Friday, December 31, 2010

Where Does The Time Go?

It goes wherever I spend it. I can be a miser with my time, only portioning out the smallest of amounts to my recovery, my friendships, my dogs, my art - or I can be lavish.

I prefer lavish. I prefer hours spent on program - lost in communion with a sponsee, or program friends, exploring the boundless depths of Al-Anon: reasoning things out with someone else (until we are at best, satisfied, or at least, more serene and relaxed) discussing the fact that even when we don't feel like we are getting anywhere, we still are, and isn't that hysterical, the way we _____?

When I decide to be lavish with my time, I feel enriched, invigorated, alive. We get back what we give to life. If I'm stingy with my time and my love, I will find the world feels stingy in return. When I'm caught up in protecting myself, avoiding knowledge which will require me to change to accomodate it, or any of the other myriad of methods I've used, to get in my own way in life, I may be telling myself that I'm focusing on myself, but the truth is, I'm really only navel-gazing.

There's a difference. Navel-gazing is self-absorption, which interferes with my ability to recognise my character defects, and my self-defeating behavior, with any detachment or accuracy. My self-absorption usually has a strong taint of self-pity in the mix, and that's not healthy for me. It may feel good for a little while, but it's what a friend calls "a fast ride to nowhere, in a rocking chair."

Yes, I can only know what I know, and be as enlightened as I am, at this one moment. But I am not sentenced to a lifetime of those limitations; Al-Anon offers an ever-deeper understanding of life and of myself, if I only step forward and hold out my hand to receive that gift being held out to me.

I pray for the courage, in the coming year, to spend of myself and my time with a gleeful lack of restraint, and with a generosity of heart. My Higher Power is in charge of restocking.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I've heard it said that an alcoholic will stop maturing emotionally, at approximately the same age they began to drink. I have seen ample proof of this - men and women who are in middle age, yet act as though they'd never made it past puberty. They can be champion sulkers, have trouble with authority figures, be stubborn in self-defeating ways, all manner of childish behavior.

This can be one of the most infuriating issues with which those who love them, we co-dependents, have to deal. Some days, I could be a public service ad for the way Al-Anon helps us to mature - I keep my cool, I repeat what I have to say calmly and clearly until I am heard ( broken record) I detach with love. Other days, I do not manage it near so well. I become irritated and begin to get sucked into the circular reasoning, and I feel self-pityingly angry that I'm still dealing with this, at my age! It's not fair! (now that is a child's cry, if ever I've heard one)

I backslide, I lose my focus, I just can't cope with it. Tonight, I arrived home after having been out doing a favour for the alcoholic, feeling exhausted, cold and wet. I wanted to be met with care and concern - being met with another demand before I'd even taken off my coat and shoes felt intolerable - and I said so, knowing as I spoke, that I'd probably be punished for this later on with an angry outburst on some other topic.

True to form, this did take place. I was hungry, angry, lonely and tired. I sat on a kitchen chair, feeling completely done in - emptied out, with nothing to give myself, or anyone else. I thought of my having agreed to meet a sponsee for coffee and a talk in a few hours, and wished I could stay home and collapse. I forced myself into the shower, made a salad I didn't have time to eat, shoved it into the fridge for later, and off I went to meet my sponsee.

I drove to the coffeehouse feeling sad, exhausted, self-pitying, irritated, and probably "unreasonable without knowing it." But I love this woman I was going to meet - she has a delicious sense of humour, and a kind heart, so I knew I'd feel better after being with her for a while. I knew we'd cover lots of ground, and it would all be good. And it was, of course, in the way it always is - we receive a thousand times more than we ever give to those we sponsor, if they only knew it.

I drove home 2 hours later, feeling immense gratitude. I was going home to a delicious salad (mandarin orange slices, mmmm!) which I was going to eat in a warm room with two beautiful canine companions. My alcoholic may be relatively new to AA - but he is there, and he's working his program as best he can - there's hope in my home.

