Before Al-Anon, I had confused ideas about personal responsibility; I was so accustomed to feeling like a victim, that I was wary of the prospect of taking full responsibility for my own choices and decisions. I wasn't sure I was willing, or able, to let go of blaming other people for the way my life went. I can still recall walking my dog and talking angrily to a Higher Power that I didn't think I believed in, asking resentfully, "What do you want from me?"
I thought that I had been given "a rough row to hoe" and saw no way whatsoever in which my own choices contributed to my misery. It was all being done to me, and I was helpless. When my first sponsor began to try to show me the ways in which I made my own life unhappy by my thought patterns and my choices, I was furiously resistant. Even then, I dimly understood that if I was doing it, I could stop doing it, and in that process, I was going to lose the alcoholic as scapegoat.
For many years, I blamed the abuse I'd suffered as a child, for my behavior and attitudes. My sponsor patiently reiterated the idea that this may have been the starting point, but if I remain stuck at root causes, I cannot live a full and rewarding life. Were I to refuse to move beyond that starting point because I didn't want to give up blaming, I am the only one to suffer the consequences.
I'd be the one forever telling the story of my victimhood, keeping myself freshly outraged, not allowing time to do its healing work, continually looking for reinforcement of that story.
"Nobody can keep me down without my consent." Oh how I hated that phrase, when I was still wrapped in the self-indulgent cocoon of reliving past sorrows and creating new problems for myself.
I had to be willing to let go of hearing other people murmur commiseration for how hard my life was. I wanted attention, and didn't know any other way of getting it than complaining about my lot in life. I didn't understand that long-lasting friendships are not based on complaint, and that expecting other people to endlessly listen and support me while I inflated my minor problems into mountains which left me immobile, was not going to get me the attention I desired.
I remember hearing the phrase "Give what you want to get." That means if I want good friends, I need to be a good friend first. Most people can only handle a small amount of listening to complaint before they begin to cringe when they see our number come up on call display, or stop answering completely. We need to comprehend that others are not bottomless wells for our use. Other members of Al-Anon are people, they are not a resource to feed an endless self-pitying lament.
If I'm having a rough day, I can stop, thank my HP for all of the many things for which I'm grateful, and look for something humorous with which I can describe my day to a program friend, so that we are both laughing, and I'm still getting what I need in terms of loving support.
Before making a call, I can ask myself, do I really need to lay this all out on another person, or can I seek comfort from my Higher Power, read some literature, change my attitude?
My attitude after 29 years in program has changed to such a great extent that even while dealing with cancer, I am able to laugh helplessly over life's, and my own, silliness.
I go for a second opinion today, I'll keep you posted.