Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gossip or Criticism.

I belong to a couple of garden websites, and when I haven't been on in a while, will go back and wander around on them, only to be reminded why it is that I haven't been on in a while. I cannot stomach the way folks speak to each other - it's depressing.
Rampant gossip, mean-spirited commentary, outright rudeness, insults - people are people, wherever they are.

Reminds me of why I love program so much - we make a concerted effort to be kind and loving to one another, even when we are at opposite ends of a discussion. We allow for alternate viewpoints. Not just allow, we welcome them, for in hearing the experience, strength and hope of someone else, do I find solutions I wouldn't have come to on my own.

I'm doing a Step Four right now, and am having some realisations which are taking a bit of time to digest, but as always with this Step, I can feel that if I keep going, being as honest as I can be, I will emerge, amazed and delighted, on the other side of it.
Hope your weekend is giving you pleasure.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Practise These Principles In All Our Affairs.

Al-Anon doesn't do me much good if I pick and choose where I'm going to put it into practise. Program works best when I embrace it wholeheartedly: give up my excuses, rationalisations, justifications,
and work to make the principles a part of my daily, hourly, life.

Am I kind enough? Am I honest enough? Forthright? Direct? Dependable? Relible?

When I'm making assumptions and judgements about another person's thinking, feelings, or motives, what is my motivation? Not kindness, I know that. Irritation and frustration can cause me to shift my thinking from an Al-Anon viewpoint to a selfish tunnel vision.

When I'm seized with an urge to be rude or dismissive, do I have sufficient self-control to recognise that urge for what it is, and step back long enough to understand that if I'm going to regret it, I do myself a favour if I choose another way?

If I want to receive it, I must be willing to give it. First, and with no expectations. I must be willing to hand over a huge chunk of loving kindness for no other reason than to give the tired stressed-out person in front of me, a gift I have received many times.

When I practise these principles in all my affairs, I feel light-hearted, joyful, and filled with hope.

Becoming Socialised.

I've been feeling grateful to program lately, for having had such a profound effect upon me, that I've been able to make some friends here, after only a few months.

Before program, I wasn't socialised very well. I was fearful of new people, I didn't trust anyone as far as I could throw them, and being alone felt like the safest place for me. I was lonely, but didn't know how to break through my loneliness to extend or receive social invitations.

Al-Anon has given me a wealth of positive experiences with loving people, upon which to draw. I have a better self-image, so I'm sure I'm quite a bit more pleasant company than I once was, when I was so twisted up with taking myself seriously, and wallowing in martyrdom.

I like this line from the ODAT, page 148:

"I will not allow the good to make me complacent, nor will I allow the not good to drown me in despair."

That seems a pretty good recipe for a balanced, enjoyable companion, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's Your Focal Point?

From Hope for Today, page 145:

"Whatever I concentrate on will become central to my life."

What do I want for a focal point in my day? Someone else's character defects?

Written out like that, it sounds so baldly ghastly, yet that is precisely how I've spent many, many days of my life. Preoccupied with my own obsessing: all else discarded, forgotten, or temporarily set aside. I could be indoors or out, it matters not, all that loomed in my view was this focal point of the alcoholic. And their shortcomings.

I didn't spend entire days, weeks, thinking about their positive character traits, although I was capable of recognising those, when not in complete nutcase mode.

For me, obsessing "follows as the night the day," from my inability to stand my ground. (I know I'm most likely boring you all senseless with this particular topic, as I seem to be writing about it a lot lately, but this is what's on my mind.)

Last night, I followed a line of reasoning from the end back to the beginning, and guess where it started? Same old place. Me with my mouth shut. Too tired to speak. Feeling that it was pointless.

I've created a lot of unhappiness for myself over the years by deciding ahead of time that it was pointless to speak up: nothing would change: I'd said it all before, yada yada yada.

I like something I've heard at meetings: "If I don't respect my boundaries, how can I expect the alcoholic to respect them?"

I'd like to add this:

 If I don't respect my own boundaries, I'm going to find myself doing a lot of obsessing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Finding a Balance.

