Monday, December 24, 2012

Respecting Others.

When I see someone sneer at a member who is crashing about in pain amd sorrow, unable to follow the social niceties, seeking only comfort, I feel a sad and tired anger. We are all the same, we breathe, we eat, we long for love.

When you turn to another person and feel superior because you are not suffering enough to make a fuss, you are negating their personhood.  This life is short, and we can spend it enamelled into our self-chosen categories of "Us" against "Them" but we are fooling ourselves if we think we are living life in any better way than the one beside us.

This season speaks to loving one another, as does our program. It isn't always easy or comfortable to reach out to say, "I see you, I hear you, I am here with you, I understand your pain" but that's what Bill W started trying to do.

Please, don't look for differences in the faces around the table, look for your common ground.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grief Lives Inside A Cardboard Box.

Two nights ago, I was going through a box, with an eye to unpacking it, and found first the beads my friend had draped around my neck when he greeted me at their door, last Mardi Gras, then the material I purchased on our trip together, and finally, at the bottom, the earrrings I had worn for the 2 days of cleaning up the blood from his partner's attempt at suicide just after my friend died.

The thought of going on without him, was impossible for the one who'd loved him on sight, and for 21 years thereafter. I didn't deal with the death of my friend, or the pain of cleaning up all that blood because I couldn't, at the time, I was trying to be strong for the one alive and trying to find a way to go on without him.

When we lost our mate, whether to divorce or to death, the loss is the same. We're faced with trying to construct a new life without them, without all the little shared jokes and shared history, without this person who knew us when we were younger. What I'm discovering, is that I never did have what I thought I did, it was founded upon a web of intricate, convoluted lies.

 I recall driving home to sit on my couch, and ask aloud. "Who are you? I do not know you in the way that I went for so long believeing that I did."

I can struggle with this reality, or I can do what Syd has written about this week, and simply trudge through, with a faith that I will understand at some point, or maybe never, but in the meantime, I can give kindness to those around me, and for today, that has to be enough.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Word Verification

After complaint, I turned off word verification some time ago on this blog, and it was fine at first, but now I'm getting spam comments from websites dealing with matters "below the belt" to use a grandparents term, so it's been turned back on.

Thankyou for your patience, and your honest comments, I appreciate them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Your Body Is Trying To Get Your Attention.

When I was last at my doctor, we were discussing sleep, and getting, or not getting, enough. What is enough? Enough for me, is an amount that allows me to awaken naturally, rather than being blasted out of sleep with the alarm. When the alarm wakens me, I feel instant resistance, I don't want to get up. Even if I've set it the night before so that I may meet my obligations, and even as I'm getting out of bed, I'm thinking to myself that I hate getting up early.

It's all to do with feeling forced. When I awaken naturally, I feel as though I've had enough sleep. When the alarm pushes its way into my brain and brings me forcibly to the surface, to wakefulness, my entire system revolts. I try to get up at the same time every day to keep some structure in my life, but that requires retiring to bed the night before, sufficiently early that I will sleep long enough to do so.

When my normal system is interrupted, it's always because I'm struggling with something which interferes with my serenity to such a point that I cannot go to sleep.

My body is always the first sentinel warning me of lapses in my serenity. I get vague headaches, and my eating habits slide, and all because of my mental state. When I ignore these changes in my usual habits, I ignore myself.

My body is the temple of my spirit, and as such, it deserves respect.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Maintaining The Ground We've Gained.

Yesterday the phone rang, and I answered it, unthinkingly, and for a moment, didn't recognise the voice of the man calling, until he asked, "How are you?" - it was my husband. I was in shock as he chatted on, until finally I managed to ask, "Why did you call?'

He said pleasantly that he was calling to invite me to Christmas dinner. I could feel myself start to tremble,  that's how it started between us all those years ago, with his invitation to Christmas dinner. I've had to work to detach from my emotional response - some part of me wanting to go back to that time that the more rational self knows is lost to me forever - when I trusted him implicitly, and was so in love with him.

When I believed him. It's a miserable thing, to find out that you cannot trust the one person who should be the one into whose trust you can relax, against the pressures of the world. I made some excuise about needing time to think, and got off the phone, calling at once my counsellor and then my
sponsor, getting badlty needed reinforcements and support.

My husband has been so skilled at making life my fault that I can fall into that minset unthinkingly. I was deeply grateful for those two women, who took their time to help me maintain  the ground I've gained, and not fall back. It would be so easy to just give up and fall back - until reality set in.

I pray to find compassion for the alcoholic's confusions, and my own, not to be deciding that they must fall upon my shoulders.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Being Pushed To Think Differently.

Spnsors can be vital in this role, as can life itself. I've been having to accept that some of what I'm struggling to allow into my mind as just the way it is, was that way before we married. Did I believe that with enough effort, the right way to say it, the necessary influence, I would be able to change those realities? I may have. I may not have fully understood the wear patterns upon even the very best part of us, that living with an alcoholic can create.

I was thinking today of a time when we were newly married, and he'd started asking for "favours" from me. This is an example of the way that language is used to minimise the loss of entire countries of self - the borders are re-drawn, the name is changed, and soon, only the old (old friends, in my case) can clearly recall a time when things were not this way.

I offered up so much of myself in hoping that the gift of me would satiate the endless wanting. Straw or gold, it was devoured with the same intensity in the fire of his addictive personality. I gave what I now see was the treasure of myself; to him, it was third-rate lumber, comsumed in no time, leaving him always, always, wanting more. Those "favours" that I did for him, almost destroyed my sense of self. I'd be still reeling from the effects of one, and he'd be at me, mocking me for my response, and continually wanting another.

Living alone, with Spirit to guide me, is blissfully peaceful. I pray to feel compassion for the devouring alcoholic, and for myself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Memories Surfacing.

 I've been having memories from the early days of the marriage surface, and invariably, they are memories of the alcoholic's skillful manipulation of me, through the use of guilt.

This has a double effect of both making me laugh with wonder, and groan for my gullibility. I could get caught up in the blindness of the woman I was, or I can allow the humour of how well it worked to assist me in my search for self-acceptance, then record the memories in my journal, so they don't sink out of sight, be again forgotten, and trip me up in the future.

This feels like a positive learning process, and if I stay open, I will gain knowledge about myself and my character. I had a certain idea of how it had been when we were new, and since I left him, I've been granted the understanding that this vision was created by my enabling co-dependency operating at top speed.

Letting go of it all will take a little time, but if it is my own inventory I take, my own character defects I examine, for how they've held me back in my life, if I am willing to stay free of anger, I can feel that the growth from this will be life-altering.

I pray to let go of pride, and to retain humour.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Like Finding A Lost Friend

Reading a new post from Mr. Sponsor Pants  today enlivened me, he's another of what I think of as "long-time dedicated 12-Steppers" who has most likely, not much clarity on the way his sharing changes lives.

When we are willing, in a meeting, on a blog, in sponsorship, to reveal the primal us, we give to another, a gift impossible to name - shared humanity, perhaps. Safety in knowing that for all of us, the new and the old-timers, those of us who struggle furiously, those who paddle and splash a bit to see what happens, and those who open both hands against our "knowing" because the wisdom tells us to do it, counter-intuitive to what the me-brain wants, that we are not alone, there is always someone who has walked that path before us, who is willing to turn and extend their hand.

That hand may be sweaty, sticky, or cold to the touch, but the fingers curl around our own, and we feel the Spirit in the offering.

Thank you for all who give of themselves, however they may do it, for the sake of the ones who come behind, and the sake of their own sanity, it matters not why, it is the giving.

I pray to stay open and honest.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Constitutionally Incapable of Being Honest With Themselves.

AA uses that phrase in the Big Book, page 58. I searched for something today, and that page came up, so I read it again.

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. There chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest."

I can recall trying to talk with my (sober but not in recovery) husband when we were newly married, and being taken aback by his complete refusal to be honest with himself or me about his part in our troubles. He blamed me completely, and felt he was an innocent victim.

I had accepted his self-appraisal as a great guy, buttressed by the public facade he's developed to feel accepted. The difference between the public man, and the private man, shocked me. For years, I was in denial that he was not who he pretended to be, and it didn't help that while he was being angry with me and ignoring me for days, friends and customers who knew him only slightly, would tell me how lucky I was to be married to him. The confusion for me was terrible. I didn't understand that the rejection in my childhood had set me up perfectly to assume blame when it was handed to me.

I had learned in Al-Anon that when I felt the hot rush of defensiveness rising within me, I was hearing the truth about myself, however painful or distasteful. I didn't get that feeling if what was being said had no bearing on my character, I could remain detached.

I learned this fact about my character defects both through self-appraisal, and through listening to the words of those who had gone before me in this program. I wanted peace from pain, and I wanted to improve and grow - to become the woman I dimly felt I could be, were I willing to set my pride aside, and listen for the guidance of my Higher Power.

But with my husband, I couldn't withstand the force of his personality, or the emotional abuse, I accepted what he said, and tried to right it. The awful co-dependent fixing need.

Over the years, his blaming became less effective, the more I learned to value my own worth. When I met with him this last time, he was in full bore with the blaming, and his assumption of the victim role. It was exhausting to sit for 3 hours and listen as talked about himself - I wasn't even in the equation.

