Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A New Point Of View.

When we can laugh at our character defects, rather than find them embarassing or shameful, we have reached a jumping-off place in our spiritual growth. If we have the faith and trust to take the leap, we will  be amazed to discover how joyful everyday life can be.

I asked my HP to remove the awful judgemental attitude I had towards other people, but first I'd had to ask to have that same judgement about myself removed. When I stopped condemning myself for my human frailties, I was moving towards a state of mind that was incomprehensible to me before then. I did not know, believe, or even dimly understand that I would feel my HP's love for me, and through that, find my own love for myself. I did as I was instructed by Al-Anon and my sponsor, and reaped rewards far beyond what I was able to imagine at the time.

We don't have to believe it will work, in order for it to work, we have only to try it and see. I don't need to understand gravity in order for my physical self to be governed by it. In the same way, I don't need to understand 12-Step principles in order for my life to be immeasurably enriched by them, if only I practise them. The understanding, the belief, that comes later. You'll never know if you don't try.
Give it a whirl - time is passing either way.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stages of Spiritual Growth

I've heard it said that spiritual growth in 12-Step consists of three phases - the first phase is "Help me!" We come into Al-Anon self-absorbed and seeking relief from our pain. As the introduction read out at meetings states: "Living with alcoholism is too much for most of us..."

We've often reached a stage of helpless anger and frustration, with no idea of what we need, but knowing that we need help. We become willing to surrender to the understanding that we can't make the alcoholic stop drinking..

The second stage of spiritual growth in 12-Step is "Grant me..." we reach this stage when we have some idea of our character defects, how they make our lives more difficult and hinder our search for serenity. At this stage, we've given up the blaming, ratiionalising, justifying, and see ourselves without harshness or judgement, simply with clarity - "this is who I am." We ask to be granted relief from our character defects that we might find peace, yes, but also that we might be a better person - we begin to look outward as well as inward, to understand what it might be like for others to deal with us.

The third stage of spiritual growth in 12-Step is "Use me."  We reach a place of quiet knowing that just as our Higher Power uses people in our life to teach and sustain us, so can we too be used. Before a meeting with a sponsee, I say a little prayer: "Please make me worthy of this person's trust."
I'm asking my HP to help me to set aside my own character defects so that the message can get through to them as they need it. I know that I have some useful techniques to offer, but the wisdom is 12-Step wisdom, not mine. I didn't originate these teachings, I received them from my sponsor and other people in program, and I'm grateful to have the chance to pass them on, but they don't make me wise. I'm not an expert in Al-Anon, I'm the same flawed human I ever have been, but I have heard some neat stuff, and if you have the time to listen, I'm excited to tell you about it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My little dog is sleeping on my lap as I write this - after seven and a half weeks of cage rest, she is finally recovered, and can be freed. We're both thrilled by this, she because she is a very personable dog, and me because I adore her. As always seems to be the way of such things, when I heard that three weeks hadn't been long enough, and she'd need another 3-4, it sounded like forever, but has passed quickly. I'm delighted to see her happy and silly again - yesterday we had a nice lounge in the sun on the back deck.

Today, I'm thinking about a quote from Eckhart Tolle:

"Enormous freedom comes into your life when you stop demanding or wanting life to be other than it is."

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Imagination LImits Me.

I was out for a dogwalk with a good friend yesterday, and when a vehicle stopped to allow us to cross, we realised it contained someone we both knew - I knew the passenger, and she knew the driver. It was quite funny in its way, and what happened later on in my evening was even funnier, because it once again reminded me of the ways in which my own imagination limits me. I have learned this life lesson repeatedly during my time in Al-Anon, and I still seem able to forget it. What I find even more interesting is the fact that this limitation extends in only one direction - the positive. I can easily imagine, were I to allow it, various and myriad terrible outcomes, and I've spent many miserable hours of my life doing this - it's called worrying.

It's the possible 'amazing and wonderful' outcomes which don't spring to my mind with equal ease. Seems that every time I believe that I've imagined every way in which a situation could resolve itself positively, and then get tired of this mental chatter and decide to turn it over to my Higher Power, to let it go, it will be resolved in a manner which astounds and delights me, because it will happen in a way that wouldn't have occurred to me had I thought about it for a dozen years.

An elderly member in my first meeting group once made us all howl with laughter by saying with a hint of irritation in her voice that she thought her Higher Power was a bit of a showoff, really. I might be too, if I could imagine the same elegantly perfect solutions

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Helping or Enabling?

How do I know the difference between helping my alcoholic, and enabling them?

