I spent today at our local once-yearly Al-Anon Day. I began the day with a shift beside my sponsor at the registration table, greeting people as they arrived, writing them a nametag, laughing together, and wishing them an excellent day. During a lull in arrivals, I was drinking a cup of tea, listening as my sponsor and another old-timer discussed whether or not this year's turnout was less than last year's, and wasn't it wonderful to see so many newcomers to Al-Anon here today?
Then our replacement arrived to take over the table, and we went in to lunch. I sat with some women from a group I attend once a week, and we laughed until we were gasping for breath. I love that kind of laughter, howling with delight, as we discussed our own insane thinking. There is nothing so funny as our character defects, once we begin to understand and accept the human frailties that we all share.
After lunch, I went to the workshop entitled "Spiritual Growth." I had a choice of three, and the other two were "Fear" and "Forgiveness."
I have been working with my sponsor every week on a Fourth Step, because I knew I needed to do an in-depth Step Four when I left my marriage. I didn't want the grief and sorrow to overwhelm me, and drag me back down to a place I'm so grateful to have left behind, where I was obsessed with the alcoholic's behavior and choices, and full of anger and resentment. I knew if I didn't get myself a sponsor quickly when I moved here, I'd have a much harder time of it.
I've realised through working with her, that I don't have fear any more. Grieving the death of my friend, and the decision to leave my marriage when I did, and finding out that when I was in the depths of grief my Higher Power would always help me, allowed me to let go finally, of worrying and fear. As I heard someone say today:
"If you pray, why worry? If you worry, why pray?"
I've also realised,with the help of my sponsor, that the alcoholic was incapable of doing things any differently. He didn't do what he did because he wanted to hurt me, he did those things because that's all he knew how to do. That's how he's always managed in his life, and it's worked for him. I've come to an understanding, a peaceful forgiveness. I can look back, and feel compassion, because it must have been terribly stressful to try to keep that house of cards in the air.
So I chose the workshop on spiritual growth, and I'm glad I did. We were in a small back room, and when I walked in, there was my sponsor and a couple of my other friends from my home group grinning at me. I sat beside them, and felt enormous gratitude that I could be there, at that moment.
When I was moved to speak, I kept my sharing very short, and spoke of a quote which has always stayed with me since the first time I heard it a couple of years ago:
"We know that we are growing spiritually when humility is something we seek, instead of being something that we feel is being forced upon us."
Humility. That's what makes me willing. Willing to serve my fellow members in any way I'm able, whether that's chairing a meeting, working in a service position, or helping to clean up after Al-Anon days.
This afternoon, I stood and marvelled at the way that about 20-25 of us, with nobody organising or directing, had cleared the conference room out, washed and put away dishes, and left the kitchen and the big room shining and spotlessly clean, all without anyone telling anyone else what to do. It's an amazing display of humility and service, that we can work together in that way, with good humour and laughter, to do what needs to be done.
Hugging after meetings used to wierd me out when I was a newcomer, I would shoot out the door immediately after the end of the closing prayer so that I didn't have to take part in all that hugging, it just wasn't comfortable for me. I've changed so much in this program, because now I can go up to someone and offer a hug, or ask for one, and I can give hugs with no embarassment, and with a full heart.
I was lucky enough to be able to give a couple of friends a ride home, and I and sat with one in her driveway, and talked for a half hour or so, both of us high on gratitude for the people with whom we'd spent the day, and for the God of our understanding.
I love Al-Anon, it has given me the ability to be a person I can respect and love, an appreciation and love for others, and a deep and abiding love for my Higher Power.