Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Things First.

I'm not much of a television watcher - when I was kid, we weren't allowed to watch it unless the parents did, and then it was only programs such as travelogues which were acceptable. I usually only watch when I'm so exhausted I can't concentrate enough to read. In that state the other night, I turned it on, and lay on the couch in a daze, watching a show about hoarders. Both of the women featured in the show said, time and again, "It's overwhelming, I don't know where to start!"

That is precisely how I felt when I was new to Al-Anon. Where on earth did I start? My sponsor was a great list-maker, and suggested I sit down with her and make a list of priorities.

Just to give a little background: at that point in my life, I was a fiendish housekeeper - I washed and scrubbed and polished and buffed and vaccuumed and dusted and wiped and tidied. You could eat off my floors! My house was clean. And I was completely bonkers. Keeping the house that clean gave me the illusion of having some control over my home life. Meanwhile, I utterly neglected my emotional or spiritual health, in service to my mad desire for total spotlessness in my surroundings. I'd refuse social invitations to stay home and clean.

My sponsor suggested that my priorities were skewed - nobody was going to arrive at my door and ask to perform surgery on my kitchen table - clean was good enough, the house didn't have to be sterilised to that extent. She introduced me to First Things First. We started my priority list.

Housecleaning was not the first priority. My connection to my Higher Power was my first priority. If I kept that in mind, the rest of it seemed to fall into place with ease. My sponsor suggested that the next time I felt an overwhelming desire to get down on my knees and wax an already spotless kitchen floor, I pray and meditate instead. Then take my dog for a walk, call a friend to go for coffee, have some fun. She pointed out that God had given us all a sense of humour, didn't I think He meant for us to use it, and to have some fun in our lives? Did I think He was up there muttering to himself about a spot on my linoleum?

I look back at myself, and see a deeply unhappy and stressed woman, who had latched onto cleaning and was giving it her all, while the rest of her life was an empty space.

This Slogan helps to ground me when I'm feeling scattered and
swamped - if I can only do one thing at a time, what is most important?

These days, that's an easy answer - seek through prayer and meditation to be closer to God, as I understand Him. He calms me, comforts me, and gives me peace.


  1. I did much the same with work. I'm glad now that I take time to do those things that I really want and play a bit.

  2. Thanks for the timely reminder. I tend to neglect my own spiritual/emotional needs in response to the melodrama of the alcoholic. But like the safety message from flight attendants to "put on your own oxygen mask first and then assist the person beside you" if I take care of myself first, then I'm better able to approach the alcoholic with understanding and compassion. Certainly better than an air of resentment!

  3. saw your comment on a friend's blog -- thought I'd stop by.

    Love what I read -- will be following.
    Hugs, a new friend,