 I wish for him the spiritual awakening 12-Step speaks of, I know that mine changed my life in ways I didn't understand when it was new. I pray that he find his way to himself. I've let go of wanting to see that happen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Accepting What Is.

This past Saturday, I had a 3-hour meeting with my husband. My guilt for leaving had been consuming me, and when I awoke that morning and received the urging from my Higher Power to do this, I trusted, and I put my faith in the belief I needed the meeting for myself.

We sat in my car and talked, and I felt a loving compassion for his suffering, but also, I was forcibly reminded of the reasons I chose to leave the marriage.

I won't live that circumscribed life with the alcoholic ego. I'd forgotten in my guilt, how impossible it is to connect with a human being who cannot set themselves aside for even a moment to consider another. His dial is set to "me" not "us" and it has always been, I was in denial.

I felt, and feel, a sorrow for us both, that we could not find a way to make the marriage work, at the same time as I feel a powerful gratitude to have gotten out. He has his path, and I have mine, I wish for him that he finds self-realisation in AA, and can move into the next stage of recovery.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Changed Attitudes - HIndsight

At one time in my recovery, I'd have said that hindsight is extremely useful - all those realisations not possible any other way. But now, I see it more as turning once again to mine the past, trying to gain wisdom there, working and living not in this day, today, but stepping back to add shame to our ignorance or innocence.

We can't know what we don't know.

 No amount of self-belittling now, will change our inability as human beings, to gaze into the future and make sound decisions as a result of what we see gathered there.

I must let go of my younger self's not being able to see past the love and infatuation of a new marrage.
No amount of shame ladelled upon my head at this age, will change a molecule of the choices the younger me went on to make. Allow them. Be at peace with them. Be at peace with her. Lift up my eyes from this vantage point, and feel gratitude for the love and care with which I am surrounded.

I have only to ask, and I will find my pathway swept and marked for me, and loving companions with whom to walk.. But first, I must turn my face from the past, let go of furture outcomes, and live in this day, fully.

I've learned not to consider rain a personal affront, but to dress for it. So much of life can be lived in this way.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happiness Is An Inside Job - I Give It To Myself.

A reader asked: "How do I find gratitude, when I don't feel any?"

I'd bring this back to the basics of life - is there food in your fridge? Do you have a roof over your head, a bed with enough blankets, or a comforter, to keep you warm and safe as you sleep? Do you have untainted water to drink?   Start there. Start as far back as required in the basic needs of life, and push gratitude.

By "push" I mean, remind yourself. Don't listen to the nattering, tv-fed mind, which never stops insisting  that if only you had the latest app, your life would be a different thing entirely. That's not reality, it's advertising.

Reality is that feeling in your chest, when you look into the eyes of another Al-Anon member and what you see is loving acceptance of the same person with whom you've completely lost patience - you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Emotional Support.

Where do you get yours? In speaking to my new sponsor iu this city, I replied that my emotional support comes from my Higher Power. That knowledge is what made it possible for me to risk a massive change in my life.

I have been being looked after since long before I knew I needed any care.

Learning That Which We Already Know...

....but are unwilling or unable to accept, can be a painful process.

The knowledge that my life inside my marriage had become "unmanageable" was nothing new. I'd tried in every way I could imagine to find solid ground, but there was none to be had - I didn't cause the "isms" of the alcoholic, I couldn't control them, and I couldn't cure them. Each alcoholic is solely responsible for the tracing out of their own path.

When newly married, I was naive enough to believe that the cessation of consumption was enough to bring about recovery, I'd no idea that the person can be years away from their last drink, and only minutes later, will demonstrate the fact that if you do not move forward, you will slide back.

I want to say sorry to Syd,who left a comment which I was going to publish, but somehow hit the delete button instead - my fingers are more clumsy on this laptop, sorry, Syd.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turning The Page.

I seem unable to write, lately. Or I can write, I just erase it all as soon as I read it over for editing purposes. (I've spent 2 hours trying to write a letter to my brother, who has been nothing but accepting and encouraging)  The truth of my pain on ending my marriage of 17 years has more to do with loss of the dream than the relationship. The alcoholic had burnt away my feelings for him with his repeated lies.

One effect of all of this is that I cannot write upon my blog in the way I am accustomed: my old coping mechanisms are no longer needed, and in their passing is a freedom I'm not sure how to utilise.

 I will be using the Al-Anon literature to help me through this writer's block. Please bear with me if my posts change form for a while.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Road Rage - Another Name For Bad Manners

A few days ago, after checking first, to make sure I wasn't being followed closely enough to  be rear-ended, I slowed to stop for a pedestrian at an unmarked crossing, and when he looked at me to make sure that's what I was doing, I waved him on. He was young, in his early twenties at the most, and when he smiled, gave a wave of thanks, and stepped off jauntily to cross the four lanes of traffic, a shattering blast of horn broke out behind me. He froze in front of my car - he knew that I, at least, knew he was there and wouldn't mow him down.

A look in my rearview mirror, and I saw the man in the large pickup behind me, wave his arms in that gesture meaning, "What are you doing!"

I pointed to the pedestrian, wondering if the driver hadn't seen him, and was thinking I'd stopped at the end of the block for no real reason.

His response was to punch the fist of one hand, violently into the palm of the other, face suffused with rage.

I thought of the phrase I use as a meditative tool: "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace." and not knowing I was about to do so, blew the enraged driver a kiss.

Rather than respond with increased fury, the driver's rage seemed to deflate; he changed lanes and dropped back. It was as though he'd lost interest in that which had so infuriated him just a moment before.

I thought of myself, so angry at everything when I came into this program, so completely unable to see my own part in the troubles of my life, so desperately longing for connection and a sense of love, and yet unable to attain it, becauce first, I had to understand that if I wish to have a friend, I must be one. If I wish love, I need to behave in a way that does not alienate and hurt the people in my life.
We none of us live in a vacuum, but so many of us newly in, are self-absorbed to the point we are unable to recognise the pain that we have called. We rationalise all of that.

Step 4, we stop with the game-playing and the blaming. We accept that each of us has human frailty, and admit that we have done some harm ourselves.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Question about Trust

"I asked someone to be my sponsor, but my first meeting with him, he did a lot of talking about a sponsee who fired him, and criticising him. What do I do?"

At a meeting I attended recently, someone spoke about the fact that a long time in program doesn't equate with a long time working on one's own character defects. It's like the old joke about sitting in the garage doesn't make you a car - sitting in meetings for many years is no indication of a good solid grounding in the principles of the program.

The relationship between sponsor and sponsee needs to be one of trust - without the trust, not much can be accomplished. I would not be able to bare my soul to a new sponsor who was breaking the confidentiality of someone with whom they'd worked in the past. I don't have to shame, judge, or blame them for it, I can accept that in this area, perhaps they haven't grown as one would hope, but I'd protect myself, and most likely I would find another sponsor.  We don't always have to be sponsored by someone who's been in Al-Anon for more years than we have; I've watched newcomers leap to understanding about things which took me years to learn. But I would suggest a member who practises program in all of his affairs, not just at meetings, and often, that takes a few years to truly grasp.

I've reached a place in my life where I no longer feel the need to share my opinion on many things with those around me, although I do have a couple of friends with whom this is a wind-down ritual - a little moaning and groaning on the way we think the world could be better conrfigured for our taste. But with those I sponsor, I consider the relationship inviolate, I do not share anything they've told me with a third person, and I do not take the easy road of being critical, when I am still so flawed myself.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Selective Vision for Step 8

I've been to several meetings this week on the topic of  Step 8: "Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

I find it interesting how many people seem to see this as another way to look at what the alcoholic has done to damage us. That's not what this Step asks us to do. We aren't  making lists of all the people, including ourselves, harmed by the alcoholic, we are taking a clear and careful look at our own character defects, and how those have caused pain, grief, sorrow and trouble to the people in our lives.

It wasn't until I was willing to admit that I could be a jerk, that I began to get much from this program. As long as I was still fixated upon what the alcoholic had done, was doing, might be about to do, my focus was skewed.

I don't attempt to suggest that we haven't been harmed in this alcoholic relationship, one is always getting toes snipped off and bits gouged out when we love an alcoholic, it's the nature of their disease, of the inflated sense of self, and overweening ego, which accompanies the other symptoms.

But we become equally as self-absorbed in our confusion and our pain, "irritable and unreasonable without knowing it." That's why we need a sponsor, because when we start out on this journey, our defenses will have us insist that we have no character defects, that we don't need to make a list, that we haven't harmed anyone. Over the years that I've been in this program, I've seen this happen time and again - someone relatively new insisting that they don't like this character defect stuff because it sounds too punitive, or they havn't done anything compared to the alcoholic's crimes against the world, or just a general sense of outrage when it's suggested to them that they learn to focus on their own faults.

 I've been that person, wanting to blame another for all my unhappiness. It wasn't until I became more willing to sit down and have a good hard look at myself that I began to find change in this program. But that requires some beating down of our own egos, and open minds with regard to who our sponsor sees
when they look at us.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Changed Attitudes

I was doing yoga exercises this afternoon, listening to an Al-Anon speaker, and kept having to pause the file, to get up and run over to the kitchen table to write down what she'd just said. This woman spoke about her version of "contempt prior to investigation" and her description caused me to realise that I've been doing just that about my new living quarters. As of the first of Sept, I will be living in an apartment. I've only lived in two or three in my life, becauce I had all sorts of reasons why I didn't like them, and preferred a house.