From Hope for Today, page 144:

"Speaking too little can be as self-defeating as speaking too much."

I can work my program to the best of my ability, but if I am not able to be honest about my feelings during times of contflict and stress, change is unlikely.. I must be willing to speak up, and then suffer the consequences of having spoken - the other person's anger or frustration.

I had an entire day of consequences today, and all I can say about it is - I'm glad that today is over now.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


When I had lunch with my sponsor this week, she jokingly asked if I was planning to speed up my timeframe when it came to making new friends here?

I've been a person who is slow to trust, very cautious and careful, and as such, I've been lonely when I haven't needed to be. I've been isolated, when there was an abundance of love and support out there, just waiting for me to access it.

My sponsor was proud of me when I told her that no, I'd already begun to make friends. I've chanced rejection, and reached out to ask people if they'd like to spend some time with me, and so far, if anyone has said no, it was a scheduling matter, not a rejection of me as a person.

I can still be surprised at the degree to which my attitude colors my perceptions - when I'm in a postive mood, I can see that I've been lucky in the wonderful folks I've met here, in program, and out. I feel both blessed, and grateful. When I'm feeling down, or stressed, or in HALT, all I can see is that which I don't have here - the security of years spent in a home group: long-term friendships.

I was asked recently, by a person new to program, why is there such an emphasis put upon reading the literature between meetings? My reply was, we forget. Human beings have an incredible ability to forget even the things we want to remember. Reading Al-Anon literature on a daily basis, even with the ODAT, which I have been reading for years now, there will be points that leap out at me, which I recall reading dozens of times, but have promptly gone on to forget.

Daily reading of Al-Anon literature, impresses upon my mind that which is beneficial to my spirit.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Old Habits And Their Peculiar Habit Of Rising Again.

My default mode is to assume the worst - of situations, of people, of machinery, of my Higher Power. It has taken much hard work to achieve a state of mind somewhat opposed to this, but let me be in HALT, or stressed out, and I will click over into that mode without realising.

There, I take everything personally - I could give the mentally ill a run for their money, with my paranoia regarding what this or that "means."  I can spend countless hours engaged in imaginary arguments, and attribute the worst of all possible motives to the most innocent of people. My thinking should be accompanied by spooky music, of the type one hears in old movies, when a dramatic plot twist is on the way.

That's why I'm grateful for the phone lists in Al-Anon, and the members who will take the time out of their day, to have a mini-meeting with those of us who are in need at the time. I never ever say no to a call of this kind - I remember all the times when I was dialing, in desperation, frustration, anger and pain, and within a short time, I'd be back on track, feeling calmed and safe.

I called someone today, and we probably only spoke for not quite ten minutes, but she said the one thing that was essential for me to hear: emphasised that taking it personally is a choice I needn't make. Before the call, I felt unsettled and irritated. After the call, I felt reminded.

MrSponsorPants wrote today about ego. If my ego had been given the reins, I wouldn't have felt able to make that call. And when I stop to consider, a lot of what brings on the state of mind required to take the alcoholic's words and deeds personally, is ego strutting and stomping about.

It's not about me, it just is. It isn't raining to piss me off, it's just raining. The alcoholic isn't behaving in this fashion in order to drive me insane, they are just being themselves, in the grip of their illness.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Our culture teaches us to be in a constant state of comparing. We compare careers, houses, families, vacations, vehicles...the list is endless. There is always another person who has more than we do, and when we feel deprived or envious, we live a life of dissatisfaction.

I'm not someone who cares much for "stuff." If I didn't have this stuff, I'd have other stuff, and I don't care much, as long as it serves the purpose for which it was designed. Cars, furniture, housing - I like my creature comforts, and I appreciate the stuff I have, but I am well aware of its relative lack of importance in my life.

Where I've driven myself to insanity, is in comparing myself to other people, and coming up short. I wasn't attractive enough, intelligent enough...I could feel inadequate in many directions, given the chance.

From Courage to Change, page 140.

