Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Nudge From God.

I had a rough start in life - my childhood is better left undescribed. Suffice it to say, that when people speak of their childhood and adolescence as being "the best time of their life" I can not relate. I grew into adulthood with a ferocious sense of resentment and self-pity smoldering inside my calm exterior. I felt ripped off by life, and didn't believe in God. I was full of rage and hate.

This painful state of being continued until I came into Al-Anon. I will forever be grateful to the alcoholic who was the reason I went to my first meeting, and the reason I kept going to meetings.

In Al-Anon, I learned that my life is largely governed by my own attitude to it. I can have the same sort of experience on two different days, and depending upon my state of mind at the time, can feel angry, or, (much to be preferred) laugh at the absurdity of life.

I've noticed that the longer I'm in program, the less time is allowed to me to feel sorry for myself, before I will receive a nudge from God, complete with a pointed example of how others have it much worse off than I.

I had one of those first thing today. I had a rough night, and woke up feeling out-of-sorts and grumpy. This is today's nudge:

My nudges from God used to be gentle, back when I was a newcomer to Al-Anon; they used to take some time to work their way through my defenses and my wallowing. Nowadays, they are more like a good whack upside the head, because He's granted me so much, blessed me with so much, and I'm still complaining?

Do I choose to focus on the one small aspect of my life that is not to my liking, or do I choose to focus on all of the miracles with which God has showered me?

As I think - I am. My attitude colours my day, and my life. Only I can choose my attitude.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arguing The Details.

I've had sponsees who are fixated on arguing the details, while completely missing the bigger picture. They will lock onto one small area or statement or idea, and chew it over mercilessly, looking for the inherent flaw which will allow them to dismiss our entire program.

Is this willingness, to approach each meeting as a challenge to our stubborn resistance? Is this keeping an open mind? The suggested closing to our meetings states:

"If you keep an open mind, you will find help."

I would venture to suggest that the opposite is also true: if we keep a closed mind, we won't get much out of Al-Anon. Before I try anything new, do I not have to take a leap of faith that I may be able to accomplish it? Do I not have to be able to picture myself playing the piano, driving a car, scuba-diving, whatever it is that I wish to learn?

In this same way we must be able to picture ourselves living a healthier, happier life. For most of us, that is extremely difficult, especially if we live with active alcoholism. For that, we need to take a leap of faith. Close our eyes, grab onto the hand of our sponsor, and shrieking with fear, leap off the cliff of our past with him or her, trusting that our Creator will catch us.

In my experience, once we have done that the first time - taken that leap of faith, and found ourselves safely caught in our Higher Power's warm, cradling hold - the realisation that we didn't fall mangled to the rocks beneath, is enough to propel us forward in growth to a degree we'd never have imagined, before we jumped.

Catch onto the hand of your sponsor, close your eyes, scream as loudly as you need to, but please, take that leap of faith - you will be astounded at the blessings you will find in Al-Anon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Too Much To Ask?

From the ODAT, page 272:

"We learn that an honest appraisal of ourselves will open the way to improvement and start us on the upward climb to sanity and serenity."

I like that, it's a shorthand description of Step Four, with all the fear and defensiveness removed. When I do an honest appraisal of myself, I aim for some objective vision as to my own character defects, and my character strengths. I don't do it so that I may fashion a new weapon with which to belabor myself in the middle of the night when I can't sleep - that's old behavior, and I work to let that fall away.

I don't do it so that I may feel superior to those who may struggle with that which comes easily to me - that was a way I comforted myself, when my self-image was so tattered and torn as to be no protection against the cold winds of life that we all face.

I do an honest appraisal of myself because I want change. I want what I see others have - serenity. An ability to ride life like a boat on choppy seas - rolling and pitching when the sea is heavy, but still on the surface, and still moving forward.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dedicating Ourselves To Recovery.

If we only attend meetings, and read program literature, and work the steps of Al-Anon, when our home lives are in crisis and the alcoholic is in active addiction, what are the chances that we will achieve recovery?

Slim to none.

That may sound harsh, but anyone who has been in Al-Anon for many years, has seen people come and go repeatedly, who follow this pattern of behaviour, and these folks will stay stuck at a certain level.

My spouse once offended a neighbour mightily, by responding to her her oft-repeated refrain:"I wish my garden looked like yours.." by saying cheerfully to her, "It would if you put the same amount of work in that she does!"

Why do we do this? We want the same results as a person who has expended enormous effort, but we want it immediately, and with little or no work done on our part.

If we want a beautiful, lush garden, we must be willing to get filthy, dig until our arms and legs are exhausted and we can't stand up straight, get down on our knees and pull weeds.
Only we can give our plants a chance to thrive, without having to struggle for life amidst rapacious weeds which have evolved to grow in the harshest of conditions - in a garden, with extra water and nutrients, weeds appear to be on performance-enhancing drugs.

If we want a well-trained dog, we must put in the hours of teaching to accomplish the result we seek. Spending two sessions training for ten minutes, and then giving up, won't get us what we want. We need the resolve to be consistent.

If we only come to Al-Anon meetings when our life is in crisis, and then when things calm down, stop attending, and never open a piece of program literature, we won't get far.

If we never get a sponsor, and never work the Steps, we will not get what those who have done the hard work have received as a result of their exertions.

Like so much else in life, Al-Anon gives back to me in direct correlation to what I give to it. I was dedicated to my misery, before 12-Step; I spent hours involved in obsessing and manipulation and awfulising and projecting - I was steeped daily in a poisonous stew of those ways of thinking and behaving.

An Al-Anon friend used to say, "If you don't want tea so strong you cannot drink it without feeling as though it's stripping the enamel from your teeth, take the teabag out!"

That became a little joking saying we used, to remind each other not to go there with whatever it was: "Hey! Take the teabag out!"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

But How Do I DO That?

In Syd's post today, one sentence leapt out at me in the part about sharing - "I can't give another person hope and serenity by mouthing slogans and principles..."

We cannot help others if all we do is repeat the shorthand of the program, without delving deeper into just how we have put the program into practise. I can repeat the Fourth Step to you until I'm hoarse, but if I never sit down with you and explain how to go about doing a Fourth Step, am I truly sharing with you?