At the moment, my options are severely limited due to my finances being severely limited. I've been offered a one-bedroom in an area of town I love, close to a large park, and the ocean. It's very small, but it will be my peaceful, private nest.

I have a choice, do I concentrate upon how much I'd rather live in a house with my dog, which at this time, is not within my financial reach, or do I concentrate upon the blessing of this little private space which will be mine alone, and in which I will be able to learn and heal from my sorrow? My choice.

One makes me feel hard-done-by and self-pitying, one makes me feel grateful. I want gratitude, and peace of mind. I want to be able to accept what I am given in life without always wanting something different. It isn't that I believe we shouldn't strive for more, I do, but I"m realising that in the unhappy years of that marriage, I had some belief in geographic cure.

And that never works, because I have to take myself with me. My same crazy over-thinking self would be along for the ride no matter where I went. So I choose gratitude, and the work required to remind myself of my choice, when those little thoughts slide across the forefront of my mind.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old Pain.

I have never cried like this. Leaving without my dogs was agony, it seems to have ripped the store-room door wide open, and all the pain of all the years in which I could not cry even had I wanted to, is pouring out, an unstoppable river of tears.  I have enough self-possession to drag myself into a state approaching calm when I must, to deal with life's necessities, and to keep my friends from thinking that I have lost my mind, but all other times, it just rains out of me, a force not controllable by any other way but pleas to my Higher Power to grant me peace.

I go to Al-Anon meetings, and no sooner am I in my car afterwards, but it all sweeps over me again, and I'm driving home sobbing. I remember things I haven't thought of in 15 years, which caused me awful hurt at the time, but because back then I couldn't cry, they were stuffed into that internal store-room and the door firmly closed against them. That won't work as a solution anymore, the door itself has been removed.

I'm trying to let it go, to let it out, to validate that person who believed in love, who was crushed to be treated so harshly by a man who swore he loved her. I accepted his blame for all of it, and I tried so hard to be some other way to make it work. When he told me it was my fault that he was emotionally cruel to me, I believed it, why wouldn't I? I'd been getting that message all my life.

I remember the hope I had when we were starting out, and the early beliefs that this time I would figure out the way to make us happy, since according to him, it all fell into my area of reasponsibility. If only I would be a different way, then he would be, too. It never worked, he was the same no matter what I did.

I started this blog because my denial was finally smashed. He said something to me which broke through: he told me he had treated his first wife exactly the same way. When he said that, he set me free.
Freedom at the moment seems to consist of hours of weeping punctuated by sleep. I want to let it all go, I don't want any of that old sorrow festering inside my heart and soul. I want peace. I want to be an instrument of my HP's peace, and to do that, I must be emptied out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Becoming Whole Again.

Driving home after an Al-Anon meeting tonight, I was thinking that I have been married for the last seventeen and a half years, to an alcoholic with a very large personality. An extrovert, skilled at "schmoozing"  - that level of social conversation where nothing of any importance is expressed, but the people involved can sound like great friends, if one doesn't know any better.

What I'm discovering, this last month or so of being on my own, is that people respond to me very differently now that his personality is no longer taking up all the space in the room, eclipsing mine.
In the short time I've been down here on my own, I've been told quite a few times that I have a calm, accepting presence, and that people feel safe with me. That's good for my self-esteem.

Those people might have reconsidered the "calm" part had they seen me last night. I'd turned off all the lights, and was walking towards the bathroom, to wash my face, and brush my teeth before bed. Somehow, I misjudged, and walked straight into the door jamb with my nose - instant agony!  I imagine that's just how it feels to be punched in the nose.

My very first thought was "Smart move!" said to myself in a sarcastic fashion.

Even in the midst of my pain, I knew that I was being offered a life lesson. Had I seen anyone else, friend or complete stranger, have that accident,  I'd have leapt to help them, asking, "Are you okay? Do you need to sit down? Can I get you a glass of water, or a cold cloth?" Yet for myself, I had only a sarcastic comment.  Even as I clutched my face and leaned against the wall, groaning, I decided to treat myself the way I'd treat any other person, asking, "Do I need to sit down,  a cold cloth, or a glass of water?"

I gave it a moment's thought as the pain in my face began to subside, and chose the cold cloth, in an effort to gain relief from the pain and possible swelling. Today, you'd never know I did that to my poor nose last night, but the lesson in self-esteem, and treating myself with kindness, has stayed with me. I spend the most time in my own company - doesn't it make sense to treat myself with loving kindness and acceptance"?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Loving Me.

So many times the topic of a meeting will be precisely what I need to hear. Today I had an experience which brought up a lot of old, bad feelings about myself, and I couldn't seem to shake them off. I tried for a couple of hours to work it through myself, then decided to go to a meeting, and when I did, this was one of the readings chosen by a member, on the topic of "patience." The reading begins with a rather joking listing of high expectations we may have of ourselves in recovery, and the accompanying lack of patience with our character traits or defects, then goes on to talk about the ways we deal with ourselves when we aren't moving fast enough for whatever arbitrary speed we've set as the correct speed for us to be changing and growing.

From Courage to Change, page 103:

"Is it still hanging on? Very well, I'll launch a major campaign of self-criticism. What's wrong with me? Why do I have all these feelings about something that isn't important? I'm sure I caused all this myself; somehow I'm to blame.
 Heaven forbid I should surrender, accept my discomfort, and pray for guidance."

  I realise that I must surrender to the pain, sorrow, grief, and whatever other feelings are going to arise in these early months of learning to live alone again, after 17 years living with my ex. It's not going to be something I can toss off like a stubbed toe, so why do I do this to myself, launch this "major campaign of self-criticism"? All I manage to accomplish is to add to my discomfort in my own skin, without having eased the original ache one iota. Hounding myself for whatever I perceive as lacking in my character, or for mistakes made, is old behavior, and it's interesting to see how quickly I have reverted to this "default mode", in the midst of this major life change of leaving my marriage.

  I'm grateful for those in program who show up at meetings, so that I may have that glorious feeling of peace which descends upon me when we are "having a moment of silence to remember why we are here."  I feel blessed with my friends, who keep reminding me that I don't have to treat myself harshly, that I need extra love right now, and that love needs to be coming from me as well as those friends who are my staunch supporters.

I wrote a reminder not to be unkind to myself, and placed it where I would catch regular sight of it.

I want to be at least at loving to myself as I would be if any other person asked for my support while they went through this sort of massive change in circumstance, thinking, and life.    I sat quietly tonight, surrendered, and asked, "Please help me." I know that my help is there for me, I have only to ask, from myself, from my friends, from my Higher Power. I must open my mouth and ask. No more silent misery.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Al-Anon Family Groups

One wonderful aspect of living in this city is the number of Al-Anon meetings available - at least one every day, and sometimes two - this makes for a great framework of support for someone like myself who has recently moved here, and has few connections. When I walk into a meeting, sit down in a chair and smile at the other people in the room, it doesn't matter that I don't know their names or life stories; what I do know is that they have been affected by someone else's alcoholism.

I know they have suffered in the same ways I have, in their struggles to deal with that "cunning, baffling and powerful" disease: had the same feelings of intense frustration and despair: most likely made some of the same crazy  misguided choices, in their efforts both to understand and to change the alcoholic. (I've come to see that when it comes to alcoholism and our efforts to have some effect upon it, we are all barking mad, it's just that some are barking more loudly than others.)

I know that I can learn from those whom I've met for the first time two weeks ago - we don't have to be close friends in order for me to gain insight from their willingness to share and to offer their experience, strength and hope. All that's required from me is an open mind, and that I pay attention when people are sharing. An open mind means that even if I've attended a meeting for the first time and not liked it as much as some of the others,  I continue to go back, because that "not liking" may have had more to do with my state of mind, expectations, or physical comfort than anything to do with the people in the group, or the way the meeting is run.  I had yet another example of this last night, when I went for the second time to a specific meeting, although I'd felt rather depressed after the meeting last week. I've learned that my situation can sharply affect my perceptions, and my situation is that I've recently left a long-term marriage, with all of the stresses that includes.

I'm grateful for all who take the time to attend meetings and give back what was given to them when they were new. My first sponsor used to say this to me whenever I'd suggest that I didn't feel like going to my home group meeting because I was tired, or busy, or distracted, or lazy - she'd give me that steely look, and ask what would have become of me, if everyone in the group in the very first meeting I'd attended, had decided to stay home and watch tv? I quailed before that prospect, and went to my meeting.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Solitude And Peace.

When my marriage ended, I decided that I would move back to the city in which I had lived for 17 years, and have always loved. I'd come down here for visits many times over the years, and each time, would feel a wistful longing that I didn't live here anymore.

I have a strong feeling of having come home; I feel connected to this place in a way I never could in the smaller places we lived, perhaps because this is the place where I began my Al-Anon journey.

The setting is beautiful, beside the ocean, with a mountain range visible across the water, glorious old buildings and houses, and a sense of history recognised and appreciated.