"If I compare, I lose. Maybe I'll come out feeling better than somebody this time, but next time, I'm bound to feel worse. The best way to stop feeling that I'm not good enough, is to stop comparing altogether."

Comparing is a learned habit, and I can unlearn it. When I catch myself starting to compare, I can stop, take a step back, and consider what is happening in my life - am I feeling anxious about something? Am I worried? Frightened? I don't compare when I'm calm and relaxed, only when I'm in the grip of one of the "negative" emotions. I need to search out the reasons behind my comparing,  deal with them, and satisfy my emotional needs. Then I will regain the serenity which allows me to observe and enjoy, with no comparing, just gratitude.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I miss my sponsor. I'm going to drive over to have lunch with her in a couple of days, and I'm really looking forward to it. I miss that feeling of being known for all my good points and bad, and loved anyway.

It's hard being new, feeling my way through all the new relationships. I've met some amazingly wonderful people here, and for that I'm grateful, but nothing can compare with the comfort of being known, of not having to explain. I'm feeling lonely today.

I know this will pass, and I'll regain the feeling of comfort inside my own skin, but today I feel mournful, and a bit lost. I've learned in Al-Anon that this happens now and then; I don't have to panic because I'm not bursting with delight for the day. I've learned to allow myself my sad feelings, not to try to shove them down out of sight, or deny their existence. I can feel these feelings, and survive, it doesn't mean that anything dreadful is going to happen.
It is what it is. So it goes. Tomorrow is another day.

Rewriting History.

From Courage to Change, page 139:

"Life doesn't always go smoothly or peacefully, even though I might wish it would. In the past, when something bothered me, I'd say nothing, rather than face an argument. It seemed better for me to be upset than to risk upsetting someone else. The results were usually disastrous. I would become irritable and unreasonable as I let resentment fester."

I've been realising over the last year or so, just how much enabling I've been doing with an alcoholic, in precisely the way described above. When I've mentioned something I don't like, which this person has said or done, and they have rewritten history and completely denied it, I've usually become so frustrated and annoyed that I've just let it drop. This has taught the person that rewriting history and denial works as a defense mechanism.

Lately,  I've been calmly refusing to be derailed by irritation, and continuing to make my feelings politely known - I've stopped allowing the rewriting of history to be an acceptable way of dealing with conflict. If I have to use what I call "broken record" (distilling what I have to say down to one sentence, then calmly and courteously restating  my sentence until it is heard and acknowledged - this can often take up to 4-5-6 repititions, before the other person understands that I am not following them down the side roads they're beckoning for me to take) then that's what I do.

It's my responsibility to ensure that I'm treated with respect. This may mean that I must be willing to recognise, name and question that which is offered to me, with outright refusal also being an option.

There are days when I just don't want to do this - I want the other person to do it for me, without being asked, and with perfect compliance to my wishes. I may be tired, vulnerable, ill, or bored to death with having to struggle when I'm not in the mood for it.
That's fine, that's my human frailties coming to the fore. However, if I am not willing to stand up for myself, how can I ask for respect from another? One line from an Al-Anon reading which has always stayed with me, is:

"If I don't want to be a doormat, I have to get up off the floor."

Oh, right. (Me, you mean? As in, God helps those who help themselves?) I've spent years  trying to make the floor more comfortable to lie on - getting up  was not in my worldview.

If I want change, I must be willing to suffer the inherent discomfort, while the change is being manifested. I work to be grateful for whatever I can, right now - I can always find something to be grateful for - that's a blessing, and a reminder.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Thank heavens for this program, it keeps me sane when I'd otherwise be climbing the walls. And not just sane, but calmly sane. I know what to do, and most times, I remember to do it. For that, I am truly, deeply grateful.

I'm grateful for the new Step Study group just formed - I look forward to those meetings, for the extra intensity they bring to my recovery, and for the depth of intimacy the members are willing to share.