I received help in my early days because members, and my sponsor, would say: "When I'm obsessing, what works for me, is to attack a physical task, while repeating the opening line of the Serenity Prayer to myself."

Or: "I practise thought-stopping: the second I realise I'm on that subject again in my head, I say NO! to myself, and force my mind onto something pleasant - my quilting, my garden, a conversation with a friend that made us both laugh."

Or: "I find that looking the subject up in the index of my daily reading books, and reading each one of the pages, will help to calm me down considerably. If that doesn't work, I call a program friend."

We all need concrete examples of how others work the program successfully, so that we may try them out, discard some, and put others into daily practise.

I always make time for a program member when they are asking me this question - I've stood in the parking lot after a meeting until we're the only two left, and then for another hour after that sitting in the car, explaining, giving examples, listening carefully to the next question, explaining some more.

If nothing I suggested worked for them, I recommend that they ask another old-timer who is quite different in personality from me, as they'll most likely have ideas I might not.

I believe this is how I give to others, what was so freely and generously given to me when I was a desperate, wounded newcomer - the gift of 12-Step. That's how I see Al-Anon - as a precious gift that I am sharing, which never runs out, because no matter how much of it I give, it replenishes itself a hundredfold.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Always Someone To Blame.

From the ODAT, page 268:

"What would happen if we stopped blaming anyone for anything? We would experience miracles of tolerance and grace - rich spiritual rewards, reflected in a life of real fufillment."

If one is raised from a small child in an atmosphere of blaming and judgement, it can be quite the process to work towards achieving a mindset where blame isn't an option. I was taught that before one could begin to deal with any problem, first fault had to be assigned. It was very important to winkle out "who was to blame for this state of affairs."

There were long, involved conversations at the dinner table, most of which went over my head, as apart from being too young too understand, I was busy carving patterns into my mashed potatoes. But what I do remember, is the arguing that went on about who was at fault. It was the party in government at the time; no, it was the oppostion. It was Aunt Denise; no, it was Uncle Morrie. It was mine; no, it was my brother's. It was this neighbour; no it was the city, for not...yada yada yada. Someone had to be to blame.

There would be more arguments on the subject of "I told you it was so-and-so's fault, but you blamed such-and-such - now further events have made it clear that my assigning of blame was correct, and yours was incorrect."

Blame, and fault, were of utter importance. In retrospect, I can understand that my adoptive mother was a very frightened person. I think she was immeasurably hurt when she was a small girl, and learned that the world is a terrifying and dangerous place, where one must always be on guard. Perhaps all that blaming, allowed her to feel as though she understood how the world worked, and therefore, could prepare and protect herself from pain.

I grew to adulthood with a tight grasp on that particular sentiment: "Someone is to blame for this; figure out who, and give them a tongue-lashing."

I was a tailor-made co-dependent, in that regard. When I began to grasp the program, and see that assigning blame just kept me hopelessly stuck, I turned to my sponsor and program friends for some way to remind myself of this. One night at a meeting, one member said that she had borrowed a saying her teenage son used when she was getting in a tizzy. He would say to her, "Mother, it is what it is, get over it!"

I loved that first bit - "It is what it is." That statement allowed me to have my feelings about an event, without needing to blame anyone for it. I could just tell myself, "It is what it is, and I need to let go."

When I use that phrase, I feel as though I'm discarding constricting beliefs about life, and can breathe more easily. If it is what it is, then I needn't bother myself about it. I can go about my daily round, doing whatever I can to make my world a better place. It's not my problem, not my responsibility, not my fault. It's not up to me to decide who did what to whom, and when, and what punitive measures should be assigned - that task belongs only to God, and he doesn't need my help.

When I don't assign blame, don't take sides, don't have an opinion on outside issues, my life is serene, and I'm a more pleasant experience for others.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who's At The Helm?

From the ODAT, page 267:

"One of our delusions is that we, as spouses of alcoholics, are "running the show." This form of self-deception can only increase our frustrations. It makes the home a battleground in which the alcoholic has the best chance of winning every encounter. We are often outwitted by the alcoholic's lightning changes of mood, his promises, challenges, and other maneuvers. This is the best reason for detaching our minds and seeking a peaceful, orderly way of life within ourselves."

Whenever I forget these truths about alcoholism, I will suffer for it. I get caught up in wanting to control, and when I do that, I am advancing out onto the branch, and handing the alcoholic the chainsaw.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fear, and Trees.

I love trees. All trees. Slender, elegant birches, with silvery shimmering leaves: willows with delicate weeping branches encasing their massive gnarly trunks: enormous pines reaching into the sky, rustling God's message in the wind.

When I lived in the city and rode my bike to work, I always went a certain route, so that I could ride under the canopy of monumental chesnut trees that lined both sides of one street, even though it meant I had to ride up one of the worst hills in the city.

I can still remember feeling upset, when I rode my bike to work one day, and saw that two enormous oaks had been chopped down to enlarge a music store's parking lot. The store went out of business in a short time, but those trees had been there almost 100 years, and they were gone forever.

Other people on my street complain about the mess of the ornamental cherry trees - I wait all year to see that glorious bloom, and to enjoy the dance of the dropped petals swirling down the road in a light spring breeze.

Yesterday, driving home, I saw that one of my neighbours had taken down a huge pine tree which graced their property. It lay in pieces in a dump truck. (This was a big pine, the cones it dropped were some of the largest I've seen outside of a first-growth forest.) I've always enjoyed listening to that tree when the wind is blowing - it murmured and sighed. That tree was growing before any of us were even born, and now it's nothing but pieces of wood lying in a truck's bed.

My neighbour has always been afraid of that tree. When I walked under it, I felt communion with my Creator, awe, and peaceful in the shadow of its branches. My neighbour felt it "loomed threateningly" over her house. She's a very fearful sort of person, completely unable to enjoy life, consumed with worries. Her worry caused her to destroy a thing of beauty for no other reason than to set her mind at ease. But that won't last, she'll just clamp onto something else, and within a day or so, will be in a frenzy over that, unable to sleep, and frantic.

The tree died for nothing. I stood on our back steps last night, and felt sad, looking at the big empty space of sky that used to be filled with that glorious tree.

Fear is only and ever, a destroyer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Living With An Alcoholic...

