, prodded, and needled at me day upon day. I finally called my sponsor to complain about this obsession, and we had a very interesting and to me, madly infuriating discussion, in which she suggested, not for the first time, that what most annoyed me in another person, often turned out to be a character defect or personality quirk of my own that I disliked.

I swallowed and muttered and grumped while she explained this idea in greater detail. When she was finished, I didn't have much to say, I was too offended, so I said a stiff goodbye, thanked her, and hung up.

Talking to her hadn't helped me in the way I'd hoped or wanted. I didn't get what I thought I needed from that discussion; instead I was, as so often in the early days with my sponsor, mightily offended. I took offense very quickly when I was new to Al-Anon. My self-image was so negative and so shaky, that even the slightest suggestion that I was wrong could send me into a tailspin for days. After a few months of dealing with this aspect of my personality, my  sponsor suggested that perhaps by being offended, I didn't have to hear what she was saying?

That hit home with a thump, because it was simply, and undeniably true. A large part of my judgement, when it wasn't about allowing me to feel superior, because I didn't do that at meetings, was about being to cut that person out, as someone I didn't need to listen to very carefully.

This woman taught me to listen carefully when anyone speaks during a meeting, because I've learned that the most (to me) unlikely person, may be the one person at the meeting who is carrying the message from my HP, that I most need to hear.

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Treatment

I saw an oncologist on Tuesday of this week, and she said that because I'm responding so well to the treatment, and tolerating it so well, also, that they are considering another twelve rounds of chemo as soon as the present batch is complete.

I'm feeling fine with that prospect. For me, chemo has not been the horror story I had been led to expect, from all the reading and listening to stories about "My aunt had cancer, and when she was in chemo it was awful, it aged her terribly, she was sick all the time, etc etc."

In the last year or so, I have noticed that whenever some people find out that one is facing a procedure, they will immediately begin reciting every horror story  that they, or anyone they've talked to has ever heard.  I was hugely fortunate, in that a friend in program whom I love and admire, had undergone one of the same major operations I was facing, and she had me over to her place to talk all about it, show me the scars, explain what to expect, what might hurt, what might be an improvement over the results of the first operation, and a few other things.

When I got back home that afternoon, Robert took one look at me, and said, "You look much better." I told him that this time with my friend had removed about 80% of the fear I'd had about that particular part of the second operation. And it has proven to be quite true, it's nothing as negative as some told me it would be, and it is a relief after the results of the first operation, which was most definitely not a success.

Had I not had her experience strength and hope, I would have been much more frightened, and some studies have seemed to suggest that the better of a headspace one is in before a procedure, the better one is able to deal with it, and any side effects.

One oncologist told me that she thought that chemo was about 10% medical, and 90% medical. I find that I have been able to go through it with gratitude, peace and joy, for my life, and time with my beloved, wonderful Robert.

When I was still so upset about the call from my ex, and obsessing as to how he had managed to secure my unlisted number, I called up my first sponsor here, and asked if I could come to talk? She immediately and warmly agreed, and I went to spend an hour and a half with her wisdom and support. When we hugged goodbye before I left, we were both a little choked up and teary. We have talked a few times about her unfortunate comment, and my over-reaction to it, but have put it down to just a misunderstanding, and agreed this time to resume working through the new 4th Step workbook, "Reaching For Personal Freedom"

We had barely started with it, when the misunderstanding took place, but I find that I miss the meetings with her, talking and laughing. My new sponsor is a great help to me, and I enjoy and appreciate her enormously. That doesn't mean I can't also enjoy and appreciate my first sponsor, and spend time in her company. We may not consider it a sponsor-sponsee relationship, but I'm thinking that it's in name only - the sharing of experience, strength and hope is all still there.

Knowing that I have people to whom I can turn, during difficult times in my life, has been a blessing for which I am continually, deeply grateful. And I truly believe that the practise of gratitude transforms our lives in ways we cannot imagine when we first start to try to work it.