I'm trying to pay more attention to what happens in other areas of my life, when I'm in "disengaged mode" -  the result of  detaching from the alcoholic. I noticed today, that the world in general felt less safe, I felt less confident, and my outlook with people was less lighthearted than it is when I'm not actively detaching. I was more "on guard."  Inability to trust freely has been ongoing for me, but not trusting means I live apart from those with whom I share this journey, and thereby rob myself of love, comfort and support freely offered.

I noticed today that my first impulse was to adopt a social posture in which I greet people warmly, but don't stop to talk. (An isolation technique) I'll smile, make a friendly comment, and keep moving. This last is necessary to stop anyone from reading my body language and asking inconvenient questions such as: "Are you tired today?" In fact, I was tired today; I felt exhausted. I fell into bed after supper, and slept for about 2 hours. (Another isolation technique.)

Being aware of these habits can help me to work against them. Today I invited a couple of friends to come for tea, and to talk gardening. I don't think I'd have done so, had I not written out my thoughts on the blog yesterday - writing can be of enormous help to me, in recognising habits of thought, and patterns of behavior.

Forcing myself to engage, by putting myself in the position of having friends over to tea, was me pushing myself out of an old comfort zone. I really enjoyed myself, because I enjoy these people - we make each other laugh, and conversation ranges over a wide and interesting variety of topics.

Today, I acted as if I wanted to socialise, and reaped the benefits. That time with friends got me back into balance, helped to remind me that trust is a good thing, regardless of what the alcoholic is doing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I had a frustrating day today. It was fine as long as I was in my own company, it was when I was around the alcoholic that my day began to go downhill. I had to work hard at letting go, and keeping my mouth firmly closed, no matter how many statements or behaviors meant to provoke, were displayed.

Some days, I can love the person, but I sure don't like them much. Some days, detaching is an act of will, and I must choose it repeatedly. I want to protest, to defend, to explain, to ask the other person not to treat me this way, but experience has taught me, that when the alcoholic is in the kind of mood they were today, any of those choices will only extend my discomfort, by giving them the chance to play head games. The only sane option is to tolerate it while I must, and as soon as I can, excuse myself.

I hate head games. A couple of hours of this sort of thing, and I can feel myself withdrawing away behind my mental barricades,  pulling up the drawbridge, flooding the moat, and sealing up the castle for a lenthy siege. It resets my trust meter back to zero, every damn time.

I've explained until I'm blue in the face that this choice of theirs cannot, for me, be shrugged off so lightly by the next day. When I detach to that degree, I am affected. Even with all that I have learned in Al-Anon, I haven't yet figured out how to detach to the degree necessary to tolerate the behavior, without also detaching emotionally from the person themselves.

When I'm withdrawn emotionally like that, weeks can go by with me feeling a sort of distant disinvolvement; I may appear to be sitting in the same room, making noises of acknowledgement as the alcoholic speaks, but my real self is far, far away. I disengage from them completely. It becomes a surface thing. Tomorrow, they'll be back in a good mood, and want me to be there with them. But I'll be miles away, watching though binoculars.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Privacy, Or Secrecy, And Why Does It Matter?

Those of us who have been in 12-Step for many years have seen a lot of people come for a while, and then fade away - they just can't make it past their personal sticking point.

Mine was the point at which I had to put down the victim mode, and pick up that suit of personal responsibility, which appeared to weigh 16,000 pounds and be made of pure lead.

A crusty old-timer in AA once said at a meeting, that what he considered his privacy was actually his secrecy, and keeping it almost killed him. I asked how could one tell the difference? He replied that if my ego started shrieking at the idea of sharing whatever it was, that was a good indicator it was secrecy. If I could think about it calmly and clearly, it was most likely a privacy issue.

Which sounds good, unless you happen to be a person like me, who can rationalise almost anything, given a half-hour alone, and whose worst deceptions of self have presented as an excellent idea at the time.

This is where a sponsor comes in handy, readers! One can pick the type that has an instant readout (raised eyebrow, disbelieving expression) or the type that waits until one has finished speaking to respond with many ego-soothing euphemistic embellishments of the central idea of: "Are you bonkers?". I had the former for my first sponsor, and the latter for my second.

