Monday, May 28, 2012

Divine Intervention

This weekend I had an experience which was profoundly disturbing, yet deeply indicative of the reality that when I seek to "improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power"  amazing things will take place. I apologise for sounding so mystical, but I can't write about it here, because I don't want to invade the privacy of the friend involved - suffice it to say that listening to my Higher Power brings about hard, painful work and incredibly meaningful change.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Willing To Receive Help.

Before I can receive help, be it through Al-Anon, my Higher Power or any other source, I must first be willing to receive help, and that requires that I believe both that I'm in need of help - I can't do this all on my own - and that these sources of help have something to offer me.

I need to be teachable. Do I understand that my way is only one way of doing things? Do I accept that my thinking can be distorted? This has to have been one of the most intensely difficult lessons I had to accept when new to program, this concept that what went on inside my own head could be less than sane.  But, when through the working of my first Fourth Step, said thinking was dragged out into the light of day, laid flat and closely examined, there was no other conclusion - in some areas, my thinking was not that of a sane and rational person. I was obsessive, obsessively controlling, fearful, and able to deny to a quite astounding degree.

I've had another realisation lately that I've had some denial operating, and it's strange when the denial falls away to look at this same thinking again, and wonder - how did I get there from here? Just how did I make that elephant disappear? Did I sidle past it, telling myself that it was a piece of furniture? Did I pretend it was really only a small pet? Did I just never go into that room anymore? How did I deny that?

I'm learning, again, that I'm very skilled at making excuses for the alcoholics that I love, be they sisters or husband. Making excuses means that I am not looking at life the way it is, but the way I would prefer it to be. It means that I'm pretending - this isn't really happening, something else is. How many times did my first sponsor ask, "What would you think if someone else said to you, what you just said to me?" and how many times did I have no other honest reply but, "I'd think they were making excuses." Making excuses for someone's unacceptable behavior is a choice, and for me, is usually based somehow in fear - fear of rejection, fear of love being withheld, fear of loss.

This afternoon I spent with someone who knew and loved my friend the same way I did, and remembering him we laughed and wept, and laughed again. My friend was a man of staunch loyalties and a great sense of the inherent silliness of human beings. He could make us laugh until we clutched ourselves and gasped for breath, and yet we always knew that if we ever needed him, he would walk through fire to help, because he was a man who loved people.

Al-Anon has helped me to move from being terrified of people to loving and enjoying them - how can I repay a gift of that magnitude? I can give back what was so generously and freely given to me. I have a sponsee coming in a little while to work the Steps, and I will think of my beautful loving friend when I go to open the door and invite her into my house.

Thanks so much to all of you who have written - I appreciate each comment, each email, and I've reread them a few times - thank you for the love you've shared with me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More Will Be Revealed.

It's a cliche to say that people reveal the depths of their character during painful times, or times of crisis. My spouse has revealed himself to me with the death of my friend, and I'm having some difficulty accepting it. I couldn't understand why this was, until this morning, when I realised that this was the smashing of my last illusion about him. That illusion has carried me through difficult learning experiences, and been of comfort to me when I was struggling, but it was an illusion, nothing more.

He has always been precisely who he is, it is I who have made him into someone else in my thinking.

A friend jokes that she hates realisations because they always bring change, and she can't go back to her previous state of "not-knowing." I've known and felt that there was a change coming for me, and I've been spending more of my time in working Step Eleven:

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out."

I've been seeking that inward silent peace, and achieving it for longer periods, but the unexpected result inherent in that peace, is a clearer understanding. This may come to me as a slow dawning, or I may be granted an understanding which feels like a sharp slap to the face -  it stings. This one is a stinger, I'm afraid, and I can't say I like it much, but I don't have to, I have only to accept. To rub the side of my face, and while trying to soothe the sting, thank my Higher Power for having granted it to me. Mostly, I've only been able to be grateful for the painful slapping realisations in retrospect, but I'm making the effort to get there much sooner, and be grateful while the pain is still present.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Death Is A Gift And A Thief.

My friend died today.

His cancer progressed so swiftly, it devoured him long before the time the doctors had estimated - they said that with an operation, and chemotherapy, he could live at least 3 months -after the operation, he didn't live 3 weeks.

Death is a gift for the release from pain, and the torment of a body fighting itself.

Death is a thief for stealing my friend from those who loved him so.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Assumptions Keep Our Viewpoint Narrow.