...can be an interesting experience. We were joking around at an Al-Anon meeting not long ago, when the topic was self-care, and a newcomer had asked with a little smile: could wallowing in self-pity be considered self-care? A member answered, stating that when she was new to program, she was throughly convinced there was a special place for her in Heaven, because she'd been such a saint here on earth!

It can be tiresome and tedious to deal with the issues which arise from addiction. It can also be confusing and even frightening.

I know that without the help of Al-Anon, I'd have never made it with my sanity (relatively) intact. One has only to stop and listen to a reasoning process verbalised by an alcoholic, to realise and understand just how crazy it is inside their head.
Practising my Al-Anon program has allowed me to develop a healthy gratitude that I'm not in there with them, and an element of compassion for those who are still trapped in there, alone and suffering.

I may not like the way the alcoholism manifests itself in behavior, but that doesn't give me the right to dismiss the person themselves with an attitude of contempt or negation.

If I am tempted down that path, I will read some program literature, call an Al-Anon friend, and pray to my Higher Power to help me detach with love. I cannot change another person, I can only change the way I deal with them. That's work enough to keep me occupied into eternity.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Pick Yourself Up...

...dust yourself off, and start all over again."
That's a catchy little song from the Fred Astaire movie, Swingtime:

When I woke up this morning, it was playing in my head - my Higher Power's sense of humour.

My time in Al-Anon has taught me that nothing short of unchecked addiction, illness or death, is a real tragedy. Other events may feel that way when I am in the midst of them, but give me a couple of days of prayer and meditation, and I will be able to see them in their true perspective. I can calmly make a determination - can I effect a change here, or is it beyond my control? If the former, what can I do to put this into action? If the latter, turn it over, and let it go. God will get to it, at a time, and in a place, of His own choosing.

I may need to maintain a boundary I set at an earlier time - not easy for those of us who are susceptible to charm. Alcoholics can be some of the most charming folk on the face of the planet, when they want from us. I set a boundary with an alcoholic a while back, now I must stand firm against the pleas, wheedling and  charm, or I will sacrifice my self-respect on the altar of people-pleasing, and I do not want to go there.

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day, and I want to enjoy it, even if I do have a dentist appointment this afternoon.

From Hope for Today, page 265:
"During bleak periods of my recovery, my Higher Power reminds me that the best way out is through."

I'm not a victim, and I have choices. Those two realities, the help of Al-Anon, and the infinite wisdom and strength of my Higher Power are enough to help me right myself.

Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Help Is Always Within Reach.

I don't know where I would be without this program.
I was just on the treadmill, listening to an Al -Anon speaker, and she said that when she has troubles with another human being, and cannot see her way through, she asks God to grant her the ability to see that person as God sees them, because God only sees the good.

I'm going to get down on my knees and ask God for that same blessing, so that I may let go of my pain, anger, resentment and fear.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Can I Tell If The Alcoholic Is Lying?

Their lips are moving, right.

For those of us who love alcoholics (using or sober,) this has to be one of most excruciating aspects of it all - the lies. Small lies to keep the peace, larger ones to avoid serious conflict, and great big honkers, for whatever the reason may be. When confronted, they always have a way of making it our fault that they lied. I will never cease to be amazed at how good they all seem to be at that little sleight of hand.

It can be disheartening, when the alcoholic is going to meetings, and seems to be making some progress, to discover that they've been gazing at us with a straight face, apparent sincerity, and lying like a rug. It's painful, to have one more piece of our trust and belief in them chipped away.

I'm feeling really depressed tonight. I took the dogs out for their walk, ran into a lady who stopped to chat with me, and although I responded to her questions about the dogs as best I could, I just didn't have it to give. I feel completely emptied out, and despairing. I wonder if things are ever going to be different. I question my committment - am I loyal, or a fool? This is especially painful because I've been having a really good stretch the last couple of weeks, feeling positive and hopeful and spiritually aware.
Finding out that I've been lied to again, and then to sit in silence and listen, while it was explained to me how it was actually my own fault that I'd been told this lie - it's dispiriting. I wonder how our definition of "love" can differ so widely. I wonder what it is about the alcoholic ego, that makes lying expendient, even when the lie is going to cause so much damage to the relationship.

My sponsor is out of town on holiday right now, and I'm missing her tremendously tonight. I'm grateful for my Higher Power here with me, and for the warm comfort of my little dog so trustingly asleep upon my lap - I'm grateful for all of you, who support me in this journey we all take together. But I'm feeling kind of lonely tonight.


It seems to be human nature to want to justify our own behavior with excuses, while excoriating another person for theirs. We make judgements about how someone should act, dress, think, pray, or even work the program, and then set them at a distance from ourselves with this tidy little labelling that drops them into a category of "not like me."

We assure ourselves and others that we'd never do that, would you?

It requires considerable, sustained effort to see each person we run into in our daily round, as a child of God. Most of us have to work very hard to shut off that internal measuring system which is continually judging other people for what we perceive to be flaws, obvious or assumed. If we don't learn to shut it down, or at least reduce the volume, we keep our world small, controlled, and stagnant.

I have wrestled with this aspect of my personality since I was new to program, and even though I've come a long way from the person I was way back when, it still comes up for me. I will be congratulating myself for my tolerance, not aware that over here, in the shadows, I'm doing the same thing again - setting myself up as the authority on how another person should behave, and if they don't, dismissing them.

Some folks rub us the wrong way - those most like sandpaper to my psyche, are those who share my own character defects. Seeing them arrayed in full colour, like a fall banquet, means I cannot pretend that they are not just as annoying and irritating as the character defects I don't happen to own.

I have a choice in this instance - I can squirm and writhe with discomfort, push that knowledge away with heated denials, or I can sigh and accept this as a lovely moment of clarity, delivered by my Higher Power, for my sure and certain benefit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Life Is A Carnival.

A friend gave me an AA speaker cd last night at the meeting, and I put it on when I got home. The first speaker had me laughing so hard I had to stop and wipe my eyes. He describes his thought processes when he was still drinking, and after the roars of laughter die down, he says, "Normal people wouldn't find that funny." This truth makes everyone laugh even harder. Just try to describe our lunacy to anyone not in 12-Step - they'll begin to give you that "whites of the eyes" alarmed look, as they casually sidle away.