When I'm hungry/angry/lonely/tired, life's problems can feel monumental. I can feel as if there is no way on earth for me to manage or surmount them. Self-care isn't just bubblebaths and manicures.

Self-care is not allowing the view of the world which presents itself to us when we are at our lowest point, to be accepted as the one and only truth.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Clouded Thinking.

My thinking is clouded when I am in denial about my character defects. When I'm convinced that my way of thinking, seeing, relating, acting, feeling, is the one and only correct way, I have lost my ability to keep an open mind.

Yesterday's reading in Courage to Change, is about this - getting stuck in the closed-minded rigid belief that we are right, and the other person is wrong. I like this:

"I don't have to invalidate anyone else's views in order to validate my own. It's all right to disagree. Today I will respect someone's right to think differently."

and this quote from Voltaire:

"Think for yourself, and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too."

Many people become defensive if offered a view different from their own - I know I did this for many years in Al-Anon. I don't know where it happened, but somewhere along my road to freedom, I let go of that. I can make my point, and hear the other person say that they firmly believe the exact opposite, and it's ok. It no longer feels like a challenge that I must meet and a fight I must win, it's only their opinion, in the same way that it's only mine.

I'm grateful to have received this gift from working the Steps, because it means that I don't lose my serenity when I discover that someone doesn't think as I do - I can be good friends with those with whom it might be said that I have nothing in common at all, but our shared committment to 12-Step, yet how marvellously we get along, and what wonderful far-reaching conversations we can have. I take that somewhat for granted, I think, until it's pointed out to me again, and then I marvel at the way this program unites us, even with all of our differences. That, when I stop to consider it, is purely amazing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let It Begin With Me, Ch 2.

We're going to a dinner party this evening, at the home of friends we've made since we moved down here. We will be leaving early, so that we can each go to our meetings - a newcomer took the key to open up for my home group this week, and I don't want to leave them sitting all by themselves - attendance can be rather sparse this time of year. I think of this quote from Al-Anon:

"When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, let the hand of Al-Anon always be there, and Let It Begin With Me."

I remember my own gratitude, when I was new to program, and living with active alcoholism, that meetings still took place during the holiday season, Those meetings were an hour of sanity and peace - a needed respite from a wildly chaotic home life.

People not in program don't understand, and I don't expect them to. They say, "You can miss a meeting for once, can't you? Especially this time of year?"

I reply, "Actually, no, especially not this time of year."

When I was new, living with active alcoholism, in such awful pain and distress - when I reached out for help, the hand of Al-Anon was always there.

Long-time members left their families and friends for a while, on Christmas Eve, or Christmas day, and went to a meeting.

They drove through bad weather, and holiday traffic: went in to the halls or churches, stamping their feet and shivering with cold, greeting each other with gusto and delight, set up chairs and tables, books and pamphlets, so that when I, (and others just like me) came hesitantly into the room, in the hopes of finding a meeting, we were met with warmth and love - the hand of Al-Anon.

My first year, I was unsure of how it worked, and arrived at the rec centre, wondering if I was going to find a locked room, as I walked down the seemingly endless corridor, to the last room on the right - the door was closed, and had no window - I couldn't tell if it was occupied, or not.

I will remember to my final days, the gush of tears, and the sob which escaped me, when I was halfway down the hall, heard a burst of laughter, and then the door swung open, and out came a woman carrying a coffeepot, heading for the kitchen a few rooms away. She was wearing a Santa hat, a piece of tinsel as a scarf, and she greeted me by calling, "I hope you brought your appetite, girl, there's enough Christmas baking in that room to collapse a table!"

She disappeared into the kitchen, and I ducked into the women's washroom, to get a grip on myself.

After I'd washed my face in cold water, (while telling myself that my eyes didn't really look like little boiled tomatoes they were so red,) I went into the meeting room.

Someone plopped a Santa hat onto my head, another member gave me a tinsel scarf, a third handed me a paper plate, a napkin, and gave a gentle push towards the baking table.

