Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Power of Old Memories - Why We Need to Keep Coming Back.

I was thinking tonight, about the power of old memories to slither stealthily up on us when we are feeling marvellous, and whoosh, the rug under our feet is fiercely jacked out, and we feel ourselves falling, can do nothing to stop it, and land painfully on our tailbone, wondering - what the hell just happened?

I think for some of us who have had severe trauma in childhood, we are hardwired a certain way. We can learn to re-wire ourselves in Al-Anon, but the old wiring remains, and can still carry a current - it's just disconnected. When we've been re-wired for a long time, we can forget just how that old wiring used to spark and crackle and threaten to burn the house down: how it couldn't carry much of a load before becoming dangerously overheated: how through doing Step Four we found places where for years, it had been quietly burning through the support structure.

Were I to stop going to meetings and working my program, it wouldn't take long before I'd be right back where I started - doing the equivalent of trying to run 6 air-conditioners, a washer, dryer, dishwasher, computers, various lamps and chargers and tvs and kitchen appliances, on old knob-and-tube wiring designed to do not much more than provide enough electricity for lighting. (Enough of this analogy, already.)

From Courage to Change, page 322:

"Keep coming back" is a phrase we often hear in Al-Anon. Why is it so important? Because many of us have grown so hardened in our fights with alcoholics, or flights from alcoholics that we literally found it difficult to sit still for the process of recovery. We had to have answers right away or take action right away. Yet we felt just enough relief at our fist meeting to come back once more.And then again and again. Sowly we learned to sit still, to listen, and to heal."

"...grown so hardened..." I can see myself in those three words, not only myself in my first marriage, but myself as a child growing up. I slowly became so armored against pain that I was dulled to all feelings. All except anger - anger burned in me like an pilot light. I believe that my anger helped me to escape my childhood with some of myself intact, but so well defended, that I went about my daily life unaware that it existed, unaware that I was so hardened that I might as well be made of stone.

I keep coming back not only to maintain my recovery, but because I keep learning. It's an endless process, and it becomes more fascinating as I go, not less. I keep coming back for those who are newer, and need to hear what I've heard all along - that life is good, that "it is possible for us to find contentment and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not."

I felt quite doubtful when I used to hear that read at each meeting I attended, but I learned that it was simply the truth.


  1. I too keep learning and it is one of the reasons I keep going to meetings. Meetings keep me grounded. I take a little notebook and write down some gems.

  2. Alcohol has taken enough away from me--Al-anon has showed me how to stand up and refuse to let it steal anything else. The feeling I left with after my first few meetings kept me coming back. The knowledge of how I used to be keep me there. We never graduate, do we.. :-D


  3. The way you write is such a powerful way to carry the message. Always such tangible metaphors and visuals. Thank you :)