I am grateful for both, and looking for a new sponsor in this new place we are living. I'm not rushing into my choice, but neither am I allowing myself to follow a vague plan of "Eventually, I'll get a sponsor..." because my ego is a slippery dog, and if not kept firmly in check, can wreak havoc in my life, in her charges for freedom.

I need a sponsor to help me hold the leash.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Sense Of Humour Is A Good Prerequisite For Matrimony.

I don't usually do this, add clips to my blog, but I felt that this one was just too good not to share.

My Waffle Wife.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Which Direction Am I Headed?

Bullies are exhausting, not only for the stress they create and the chaos that ensues, but also for the fact that one has to be continually defending one's boundaries, in order not to have them knocked asunder, and then trampled underfoot.

I realised today, that if when talking to someone, I'm immediately feeling that I must explain and apologise, and my heart begins to pound, I'm being bullied. It was so obvious - I saw it as it was happening, and this allowed me to take a step back, detach, and decide that I was not going to accept being treated in that way by this person.  I was, (thankyou Dog Whisperer,) "calm-assertive."

The result was an instant retreat from the unacceptable behavior, with a flurry of explanations. I let it go, and put the information away for future pondering. It's interesting how one sees an entirely different side of some people when they are angry.

It's more interesting, how stating what I considered a fairly minor boundary could bring on the reaction that it did. At one time, this person was a fairly close friend; time and distance have made our encounters fewer. This allows me to have a level of detachment not possible when we were closer.

One thing getting older has done for me, is solidify just how unwilling I am to continue being treated unkindly by anyone, whether it's to maintain a friendship, or because I'm not sure how to speak up.

Tolerating unacceptable behavior is teaching the other that I can be misused - only I can put those boundaries in place, and then be willing to push back against them, when they are tested. When I distill it all down to "Is this kindness?" I achieve clarity.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Relationship Confusion.

Syd wrote an excellent two-part post about relationships in the last couple of days.

One of my major confusions in friendships, is deciding how to speak up when I don't like something a friend has said or done. Over my lifetime, I've lost a few friendships, when I've finally reached a limit and said "I didn't like when you..." I think that contributes to my hesitation in setting or maintaining boundaries; I'm afraid that even my small, tempered boundary setting will be taken with such offense that I'll lose the friendship.

What do I do when a friend continues to do, that which I've asked them to not do? Well, how important is it? There will be minor irritations which allow me to practise being more tolerant and accepting, and larger trespasses which feel like disregard or disrespect.

How do I distinguish between the two? There will be days when the former feel like the latter, because I'm hungry, angry, lonely, tired. I've learned to give myself time to reason this out, but with a limit. I like to wait until I'm in an excellent mood, and then consider the problem, because that's when I'm at my most tolerant.
I reason it out with my sponsor, because she has the ability to  pick out the one vital element in the relationship, and ask me to discuss that aspect, and how or why it works in the way it does, and whether it is respectful or dismissive.

My first sponsor asked me a question about my friendships that opened up an entirely new line of thinking: "How do you usually feel, after an encounter with a friend?"

It may sound silly now, but up until she asked me that, it hadn't ever occurred to me that if I felt unhappy, frustrated, irritated, annoyed or negated, dismissed, any of those feelings, perhaps the friendship wasn't a good fit for me. I had grown to adulthood with those feelings being the major part of the relationships described to me as "loving," so why would I think differently?

I've used that question ever since, and it has made it possible for me to work my way through the murk and fog of my own denial, to realise that when I feel those things after being with someone, I'm doing both of us a disservice. I don't want any more passive aggressive friendships, in which I'm often feeling as though I'm in the wrong, for a reason unexpressed.

I don't have to keep contact going, because of time spent together in the past, that't not a good enough reason. I have friends from whom, after a few hours in their company, I take my leave with  a full heart. We delight each other. That's what I'm aiming towards, more of those - I deserve it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Internal and External Worlds.

I was thinking today, that the most serene people I've met, are those whose external self reflects their internal self, accurately and honestly.

I've been in the position many times, of presenting a countenance of calm indifference, while inwardly seething. This is not detachment.