I walked around it, mopping up my tears with my napkin or my sleeve cuff, feeling a gratitude I cannot even begin to describe. I wasn't used to being loved "in a very special way," but even then, so new to Al-Anon, I understood that these women were demonstrating the love and generosity of the Al-Anon program at work in their lives.

Those women, and what them being there that day, meant to me - a lonely desperate newcomer - are one reason that I will be leaving tonight's party early, to attend the Al-Anon meeting.

"When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, let the hand of Al-Anon always be there, and Let It Begin With Me."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Higher Power's Fingerprints Are All Over That.

When I got this computer built for me, I asked for a very fast media program to be installed, because I do a lot of burning of 12-Step speaker cds, for both my, and my husband's, sponsees. His tend to be in rather shaky financial situations if they are newly sober, and might not have their own computer- so they appreciate the AA cds as a resource. When they're having a hard time in the small hours of the night, and don't want to wake someone up, they can put in a cd, and hear program wisdom and humour. It's great to be able to laugh at 4am, when you cannot sleep, and your demons are stirring in their various closets.

One of my husband's sponsees sent a gift for me, home with him last night  - as a thankyou for the cds I've made and shared. When I opened it, I said,

"Oh, you told him how I feel about these, eh?"

"No, no, I didn't, I didn't know he was getting you anything."

There was a short pause while I scarfed a chocolate, and my husband thought, then he laughed, and said:

"His Higher Power told him."

What I find delightful about this little incident, is - I'm not much of a chocolate lover. My spouse can bring home a massive box of mixed chocolates, and I can easily look them over, and not find one that appeals to me. I can buy a chocolate orange, eat one piece, and find it too sweet.

But these, these chocolate seashells with a truffle centre, are a mad passion - I'm crazy for them. I admire their beauty of design, and I adore the taste. I don't know what it is about them, but they are a special love of mine, and a little treat of the holiday season.

A couple of days ago, when we were out grocery shopping, my husband said, "Why don't you get yourself a box of those seashells?" and I found myself replying, "Not yet."

He laughed, and asked what on earth I meant by that? I said I didn't know, but I just didn't want them yet.

Last night, when I opened the present from his sponsee, and saw the box of chocolate seashells, my eyes filled with tears and I got one of those big lumps in my throat - it was so perfect, and so beautiful, that his sponsee had given me those  chocolates as a thankyou gift.

My Higher Power is always working in my life, and when I'm open to it, I see his fingerprints everywhere - on large issues, and on the smallest, most tender of sharings between those of us touched by alcoholism, and fighting our way back.

Bless you all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Come Dance With Me.

Sorry for the break in blogging; for some reason, the business has been insanely busy, and so have I, with sponsees and various other obligations. I've been getting up, running like a chicken doing the headless dance, and then falling into bed at night, thinking, "Oh, I forgot to do that again, today!"

This time of year can be difficult for families and friends of alcoholics. (I do so like to state the obvious.) In my early years in Al-Anon, I swung wildly between a manic determination to "enjoy Christmas," and a debilitating despair. Some of the holidays that were most dreadful to live through, have become the funniest to recount.

At the coffeeshop after a recent meeting, we were telling "horrors of Christmas past" stories, and howling with laughter. Before Al-Anon, the humour would have escaped us, because we'd have been mired in the pain.

Holidays with an alcoholic in the family, (or a family of alcoholics,) can have us feeling like a Thompson's gazelle surrounded by hungry lionesses, all staring us down - licking their lips and switching their tails.

What recourse do we have? Use your program. Believe our fellow members, and your sponsor when they say "Call me if you need to talk."

Remember this slogan:  How Important Is It?

My first sponsor offered me a helpful way to evaluate the importance of an event: will I remember this in a week? a month? a year from now? If I won't, how much energy am I willing to expend on it?

