Friday, April 26, 2013

Open AA Meetings

At the recommendation of my sponsor, today I called the local AA office to ask for an open AA meeting, to which I can go,  for help with my relationships with my sisters, both of whom are still caught in active drinking, and with whom I am in weekly contact via email. I think I need an open AA meeting to give me more compassion for their personality quirks which are exacerbated by their alcohol abuse.

I spoke to a very nice lady volunteering at the office, and am meeting her this evening at 7:45. She offered to sit with me, so I wouldn't be walking in alone. AA people can be so incredibly kind.

I've realised, through this Fourth Step I've been doing with my sponsor that I still have some judgement about the alcoholism of my sisters, and I don't want to be thinking that way. I need to work on my acceptance of this, and let them live their lives, and be able to just love them. It will be interesting to see my attitude change, and I welcome the prospect of being able to completely let go of my ideas in this area.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

AA Rally -con't.

This morning I awoke early, which allowed me to get up and go hear the two spiritual speakers at the rally, first the Al-Anon speaker, and then the last AA speaker. The Al-Anon speaker was very difficult to hear, and much of what she was saying was unintelligible. I found myself daydreaming throughout her talk, unable to concentrate, because I couldn't distinguish what she was saying. The interesting thing about this, to me, was that even with this being the case, the energy in the room was undiminished. I've noticed this at meetings I've attended. Sometimes, a person will speak and their voice is so soft that they sound more like the whisper of a breeze rustling through leaves, than a person speaking. But somehow, the attention of everyone in the room upon that person, the active listening and the respect we give to each person talking, is no less for the words being unheard. The feeling carries us.

The second speaker was wonderful, he'd been in AA for many years, and was humble, honest, and funny about his own character defects and attitudes. I love it when a recovering member, whether in AA or Al-Anon, truly begins to grasp the insanity of their own thinking, and see the humour in what would once have caused them stress and anger.

Overall, I found the rally a great experience, and I'm very grateful to the friend who gave me a ticket as a gift. I'd have gone anyway, but this made it more fun, because when she asked today how I was enjoying it, and then said, "You don't need to reply to that, I can see the answer in your face" and we grinned happily at each other, the sense of shared understanding was a lovely feeling.

At the last AA meeting, when the speaker reached the point in the introductory reading from How It Works: "Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go ... Many of us exclaimed..." an audience member leapt to his feet and yelled "What an order!" He was no sooner back in his seat before another rose to shout "I can't go through with it!"
This was obviously pre-arranged, and made most of the audience laugh, but a middle-aged couple at our table was grumbling about it. They were saying to each other how much they'd hated it, yada yada yada. I wanted to, but didn't, turn to say, "If you just decided not to let it annoy you, you wouldn't be sitting there in an AA meeting, feeling annoyed instead of grateful or at peace."

I had decided ahead of time that I was going to have a marvellous time at the rally, and I did just that. But how many times in my life have I fixated on the one thing which hasn't gone the way I thought it should, or expected, and that has been what I've obsessed about, while allowing the chance of enjoying the present moment to pass me by unnoticed? Many times. Most of the time, when I was very new to program.

I am deeply grateful that I don't focus on what annoys me, and the corollory of that, which is that fewer and fewer things annoy or irritate me. They just aren't worth my time and effort. I don't need to feel superior or turn up my nose at the things that others find fun. I can allow them their joy, and feel my own. Life is good, thanks to this wonderful program.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

AA Rally

Last night was the start of this weekend's local AA rally. A program friend gave me a ticket as a gift, and I went with my beloved sponsor, and a woman I sponsor, whose courage for the program invigorates and inspires me. Rallies have an energy which is uplifting and powerful. One of my favourite moments at an AA rally is the countdown to sobriety. That's happening tonight, and the three of us are going back for another evening of laughter and wisdom, and then again Sunday morning, to hear the Spiritual speakers.

I'm thinking I might drop in this afternoon for the "Old-Timers sharing - 30 plus years of sobriety" I like to hear people talk about how sobriety has changed for them over the years. It seems that once the first overwhelming compulsion to drink has been removed, and a few years of sobriety has been gained, that to keep a solid program going, many people turn more to the spiritual side of the program.