I'm deeply grateful for the way Al-Anon has developed my sense of humour. I used to take myself, and my misfortunes, very seriously. I had no ability to view myself with any objectivity, so would be relieving the pain or discomfort, each time I spoke of whatever was occupying my mind.
It was through attending meetings, reasoning things out with my sponsor, and working the Steps, that I slowly, (ever so slowly) began to recognise my absurdities of thought and action.

This marvellous lens of humour has become a wide-angle lens, encompassing my entire field of vision.

I take great delight in reciting to a program friend, a pattern of my thinking which I've just realised is completely bonkers. I know they'll enjoy it, they've most likely experienced it themselves. Laughter removes the sting of shame, and realisations delivered in a burst of laughter, seem to have better staying power. Once I've had a good laugh over some aspect of myself, I can never go back to my original dramatic and somber viewpoint - humour has crumbled that away into the sea, and I've got a whole new promontory from which to gaze.

I've sat in meetings where a member is describing what to anyone not in 12-Step, would sound like a soap opera come to life - one tragedy after another; meanwhile, the speaker is laughing so hard she can barely talk, and so is everyone else at the table.

The first time this happened, when I was relatively new to program, the woman sitting beside me glanced over, and patted my arm, saying "It's ok, dear, we're not laughing at her, we're laughing at ourselves." I remember thinking, "Oh, right. Okay."

Only the fact that the speaker was laughing hardest of all, made it possible for me to grasp that, in some way I didn't understand, the laughter was a shared delight, and not disprespectful of her pain. It was completely beyond me, but I wanted some. I wanted with all my parched soul, to be able to laugh like that. I'd let alcoholism steal my sense of humour completely. I'd become what my grandpa used to call a "sad sack."

I've seen myself in newcomers a few times since then, when I'm describing some absurdity, and laughing, and I glance up to see their look of puzzlement - "How can she find that funny? Why is everyone else laughing?"

Keep coming back - you'll find out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Working The Steps.

I was laying out patterns and cutting fabric last night. I enjoy sewing; it's satisfying to start with a piece of material, and end with a new garment to wear. I like being able to choose material and pattern style, and I like having clothes that are unique. I have sufficient expertise to be able to make myself anything, from winter coats to summer dresses, and enough recovery not to drive myself insane in an attempt at perfection, although I do have to remind myself now and then that I'm making this dress for myself, and not the queen.

While I was engaged in this pursuit, I was thinking about an AA speaker I'd listened to earlier in the day, who'd said that if one never does anything but attend meetings, it's possible to stay sober, but you won't have much recovery - for that, you need to work the Steps. I believe this to be equally as true for those of us in Al-Anon - when I began to work the Steps, I began to change and grow.

The construction of a garment follows a certain logical progression. One can't sew the facings onto the neck opening, until one has created a neck opening, by stitching the front and back together at the shoulder seams.
I grant you that every now and then, a design element may require a bit of a change in how the garment is put together, but by and large, B not only follows A, it's a requirement, before one can proceed to C.

I believe this to be true for the Steps. Until I take the First Step, I cannot take any of the others - I must surrender. I must admit my powerlessness. If I'm still "reserving judgement" about the First Step, as I heard someone say at a meeting recently, how on earth can I be willing to turn my life over? This speaker had passed right over Step 1, 2, and 3, and tried to start at Step 4, with disastrous results. How can I do a searching and fearless moral inventory, if I'm still convinced that I'm right in all areas? How can I learn if I cannot listen and accept another reality apart from the one I've constructed?

When it comes to sewing, I don't fight the logical progression of garment construction, I just follow the instructions, because experience has taught me that the creators of the pattern know best how to assemble the garment.

When it comes to Al-Anon, I don't fight the logical progression of the Steps, I follow them in a serene faith, because once again, experience has taught me that my Creator knows best how to run my life, and by accepting that piece of reality, I will be relieved, joyous, and free.

Al-Anon gives us a pattern for a new way of living; it's up to us whether we use it, or whether we continue to just hack some likely-looking pieces out of the material, stitch them together, and then complain that they don't fit very well, and are hellishly uncomfortable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Together We Can Make It.

From Hope for Today, page 203:

"Unity was a foreign idea to me as a child. I never felt as though I were part of a family. It felt more like a bunch of strangers living in the same house. At best, my family had poor communication or none at all. It seemed no one was available to help me. In fact, I usually was the receiptient of criticisms and complaints. Instead of feeling united with my family, I felt isolated and alone."

I can relate to that. In order to be able to feel unity with other people, I must be able to at least begin to trust. I didn't trust anyone when I came into program. I was carrying too much pain, and I was too self-absorbed to be able to understand the ways in which my own behaviors contributed to my misery.

I went along for quite a while unable to trust any idividuals in my group, but I could trust the group as a whole, if that makes any sense - the whole being larger than the sum of its parts. I could feel a power in the rooms of Al-Anon, although I couldn't have named it.

And when I was at the tables of Al-Anon, I felt peaceful in a way new to me, and valued. I felt heard. I didn't talk at first, I was too embarassed and ashamed and self-conscious, but when I did speak, no one interrupted me - I was allowed to speak my piece, and I was allowed to decide when I was finished speaking.

I could understand what everyone else was saying, and I could feel compasssion for their grief and sorrow, and delight in their triumphs. Trust established itself like the fog in the Carl Sandburg poem, coming in "on little cat feet," silently padding in, unnoticed, while I was busy paying attention to the wisdom so freely offered.

This reading closes with this reminder:

"A feeling of unity is as close as the nearest Al-Anon meeting."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This slogan puzzled me. I was under the impression that I thought too much, so why was I being encouraged to think more? My sponsor, when I posed this question, suggested dryly that it was my choice of subject, that was causing me problems, and there's a considerable difference between thinking, and obsessing.

My dictionary defines the word "think" as: "to employ one's mind rationally and objectively in evaluating or dealing with a given situation:"

I can honestly say that whatever I may have believed about my thought processes when I was new to Al-Anon, they were neither rational or objective. On the contrary, they were irrational to the point of insanity, and subjective to the point of delusionally self-centered. I didn't think, I obsessed, and I was self-absorbed - everything revolved around me and my pain. A member in my home group made us all laugh in a meeting, by stating mournfully, when it was his turn to share, that he'd realised something very sad that day. Pause. "I realised I'm not the centre of the universe."