A sponsee called last night to ask how I was doing, and we talked for a while. I had reached and passed the level of fatigue at which my brain goes on "standby" (if asked a direct question, I can reply, but I'm unable to generate new topics, or a new element of the existing one) so the conversation was sort of limping along. She was very surprised by my answer to one of her questions, and said so; she'd "assumed it was the opposite." I was too tired to take it up with her, but it crossed my mind this morning as a good topic for our next meeting, because these sorts of assumptions keep our viewpoint narrowned down so that we only see what we expect to see. We have our assumptions, and we can operate from that starting point for a great deal of life, never realising that there is so much more than is visible through our narrowed viewpoint.

If I limit my life to "this is only possible with that prerequisite" I am closing off great sweeps of possibility. There's so much more to life than what I am capable of imagining.

A long-timer in Al-Anon jokes that this is one of the reasons that meetings are set up so that we don't interrupt or crosstalk, because we need to be forced to sit quietly and listen to a viewpoint differing from ours. I think for some of us, myself included, I could have gone on sitting in meetings and listening, without having much of a change in my thinking - I needed to work the Steps with a sponsor who gave me very little wiggle-room. My assumptions were all about keeping me safe in the world, so the roots ran deep in my character, and needed concerted, sustained time and effort to dig up, haul out into the light of day, examine closely, and eventually, realise that I could let them go. I needed that shared time, talking and laughter to be able to discard my outmoded notions.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Keeping Busy Through Difficult Times.

During this period of my grieving for my friend who is terminally ill, I've been receiving easily twice as many calls for help from sponsees, and other people in program wanting some of my time to "reason things out with someone else."  Seems as though I barely finish with one before another is calling or emailing. Ordinarily, I might feel overwhelmed, but not now - now I'm intensely grateful to be taken out of myself and my feelings, to focus upon helping another person. Perhaps my HP is giving me this comfort of feeling helpful or useful to balance the helpless inadequacy I feel in the face of my friend's suffering.

Every time a sponsee arrives at my door for their weekly time with me, I feel blessed to be given this comfort of their company, getting into an intense discussion about them, and what's going on in their life, sharing moments of abandoned laughter about how nutty we co-dependents can be.

When your sponsor tells you that he or she gets more out of your relationship than you can imagine, believe them, believe when they say that your work together is a gift for them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Strive To Be Always More Loving.

One aspect of sponsorship which I found rather disconcerting when I began to sponsor people in Al-Anon, was that I always seemed to be asked by people who had the same character defects I do (his hasn't changed) so I would receive a perfect reflection back to me, of my own rationalisations, justifications, twisted reasonings, and motives. It's what makes me of any help to my sponsees in some areas, the fact that I know pretty much exactly how their thinking on something goes, and as a result am able to discuss it with shared understanding.

What I hadn't expected is that though this process, because I have no judgement of my sponsees for what they think, say and do, I have become considerably more accepting of myself for what I think, say and do. I don't leap to berate myself quite so quickly, or if that habitual response does arise, I can respond to it the way I do with the wonderful people with whom I work in program - by suggesting that blame of self be laid aside - reach for self-acceptance first, then let's just root around in here, and see what we find.

I strive to be always more loving to those around me, the ones I know and the ones I don't. I don't always manage this, not by a long shot, but when I do, the feeling of peace and serenity is as beautiful as sunshine.

My little dog has had 3 improved days in a row, and her perky goofy personality is rising to the fore again. I like that silliness in dogs, a friend says it's God's way of making sure we laugh every day, those of us fortunate enough to share our lives with dogbrain.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fighting Fear.

Today my friend (who has just undergone major surgery to remove cancer tumours) was finally well enough that I could go to the hospital to visit him. When I walked into the hospital room, I had a second's pause of my mind utterly refusing to believe that this ghostly pale, thin. weak man was my wonderful, loving friend. Only a month ago, he was still a vibrant energetic man. Now he's lying in a hospital bed too weak to speak much above a whisper, with IV's in each arm, and various drainage tubes, catheters, pain medication feed lines all running into and from his arms. I didn't break stride, and I asked God to please grant me the strength not to let the shock show in my face, or body language. I bent to hug him as gently as possible, and kissed him, saying how lovely it was to see him, and agreeing that the view from his window wasn't too bad, since he could see mostly trees.

He patted the side of his bed for me to sit, so I did, and was joking with him, teasing him lovingly, talking about gardening and my little dog, while the shock of seeing him looking so dreadfully thin and ill resonated through me like a cold ache. I stayed for a half-hour or so until he said he was beginning to tire, then hugged and kissed him again, went out into the hallway, took the elevator back to the ground floor, and walked slowly back out to my car.

