Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finding What Works For Me.

N. asks: "Why do some people "get it" (Al-Anon, recovery, serenity) so quickly, and others (me) don't? Am I stupid, or what?"

First of all - no, not stupid. We all learn at different speeds, and that individual speed can be further affected by all sorts of environmental factors, so please, try to let go of those kinds of harsh judgements of self.

Secondly, try to stop comparing your insides to other people's outsides - when I've compared, all I've managed to do was to make myself feel even unhappier, and inadequate.

I consider various sponsees I've worked with - the different speeds with which they grasp program, and put it into practise in their lives. Intelligence has nothing to do with it, that I can see. I've had sponsees whose intelligence was impressive, yet they could be some of the slowest-moving in recovery, for various reasons, not the least of which, was their refusal to take anything at face value - they want to know why.

There are many areas of life in which we need to know why - knowing why allows us to make an informed decision.

However, when we refuse to take any action, until we know why another person does what they do, that's self-defeating. It can be an avoidance mechanism. I had a sponsee who used to do what I call behavior autopsies. She'd spend hours, sometimes days, lost in an obsessive examination of her alcoholic husband's words and actions. She would call me, wanting first to give me a detailed recital of a conversation she'd had with him, and then wanting to start again at the beginning of this conversation, taking each and every thing he'd said, try to figure out what his motives had been for saying this or that, and why did I think he...

I was new to sponsorship with this woman, and very much feeling my way along, but I knew that spending any time at all trying to understand what went on inside the head of a still-drinking alcoholic was madness; I knew this well, having wasted so many hours and days of my own life, engaged in that futile pursuit.

I think people move at wildly different speeds in recovery, and this is a result of character, feelings of safety, ability to trust, willingness to look at ourselves. I've seen people leaping in great bounds, and also seen them stuck and frustrated. I've moved at those varying speeds myself, depending upon all of the above factors.

The one factor which seems to effect me most, is finding out what works for me, and then being willing to put it into practise.

I can go to my "Al-Anon Tools" cupboard, and root around looking for help - I can take the tools out, examine them, polish them up, and shove them back in unused. That doesn't work for me. I have to be willing to take out a tool, and then use the darn thing: write out an inventory, study the Steps & Traditions, work with my sponsor, go to meetings, try to detach, let go, turn it over, set boundaries and put the effort into maintaining them, be honest.

Some suggestions over the time I've been in 12-Step have sounded like a great new tool, but when I tried to use it, I couldn't get a sense of comfortable grip even after repeated tries. This is not an indication that I'm an idiot, it just means that little tip isn't going to work for me, and I need to keep listening, and trying out more ways, until I find what works for me.

When I find myself stuck, perhaps it's because I am not willing to do what needs to be done in order to move forward,

or perhaps I'm just needing to relax into the newness of this destination I've reached so far,

or perhaps my Higher Power is trying to show me something I'm refusing to see,

or perhaps I am being offered a chance to rest.

All of these are valid reasons to be not moving forward at this precise moment. 

Lastly, it can be difficult for us to see our own changes; other members of our meetings can see that we are progressing, all the time that we feel we aren't getting anywhere much. You are learning what you need to learn, and moving at the speed that is right for you; can you try to just ... lean back into that affirmation, and not to be giving yourself grief for not being somewhere else? Al-Anon suggests that we treat ourself with loving kindness - that's appropriate, and it helps us to keep going on our journey.


  1. I try to figure it all out which is part of my disease. If I can turn it over and let go this is one turn of a good Alanon tool.
    Keepin it simple
    Thanks for your blog posting.

  2. I used to dissect what the alcoholic did, replay conversations in my head, and see that I was crazy but not knowing how to stop the obsession. I am glad to not be in that frame of mind at the moment. But without Al-Anon, I could be right back there.

  3. This is a great post and shows how complicated or easy the process can be. I find when I am stuck it is because I think I am in charge of something including my own recovery. Letting go and letting god choose the pace I find I quickly move past being stuck. I have to remember my best thinking got me here.