Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Analysing Isn't Helpful in Relationships.

From One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, page 58:

"Trying to analyse why another person persists in destructive behavior cannot help me out of my own difficulties. I can overcome them only by turning my thoughts inward, to face my own mistakes and to learn how to improve myself. The alcoholic is not my problem. My problem is me."

This morning I'm listening to Father Tom W, a Jesuit priest who has been a member of Al-Anon for many years. He jokes that it's his gift to spot in other people the desire to control, although he seems to have great difficulty recognising his own insanity. He speaks about the attitude so many of us have when we're new to program -  "I'm not the one with the problem, why should I have to be the one to go to these meetings?"

We may not have the addiction to alcohol but we definitely have an addiction - ours is to the alcoholic. They spend hours in a day thinking about the alcohol, and how they are going to buy it, hide it, use it, but we spend the same insane number of hours thinking about tthe alcoholic - trying to control, or change, bound and determined to fix this person.

So many of us come into Al-Anon with the feeling that if we just try harder, we can solve the problem. But the way we "try harder" is by redoubling our efforts to make another person behave or believe differently We spend even more of our time focusing upon the alcoholic, analysing and judging, trying to decode them, so that we may gain better control over them or the situation.

Some of us will be faced with an unpleasant reality, and rather than deal with it, will turn, walk straight across the road, and into the building marked "Denial." We can live inside that structure for years, working, sleeping, socialising there, refusing to face the fears which thrreaten to overwhelm us when we contemplate stepping out through the front door and coming smack up against the truth of our situation.

That's how it was for me, the last few years of my marriage. It wasn't until I fully accepted that my problem was me, that I was able to decide that I'd lived for long enough in denial about the true nature of the man to whom I was married. I didn't have to hate him, or even feel anger about it anymore, I was able to leave when I did because I'd worked through the problem with the guidance of my Higher Power, and could say, "I need honesty in my relationships, without it, I am living in a fog."

That honesty is a requirement for me. I've tried the other way, making the best of what I'd learned about the other person, trying to pretend that the difficulties were surmountable, and for another woman, they may very well be. For me, no. But until I could let go of blaming him, analysing him, focusing upon him, and could instead wish him the best in his life, I was unable to get free.

Anger, rage, resentment and blame keep me trapped. Understanding, acceptance, and love, set me free. I choose freedom. I choose acceptance and love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Revealing Ourselves.

When new to Al-Anon, I was astounded by the way people would speak up in a meeting and reveal their emotional lives, and their thinking. I could not begin to imagine myself doing that - tell all these relative strangers about my crazed obsessive thinking? I was unable to believe that I could do that, and still be accepted and unconditionally loved. I was sure that their opinion of me would plummet instantly were they given any access whatsoever to the madhouse between my ears.

The first 50 times I mustered the nerve to speak about anything in a meeting, my voice wavered and wobbled, my hands shook, and I drove home afterwards berating myself for having been so honest about my insanity.

I had no ability to grasp that anything I might say would be of any use to anyone, because back then, I had no understanding that it isn't what I am thinking of saying on the subject that matters, but the fact that I can be a conduit for a message from someone's Higher Power. This often happens when I start out talking about one thing, and find myself finishing up speaking about something else entirely, which was nowhere in my head when I began. 

Those seem to be the times that someone will come to me after the meeting and thank me for what I said, and I barely recall what it was that I did say, because it wasn't coming from me. I was being used, as my Higher Power has used so many other people in program to teach me what I need to

When I reveal myself in a meeting, I am opening myself to the miracle of Al-Anon, and I am practising humility. One thing I've heard time and again from newcomers to Al-Anon, is that when I admit that I still do whatever it is, still struggle with this or that, and they find out that I've been in Al-Anon for 28 years now, they feel much more comfortable with their own character quirks, and their own struggles.

Revealing myself honestly is what makes this program real to newcomers. This is one of the few places in life where a person can admit to being bonkers, and the roomful of people listening will burst into a warm and delighted laughter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sacrificing Myself For The Alcoholic.

A good friend in program wrote to say that I can have compassion for my husband's serious illness, without having to be a human sacrifice. I hadn't realised until it was put to me in exactly those terms, that this is what I've been feeling, that he is expecting me to sacrifice my hard-won freedom and serenity, in order to go back and look after him.

He has strong support from his AA friends, so he is not alone, they are taking good care of him. I can feel for his strtuggle, but I don't have to give up what I've worked so hard to gain since leaving the marriage, simply because he wants me to do so.

He has the ultimate manipulation tool - he's seriously ill. There's nothing I could do to improve his health, or change his situation, I'd simply be dragged back down into the dark place I was in when I made the decision to leave. Also, I don't trust him, because of all the lying. I have the right to say "No" even in the face of his attempts to manipulate me. I have the right to decide that my life is of value, and doesn't need to be put on hold to nurse a man who seems unable to see me as anything other than a resource for his use.

I deserve happiness. I deserve peace, and to love and be loved. Only I can give myself freedom. That's what I did 7 months ago when I walked away from a 17 year marriage that had become increasingly empty and depressing - I gave myself freedom. Iturned it over to my Higher Power, trusted that I would be cared for, and I have been, in amazing ways.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Life Challenges.

A friend called me Friday night at about 7:30 to tell me that my husband is in the hospital, I drove up immediately to see him. He looked terrifyingly ill. He was white as a ghost, and couldn't talk without gasping for air. He's considered to be in end-stage renal failure, and will need dialysis, whether the home variety, or whether he'll need to visit the dialysis unit every second day, depends upon the biopsy he will be receiving this weekend. His blood pressure is sky-high, so he's on medication for that, also a symptom of renal failure. Apparently one can get to such a dangerous stage, with little or no symptoms. The last time I saw him, 3 months ago, he appeared to be in perfect health.

He wanted me to stay, but I said I hadn't brought an overnight bag, and was driving back the same night. I stayed for a few hours, then came home. I said he could call over the next few days to let me know how he's doing. He has a good support system of friends, so although I felt awful guilt for not staying, I knew i wouldn't be leaving him alone. He called yesterday, trying to convince me to go up and stay with him when he's released from hospital, but I said that I wasn't willing to do that. He has a roommate who is a good friend in AA, and his other AA friends are keeping close and helping him in any way possible.
When the guilt rises, it tells me that were I a decent human being, I'd go back and look after him, but I know that I'd end up in the same dreadful state I was in when I left. I feel compassion and empathy for him, but I don't want to get sucked back into that marriage. When I told him that I was not going to go up and stay with him, he said mournfully, "You know me better than anyone." I sighed, and said, "Yes, and I was desperately unhappy during the last few years, and I told you that, and tried to talk to you about it, and you brushed me off, and didn't care."
He changed the subject, and we talked for a few more minutes about nothing much before saying goodbye. He hasn't called me today, perhaps because he's angry with me for not giving in to his demands, and is ignoring me as punishment. That's how it worked in the marriage.
I'm grateful for my sponsor, who keeps reiterating that this is not my fault, I didn't cause him to become ill by leaving the marriage, and that I need to work to keep my thinking clear about what is and is not my responsibility. It's very difficult, and I slip and slide as I try to navigate my way through. I cry, and pray, and talk to my sponsor, and my program friends, I let myself feel the love and support they offer, and I stay true to myself.
I pray that dialysis will work for my husband, and that he will find what he needs to through this, and that his Higher Power will keep him safe.