 I'm still feeling that shock of my first sight of him, and the prognosis, told to me by his partner, and by my friend himself - he has been given 3 months to live because the cancer has metastasised to his liver in "hundreds of places" according to the oncologist. When I was sitting there with him today, he looked at me, and said softly, "I might not make it."  I gave him the little silver ankh I'd brought for him, the Egyptian symbol of everlasting life, and reminded him that doctors are just trained people with opinions, and that he has a ferociously strong will and life force.

I'm writing this while wearing a leather vest he gave me not long ago, it somehow brings him near to me, and reminds me to keep on praying for him. He's been a source of love and kindness for many of us in his 61 years, one of those special people with a loving generosity of spirit.

I wish that I could find a way through tears to break up the stone of aching grief in my chest, but I can't weep. I'm feeling bottled up, trying to find my way to acceptance through praying for my friend, and for my little dog. I love them both so, and I can do nothing in either case, it's beyond my control, I can only live with however it will be. I am grateful for the live that each of them has given me, and for the love I've felt for them. Love is a precious gift, and I've been blessed in my life.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I want to thank all who have sent good wishes and hopes for my little dog. She's resting in her crate right now, so she won't hurt herself being "Defender of the Household" when the telephone repairperson arrives to fix our phone.

She seems to be feeling better - this morning I had to stop her from trying to stand on her hind legs to welcome me when I woke up and went out to check on her in her pen in the livingroom. Her ears were up, and her tail was wagging madly. She's still cautious in most of her movements, because of the pain, but I see definite signs of improvement, and it lifts my heart. She's such a loving and sweet little creature - a friend says that "dogs are the embodiment of a HP - always loving, always forgiving, and just wanting to be near us to be content."

From today's reading in Courage to Change:

"Al-Anon gave me Twelve Steps with which to rediscover myself. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself and sharing it with a mutual friend (Steps Four and Five) were especially helpful. It was the first time in a long time I had paid so much attention to myself! I also learned about myself by listening in meetings - when I identified with others, I gained insight into my own thoughts and feelings."

So many of us come into program with every bit of our attention focused like a laser upon someone else's life. We can recite in detail what the alcoholic thinks, says and does. When we're asked to turn our attention back to our own lives,  there might be not much self left upon which to focus, because we've been stifling our own natures to obsess over theirs. I was very angry and opinionated when I came into Al-Anon, but in many cases, my opinions weren't really mine at all - it isn't as though I'd sat down and given whatever topic much thought or care, I simply picked up and wore whatever coat of thought came to hand and I could fit into - "I think this about that."

In Al-Anon I learned that my ideas, thoughts, opinions matter, but that I haven't the right to try to ram them down anyone's throat, no matter how hard I tried to justify that desire because of the alcoholic's drinking. The alcoholic is also a child of a Higher Power, and deserves my respect. A relationship may be severely damaged due to years of drinking, but I  believe that where there's life, there's hope, and it's never too late to find ourselves, and in that journey to ourselves. gain understanding and compassion for others

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Already, And Faith.

My little dog being hurt has placed me into a situation where I must rely on faith that she will improve. Her breeder and the vet tell me that they've both seen dachshunds recover and go on to lead a normal life after back injury. I'm told that time, steroids, pain meds and crate rest will heal her, because we are very fortunate, and she has no neurologic deficits,  her only symptom is pain and that this fact suggests the possibilty of an excellent outcome. I'm willing and committed to do whatever I can to ease her suffering and help restore her to health, and I'm receiving a lesson in faith while I do so.

Faith requires that I let go of what I want, and accept what is now. I have much for which to feel grateful - that we can afford the vet, and the medications to ease my little dog's pain. I'm grateful for enough time in Al-Anon that I no longer spend the time railing at my Higher Power for what is happening in my life, which used to consume me in fury and frustration before 12-Step.

When I awoke in the middle of the night last night, and immediately my thoughts leapt to my little dog and her suffering, I had a choice in that moment as to whether I would take the path of worrying and stress and anxious horrified imaginings, or would I ask my HP for help to let that go?

I've come to believe that for myself, anxiety is lack of faith, because if I truly trust my HP, what do I have to be anxious about? Do I trust that I will be looked after, or don't I? If I do, then I let it go, and ask to have my character defects removed so that I may enjoy my life. Well, do I believe that my HP cares for me, but not for my little dog? She too is one of his creatures. No, I believe that she is loved as I am loved. Then I do what I can to look after her, and let the rest go. Don't obsess over whether she seems better than yesterday, or worse, accept.  Do the next thing there is to do. Be loving. Live in the moment, because the now is all there is. I have to live in the day, and in the moment, this and this and this are happening.

Don't let my thoughts become my master. Shake them off and seek serenity. That's what I have to do.