I'm the one who decided to leave the marriage, and am not going to invade my privacy or his with details, they don't matter in this blog. It's over, and now I'm moving on to the next phase of my life. Thank you to all who wrote to give support, your kindness touched me - I feel such gratitude for people in program.

I think I've found the meeting that will become my home group, the people are friendly and welcoming, and I felt so comfortable at the first meeting I attended, that I could even share a little. I've been to lots of meetings since I've been here - they keep me feeling grounded and sane.

Now it's time to go home and cook myself something delicious to eat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Life Changes.

I"m going to be offline for a while, as I have decided to leave the alcoholic and my marriage of 17 years. It hasn't been an easy decision, but I believe it's the right one for me. I'll post on this blog again as soon as I get the time. Take care, all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A New Point Of View.

When we can laugh at our character defects, rather than find them embarassing or shameful, we have reached a jumping-off place in our spiritual growth. If we have the faith and trust to take the leap, we will  be amazed to discover how joyful everyday life can be.

I asked my HP to remove the awful judgemental attitude I had towards other people, but first I'd had to ask to have that same judgement about myself removed. When I stopped condemning myself for my human frailties, I was moving towards a state of mind that was incomprehensible to me before then. I did not know, believe, or even dimly understand that I would feel my HP's love for me, and through that, find my own love for myself. I did as I was instructed by Al-Anon and my sponsor, and reaped rewards far beyond what I was able to imagine at the time.

We don't have to believe it will work, in order for it to work, we have only to try it and see. I don't need to understand gravity in order for my physical self to be governed by it. In the same way, I don't need to understand 12-Step principles in order for my life to be immeasurably enriched by them, if only I practise them. The understanding, the belief, that comes later. You'll never know if you don't try.
Give it a whirl - time is passing either way.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stages of Spiritual Growth

I've heard it said that spiritual growth in 12-Step consists of three phases - the first phase is "Help me!" We come into Al-Anon self-absorbed and seeking relief from our pain. As the introduction read out at meetings states: "Living with alcoholism is too much for most of us..."

We've often reached a stage of helpless anger and frustration, with no idea of what we need, but knowing that we need help. We become willing to surrender to the understanding that we can't make the alcoholic stop drinking..

The second stage of spiritual growth in 12-Step is "Grant me..." we reach this stage when we have some idea of our character defects, how they make our lives more difficult and hinder our search for serenity. At this stage, we've given up the blaming, ratiionalising, justifying, and see ourselves without harshness or judgement, simply with clarity - "this is who I am." We ask to be granted relief from our character defects that we might find peace, yes, but also that we might be a better person - we begin to look outward as well as inward, to understand what it might be like for others to deal with us.

The third stage of spiritual growth in 12-Step is "Use me."  We reach a place of quiet knowing that just as our Higher Power uses people in our life to teach and sustain us, so can we too be used. Before a meeting with a sponsee, I say a little prayer: "Please make me worthy of this person's trust."
I'm asking my HP to help me to set aside my own character defects so that the message can get through to them as they need it. I know that I have some useful techniques to offer, but the wisdom is 12-Step wisdom, not mine. I didn't originate these teachings, I received them from my sponsor and other people in program, and I'm grateful to have the chance to pass them on, but they don't make me wise. I'm not an expert in Al-Anon, I'm the same flawed human I ever have been, but I have heard some neat stuff, and if you have the time to listen, I'm excited to tell you about it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My little dog is sleeping on my lap as I write this - after seven and a half weeks of cage rest, she is finally recovered, and can be freed. We're both thrilled by this, she because she is a very personable dog, and me because I adore her. As always seems to be the way of such things, when I heard that three weeks hadn't been long enough, and she'd need another 3-4, it sounded like forever, but has passed quickly. I'm delighted to see her happy and silly again - yesterday we had a nice lounge in the sun on the back deck.

Today, I'm thinking about a quote from Eckhart Tolle:

"Enormous freedom comes into your life when you stop demanding or wanting life to be other than it is."

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Imagination LImits Me.

I was out for a dogwalk with a good friend yesterday, and when a vehicle stopped to allow us to cross, we realised it contained someone we both knew - I knew the passenger, and she knew the driver. It was quite funny in its way, and what happened later on in my evening was even funnier, because it once again reminded me of the ways in which my own imagination limits me. I have learned this life lesson repeatedly during my time in Al-Anon, and I still seem able to forget it. What I find even more interesting is the fact that this limitation extends in only one direction - the positive. I can easily imagine, were I to allow it, various and myriad terrible outcomes, and I've spent many miserable hours of my life doing this - it's called worrying.

It's the possible 'amazing and wonderful' outcomes which don't spring to my mind with equal ease. Seems that every time I believe that I've imagined every way in which a situation could resolve itself positively, and then get tired of this mental chatter and decide to turn it over to my Higher Power, to let it go, it will be resolved in a manner which astounds and delights me, because it will happen in a way that wouldn't have occurred to me had I thought about it for a dozen years.

An elderly member in my first meeting group once made us all howl with laughter by saying with a hint of irritation in her voice that she thought her Higher Power was a bit of a showoff, really. I might be too, if I could imagine the same elegantly perfect solutions

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Helping or Enabling?

How do I know the difference between helping my alcoholic, and enabling them?

One dictionary defines enabling as: "to make possible or easy." When I lived with active alcoholism in my first marriage, and hadn't yet heard of Al-Anon, I enabled the alcoholic. I made runs to the liquor store so he wouldn't drive while intoxicated. I made excuses for him. I "explained" him to family and friends. I did it because I was fearful of the consequences, and also because I wanted to be a good wife.

In this marriage, because the alcoholic had been sober for many years before we met, and I was fairly new to Al-Anon, I imagined him cured, and let go of all the teachings of the program about enabling - I was under the mistaken impression that enabling was part of active drinking, and not alcoholism as a whole. I can still have some difficulty distinguishing between helping and enabling, especially when I'm asked to "do a favour" and either I forget to say "I'll get back to you on that" or :"Let me think about it" because the person asking the favour is pressuring me for an immediate answer, or because I'm in HALT - hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  When I'm vulnerable, I'm less likely to resist manipulation, because I don't have the energy to stand my ground against repeated verbal pressure. That's when I need to remove myself  - by leaving the room, and sometimes the house, even if all I do is wander outside to look at my garden.

For me, enabling has almost always been driven by fear - fear of financial insecurity, fear of what others may think, fear of the future. At some point in my recovery, I found that I can ask to have my fear removed, and it will be, as long as I am willing to also let go of the coping mechanisms which have arisen around that fear, and learn a new way to be. If I try to ask to have the fear removed without any willingness on my part to let go of old patterns of behavior, and old coping mechanisms, I will be asking again 5 minutes later, because I'm not doing my part.

 Fear used to make me angry, and in my anger I would lash out at the alcoholic, saying hurtful things, and blaming him for all the problems in our life.I wanted relief from the awful fear I felt, but I wasn't changing the way I behaved as I asked to have my fear taken. I didn't understand at that point, that to be at peace, I need to be loving. I can't get relief from my own fear while being mean to someone else.

As is the way with so many of these realisations I've been granted, on this side of it, I'm amazed that I didn't get it earlier. In effect, I was saying to my HP  "Please make me feel different, (no fear) while I do exactly what I've always done in this situation. (lash out in blame.) I would do it, make an amend, then do it again the next time. I didn't get the correlation between my unhappy feeling about behaving that way, and my fear about whatever it was. I always had a good reason for my behavior, and felt justified because if it weren't for the alcoholic, I wouldn't be feeling so awful. On this side of the realisation, I have discovered that the fear was a smaller part of my feeling that I had thought - distress about being a person who acted that way when she was afraid was the major part of it.

When I let go of who I have been, and try my best to be more loving, I feel better about myself. When I feel better about myself, fear doesn't have the same ability to grab me by the throat the way it once did. When I am more loving to others, I am more loving to myself. I pray to be always more loving.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Practise of Gratitude.

Yesterday my husband woke me from a late afternoon nap, to show me a tiny baby fawn curled up at the side of our front steps:

I wondered if his mother had put him into the trees and bushes, and he decided to move himself, or if he was placed there by his mother. He was very small, and didn't move when my husband walked way out onto the lawn to take his picture, but did open one eye, you can see the flash reflected. (An indication of his tiny size can be gained from the very small dog dish behind him.)

Today my friend was released from hospital, I went to pick him up and take him home. (This is the second of my friends to be in hospital during the last few weeks, the first one died on May 17th.) I've done all that I could do to help, and have offered to be phoned at any hour of the day or night, and also to help with weeding; as the weeds have been rampaging in his garden whilst he's been away.
I do what I can, and I let the rest go. I've discovered that it's very difficult not to hover in certain circumstances, but that if I wish to allow a friend their dignity, I must be willing to move back a step. In my arrogance, I may think that I know what is best for someone, but do I truly? Isn't this best left to their Higher Power?

To love, I must respect. To respect, I must be willing to allow for that which I might not choose for myself.
I must allow those I love to make their own choices. I can't live their lives for them, and I have no right to try to hammer the round peg of my solutions into the square hole of their problems. Let go, and let God.

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Than We Can Handle

This week has pushed me to my emotional limits. I've discovered that I'm stronger than I thought, have more courage than I'd have given myself credit for, and there are areas of my life philosophy which need rethinking.

