Saturday, April 28, 2012

Don't Take It Personally.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Not My Fault.

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


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

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Don't Trust You Because...

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Week Of Letting Go.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Choosing Serenity.

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

From Courage to Change, page 107:

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

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

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Common Denominators - Trust Problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Death In The Family

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 6, 2012


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

 Let It Begin With Me.

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

Put simply, tolerance feels better than judgement.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slaves To Our Emotions.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Common Denominators - Self-Absorbed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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