Someone else piped up, "Of course you're not, I am!"

We all joke about this, but this type of self-centeredness is a habit of thinking that magnifies our troubles, and keeps others at a distance. Who wants to be close to someone who can't "see past the end of their own nose?"

From Hope for Today, page 283:

"Today, when I'm faced with unhealthy and unacceptable behavior, I don't run away. I use the program to help me. I remember to stop and "Think." I use my intellect instead of my emotions before responding. I detach from the person or situation until I can calm down and think rationally. I call my sponsor to defuse my emotions and help me figure out which program tools to apply."

This has been one of the most helpful program tools for me - the ability to do what friend calls the Al-Anon variety of "stop, drop, and roll" - stop what we were about to say, drop our resentment and anger, and roll out a carpet of detachment. If we make this our invariable habit, we gain enough time for our initial response to come and go, without acting upon it. Then we can "think," and make a rational and objective choice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Progress Not Perfection.

I was in Al-Anon for quite some time before it ever began to dawn on me that I was a mad perfectionist. I'd been resisting this realisation, and I recall when it finally slammed home full force. I was making a dog sweater for my small dog. (I hadn't understood, until I had a small dog, that people dress them in sweaters because they're cold, not because it's cute. Anything under 20 pounds, and they will be shivering on a walk, and that tugs at the heartstrings, especially if one is warmly dressed oneself.)

I was having trouble placing the miniscule sleeves, and had already ripped them out and resewn them several times, when all at once I stopped and thought - it's a dog sweater! It's not for the queen! Who cares if there's a wrinkle in the seam!

The dog certainly doesn't.

This was an enormous startling revelation for me, and I went to my meeting that night, and shared it with my group - I was so excited about this new understanding. I wasn't far into my share, and I could hear the odd smothered giggle, and then a laugh, and this built until the entire group was howling with laughter. My sponsor told me later, that for her, it was the mental picture of me fighting with those tiny sleeves, for a dog sweater, and giving myself a hard time for not doing it perfectly the very first time, that did her in.

I learned two things from this experience: firstly, to pay attention to my internal dialogue, and when it whispers to me that whatever it is I'm working on isn't perfect and maybe I should redo it, I can respond with a firm "It's just fine, it's not for the queen, it's just a ___" and secondly, that my own frailties, if admitted honestly, can give us all a good laugh.

Only God is capable of perfection, and I no longer expect it of myself, or my loved ones. Holding myself or my alcoholic to that impossible standard is a recipe for resentment, shame and bitterness.

I cannot do what is not humanly possible, and my best is good enough.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Principles Above Personalities.

I am always humbled and awed by the way that "moment's silence to remember why we are here" at the beginning of our meetings, can take a wildly diverse group of people and turn them into a loving community. After that silence, we are focused on recovery; all else is set aside.

I've learned that I don't know who's going to be my Higher Power's message-carrier; I've often heard just what I needed, from someone with whom I might not choose to socialise outside the meeting. Before Al-Anon, if someone irritated me, I didn't listen to them - I used that small annoyance to completely discount them.

I've learned that those who grate upon me most, are those with whom I have much in common. That humility has allowed me to see what I wouldn't have otherwise, were I still caught up in measuring the differences between myself and another: we are all God's children, and we all have value. (I didn't learn that lesson as a child - on the contrary, I learned to dismiss and ignore those who didn't fit into a very slim category.)

When I was new to Al-Anon, I had a rather muddled idea that I practised "principles above personalities" for the sake of other people. Now I understand I do this for myself, as well - so I'm not closing myself off to wisdom because it arrives in a rather tattered container, instead of a nice shiny package.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One Day At A Time.

Before Al-Anon, I don't think I ever really lived in the present moment. I was either mourning the past, lashing myself for the past, anticipating, or dreading the future. The present was just something to "get through."

What a way to live.

In 12-Step, I have learned to stop using my past mistakes as weapon with which to wound myself. I let go of what was done to me, by those who were themselves deeply unhappy. I use the past only to learn from my mistakes, no more. Before Al-Anon, because I never made amends, I couldn't let go of my wrongs - the errors in judgement, the small unkindnesses, the sharp words, the deliberately hurtful actions. I tormented myself with them endlessly.

Before Al-Anon, although I was always wanting the future to hurry up and arrive, because it might get me out of the misery of the present, I lived in a constant state of trepidation. There is no other way, when fear is our driving force.

Al-Anon has taught me that worrying for what may arrive with tomorrow doesn't prevent any of it from taking place, it only robs today. I like this quote from Calvin Coolidge:

"If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you."

Most worriers don't ever stop to think about the usefulness of worry, it's a knee-jerk fear response. I like to ask my sponsees, "What did you worry about when you were 20? 25? 30? Did any of that ever happen?" Invariably the person I'm talking to will stop, think, burst out laughing, and admit that no, it didn't. This is a good little exercise, to help us gain perspective.

When I live One Day At A Time, I accept the gift of life that my Creator has given me, and feel grateful. I stand on my back steps and revel in the smell of fresh air. I marvel at the amazing complexity of a frilly-edged leaf, or a dahlia bloom. I allow myself to love without reservation. I take a leap of faith, and decide to enjoy my life, instead of just enduring it. When we live as if each day might be our last, petty squabbles aren't worth having. Love, and people, are all that matter in life, the rest is just what my grandfather used to call "window-dressing."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Live and Let Live.

Before Al-Anon, I was consumed with my struggles to make the alcoholic quit drinking. My life had been reduced to that one desire. Everything else had fallen away, been discarded, or forgotten; I was obsessed with making him stop. You could not call what I was doing "living." Great swathes of my life were passing me by, while all of my thinking reverberated inside that constricting vessel of my focus.

I also was not letting him live his life. I directed, admonished, upbraded, ranted - I was a endless loop of negativity directed at his poor suffering self. These days, when I pause to consider how it must have felt to be with me, I feel only compassion for him. I wouldn't want to live with someone hounding me the same way I used to hound him, but back when I was engaged in that power struggle, I just wanted to win it. I didn't stop to think about whether it was right, or kind, or helpful, or useful.