Saying nothing, while inside my head I'm reciting a litany of grievances and resentments against someone, is a good recipe for later unhappiness, either because they've taken me at my word when my word was anything but truthful, or because of frustration at my inability to speak up for myself.

I cannot blame the alcoholic for my own shortcomings in life - those are mine and mine alone, Casting about for a place to plunk down the burden of my feelings when my arms get tired, results in them being precariously balanced upon cliff edges of misunderstanding,

A fellow program member stated that she wished her alcoholic would "grow up" soon. I jokingly suggested that if she would only stop yanking and pulling at him, he might get the chance to move along on his own. She responded with a laugh, "But what if he goes in the wrong direction?"

Learning to let go is not easy for some of us, but it is possible.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Don't Take It Personally.

I had an interesting encounter today. I was listening to someone describing to a third person, "How to get from A to B." They were, in effect, suggesting starting from scratch, and constructing a brand new road. When they finished speaking, I asked (with sincere curiosity, I wasn't being sarcastic,) why they didn't use the well-maintained road already available to them?  I was expecting to hear that the present road was unsuitable for this or that reason. Instead, they stiffened, glared at me, and then walked away without another word. Both the third person and I, were so surprised at the response, that we could only look at each other, in silent surprise.

Before Al-Anon, that person walking away in high dudgeon was me. I was so easily offended, I think I must have been a human minefield for those around me. Who knew what would set me off? I was offended by any suggestion that my idea wasn't the best idea, that there was another way apart from mine to do things, that I wasn't always acting from the best of all possible motives, that I was being less than honest. (I lied continually)

I was offended at the slightest hint that someone was irritated, or annoyed, or bored, by my nervous chatter, or control freak tendencies. Any feeling that the person in my company didn't view me the way I thought they should, and my offense meter went through the roof. I could not accept being challenged in any way, without taking it as a personal attack.

I think it's one of those ironies of life, that now that I've reached a place where I have sufficent self-respect and detachment to be able to accept that other people will disagree with me, and even dislike me, I'm a much more likable person, and consequently get along with others very well in most cases.

Now that I'm not desperate for them to like me, I'm much more likeable.

Somewhere along the way on my journey of recovery, I learned that if I want to receive it, I must be willing to give it. If I want to be interesting, I must be genuinely interested. If I want to receive kindness and respect, I must give of those freely.

Most times now, I can let go of someone else's upset, and allow them the space and time to work it through, without feeling that I need to chase after them, explaining, justifying, excusing. The next time I meet this individual, I will show them the same respect and kindness that I did before they decided I had offended them. I do that for my own self-respect, and to open the door to renewed connection, because it's ok - I truly didn't mind. It's not my problem, but I can help with the solution.


Yesterday we went to a friend's wedding, and it was a beautiful day on all fronts - a deeply touching ceremony, glorious weather, and magnificent company.

I love the hopefulness and committment of weddings.

It was one of those days that's  bursting at the seams with joyfulness and humour.

We had a great table - more than our share of quick-witted individuals, whose company is like being at a improv comedy show - you sit back and laugh until your stomach hurts, while they bounce zingers off each other so quickly, it's hard to keep up.
All sober, all done in a spirit of great affection for each other.

We've met some amazing, wonderfully spiritual people since we moved here; we feel connected and at home. It's really a great feeling.

Some days, the gratitude is so powerful, it's impossible to articulate - this was one of them. I know you know what I mean, even if I can't explain it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gratitude, and Perspective.

This morning, I was thinking that my life,  my friendships, all the blessings I have been given, not one of them would be possible today, had I not first been directed to Al-Anon by my family doctor.

I owe that man a debt of gratitude I can never repay. I tried to tell him that, once, and he shrugged it off with some remark about just doing his job. I believe he went above and beyond the call of duty -  he kept on making that same suggestion time and again, until I had reached a place of such desperation, that I was actually able to hear him.

He cared enough about me as his patient, to keep on trying to make a dent in my self-absorption; he didn't become irritated with my inability to register that helpful suggestion the first 50 times.