I can compromise, if I'm not allowing anyone to trespass my boundaries in the process. I can step back, detach, take a deep breath, and let go. I can ask my Higher Power to help me. I can lower my expectations, and allow my life to flow gently through the holidays, instead of first attempting to direct the traffic, and then becoming infuriated by my lack of control over other people. That's how I dealt with the holidays before Al-Anon. Now, I can let it happen around me, and maintain my serenity.

When we both forget our anniversary, I can find it amusing, rather than distressing.

When we get parcels from my spouse's family with precisely the sort of thing they know we have no use for, and don't want, (I know this because they've asked why don't we have _____, and we've said, "Oh, we don't really like those," or "I can't stand dusting all those little china ornaments" and promptly received little china ornaments as gifts for the succeeding 15 years) accompanied by notes which could be found on Passive Aggressive Notes - I can shrug and be grateful they live on the other end of the country, and we don't have to get caught up in the unhealthy sibling competition, active drinking, and unmanageability, rampant in that family.

When I let go, I don't get upset by changes in plan. I don't take changes personally; I don't allow other people's stress to trigger mine.

I know that this time of year is frustrating and painful for many people, so I do what I can. I attend more meetings, so that when members are having a hard time of it with family, and escape to a meeting for a sanity check, there is a meeting to escape to, and they won't find a locked door and no lights.

 I believe strongly in giving back to this wonderful loving program which has been my lifesaver for so many years.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"We Couldn't Possibly Do That For You."

I was a very angry and unhappy person when I came into Al-Anon, and when frustrated, I was not pleasant company. Yesterday, on the hunt for a replacement part, I had one of those encounters which used to set my teeth on edge, and cause my temper to rise; often, before program, I'd have been rude, and justified my rudeness by my level of frustration. Nowadays, these sorts of encounters are wonderfully funny.

I'd called a store here in town, to save myself a trip, and was assured that yes, they had that precise part for which I was looking. When I walked into the store, 4 employees, who had been leaning on the counters, fiddling with already perfect displays, etc, almost tackled each other to get to me first - I think they were bored senseless with nothing to do, and no customers to serve. The winner slid into place right in front of his co-worker, who turned away with a disgruntled look.

I presented my old broken part, and said my bit about how I'd phoned, and been told they had one in stock. He went into the stock room for a moment, then came out and announced that they didn't have one that size. Well, maybe they did have one, in the far back of the store where so-and-so works, but he didn't know.

I asked if perhaps he could go look, I'd be most grateful?

He stated firmly, "We couldn't possibly do that for you; we're  far too busy right now."

My eyebrows rose in surprise, and I couldn't help myself, I snuck a glance over to where the other 3 employees were once again lounging about, watching us with that same thousand-mile stare, of kids watching cartoons. I was still the only customer in the store.

He read the question in my raised eyebrows, and stated even more firmly, "This is just a temporary lull."

I had to bite down hard on my lower lip, in my efforts to contain the laughter trying to escape. I think he must have understood that neither statement had exactly resonated with the sound of truth, because he flushed slightly, and said again, "This is the Christmas season, and we're swamped with work, we can't go rummaging around in the back to find something we might not even have in stock!"

He turned to glare at his co-workers, who immediately leapt to attention and began rushing around, giving snappy little directives to each other, and looking extremely hardworking and busy - it was like a stage play come to life: "Small business with harried employees."

By this point, I was barely in control of myself, and think I must have looked a sight, as I fought with my facial muscles to regain control - you know the kind of wierd facial contortions we humans make when we are fighting a laughing fit - strange chewing motions, nostrils flaring, convulsive swallowing. I agreed that this was the busiest time of year for most merchants, thanked him nicely, and made it out of the store, and into my car, before the giggling fit got me.

I've been laughing about it ever since - once that poor guy had made his first silly statement, he felt he had to carry it through, no matter where that road led.