I'm feeling very tired now, and until the situation resolves itself, I'm going to continue to be tired. I believe that friendship carries certain obligations, and I take them seriously - sometimes the greatest gift that we can give a friend is just to sit with them as they experience the pain and tragedies of life. We can't ease them, we can't fix them, all we can do is give the comfort of our time, freely shared.

I'm really having to work my program so as not to be taken over by the fear that when my friend is released from hospital in a few days, he will do himself further harm. That's beyond my control. I cannot make him want to live after his life partner has died.

I keep catching myself worrying about this. I stop, take a moment's pause, then ask my Higher Power to remove my fear,  grant me peace and serenity.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Divine Intervention

This weekend I had an experience which was profoundly disturbing, yet deeply indicative of the reality that when I seek to "improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power"  amazing things will take place. I apologise for sounding so mystical, but I can't write about it here, because I don't want to invade the privacy of the friend involved - suffice it to say that listening to my Higher Power brings about hard, painful work and incredibly meaningful change.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Willing To Receive Help.

Before I can receive help, be it through Al-Anon, my Higher Power or any other source, I must first be willing to receive help, and that requires that I believe both that I'm in need of help - I can't do this all on my own - and that these sources of help have something to offer me.

I need to be teachable. Do I understand that my way is only one way of doing things? Do I accept that my thinking can be distorted? This has to have been one of the most intensely difficult lessons I had to accept when new to program, this concept that what went on inside my own head could be less than sane.  But, when through the working of my first Fourth Step, said thinking was dragged out into the light of day, laid flat and closely examined, there was no other conclusion - in some areas, my thinking was not that of a sane and rational person. I was obsessive, obsessively controlling, fearful, and able to deny to a quite astounding degree.

I've had another realisation lately that I've had some denial operating, and it's strange when the denial falls away to look at this same thinking again, and wonder - how did I get there from here? Just how did I make that elephant disappear? Did I sidle past it, telling myself that it was a piece of furniture? Did I pretend it was really only a small pet? Did I just never go into that room anymore? How did I deny that?

I'm learning, again, that I'm very skilled at making excuses for the alcoholics that I love, be they sisters or husband. Making excuses means that I am not looking at life the way it is, but the way I would prefer it to be. It means that I'm pretending - this isn't really happening, something else is. How many times did my first sponsor ask, "What would you think if someone else said to you, what you just said to me?" and how many times did I have no other honest reply but, "I'd think they were making excuses." Making excuses for someone's unacceptable behavior is a choice, and for me, is usually based somehow in fear - fear of rejection, fear of love being withheld, fear of loss.

This afternoon I spent with someone who knew and loved my friend the same way I did, and remembering him we laughed and wept, and laughed again. My friend was a man of staunch loyalties and a great sense of the inherent silliness of human beings. He could make us laugh until we clutched ourselves and gasped for breath, and yet we always knew that if we ever needed him, he would walk through fire to help, because he was a man who loved people.

Al-Anon has helped me to move from being terrified of people to loving and enjoying them - how can I repay a gift of that magnitude? I can give back what was so generously and freely given to me. I have a sponsee coming in a little while to work the Steps, and I will think of my beautful loving friend when I go to open the door and invite her into my house.

Thanks so much to all of you who have written - I appreciate each comment, each email, and I've reread them a few times - thank you for the love you've shared with me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More Will Be Revealed.

It's a cliche to say that people reveal the depths of their character during painful times, or times of crisis. My spouse has revealed himself to me with the death of my friend, and I'm having some difficulty accepting it. I couldn't understand why this was, until this morning, when I realised that this was the smashing of my last illusion about him. That illusion has carried me through difficult learning experiences, and been of comfort to me when I was struggling, but it was an illusion, nothing more.

He has always been precisely who he is, it is I who have made him into someone else in my thinking.

A friend jokes that she hates realisations because they always bring change, and she can't go back to her previous state of "not-knowing." I've known and felt that there was a change coming for me, and I've been spending more of my time in working Step Eleven:

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out."

I've been seeking that inward silent peace, and achieving it for longer periods, but the unexpected result inherent in that peace, is a clearer understanding. This may come to me as a slow dawning, or I may be granted an understanding which feels like a sharp slap to the face -  it stings. This one is a stinger, I'm afraid, and I can't say I like it much, but I don't have to, I have only to accept. To rub the side of my face, and while trying to soothe the sting, thank my Higher Power for having granted it to me. Mostly, I've only been able to be grateful for the painful slapping realisations in retrospect, but I'm making the effort to get there much sooner, and be grateful while the pain is still present.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Death Is A Gift And A Thief.

My friend died today.

His cancer progressed so swiftly, it devoured him long before the time the doctors had estimated - they said that with an operation, and chemotherapy, he could live at least 3 months -after the operation, he didn't live 3 weeks.

Death is a gift for the release from pain, and the torment of a body fighting itself.

Death is a thief for stealing my friend from those who loved him so.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Assumptions Keep Our Viewpoint Narrow.

A sponsee called last night to ask how I was doing, and we talked for a while. I had reached and passed the level of fatigue at which my brain goes on "standby" (if asked a direct question, I can reply, but I'm unable to generate new topics, or a new element of the existing one) so the conversation was sort of limping along. She was very surprised by my answer to one of her questions, and said so; she'd "assumed it was the opposite." I was too tired to take it up with her, but it crossed my mind this morning as a good topic for our next meeting, because these sorts of assumptions keep our viewpoint narrowned down so that we only see what we expect to see. We have our assumptions, and we can operate from that starting point for a great deal of life, never realising that there is so much more than is visible through our narrowed viewpoint.

If I limit my life to "this is only possible with that prerequisite" I am closing off great sweeps of possibility. There's so much more to life than what I am capable of imagining.

A long-timer in Al-Anon jokes that this is one of the reasons that meetings are set up so that we don't interrupt or crosstalk, because we need to be forced to sit quietly and listen to a viewpoint differing from ours. I think for some of us, myself included, I could have gone on sitting in meetings and listening, without having much of a change in my thinking - I needed to work the Steps with a sponsor who gave me very little wiggle-room. My assumptions were all about keeping me safe in the world, so the roots ran deep in my character, and needed concerted, sustained time and effort to dig up, haul out into the light of day, examine closely, and eventually, realise that I could let them go. I needed that shared time, talking and laughter to be able to discard my outmoded notions.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Keeping Busy Through Difficult Times.

During this period of my grieving for my friend who is terminally ill, I've been receiving easily twice as many calls for help from sponsees, and other people in program wanting some of my time to "reason things out with someone else."  Seems as though I barely finish with one before another is calling or emailing. Ordinarily, I might feel overwhelmed, but not now - now I'm intensely grateful to be taken out of myself and my feelings, to focus upon helping another person. Perhaps my HP is giving me this comfort of feeling helpful or useful to balance the helpless inadequacy I feel in the face of my friend's suffering.

Every time a sponsee arrives at my door for their weekly time with me, I feel blessed to be given this comfort of their company, getting into an intense discussion about them, and what's going on in their life, sharing moments of abandoned laughter about how nutty we co-dependents can be.

When your sponsor tells you that he or she gets more out of your relationship than you can imagine, believe them, believe when they say that your work together is a gift for them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Strive To Be Always More Loving.

One aspect of sponsorship which I found rather disconcerting when I began to sponsor people in Al-Anon, was that I always seemed to be asked by people who had the same character defects I do (his hasn't changed) so I would receive a perfect reflection back to me, of my own rationalisations, justifications, twisted reasonings, and motives. It's what makes me of any help to my sponsees in some areas, the fact that I know pretty much exactly how their thinking on something goes, and as a result am able to discuss it with shared understanding.

What I hadn't expected is that though this process, because I have no judgement of my sponsees for what they think, say and do, I have become considerably more accepting of myself for what I think, say and do. I don't leap to berate myself quite so quickly, or if that habitual response does arise, I can respond to it the way I do with the wonderful people with whom I work in program - by suggesting that blame of self be laid aside - reach for self-acceptance first, then let's just root around in here, and see what we find.

I strive to be always more loving to those around me, the ones I know and the ones I don't. I don't always manage this, not by a long shot, but when I do, the feeling of peace and serenity is as beautiful as sunshine.

My little dog has had 3 improved days in a row, and her perky goofy personality is rising to the fore again. I like that silliness in dogs, a friend says it's God's way of making sure we laugh every day, those of us fortunate enough to share our lives with dogbrain.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fighting Fear.

Today my friend (who has just undergone major surgery to remove cancer tumours) was finally well enough that I could go to the hospital to visit him. When I walked into the hospital room, I had a second's pause of my mind utterly refusing to believe that this ghostly pale, thin. weak man was my wonderful, loving friend. Only a month ago, he was still a vibrant energetic man. Now he's lying in a hospital bed too weak to speak much above a whisper, with IV's in each arm, and various drainage tubes, catheters, pain medication feed lines all running into and from his arms. I didn't break stride, and I asked God to please grant me the strength not to let the shock show in my face, or body language. I bent to hug him as gently as possible, and kissed him, saying how lovely it was to see him, and agreeing that the view from his window wasn't too bad, since he could see mostly trees.