Listening to the AA speaker last night, when he quoted "God could and would, if he were sought" I realised just how much my seeking has changed over the time I've been in Al-Anon. My seeking at the start, 28 years ago, consisted of my asking from my Higher Power, that I be granted my own will.
It took me years to be able, or willing, to grasp that what I was asking was doomed to failure, and that if I kept on along that path, I was never going to be able to trust my Higher Power, because I was going to continually be operating under the belief that I would never be granted that for which I was asking.

When my seeking changed from wanting my own will to asking for help, guidance and comfort, my program took a huge leap forward, because the results were swift, breath-taking, and hugely powerful in changing my thinking. I, like other old-timers in program that I've heard, can see that my progress in understanding and acceptance, and my level of serenity, grew deeper in the last ten years than in the almost 20 years prior to it. I don't know if it's because my stubbornness kept me plodding along a  path that led nowhere but back to myself, or if my fear was the culprit (a favourite AA speaker talks often about the fact that it isn't that we're afraid that true honest prayer for God's help won't work, we fear that it will work, and then where will we be, with our ideas about life?) -whatever the reason, when I began to ask for help instead of to be granted my will, everything changed, not the least of which was me.

I began to let go of things I'd had a steely grip upon for years, because I just couldn't trust enough to let them go. I accepted, and I turned over the clutter which had been clogging my thinking before then. That's when I knew I was going to have to leave my marriage, because I didn't want to live with my husband'd anger for one more day. When my friend took ill with cancer, and died within 3 months of his diagnosis, it was a turning point for me, I looked around at my life, and thought, "That could be me, I don't want my last 3 months of life to be lived in this environment of anger, with a man who is so self-absorbed he cannot really see me." With my husband's illness, his self-absorption is understandable, I'm grateful on a daily basis that I'm here now, and not still there.

If I'm going to make it to the library, and the old-timer's sharing, I need to get ready now. Take care, and may your day be blessed with beauty and serenity.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why Is This Happening?

In the last month or so, I've been waking up two to three hours before my usual time. In the past, I'd have fixated upon this change in sleeping habits, and worried it like a dog with a stuffed toy, chewing it over, trying to find a reason, wanting to know why.

I've reached a place in my life where I can shrug and accept some changes, see them as preparation for I know not what, and take advantage of what they offer to me. I was thinking about this last night, as I was doing my usual tidying up before going to bed. (One aspect of living alone that I really like is getting up to a clean kitchen.) I wondered if I wasn't sleeping later in the last year before I left my marriage because of depression,  but it doesn't matter. I don't have that burning need to know why, before I can accept. I can get up earlier, enjoy having more time in my morning, and I'm grateful for that.

I like this from Courage to Change, page 97:

"I have to accept that I, too, display symptoms similar to those of the alcoholic, among them obsession, anxiety, anger, denial, and feelings of guilt. These reactions to alcoholism affect my relationships and the quality of my life, but as I learn to recognise them and to accept that I have been affected by a disease. I begin to heal. In time, I discover feelings of self-worth, love, and spiritual connectedness that help me to counteract the old responses. Mo matter how severely I have been affected, Al-Anon can help restore me to sanity. "

That's the great thing about this program; it matters not how crazy I have been. If I truly work to make changes in my attitude, my life will change.

Before I learned to accept many aspects of life as they are, waking up earlier than usual by a few hours would have given me an opportunity to drive myself up a wall, trying to figure out why this was happening. I'd have wanted a reason, and a good reason at that. I joked with my sponsor last week that my Higher Power was waking me up earlier because there's some plan for me. She laughed, because she too is a night owl, and is always giving herself heck for sleeping too late. Even at the age of 83, she still has the idea that she "should" be getting up earlier.

I'm going to spend the afternoon with her today, that's always a gift and a pleasure. I appreciate her willingness to work with me, and her humourous take on life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seeking To Improve Conscious Contact with My Higher Power.

Two weeks ago, upon the urging of a program friend, I went to the non-denominational church she attends, and was delighted to discover that the female pastor sounds just like 12-Step in her talks. She's also wonderfully funny, and today I was in fits of laughter, while also having tears in my eyes as she spoke.

She talked about how if we will take the first step onto a new journey, if we will show our willingness with just that one step, our Higher Power will carry us forward a great distance. Sometimes a door opens, we step through it, then immediately change our mind and turn, wanting to go back through the door, but it's now closed, and we have no choice but to stay stuck on the sill, or step forward into the unknown.