I'm grateful to Al-Anon, for having given me the ability to see these sorts of encounters with fellow human beings as Monty Python-ish, rather than annoying. If viewed as an excellent bit of silliness, they are an antidote to grey and rainy weather, stressful situations, all sorts of things. I'm delighted to have become a happy person, who can see the humour in almost everything. It's true what the Promises state; we will laugh more.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Music - Love It Or Hate It.

I'm not a fan of Christmas carols. They tend to have catchy little tunes which, once lodged in my brain, play on an endless loop - repeated and repeated and repeated, until I'm on the point of screaming. When we lived in a small town, I'd go into one chain store in the month of December, and the only song that ever seemed to be playing, was "The Little Drummer Boy" - I'd step through the entrance door, hear "rum-pum-pum-pum", and, like a ruminant with a new cud, feel my teeth beginning to grind together.

Through zealous working of my program in Al-Anon, I no longer feel pitched into a pit of depression around Christmas-time, but I haven't quite achieved a gleeful state, either. I've managed a place of relative acceptance of the bumf, hype, and, as overheard while out with a friend yesterday, "exhortations to spend more money you don't have, buying gifts for family members you don't like!"

I no longer have to "get through" the holiday season, while "acting as if," so as not to cast a grumpy shadow over those around me. I can let past unhappinesses fade away, and take pleasure where I find it. 

This may be my ability to appreciate the goodies, (chocolate oranges!) the companionship of good friends, and evenings spent driving around the city admiring the creativity of various homeowners when given strings of colored lights. I may never reach the point of mad passionate revelling in this holiday, but that's fine, I don't have those sorts of expectations of myself. I do what I can to enjoy myself, and turn the rest over to my Higher Power.

I can feel intense gratitude that I am no longer where I once was - trapped in a violent childhood, an abusive first marriage, my own insane thinking.

I can feel gratitude for my creature comforts - shelter, food, warm clothing, a small warm dog to hug against my chest (who, when she's feeling exceptionally affectionate, will ever-so-gently nibble the end of one's nose.)

I can feel gratitude for my mental comforts - love, shared laughing fits, good conversation, my program friends, sponsor, sponsees, and program literature to read if I awake in the middle of the night after a disturbing dream - I tend to get those this time of year.

I can feel gratitude for a very loud sound system, so that when I get a Christmas carol cycling madly round the track inside my head, I can attempt to blast it out with Bach's harpsichord concerto in D minor:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"You're So Calm."

A sponsee made that remark to me recently, and I was startled to hear it. Me, calm? Am I? The Oxford online dictionary defines calm as: "not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotions" and "tranquil."

Tranquil is defined as: "free from disturbance, calm."

I am largely calm nowadays, I realise. I may still go through periods of conflict and strong emotion, but I am not owned by either of those disturbances.  I no longer have those times I once did, when anger or strong emotion of any kind could make it impossible for me to make rational choices. I can still, even in the midst of conflict, examine myself and my part in it, describe my thinking to my sponsor, be open to another way of looking at whatever it is. 

I can feel strongly, and not lose my sense of propriety. MrSponsorPants has a hysterical post today about how even though one part of his mind can be thinking uncharitably, what's in true control, is his recovery mind, which will present him with alternatives to his reflex thinking. 

I laughed, reading his desciption of the internal dialogue between the two levels of self, because I can relate to it so well.

Recovery does not mean that I am floating through my life never having an uncharitable thought, or a crazed thought, or a co-dependent thought. Recovery means that I no longer accept every single thought as the truth, or even as bearing any resemblance to truth. Recovery means that I can hear my thought, and step back to examine it from various viewpoints, knowing that what may look perfectly like a lamb from one angle, when viewed from 180 degrees past that first point, reveals the bushy tail and sharp ears of the wolf within the disguise.  

When I was new to Al-Anon, I despaired of ever feeling calm for any stretch of time; I'd been shaken and buffeted by my own emotions all of my life. I could not imagine what it would feel like to be able to be annoyed or even angry, and still be able to speak with restraint, and think with clarity. Al-Anon, and the working and practise of the 12 Steps, has given me a calmness I would have never have believed within my reach, let alone my grasp.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tears As A Gift.