I wonder if my doctor saw me the way I see newcomers to our program. 20 years in 12 Step, or one day, we're all fellow travellers on this earth. Let me see those who are in pain, and reaching out for a hand, any hand, to hold, so that their awful isolation can be breached for even a moment; they can be reminded that there is another way, that there is hope.

When I was new to Al-Anon, I could never have imagined the life I live today. The people around those tables in my early days, gave me a chance to rest for a while - rest in the comfort of a smiling face, and a friendly greeting. They gave me all the time I needed to begin to grasp the program and try to work it. They gave me encouragement and love in abundance - with never a word of criticism or impatience for my stumbling efforts.

God grant me the perspective to remember how painful it was at the beginning, so that I may offer to a newcomer that same loving, restful safety I received.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What Do Experts Know, Anyway?

I've had another one of those come-uppances that seem so frequent for we stubborn-mule-type persons. When I took up watercolor, I bought the cheapest paints and brushes available. My spouse suggested I get a better quality, but did I listen? I did not. I struggled and fought with those materials until today, when I went to the store, and bought 3 good brushes and some decent tubes of watercolor paint.

(Just like a car on the flatlands, you can see this coming a mile away, right?) What a difference! All those how-to books were right when they said paint and brush quality matters, and contribute to the ease of creation. I was telling this to my ever-patient spouse, who to their credit, merely murmured, "Fancy that!"

One aspect of watercolor that is most attractive, is the transparency of the pigments - cheap paints contain so much filler that this transparency is almost lost. I'm doing a painting for a friend, of yellow flowers, and the cheap paint had a chalky sort of consistency to the yellow - this better quality brand is beautifully transparent, and glows. The paper lights up with it.

As soon as I'd squeezed out some blobs of paint and began to work on my painting, I was thrilled to see the change; even when thinned considerably with water, these paints have a lovely intensity.

Must be my week for humbling lessons. I'll think I've progressed in Al-Anon, until I find I'm having this particular lesson again - the one about respecting expertise, and accepting useful information when it's offered freely to me. (Wasn't I just saying that I'm more teachable than I was pre-Al-Anon?)

From painting to program, when my mind is closed because I've decided ahead of time that I know more than the person willing to share their knowledge, I'm turning my face away from a gift. I pray to be more receptive: to these gifts, and the generosity of spirit, of those who offer them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

As We Understand Him.

The God of my understanding has a sharply ironic sense of humour, as evidenced by my last few days, and many other instances.

My spouse and I were talking last night, about my decision to stop blogging, and the two days that followed. They grinned at me, and said, "Sometimes our decisions are overruled."

I loved that, it was such a perfect description of exactly how I've felt. I decided that I didn't have the time, or anything more worthwhile to say, so I was going to stop blogging. My decision was overruled, and the message was made crystal clear. I have a program friend who calls those messages "memos from God."

They start out politely and courteously, but get firmer and more forceful the longer we try to ignore them. She tells a story in which she made a decision, and then stuck to it grimly, while everyone from her sister to her pastor tried to suggest that perhaps God had other ideas for her in this case? She says that she'd decided to ignore those God-memos, and they went from: "My child, that's not such a great idea, I think it might be better were you to ___." to:  "DON'T PUSH ME, SUSAN!"

I can relate to that furious determination to get her own way, for me, it was part and parcel of being "right." I wanted to be right in everything, and I couldn't change my mind or back down, or concede, because I felt as though doing any of those would be  proof of the validity of the deep dark feelings of wrongness that I carried inside myself.

I couldn't bear to be overruled. I took it personally, and fumed and stewed and seethed. My first sponsor suggested that I try thanking my Higher Power when things didn't go my way.
I mumbled something noncommittal, and drove home thinking that she had finally crossed the line, she'd gone completely barking mad.

I've changed so much in Al-Anon. Now I may make the decision, but I don't have to have dire consequences threatened, in order to be willing to reconsider. Nowadays my Higher Power can play silly games with me to get the point across. I'm teachable.
I'm able to be wrong, and cheerfully admit it. There's no shame attached anymore.