One dictionary defines enabling as: "to make possible or easy." When I lived with active alcoholism in my first marriage, and hadn't yet heard of Al-Anon, I enabled the alcoholic. I made runs to the liquor store so he wouldn't drive while intoxicated. I made excuses for him. I "explained" him to family and friends. I did it because I was fearful of the consequences, and also because I wanted to be a good wife.

In this marriage, because the alcoholic had been sober for many years before we met, and I was fairly new to Al-Anon, I imagined him cured, and let go of all the teachings of the program about enabling - I was under the mistaken impression that enabling was part of active drinking, and not alcoholism as a whole. I can still have some difficulty distinguishing between helping and enabling, especially when I'm asked to "do a favour" and either I forget to say "I'll get back to you on that" or :"Let me think about it" because the person asking the favour is pressuring me for an immediate answer, or because I'm in HALT - hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  When I'm vulnerable, I'm less likely to resist manipulation, because I don't have the energy to stand my ground against repeated verbal pressure. That's when I need to remove myself  - by leaving the room, and sometimes the house, even if all I do is wander outside to look at my garden.

For me, enabling has almost always been driven by fear - fear of financial insecurity, fear of what others may think, fear of the future. At some point in my recovery, I found that I can ask to have my fear removed, and it will be, as long as I am willing to also let go of the coping mechanisms which have arisen around that fear, and learn a new way to be. If I try to ask to have the fear removed without any willingness on my part to let go of old patterns of behavior, and old coping mechanisms, I will be asking again 5 minutes later, because I'm not doing my part.

 Fear used to make me angry, and in my anger I would lash out at the alcoholic, saying hurtful things, and blaming him for all the problems in our life.I wanted relief from the awful fear I felt, but I wasn't changing the way I behaved as I asked to have my fear taken. I didn't understand at that point, that to be at peace, I need to be loving. I can't get relief from my own fear while being mean to someone else.

As is the way with so many of these realisations I've been granted, on this side of it, I'm amazed that I didn't get it earlier. In effect, I was saying to my HP  "Please make me feel different, (no fear) while I do exactly what I've always done in this situation. (lash out in blame.) I would do it, make an amend, then do it again the next time. I didn't get the correlation between my unhappy feeling about behaving that way, and my fear about whatever it was. I always had a good reason for my behavior, and felt justified because if it weren't for the alcoholic, I wouldn't be feeling so awful. On this side of the realisation, I have discovered that the fear was a smaller part of my feeling that I had thought - distress about being a person who acted that way when she was afraid was the major part of it.

When I let go of who I have been, and try my best to be more loving, I feel better about myself. When I feel better about myself, fear doesn't have the same ability to grab me by the throat the way it once did. When I am more loving to others, I am more loving to myself. I pray to be always more loving.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Practise of Gratitude.

Yesterday my husband woke me from a late afternoon nap, to show me a tiny baby fawn curled up at the side of our front steps:

I wondered if his mother had put him into the trees and bushes, and he decided to move himself, or if he was placed there by his mother. He was very small, and didn't move when my husband walked way out onto the lawn to take his picture, but did open one eye, you can see the flash reflected. (An indication of his tiny size can be gained from the very small dog dish behind him.)

Today my friend was released from hospital, I went to pick him up and take him home. (This is the second of my friends to be in hospital during the last few weeks, the first one died on May 17th.) I've done all that I could do to help, and have offered to be phoned at any hour of the day or night, and also to help with weeding; as the weeds have been rampaging in his garden whilst he's been away.
I do what I can, and I let the rest go. I've discovered that it's very difficult not to hover in certain circumstances, but that if I wish to allow a friend their dignity, I must be willing to move back a step. In my arrogance, I may think that I know what is best for someone, but do I truly? Isn't this best left to their Higher Power?

To love, I must respect. To respect, I must be willing to allow for that which I might not choose for myself.
I must allow those I love to make their own choices. I can't live their lives for them, and I have no right to try to hammer the round peg of my solutions into the square hole of their problems. Let go, and let God.

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Than We Can Handle

This week has pushed me to my emotional limits. I've discovered that I'm stronger than I thought, have more courage than I'd have given myself credit for, and there are areas of my life philosophy which need rethinking.

I'm feeling very tired now, and until the situation resolves itself, I'm going to continue to be tired. I believe that friendship carries certain obligations, and I take them seriously - sometimes the greatest gift that we can give a friend is just to sit with them as they experience the pain and tragedies of life. We can't ease them, we can't fix them, all we can do is give the comfort of our time, freely shared.

I'm really having to work my program so as not to be taken over by the fear that when my friend is released from hospital in a few days, he will do himself further harm. That's beyond my control. I cannot make him want to live after his life partner has died.

I keep catching myself worrying about this. I stop, take a moment's pause, then ask my Higher Power to remove my fear,  grant me peace and serenity.