Music has always had a powerful emotional effect upon me, and bagpipes most of all. This morning in my email inbox, was a link to Amazing Grace played by bagpipes - lovely haunting music which brings me to tears.

As a person who was frozen in my emotions when I came into Al-Anon, with almost nothing left to feel except fear and anger, it was a new and rather alarming experience to find myself moved to tears, by the words of those other brave souls around the table, who shared of themselves so freely. I wept continuously throughout my first few meetings, and those hot tears pouring down my face, with all my efforts to control them completely useless, were, I now believe, a gift from my Higher Power.

Had I not had that experience, which left me rather shaky, but at the same time, understanding that in those rooms was a power I could not articulate, but could feel, I might not have continued to attend meetings. I was very hardened, and closed-off to other people - had I not been ripped open emotionally, so that against all my will, I was exposed in my pain, and in return received such a loving welcome from those women, I don't know where I'd be today.

There's a person in one of my regular meetings, who moves me to tears almost every time they speak - their own emotion is so much on the surface, and their experience of Al-Anon has been so life-changing and so powerful. It humbles me to hear the amazing difference that this wonderful program has made to this person.

It takes me back. I remember when I was that newcomer, whose voice shook, and whose tears were always right at the surface, regardless of how I struggled to subdue them; they would not be subdued. Inside the meeting rooms of Al-Anon, all my usual defenses were ineffective - I could be no-one but my true self. And believe me, I tried. I would promise myself as I drove to a meeting, that this time, I was not going to cry if I shared. And then I'd begin to talk, and my defenses would collapse, and there I'd be, emotionally naked once again. It was agonising, and it was the only way.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Can't I Learn This Permanently?

A program friend and I were talking yesterday, about the way we still, after many years in program, can find ourselves "nose to the wall."

We learn wisdom - get busy, impatient, hungry/angry/lonely/tired - promptly forget what we learned, revert to old behaviors, and bash the end of our schnozz on the unyielding bricks, of that wall of reality.

Sometimes we fall, and sit there, shaken, wondering how we ended up here, one more time. We may feel saddened and disheartened: we may begin to weep with pain and frustration. We may begin to judge our progress as "not enough." We may decide to give our nose a couple of extra, intentional whacks, in the hopes of reinforcing the lesson.

Sometimes we remember to call a program friend or our sponsor, and "reason things out with someone else." Perhaps we attend a meeting, and everything that's said seems to speak to us. Or maybe just one person's words, or what they read from program literature, seems like a loving gift of gentle reminding, from our Higher Power.

We can rant and rail about how stupid we are to have forgotten, we can add to the pain by shaming and insulting ourselves. Or we can try to forgive ourselves for the forgetting, trust that we are right where we need to be at this moment, and get up to start anew from this point in time.

I pray for the spirit of forgiveness, for myself, and for those around me, to fill me up and wash out the other, older ways of thinking, which sometimes do creep back to fill my empty spaces, when I forget to fill myself with healthy choices. I pray to be open to the lesson, when I find myself back at the wall once again. I pray for enough self-love, to be able to let go of all the ways in which I hold myself back, through impatience and frustration. I pray for the wisdom to "know the difference," to work for acceptance, and letting go. I pray for the ability to admit my part, while my poor sensitive nose resembles Rudolph's in its redness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Only ____ Because You _____.

"My alcoholic has always blamed me for the way she behaves - if I refuse to accept this blame, she gets enraged and will refuse to speak to me for the rest of the day. How do I deal with this?"

Alcoholics are are masters at evading responsibility, and one way they do this, is by assigning blame to another person, for their own behavior.  It's a large part of co-dependency, our accepting that blame, and trying ever more diligently to change, so as to effect change in the alcoholic. This doesn't work, and it doesn't work because we aren't responsible for how they behave, regardless of what they may have convinced us.