He patted the side of his bed for me to sit, so I did, and was joking with him, teasing him lovingly, talking about gardening and my little dog, while the shock of seeing him looking so dreadfully thin and ill resonated through me like a cold ache. I stayed for a half-hour or so until he said he was beginning to tire, then hugged and kissed him again, went out into the hallway, took the elevator back to the ground floor, and walked slowly back out to my car.

 I'm still feeling that shock of my first sight of him, and the prognosis, told to me by his partner, and by my friend himself - he has been given 3 months to live because the cancer has metastasised to his liver in "hundreds of places" according to the oncologist. When I was sitting there with him today, he looked at me, and said softly, "I might not make it."  I gave him the little silver ankh I'd brought for him, the Egyptian symbol of everlasting life, and reminded him that doctors are just trained people with opinions, and that he has a ferociously strong will and life force.

I'm writing this while wearing a leather vest he gave me not long ago, it somehow brings him near to me, and reminds me to keep on praying for him. He's been a source of love and kindness for many of us in his 61 years, one of those special people with a loving generosity of spirit.

I wish that I could find a way through tears to break up the stone of aching grief in my chest, but I can't weep. I'm feeling bottled up, trying to find my way to acceptance through praying for my friend, and for my little dog. I love them both so, and I can do nothing in either case, it's beyond my control, I can only live with however it will be. I am grateful for the live that each of them has given me, and for the love I've felt for them. Love is a precious gift, and I've been blessed in my life.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I want to thank all who have sent good wishes and hopes for my little dog. She's resting in her crate right now, so she won't hurt herself being "Defender of the Household" when the telephone repairperson arrives to fix our phone.

She seems to be feeling better - this morning I had to stop her from trying to stand on her hind legs to welcome me when I woke up and went out to check on her in her pen in the livingroom. Her ears were up, and her tail was wagging madly. She's still cautious in most of her movements, because of the pain, but I see definite signs of improvement, and it lifts my heart. She's such a loving and sweet little creature - a friend says that "dogs are the embodiment of a HP - always loving, always forgiving, and just wanting to be near us to be content."

From today's reading in Courage to Change:

"Al-Anon gave me Twelve Steps with which to rediscover myself. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and sharing it with a mutual friend (Steps Four and Five) were especially helpful. It was the first time in a long time I had paid so much attention to myself! I also learned about myself by listening in meetings - when I identified with others, I gained insight into my own thoughts and feelings."

So many of us come into program with every bit of our attention focused like a laser upon someone else's life. We can recite in detail what the alcoholic thinks, says and does. When we're asked to turn our attention back to our own lives,  there might be not much self left upon which to focus, because we've been stifling our own natures to obsess over theirs. I was very angry and opinionated when I came into Al-Anon, but in many cases, my opinions weren't really mine at all - it isn't as though I'd sat down and given whatever topic much thought or care, I simply picked up and wore whatever coat of thought came to hand and I could fit into - "I think this about that."

In Al-Anon I learned that my ideas, thoughts, opinions matter, but that I haven't the right to try to ram them down anyone's throat, no matter how hard I tried to justify that desire because of the alcoholic's drinking. The alcoholic is also a child of a Higher Power, and deserves my respect. A relationship may be severely damaged due to years of drinking, but I  believe that where there's life, there's hope, and it's never too late to find ourselves, and in that journey to ourselves. gain understanding and compassion for others

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Already, And Faith.

My little dog being hurt has placed me into a situation where I must rely on faith that she will improve. Her breeder and the vet tell me that they've both seen dachshunds recover and go on to lead a normal life after back injury. I'm told that time, steroids, pain meds and crate rest will heal her, because we are very fortunate, and she has no neurologic deficits,  her only symptom is pain and that this fact suggests the possibilty of an excellent outcome. I'm willing and committed to do whatever I can to ease her suffering and help restore her to health, and I'm receiving a lesson in faith while I do so.

Faith requires that I let go of what I want, and accept what is now. I have much for which to feel grateful - that we can afford the vet, and the medications to ease my little dog's pain. I'm grateful for enough time in Al-Anon that I no longer spend the time railing at my Higher Power for what is happening in my life, which used to consume me in fury and frustration before 12-Step.

When I awoke in the middle of the night last night, and immediately my thoughts leapt to my little dog and her suffering, I had a choice in that moment as to whether I would take the path of worrying and stress and anxious horrified imaginings, or would I ask my HP for help to let that go?

I've come to believe that for myself, anxiety is lack of faith, because if I truly trust my HP, what do I have to be anxious about? Do I trust that I will be looked after, or don't I? If I do, then I let it go, and ask to have my character defects removed so that I may enjoy my life. Well, do I believe that my HP cares for me, but not for my little dog? She too is one of his creatures. No, I believe that she is loved as I am loved. Then I do what I can to look after her, and let the rest go. Don't obsess over whether she seems better than yesterday, or worse, accept.  Do the next thing there is to do. Be loving. Live in the moment, because the now is all there is. I have to live in the day, and in the moment, this and this and this are happening.

Don't let my thoughts become my master. Shake them off and seek serenity. That's what I have to do.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Don't Take It Personally.

My little dog is worse today, even with the steroids and painkiller, she's in pain.  I'm trying to believe what the vet and her breeder are telling me, that her prospects are good, that she will improve, that this is early in the injury, but it's distressing to see her suffering.

A few days ago, I sat quietly listening as someone spoke of how he didn't understand why anyone would spend so much money on "just a cat or a dog." He wasn't aware of my little dog's illness, so was quite forthcoming in his scorn for these foolish owners - why didn't they put the sick animal down and get a healthy one to replace it? Why spend all that money on an animal?  A friend (who is aware) glanced over at me, worried that I would be feeling upset.

As he spoke, I'd been thinking about the fact that I understood that sort of blanket-coverage opinionated statement very well, because I'd been a distributor of them myself, before Al-Anon. I was a strange mixture of very poor self-image with very strong opinions.

What I've learned in this marvellous program is that not only is it not necessary for me to give my opinion in every situation - many times I can just listen, or interject only a small joke to lighten the mood - but that it most circumstances, I don't need to possess an opinion of any sort. I can be neutral. If asked, I can reply that I don't think anything much  about it, or that I see both sides, and care to join neither.

If I do have an idea, I can easily and happily keep it to myself, I no longer feel the need to foist it upon other people. I don't feel personally slighted or offended if we disagree. I don't take the world personally in the way I once did. That sentence encapsulates my miracle in Al-Anon - I don't go out into the world every day "loaded for bear." And as a result, the world turns a much softer, more loving and accepting face back to me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Not My Fault.

Last night I was working with someone, and feeling what I always feel - blessed and honored to be given the opportunity to share in another's program growth. Also, thankful to be taken out of my self-absorption -  I'm having a hard time keeping clear of worry because  my little dog seems to be getting worse instead of better. Each time the feelings threaten to overwhelm me, I try to remember to turn them over to my Higher Power, don't awfulise, do what I need to do for her, let it go. When tears spring to my eyes to see her so diminished from her usual bouncy joyful self, let them fall, don't try to choke them off, push them down, fight my grief.

I'm getting lessons in self-acceptance and self-knowledge through this. Thoughts keep coming into my mind suggesting that I am somehow to blame for her illness, that I "should have done something differently" "wasn't careful enough" even though the rational part of me knows this isn't true. I guess it's my ego which struggles so with being powerless, and wants to make it my fault because then I will have some power in the situation, and I have none. I seem to prefer guilty over powerless.

I'm taking her back to the vet in a while, and will hope for the best, it's my only choice in a situation like this. I've plenty of experience in fearing and dreading the worst, it's an awful way to live.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


When someone I love (dog or person) is ill, it strips away most of the fluffery of daily life. Not only does it become meaningless, but I can experience difficulty recalling who I was were when I once cared about it, (and most likely, will again, although in a changed and leaner fashion.) It's possible to have moments of wonder that the world is carrying on around me, while my sense of it is shaking and rocking like a vase on a rickety end table.

Life can be good even as it's painful.  I don't see it all as simply as I once did, and that complexity creates a more satisfying life, even when my heart is aching for the suffering of those I love.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Don't Trust You Because...

I've been told by the vet, and also the breeder from whom I got my female dog, that the best thing to do is crate rest, being let out to relieve herself and to eat, then right back in.  This gives the injury a chance to heal, because the dog can't do much else but sleep. The vet gave me a handout which states: "In reality, poor results in a dog are almost always traceable to inadequate confinement" and "Three weeks of cage rest is a minimum course." Her breeder agreed with this, when I spoke to her, and warned me that my dog is going to be upset with me, but that if I'm seeking the best possible outcome, I'll do as suggested.

So that's what I'm doing, and at the moment, my little dog won't even lick my fingers when I put them through the mesh, or let me tickle her chin, she turns her face away - she's very upset about being put into a crate and kept there day and night. I understand that, but I also understand that to be a responsible dachshund owner, I need to be willing to accept her annoyance and sadness, do what I can to make her feel happy, but accept that the outcome of a very loved and cuddled and snuggled dog being confined to a crate 24 hours a day, is going to be one very upset dog.