It was a long hard haul uphill, for me to arrive at the full, heartfelt knowledge that the alcoholic's life was his, to do with as he chose. Marriage to me did not mean that I got to decide how he lived his life. As far as I'm aware, he's still drinking. My eight or so years of all-out effort to make him stop, had zero effect, apart from making us both miserable. I'm grateful that I had some program when we split up, so it was on pleasant terms, and not acrimonious. I didn't say or do anything which required amends later on, and for that, I'm grateful.

Live and Let Live used to feel like a rule I needed to try to follow - the more I practise it, the more it becomes a comfortable habit.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Listen & Learn

This is an apt slogan for what's been happening in my life lately. I have always been a talker. I talked to entertain, to disarm, to explain, to ease my own nervousness, and because I felt starved for attention. When I was new to program, I had to muster much self-control, in order not to misuse my sharing time at meetings, by talking for much longer than was fair/reasonable/tolerable. Over the years I've been a member of Al-Anon, I've become more comfortable within, and that has led to less need to talk. My present sponsor is a woman who is more comfortable in silence. My first sponsor, who was also a talker, used to joke that the two of us were like human pressure cookers, and had to let off steam through the use of words. Lots of words.

In the last while, I find myself with less to say. My Higher Power has granted me another level of serenity. I've worked hard, and prayed fervently for this, and receiving it has filled me with a powerful gratitude. I feel as if another layer of my defenses has been removed, and with it, the character defects that maintained it. Change like this can be disturbing for those friends or family not in program - they want to maintain the status quo. But my sponsor, and my program friends, can recognise the peacefulness I feel, and rejoice with me. I used to have a relaxation tape, and one of the affirmations the speaker used was: "I am completely calm." That's how I'm feeling.

From the ODAT, page 41:

"When I talk all the time, nothing new is being added to me. I am using the same old destructive thought material that has kept me at a standstill for so long.
To absorb new ideas, I keep my lips closed and my ears open. I find this gives me a new perspective on my problems, so solutions come more easily."

Let It Begin With Me.

I was supremely self-absorbed when I came into Al-Anon - self-pitying, with a chip on my shoulder, and much resentment for my unmet needs. I was not a happy person. Even so, I wasn't in program for very long before another woman in my group began to call me to 'reason things out." Through doing this with her, I discovered a truth of 12-Step: we feel most satisfied and content when we are carrying this message to others. I would hang up the phone after having talked to her for almost an hour, with no mention of my own troubles, and I would feel uplifted and comforted, in some way I couldn't articulate.

I found this fascinating - all those hours of moaning and whinging I'd done in the past, had never given me relief the way a program call for someone else did.

I've come to believe this happens because my Higher Power is using me as a conduit for His will, and His wisdom. When I set aside my own opinions and attitudes, and open myself to another human being's need, God blasts through me like a high-pressure hose, scouring out all the grunge collected in the corners, and leaving me feeling clean, and at peace.

I love that feeling, and the only way to get it, is to Let It Begin With Me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Let Go And Let God.

From Hope for Today, page 76:

"To truly detach with love, I practise "Let Go and Let God." I give up trying to control the alcoholic, and instead increase my efforts to keep my focus on myself without falling prey to alcoholic games. When I let go and let God, I'm more apt to find a place of compassion between obsession and indifference, where the serenity of ordered thoughts and emotions lies. With God's help, the hope of a happy medium can become a reality."

"... a place of compassion between obsession and indifference." When I was new to Al-Anon, I had no belief that such a place existed. Even now, I can struggle to find that place of compassion, that comfortable middle ground. Usually, when I'm having trouble locating it, I am stuck in willfullness - I want things to go one way or the other, I want a certain outcome, I want a specified response - I'm invested.

True detachment, for me, is the ability to view life with a calm relaxed feeling - to be able to see both sides of a problem, to give the other person's viewpoint equal time, to work together with my Higher Power, checking in with Him regularly, to make sure I have "the knowledge of His will," and am not beetling off down some selfish sideroad.

There have been times in my early recovery when I was trying to do this very thing, but fearful doubt was my companion, walking beside me and muttering into my ear, "Are you sure He knows what He's doing?"

I consider myself fortunate to have had my time in Al-Anon, which allows me to be more able and willing to do my bit, and then....let go. Watch with interest as it gathers momentum and speed, with only curiosity as to where He's going to take me next. With the help of 12-Step, my sponsor, and other members of Al-Anon, I can do this, rather than watch for two seconds, then completely lose my nerve, yelling, "No, no, I've changed my mind!"

When I Let Go and Let God, I'm facing reality - I'm not in control, my Higher Power is. Since that's the case, any efforts on my part to control, are a waste of my time and energy. Why not practise faith, and use my time to better effect? Instead of worrying away at that which is beyond me, I can help a program friend. I can play in my garden.

I see it as trusting the Driver, hopping on of my own volition, and then enjoying the ride, instead of being dragged along because my hand is caught in the door. Either way, I'm going, it's up to me whether its pleasurable or agonising.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pride Is Cold Comfort.

I like to listen to 12-Step speakers while I practise yoga - the two go together marvellously well. Wisdom and pain. Two sides of the same coin.

The AA speaker I was listening to yesterday, spoke about the "concept of opposite action." He said that means when he wants to talk, he listens. When he wants to leave, he stays, and when he wants to take, he gives.

I've never heard it put quite like that before, but I find a great deal of Al-Anon works this way for me. I must let my first impulse pass, and make a conscious choice to do it differently. And before I can do that, I need to believe that my original way of doing things isn't the best of all possible ways, and that there's room for improvement. In order to come to that realisation, I need humility. My experience has been that my Higher Power will offer me numerous chances to learn humility, starting out with gentle ones, which are like a soft whisper. If I disregard those, pretend I haven't heard them, He will slowly work His way up to the equivalent of a roar of "Will you LISTEN?"

If I cannot find humility on my own, I will be humbled, and it will be painful, both to my pride and my feelings, but those are the kind of lessons that register with me. I can be stubborn, and a slow learner. Invariably, when I'm reeling from one of these, I will cast my eye backwards, and see the clear evidence of all the instruction I disregarded, because I didn't want to hear it.