I've still got a co-dependent's ability to rationalise, but now I can hear myself starting to do this. I recognise the opening bars. I can choose to listen to a different piece of music.
I can be grateful for all of you reading this, who respond to my blitherings with such warmth and encouragement.
I can change my mind. I can take a hint from God.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is This A Hint, God?

Seemed like as soon as I made the decision to stop writing this blog, I immediately began to have an other-worldly sort of experience:  everywhere I turned, I was presented with another example of 12-Step blogs being a helpful resource.

(I kid you not, if I was reading a book and came across a description of my last couple of days, I'd roll my eyes and grumble about how unlikely it all was.)

My spouse came home from a meeting last night, energised, and talked about carrying the message: what a precious gift program is, and how we are fortunate as to be able to share it. He mentioned various ways of doing this, saying a newcomer had spoken about how grateful he was for recovery blogs, in the wee small hours of the night, when he's anxious, can't sleep, but isn't desperate enough to wake another member up when they have to work the next day. He said it was a way to feel connected to the program in a way that reading a book couldn't give him, in those hours.

That's just one example, there were so many I've lost count, talk about having the point rammed home - my Higher Power is well aware of what a stubborn creature I can be, so I guess figured I needed a forceful delivery.

A newcomer from my home group called to ask about something, and mentioned that she had been doing a lot of reading on recovery - conference approved literature, but also some 12-Step blogs. (I told you at the beginning of this that it was unbelievable.)

I sometimes listen to AA and Al-Anon speakers online when doing my yoga exercises, but haven't done it in a while. Tonight, I put one on, and what did this gentleman keep emphasising?

Carrying the message when we don't have the time or the energy.
Getting up off the real or metaphorical couch, and going to a meeting when we don't want to, because we might be the conduit that God needs to reach a struggling newcomer, or a long-time member who is stuck.

He spoke movingly about being of service when it's not comfortable or easy - doing it anyway. Doing it when we have a dozen good reasons as to why we could be excused this time - we're so busy, we're so tired....

I started to laugh, I couldn't help it. I felt like God was whacking me upside the head with His message, and was going to continue to do so, until I changed my mind. My reason for stopping was two-fold: a shortage of time, and sometimes finding myself sitting staring at the screen, trying to think of a topic.

Apparently, that's not sufficient reason.

My spouse came home this evening from their meeting, and was laughing as they came through the door, saying to me, "Guess what one of the topics was tonight?"

I looked up, and waited to hear. They said delightedly, "Being of service!"

I was sure they were making it up, but apparently not. I know this is probably partly the wierd thing that makes a certain phrase or car or color invisible to us until one event, and thereafter we see that same car or phrase everywhere, but still...

What do you think? How would you take this, if it were to happen to you? Chance co-incidence, or Higher Power?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The End. Or Not.

I've decided to stop blogging. And then I change my mind. I find myself with less and less to say, so that my posts are getting further apart. I've enjoyed it while I've done it, but I'm wondering if now it's time to move on.
I'll still be reading recovery blogs, I just don't know if I'll be writing one.Thankyou to all my readers and commenters, and good recovery to you all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Nature of Acceptance.

When I set a limit of "first I need to understand, then I will accept"
I am playing fast and loose with my recovery. Acceptance doesn't work that way for me; I don't get the choice of accepting only after certain conditions are met.

True acceptance has to take place when I'm standing knee deep in whatever situation is trying my patience, testing my tolerance, and pushing my buttons.

I'm learning that my gratitude feeds my acceptance, and my acceptance refills my gratitude. It's a circle of letting go: stepping back far enough to let my Higher Power work without my interference: without me shoving my nose in, trying to give directions, or make demands that it be done to my satisfaction.

When I do my bit, and let go of the outcome, I feel peaceful and serene. I renew my faith by agreeing that I don't necessarily have the only recipe. There are a thousand ways to cook chicken, and have a delicious result - that's how my life works, also. My Higher Power has recipes I wouldn't invent in a million years.