Last night my alcoholic was trying to convince me to let her out, because "she's upset and lonely." I explained again what the vet and breeder had explained to me, and finally realised that he wanted to let her out because it would make him feel better. It was upsetting him to see her gazing mournfully through the wire mesh door of the crate, and he wanted to relieve that feeling for himself right now. That, combined with the arrogance of the (long-time sober, but new to recovery) alcoholic stubbornly insisting that "she'd be fine lying on the couch" sparked me to say firmly that I wasn't going to discuss it anymore, and to state that if I'm not home, he is not let her out of her crate - I'll take her out when I get home, just leave her in there, please. Unfortunately, I can easily imagine him ignoring that. I may have to take her with me in the car when I go out, just to stop him from doing what he's done so many times in the years we've been together - gone against what I've specifically asked of him because he thinks he knows better.  I could ask him to promise, but I've learned that his promises are meaningless.

The interesting part of all this for me, and the point of this post, is that I'm not even remotely annoyed about it - I'm completely accepting that for now, this is who he is, and what can I do to safeguard my dog? I don't want to give the impression that he doesn't love her, because that's not the case. But he can only go so far in that love, and when it comes up against him feeling uncomfortable, the dog is going to be the loser. I've reached a place in my own recovery where I can see that with clarity, with no accompanying emotional storm about it - no anger, no blaming.

Love is accepting - it is what it is. He is what he is. Work around it. I can't change his thinking, or his inability at this stage to put the dog's health above his feelings of discomfort at confining her. All the talking in the world won't accomplish that, it's beyond my control. I control what I can - myself, and I let the rest go with a sigh of relief.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Week Of Letting Go.

Last night a friend asked how I was, and I replied, "I've had a week of letting go." My friend with cancer is getting worse shockingly quickly, and my much beloved female mini-dachshund hurt her back. The phone company is "upgrading service" in our area, our phone stopped working, the repair guy who came to fix it was rude, (so rude that I asked him to please leave and I'd contact the phone company to ask that they send someone else out.) another friend was annoyed with me because I wasn't willing to go out for a social outing, leaving my little dog at home, in pain and frightened because of it, every sponsee I have seemed to need to debrief with me, I'm way behind answering the emails from this blog - we've all lived through this kind of week, one thing after another, in rapid succession, no time to process the last before being presented with a new.

I do what I can to put out the immediate fires, and let the rest burn, I look after my dog, answer the now-fixed phone, write an email when I get the chance, deal with sponsees when they call or come over, remember to eat, sleep, and try for moments of relaxation.

I'm trying not to worry about my ill friend, but his rapid decline is terrifying; last night I said to my husband that I was worried that he wouldn't live long enough to have his surgery, booked for 2 weeks from now. When I think of him, I send him love, ask my Higher Power to grant him relief from pain, enough sleep, some pleasure in his life to make him laugh, and I turn him over - I can do nothing more than that, I have no power to cure him.  I must let go of what I want, and work to accept what will be.

I can't cure my little dog's back problems, I can only do my utmost to safeguard her health, and make her life a good one.

I've had a week of letting go, and I am powerfully grateful that my home group meeting is tonight.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Choosing Serenity.

This week we're hoping to take our friend who is ill with cancer out to dinner and the theatre, but won't know until the day before, because he's waiting for an operation date. When I think of him, I say a prayer, and give him to my HP, and to his, because if I think about it for too long, I become fearful, and that helps neither he nor I. It is what it is, and it's utterly out of  my control. I cannot save him from anything he must go through in this life, all I can do is love him, enjoy him, and be grateful for his friendship. When we love, we are opening ourselves to pain, that's part and parcel of the experience of loving, the knowledge that each day we get with another human being is a gift beyond measure; there are no guarantees of time.

From Courage to Change, page 107:

"What I discovered is that what I go through in life is not as important as how I interpret the experience."

Last week I received a compliment which has made me think about how far I have come in my personal growth. We can go for quite a long time stumbling about, working our programs assiduously, but not sure if we're getting much further ahead, and then we'll get a little reminder, perhaps a remark made by a relative stranger, and we'll realise that we've moved along at a steady pace, in those tiny increments of mental change, or in a leap, after a startling realisation - an understanding which shifts my viewpoint a few degrees from my usual, and makes everything look slightly different.

For my sake, and the sake of all those with whom I might come into contact today, I choose serenity.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Common Denominators - Trust Problems.

Too much trust is equally as problematic as too little, because it has the same result - an inability to see other people with any clarity. If I'm not paying attention when other people "tell me who they are" through their actions and characteristic behavior, I'm setting myself up for future trouble when our two moralities and belief systems collide.

I came into program a strange mix of distrust and denial, fearful of others, afraid of what I might do, unable to relax for even one minute into confidence in anything or anyone. I learned in the rooms of Al-Anon that before I could have any confidence in myself, I first needed to believe in my own worth, my value as a human being. Once that was established, I could take the next small steps of trusting in my own judgement.

I learned that the world contains many wonderfully delightful people who are a joy to know, and who enrich my life immeasurably. (I couldn't have imagined I'd ever write that sentence, when I was new to program.)

Many of us come into Al-Anon suffering from the effects of too much trust, of denial of the evidence given by our own senses, in favour of what we'd prefer to believe. We turn our faces away from reality when it's presented to us, and wave it off like a bad smell, insisting that it isn't really that, it's this, and this is okay, we can live with this. And then five or ten or fifteen years later, when denial cracks, or the other person forces the reality of who they are into our consciousness, we're devastated. I knew my first husband was dishonest in many ways, I saw it happen daily, but through some convoluted thinking, somehow was able to believe that his love for me would triumph over his dishonesty, when it came to his dealings with me. That's called denial. 

I knew who he was and how he operated in the throes of his addiction to alcohol, yet I deliberately put that knowledge off to the side, and once it was over there, out of my peripheral vision, I could continue daily life as if it didn't exist.

That was a choice, as is every decision to trust or not to trust a choice. I didn't know back then, before Al-Anon, that it was a choice, or that I was making it, but once I did, then the onus is upon me, and I can't put the blame upon the other person anymore. Once I've understood that it's me putting myself into this position, I may feel anger, shame, or distress, and I need to work through my feelings towards myself for having put myself into jeopardy, and then I need to let it go.

I need to trust in my Higher Power, who will never abandon me. I need to face life honestly, no more denial to cushion the unpleasant realities. I want peace, and that requires unflinching acceptance. Acceptance makes life possible with serenity. When I see with clarity, and say, "Yes, I see that it is this way, and I accept it without a fight" I have granted myself freedom.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Death In The Family

One of my husband's brothers died in his sleep this week at the age of 61. He wasn't a man who was ever able to find contentment or satisfaction in life, and that's so desperately sad to consider. He and my husband were never able to be close, due to his brother's unkindness and anger, and that's sad, too. I'm grateful that my husband is working with a new sponsor, and making great strides forward in his program, so that he doesn't follow that same path of increasing frustration and anger all the way to the end.

I'm grateful for all who have lit the way for us in 12-Step, and all of those for whom we may be able to shine a light.

Yesterday I was in a mournful mood most of the day, until my husband came home and made me laugh, and an email from my own precious brother did the same. I'm grateful for the bloggers who sit down and write about their journey, and for all the love that we've been given so generously.

Life is short, and we're frail, despite our desires to believe differently.  Today is the only day we ever get - make it enough.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I was wandering about in a craft store last night just before it closed, trying to find a circular knitting needle, when I heard a couple talking a few feet away, and he responded to a quiet remark of hers by saying hotly, "Why the hell should I practise tolerance, let him do the practising for once, miserable old bastard!"
In Al-Anon, in any 12-Step group, it's suggested that we

 Let It Begin With Me.

Many of my new sponsees have said in reaction to that high-minded idea, "Why should I?"
I give them the answer my first sponsor gave to me -  because you'll feel better. Since you have absolutely no control over how another person behaves, why not work on the one person you can change - yourself.

Put simply, tolerance feels better than judgement.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slaves To Our Emotions.

A recovery speaker likened his thoughts to "trains going through the station - do I climb on board and ride that sucker for hours, days, weeks? Or do I just watch it go through the station?"

Great analogy. I thought, pre-Al-Anon, that I had to ride every train going through the station, I didn't realise, (or when told, believe at first)  that I could just watch them go by. I also didn't know, as I do now, that I could change stations if I worked my program diligently and with sincerity, rather than only giving it lip service when I was in a pleasant frame of mind, and disposing of it as soon as my mood changed.

I was a "slave to my emotions," and due to my immaturity, my emotions were in a continual state of change, rising and falling at the smallest of successes and difficulties. Drama and crisis were mainstays, and I couldn't self-soothe.

So, back to the train station of our minds - we can stand back from the platform's edge, and watch the trains come in - where's this one going?  High-speed train to anger and frustration, no stops along the way; think I'll wait for a later one. Here comes a poky old steam train going to serenity and peace, with many stops to allow others to board, takes a scenic route - this train I'm going to ride.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I've been struggling with this the last 24 hours, having to time and again turn my mind to positive thoughts, and ask my HP to help me, for a couple of reasons, one being that my friend has been diagosed with colon cancer.