When that dawns upon me, I can't complain or feel self-pitying, because I'm the one steering this vehicle. If I read the road signs, and don't take my foot off the accelerator, and the end result is that I go sailing off a cliff, well, that's my choice.

I've seen, in my own life, and the lives of those I've sponsored, the result of being unable to set down our pride, and consider another way. We can feel tremendously threatened by any suggestion that our pride is a stumbling block for our recovery.
My dictionary defines pride as:

"...a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

The key word in that sentence, for me, is "superiority" - it's not that I truly feel superior, on the contrary, I grew up feeling inferior, but I wasn't about to let anyone else know that, so I adopted a pose of superiority, and clung to it through all the travails of alcoholism.

Al-Anon made it abundantly clear to me that my attempts to disguise my fears only made them more evident. Once I realised that, I could stop pretending, and begin to speak honestly - I was only telling the other members at the meeting what they already knew about me.

What a glorious relief, not to have to carry that burden one step further.

I've picked it up many times since, when for whatever reason, my fears have taken me over again, but now I have the heartfelt knowledge that I needn't if I choose otherwise. And what used to feel as comfortable as an old sweater, now feels like a pair of pants two sizes too small - I can squeeze into them if I really try, but I can't say they "fit" me anymore.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Keep An Open Mind.

One of the most powerful lessons Al-Anon has taught me, is that I can learn from anyone and everyone, if I keep an open, receptive frame of mind.

I came into program a hurt, defensive, judgemental, closed-minded person. I had very decided opinions and felt no hesitation about sharing them. I slotted people into categories, and judged them on a myriad of levels. I lived in fear, and always felt inadequate. I had to be attending meetings for quite a few years before it dawned on me how judgemental I was.

I will always be deeply grateful to my first sponsor for her ability to reflect back to me, in a loving manner, the less delightful of my characteristics. She did it in such a way that shame was avoided, and I could see myself as a project to improve, with the help of God, and Al-Anon.

When I keep an open mind, I'm not making snap judgements about how another person may look or act, and feeling comfortable about dismissing them because of it. I realise that my Higher Power speaks to me through everyone I meet, if I am paying attention.

When I keep an open mind, I'm not building a barricade of judgemental opinions between me and another human being.
I grew into adulthood finding other people terrifying, with their ability to hurt me - judging and condeming kept most of them at a safe distance. It wasn't until I began to attend Al-Anon meetings that I found people who would climb right over my barricades to give me a warm hug and tell me they loved me.

When I keep an open mind, I am extending that same loving warmth to other people - we share what we have been given.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Keep It Simple.

I always believed that I had to know "why" something happened, or why I felt a certain emotion, before I could even begin to deal with the event, or my feelings. In this way did I stay hopelessly stuck - there are mysteries in life that will never be explained to my satisfaction. If I set the understanding as a prerequisite to the acceptance, I will never get beyond my present confusion.

I have one sponsee that I know I drive bonkers, replying to her every "But why?" with: "Why is irrelevant; deal with the facts of it as it stands now. Keep It Simple." At first when we'd have this exchange, she'd sigh in frustration, then fall silent. Then she started to try to rush in with my reply before I could say it, now she laughs when she hears herself say "But why?" We're making progress.

The wonder of program, is that this sponsee is an excellent and endearing reminder of my own ways of thinking before Al-Anon - because of this, when I help her, she helps me. I'll have a conversation with her, and for the rest of the day, I'll be freshly aware that I need to Keep It Simple. I'll hear my own thought patterns, and be reminded - I don't need to go there, I can simplify my life, and spend more of my precious time here on earth enjoying myself.

I don't need to get lost in convoluted mazes of my own thinking. Complication is not sophistication, and simplicity is not naivete. Keep It Simple means I deal with what is before me at this present moment, and I live here and now while I'm doing it. I don't spend years of my life drifting along on autopilot, while my head is twenty years in the past. I have come to appreciate simplicity, and to strive for it in all areas of my life.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Just for Today.

I was given the little card with this Slogan, early in my recovery. I took it home and used it as a bookmark - that way I'd get regular exposure to it, since I'm a voracious reader. Many times I'd go find whatever book I was in the midst of, not to read it, but to read the Just for Today card.

"Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my luck as it comes, and fit myself to it.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don’t want to do just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won’t find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anybody but myself.

Just for today I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me."

"...not tackle all my problems at once." This is a great reminder to me that I cannot do what is not humanly possible, and that my life feels much more manageable when I'm dealing with it one small task at a time, rather than gazing out over the entire landscape and moaning about how impossible it all is.

"...I will be happy." I was staggered by the idea that happiness was a choice - dumbfounded, gobsmacked, blown away. I couldn't grasp it. I had the same conversation with my sponsor dozens of times, asking her "How can I choose to be happy when he's drinking?" and she would say this or that bit of program wisdom in response, until one day she looked me right in the eye, and said, "Well you choose to be unhappy about it, don't you?" I knew to the marrow of my bones that was a true statement, I could feel it next time I did it - he came though the door drunk, and I took a big deep breath and prepared to loose upon him the same calvalcade of words I always did, and...decided not to. I was in a good mood until he arrived, and I wanted to stay in a good mood. I smiled and greeted him kindly. He gaped at me in astonishment.

"...take my luck as it comes, and fit myself to it." This becomes easier with practise. When I don't expect, I'm not disappointed. When I hold my life lightly, rather than white-knuckling, I see the humour, and feel the delight, that I missed for so long.

"...I will be agreeable." I feel much better about myself when I can practise this behavior, and not respond in kind to rudeness or irritation. I like the bit about "...not try to improve or regulate anybody but myself." Let's face it, that's a full-time job all by itself.

"...I will be unafraid." I could not get to this, until I had a spiritual awakening, and felt my Higher Power close to me. Then I knew I was never alone, and didn't need to approach life as if it were a ravening beast set to devour me. I will deal with each day as it arrives, and take the wonders with the pain, that's the tradeoff of being able to fully feel the joy - I must accept that if I'm open to it, I'm also open to the pain. I don't ever wish to go back to my state of numb despair.

I had my Just for Today card for quite a few years, until I gave it to a friend who was in need of the wisdom contained in the slightly tattered and well-handled card. " I give to the world, so the world will give to me." A beautiful promise.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Important Is It?