I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it. This goes for the drinking, and it goes for the other life choices, including how they treat us. When the alcoholic treats me badly, and then in all seriousness tells me that this only happened because I did this or that, and they had no choice but to treat me badly, it can be extremely difficult to maintain my own clarity of thought.

My first suggestion is this: don't get drawn into those conversations about why the alcoholic did whatever it was - those are sideroads and smokescreens, to evade the main issue. You can calmly state that the behavior is unacceptable and you'd like to be treated with respect, please. That's really all we need to say, because that pretty much covers all of it. If the bad behavior continues, excuse yourself - don't stay and provide the alcoholic with an audience. Go for a walk, read some Al-Anon literature, call a program friend, lock yourself in the bathroom and have a long relaxing bath or shower. Ask your Higher Power for guidance. Let it go, because you have zero control over how she behaves - don't stress yourself out trying to make her change. It's a hard pill to swallow when we first accept that  we are powerless over anyone but ourselves. 

I've been on the receiving end of this kind of accusation, and it's not easy  - not only are they treating us like crap, but when we protest, we are told we deserve to be treated like crap - and that is pure self-serving nonsense. I've learned not to get involved in discussions about why the alcoholic is doing this or that, because I will only become increasingly confused by the lightning-fast changes of direction, and ever-more frustrated by the continuation of the disrespect.  This is a fight we cannot win - so don't climb into the ring. Find a way to take care of yourself, and pray for serenity. Pray for acceptance, that helps me, even when I don't have any to begin with.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"I've Decided Not To Go Tonight, Because ..."

I like to say this to my spouse, who will make noises of agreement and support, knowing full well that all I'm doing, is giving myself permission not to go to my meeting, on nights when it's hard to pull myself out the door. This doesn't mean I'm staying home; it's being said in the minute before I haul myself to my feet, and walk down the hall, to go get ready.

This may sound silly, but it works for me. In doing Step Four: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves," I've discovered that I have a secretly rebellious streak. Just let me get the idea that I'm being expected to do whatever it is, and that (childish) part of me will begin to mutter darkly in the background, insisting that I don't have to do anything I don't want to, and nobody can make me do anything, and all manner of variations on that theme.

I've learned that rather than argue with my sulking inner child, it's much better to just agree with her, and continue along my adult path. (Do I sound as though I've got multiple personalities, here? Just an analogy - no actual voices arguing inside my head.)

I've learned that if I give myself permission to not do whatever it is that my rebellious streak is up in arms about, whether that be my yoga exercises, walking the dogs in the rain, cleaning the bathroom, or going to a meeting, I can sidestep all that mulishness.

MrSponsorPants has a good post today about making sure that we are listening to others, and truly hearing them. I've discovered through working my program, that I need to do this for myself, as well. I cannot ride roughshod over myself, insisting that my responsibilites require that I ____, and if I were truly mature I would ____, and I am bloody well going to do ____, whether I like it or not. This may work for some, this taking of self firmly in hand, but it often will not work for me.
It sets me up for failure, because the rebellious part of my nature will begin to place roadblocks in my path, trip me up time and again, anything to assert my independence, no matter how self-defeating the result.

I think of the years I spent pre-Al-Anon, trying and failing to force change upon myself, and in the process, waging an internal war. I recall how confused I was about my own behavior; I didn't know myself. I didn't understand that the abuse in childhood, had robbed me of my ability to feel as if I had any rights at all in life, so when I reached adulthood, all I had left to sustain me was my silently livid, internal rebellion.

I have learned that I need to listen to myself grumbling away: allow that part of me to feel heard: agree that yes, it is within my rights to not do this thing.  In the strange alchemy of self-willfullness, the moment I do this giving of permission, is the moment that the internal resistance melts away, and I can get up and go do it. Strange but true, and I'd never have figured this out, if I hadn't been willing to do a Step Four. And then another and another, as I work my way down through the levels of excavation of self.
I love this program, for all that it has given me, in so many areas of my life.