My little dog is a good indicator of how well I'm doing in my attitude, because she senses it, and responds accordingly - last night, after receiving the bad news, I wandered around the house for a few minutes, with her close at my heels, giving me little nudges with her nose when I stopped to gaze out the front window. Glancing down, I saw in her body language the mirror of my own distress, and going to the kitchen, picked up the phone and called a dear friend, telling her what I'd just learned, asked if she'd like to go for a dog walk. She agreed, and within 20 minutes was at my door, hugging me; we gathered up dogs and leashes and went out for a long walk. I talked about the diagnosis, and my fears, and my friend gave comfort through her willingness to walk with me, and give me the gift of allowing free expression of all my feelings, the joyous, and the painful.

This morning, I realised that I've been fighting off tears ever since my friend called to tell me that he's been diagnosed with cancer. This is old behavior, rooted in childhood, this not allowing myself to truly feel my feelings, trying instead to surmount them. I've expended enormous energy in my life, doing this - going through my days with sorrow half-choking me, because at some point I had lost the ability to release the pain through tears, and then when I regained it, I didn't want to submit to weeping, to surrender.

I have no control over this. It will be what it will be, and I will go with it, because when it comes to life and my powerlessness, I'm a twig going over Niagara Falls. My only choice is in my attitude - am I going over screaming in fear and anger, or am I going in peace, knowing that I have the precious gifts of friendship and love in my life? I am truly blessed with the people in my life - fascinating, witty, generous people - and I am blessed to have had a family doctor all those years ago, who kept telling me, "I think you need to go to Al-Anon." I had no concept then, of the love and growth I would be offered, or the healing. I went to my first meeting seeking a way to stop my alcoholic from drinking, and here I am, so far from that day in time and place, with a gratitude I cannot begin to express for all of those who've helped me along the way.

I've gone from a bitter, furious, resentful woman who hadn't cried in years, to someone who knows how to get through anything. Reach out, ask for help and support, and then when it's offered, accept it.
Let the tears flow, let the pain out, ask my HP for serenity, and be willing to let it all go. Give back to others what was so generously given to me by the women at my first meeting, and every Al-Anon meeting since - love.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Common Denominators - Self-Absorbed.

I believe this is a characteristic we share with the alcoholic, an endless loop in our mind continually returning our attention back to ... us.

No matter where the conversation may roam, some people will always arrive at the destination of self.

Some of us are not very socially skilled when we come into Al-Anon, and this is one of the reasons that we can have trouble making friends - do you like to listen to someone go on forever about themselves? I know I don't, and never have, but that was who I was years ago, a person unable to wrench my mind from my own troubles, worries, stresses, etc, for long enough to allow for any space in a friendship for the other person. It was all about me. I wasn't much, but I was all I thought about.

This is why 12-Step encourages us to work with others - when we are giving of ourselves to another person, not only are we passing on this wonderful program, but we are also granted time out of the madhouse between our own ears. Being a good listener requires paying attention. Paying attention requires that we listen. Not sit in silence waiting for them to stop talking so that we can start up again, but really listen. Engage our entire self in being present for this person. Listen for what's being said, and what's left unsaid. Learn to read facial expressions so that we may be even more available. Be loving in our gift of our time, and our attention.

Yes, there are going to be times when we'll be taken hostage by another newcomer totally absorbed in themselves, but this is the ebb and flow of a relationship - some days it's more for me, some days it's more for you - vulnerability and strength shifts and moves. I'm not always feeling full of patience, and there will be times when I have less to give my sponsees or another program friend who calls, but the very least I can do, is listen, and stay in the moment with them, and that much I can do even when I'm feeling depleted through fatigue and physical discomfort. When I really have not a darn thing left to give, I don't answer the phone. I know they have the phone list, and they can find another member with whom to share.

I'm clear on what's mine, and what isn't. It's not up to me as someone's sponsor, to keep them entertained. I can walk beside them as they take those first scary steps into being more social, and I can be there afterwards when they need to figure out what happened and how they felt. I can rejoice with them when they begin to get newcomers calling them for help, and the cycle begins all over again.

This week, I went to visit my old sponsor in the last place we lived, and then for tea with another friend, and when I was driving the hour or so back to the city, I was content. I have so much for which I feel a boundless, leaping ,joyful gratitude. Life is good.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Wild Windstorm That Wasn't.

Weather forecasters apparently were warning of a "wild windstorm" which was supposed to hit us yesterday  - you couldn't call the wind we received more than a "slight breeze" and even that sounds like an exaggeration.

My husband likes to watch the weather channel so that he knows what's in the forecast; seems to me that that all he accomplishes is to be warned about weather which never arrives. Snowstorms which turn out to last for ten minutes and then all evidence vanishes in the hot sun which follows - big storms which don't materialise, serious warnings given by grave-faced weather people who sound so certain, and can be completely wrong time and again, yet people still wait to hear their pronouncements.

Rain has a scent before it arrives, and I can tell when it's going to snow by the appearance of the clouds, they have a smooth, flat look. The birds become active before the wind, and the dogs are restless. Other than that, I tell the weather by gazing out my window.

Human beings want to know what's coming - we kid ourselves that knowing ahead of time helps us to prepare for it, but that's not how it works it real life. When the event actually arrives, and we're in the midst of it, all the advance preparation in the world doesn't ameliorate one moment of the feelings we go through. Life has to be lived in the present moment, and my serenity is undisturbed when I am undisturbed by the happenings of daily life - when I roll with the punches, they don't hurt any less, but I recover my equilibrium much more quickly..

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Facing What Life Deals Out.

A good friend dropped by yesterday to tell me that the testing had shown that he has a "mass" in his stomach. He's been having problems off and on for 8-9 months now, has lost 45 pounds, and does not look well.

He's a lovely man, my friend, generous, caring, imaginative, and wildly funny. He's dealt with cancer once in his life already with his partner, who was deathly ill and pulled through after treatment. They are bonded in the way that only 20-some years together bonds a couple, and are each other's support and comfort. He's got a great support system of friends around to help him though whatever this turns out to be.

That has to be enough, because in the end, that's all there is. Love, and people.

Tonight I'm going to see a play with another friend, whose daughter is in the cast, so that should be fun. I've been looking forward to it. I don't have much to say today, because I'm feeling balanced and content. I wish for all who read this, an excellent and serene weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anticipating Trouble.

When I was new to Al-Anon, one old-timer in my home group had a few stock phrases which used to make me gnash my teeth in silent irritation. (I've become so much less irritable, that I might almost be a different species than the frightened, anxious, angry woman who first entered an Al-Anon meeting 26 years ago.)

One of this member's pet phrases was: "Don't awfulise."  I found this supremely annoying when I was the recipient, because I believed that anticipating trouble was nothing more than careful planning. I didn't understand that she was simply trying to offer the crazed newcomer that I was, a way to find some serenity from the madhouse between my ears. I understood it to mean that she thought I was exaggerating, and I felt offended. I thought she was oversimplifying, and that my life was far too complicated for little two-word phrases to be of any help.

Now, as is the way in 12-Step, I say to my sponsees, when they begin to get themselves worked up about what might happen if this, or that, or even that takes place, "I think you're awfulising. Try to stay in the moment."

Staying in the moment means that I must completely, willingly, with gratitude, give up all of the mental tortures with which I occupied so much of my time. Anticipating trouble took up a great deal of my waking hours. I could work out huge long interconnected horrifying possibilities, and create much misery for myself doing it. I'd imagine a terrible outcome, and then feel depressed about it.

That's insanity, to be feeling upset and depressed about an imaginary outcome. My first sponsor pointed out that these outcomes were never positive, only and always negative. I was scaring the dickens out of myself with things that might never happen. She taught me to pay attention to my internal dialogue, and when I started up anticipating trouble, to "switch channels" to the one in which my Higher Power was taking good care of me, and I could just go for a dogwalk and relax.

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

                                                                                         Mark Twain

Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From the evil which never arrived.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Busy And Tired.

An interesting combination, since the first requires energy to fufill my obligations, and the second makes me think longingly of sleep. I've been having less than refreshing nights for a couple of weeks now, and the exhaustion is cumulative. One good night, and I could feel rejuvenated, but I'm not getting one. I get up every morning feeling as tired as I did when I fell into bed the night before.

Being this fatigued strips life down to the essentials - do what must be done, and let the rest go by unremarked. No energy to complain, obsess, worry, stress, argue, or even think very well, which is why no posts for so long - I'd be sitting in front of the computer staring at the screen, mind completely blank.

Today isn't much better, but I was struck by a phrase in today's reading in One Day At A Time In Al-Anon:
"my own limited ideas."

So much of my problem in life before Al-Anon was just that - my limited ideas. Not only the limits of my thinking, but my inability to recognise those limitations, admit to them, accept them, and be open-minded to receiving new ideas from any source. I was a closed system, forever going around on the familiar cicuits of my thinking, unable to break free.

Accepting new ideas can be very difficult to begin with - we don't like change, and we don't want to have to make any changes, because the old and the familiar feel safe. They may not be working very well, they may be causing distress and discomfort and distance in all our relationships, but we can still be reluctant to let them go.

My first sponsor said I should work to accept one new idea every day. When I asked where was I supposed to get all these new ideas, she suggested I start reading the literature of Al-Anon every day - many new and helpful ideas contained in the Al-Anon books. I began with not much willingness, and grew to love these daily readers. They've helped me enormously, and continue to help me. For that, I'm deeply grateful.