I've written about this slogan once before:

because it has worked so marvellously well for me. I use it as a yardstick, by which I measure whatever it is that's causing me distress, and decide if it's truly as important as it may feel, in the heat of the moment.
My feelings are not always a valid gauge of significance. On the contrary - when my feelings are running high, unimportance is magnified a thousand times, until it seems huge. I have this in common with many who are in program, and this is why we have the acronym H.A.L.T. - because many of us cannot trust our feelings to be an accurate indicator.
When I was living with active drinking, I felt that if I didn't speak up often and loudly, I'd never be heard. (I wasn't heard anyway, but it gave me the illusion I was, at the time.)

I used to be a great one for offering my unsolicited opinion. Then one day, my current sponsor and I were discussing the ways in which we differed, and agreed that she and I would try an exercise for a week - she'd try to speak up more often, and I'd try to remain quiet more often. When we got together for lunch a week later, and discussed it, we ended up in an uncontrollable laughing fit - almost everyone I'd dealt with in my daily round of life that week, had asked if I was all right. Just talking less was so unusual for me, that it caused people to wonder if I was ill! That was an eye-opener.

From Hope for Today, page 142:

Our preamble to the Twelve Steps states in part, "that changed attitudes can aid recovery," and I can attest to this. My family situation has improved considerably because I've learned to mind my own business. "How Important Is It?" reminds me that my opinion doesn't have to be, and often shouldn't be, expressed unless it is requested. "

The flip side of this Slogan, which I didn't see for a long time, is that it can also be used to help me decide to speak up, those times when in the past I'd have remained silent, through a desire to please the other.

How Important Is It? Does whatever it is truly matter to me? Is this going against my principles, or trespassing my boundaries?
If that's the case, I can say so. Courteously. And then stop talking. I don't need to bash my point home with a hammering of words.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Things First.

I'm not much of a television watcher - when I was kid, we weren't allowed to watch it unless the parents did, and then it was only programs such as travelogues which were acceptable. I usually only watch when I'm so exhausted I can't concentrate enough to read. In that state the other night, I turned it on, and lay on the couch in a daze, watching a show about hoarders. Both of the women featured in the show said, time and again, "It's overwhelming, I don't know where to start!"

That is precisely how I felt when I was new to Al-Anon. Where on earth did I start? My sponsor was a great list-maker, and suggested I sit down with her and make a list of priorities.

Just to give a little background: at that point in my life, I was a fiendish housekeeper - I washed and scrubbed and polished and buffed and vaccuumed and dusted and wiped and tidied. You could eat off my floors! My house was clean. And I was completely bonkers. Keeping the house that clean gave me the illusion of having some control over my home life. Meanwhile, I utterly neglected my emotional or spiritual health, in service to my mad desire for total spotlessness in my surroundings. I'd refuse social invitations to stay home and clean.

My sponsor suggested that my priorities were skewed - nobody was going to arrive at my door and ask to perform surgery on my kitchen table - clean was good enough, the house didn't have to be sterilised to that extent. She introduced me to First Things First. We started my priority list.

Housecleaning was not the first priority. My connection to my Higher Power was my first priority. If I kept that in mind, the rest of it seemed to fall into place with ease. My sponsor suggested that the next time I felt an overwhelming desire to get down on my knees and wax an already spotless kitchen floor, I pray and meditate instead. Then take my dog for a walk, call a friend to go for coffee, have some fun. She pointed out that God had given us all a sense of humour, didn't I think He meant for us to use it, and to have some fun in our lives? Did I think He was up there muttering to himself about a spot on my linoleum?

I look back at myself, and see a deeply unhappy and stressed woman, who had latched onto cleaning and was giving it her all, while the rest of her life was an empty space.

This Slogan helps to ground me when I'm feeling scattered and
swamped - if I can only do one thing at a time, what is most important?

These days, that's an easy answer - seek through prayer and meditation to be closer to God, as I understand Him. He calms me, comforts me, and gives me peace.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Easy Does It.

I was raised in a family that celebrated hard work, sustained effort, and strong opinions. I learned that I had better accomplish whatever it was that was expected of me, or I'd suffer the consequences, and they were going to be brutal and painful. I learned to work until I dropped, and to never, ever, give up. I learned to have "the courage of my convictions" and to "argue my corner" ceaselessly, or I would be seen as a weakling, and you did not want to be seen as a weakling in my family.

I was a prime candidate for the insanity that is co-dependence. I believed it was my own efforts that were lacking - if I just took a deep breath and resumed my exertions: found a new way to approach the problem: I would eventually succeed, the alcoholic would quit drinking, and we could live happily ever after. Part of the reason I was so wound up in this madness, was that my self-image was directly tied to my success or failure. I believed that his continued using declared to the outside world that I was failing - I was not enough, and that was why he sought solace in drink.

I recall my ex saying to me, after a marathon argument, "You never give up, do you?" At the time, I was proud - now it makes me wince.
The first time this Slogan was the topic of a meeting, I was completely confused - were these women suggesting that I back away from a conflict, or not rush to address a problem, that I not try? I was talking to my sponsor about it later that evening, going on and on, and she interrupted me to ask: "Where has all your effort brought you?"
I looked at her for a moment, then said, laughing, "To my knees. To Al-Anon."

Easy Does It doesn't mean I don't fufill my obligations, or even that I don't make an effort. It means that I don't put my head down and blindly charge at a problem, trying to force my way through. I don't batter and pound at it with words, believing that if I just found the right ones, I'd attain the solution I seek.

When I'm working this Slogan, I take a step back, instead of a step towards. I relax my grip, instead of holding on so tightly that my hands are cramping. I allow life to unfold on life's terms, because it's going to anyway, whether I fight it, or practise Easy Does It.

So with this Slogan, I am giving myself a much-needed respite and rest. I am allowing myself to acknowledge that much of what happens is beyond my control, and I'm ok with that. I don't have to love it or even like it, to be ok with that reality: it is what it is.

From: Courage to Change, page 200:

"We often come to Al-Anon with the philosphy that if something works, it will work even better and faster if we try harder. But Al-Anon involves a long-term process of growth and change. Our efforts to speed up this process are more likely to interfere with it, leaving us frustrated and depressed. In Al-Anon, we learn that "Easy Does It." The work often gets done when we stop pushing."