I was thinking of the decision I made to leave my marriage after 17 years, and how afraid I was to strike out on my own. I moved back here, to the city I have loved since first coming here at the age of 21 - 34 years ago. I had been living elsewhere for 16 years, yet I wasn't back a day before I felt that I had come home. This is my home, this small city on the ocean. I'm living within a ten-minute walk to the seawall, and when I go down to the sea, I feel enormous gratitude that I made that decision to come home.

In not quite 9 months I have made a life for myself down here which is so much more than I ever imagined possible in a short time. I have friends who light up at the sight of me, I have a suuny bright apartment with a glorious view of the city's largest park, a mere 3 blocks away, room to garden on the rooftop patio, meetings where I am appreciated and loved, and best of all, peace of mind.

During the last years of my marriage, I didn't realise how living with an angry alcoholic was destroying my ability to feel good about myself. It wasn't until I took the first step the pastor spoke of this morning, and was carried to this place, this moment, that I understand more fully just what I was giving up each day that I stayed with someone who was so detrimental to my spiritual well-being.

I met a program friend at church this morning, and we were joking after the service, that sometimes it doesn't feel like being carried along, so much as it feels like being snatched up by a vacuum cleaner. But if we can trust the process, and trust our Higher Power, we will arrive in a peaceful place again.

Yesterday, on my way back from the library, I stopped into the Cathedral one block up the street from my place, and was thrilled to discover that the organist was practising - oh, what a glorious sound! I love big church organs, and this one is enormous, and I sat for 15 or so minutes in a church empty of anyone but me and two other people transfixed by music. What a gift.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A silly joke.

I heard this today on an AA speaker tape, and thought I'd share it:

A doctor discovered how to transplant the human brain successfully, and one of his patients, an elderly man, was asking about a possible transplant. So the doctor showed him the brain of a lawyer, and said, "That's $20,000, and this brain from a doctor is $50,000 - oh, and I've got one over here from an alcoholic, and that one is $100,000."

The old man was confused, and asked the doctor, "The lawyer's brain is $20,000, and the doctor's brain is $50,000, but you're charging $100,000 for an alcoholic's brain?"

The doctor replied, "Well, of course, the one from the alcoholic has never been used!"

Thursday, April 11, 2013


How many of us can honestly say that we respond to our daily lives with a mature attitude? I know I struggle sometimes, because the sulky teenager rises within me, and I want to have a hissy fit, it would relieve the stress and my feelings. But I've learned from long experience that hissy fits make everyone feel worse, the one having it, and those around her.

Today my brother sent me an email I found disturbing. He's a professor at a major university, and we write back and forth with great regularity, sometimes two or three times a day. He'd asked about my meeting at the treatment centre, and Al-Anon in general, so I sent him an email containing a light description of what happens at meetings, and in return received a reply insulting the program.

I haven't shared much with him about program, for fear of just exactly the kind of sneering response I got from him today. It's sad that I can't share such a meaningful part of my life with him, but I don't want to give him opportunities to mock Al-Anon.

It's not easy to respond to his email with maturity. I'm feeling that I should have known better than to trust him, I knew he would probably react the way he did, but I think I hoped he would not, that he would be respectful, because he knows I've been in Al-Anon for 28 years, and that I consider it to have changed my life in a myriad of positive ways.

I took a chance, and it didn't turn out well. The mature way to deal with this is just to accept it, and let it go. Learn from it, and keep my program to myself, don't give him a chance to make fun of what I hold dear. Don't, as a friend would say, offer my throat for the tiger to bite, and then complain when he sinks his teeth in. Live and learn.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carrying the Message.

I've been asked to join with a couple of other long-time members in giving a couple of talks about Al-Anon to members of the general public who have asked for information. This should be interesting. I'm always willing to carry the message, and it's encouraging when the public wants to know more about how we can help. the families and friends of alcoholics.

I still recall quite well how desperate I was when I came into Al-Anon at the recommendation of my family doctor, who'd been saying to me, "I think you'd benefit from Al-Anon" for months before I actually heard him. When I finally did hear him over the noise in my head, which consisted of complaint, self-pity, depression, blaming and obsession, I asked, "What's Al-Anon?"

I listened to an Al-Anon speaker today, and she said half-jokingly that she'd read statistics stating that for every alcoholic, there were ten people affected by their drinking, but she considered the more likely number to be up around 45.

I think of my first husband - granted, he had a large birth family, but still, there were more than ten people negatively affected by his alcoholism. In a small way, each of my friends was negatively affected, as they listened to my litany of complaints.

I try to carry the message in this blog. I don't write here as often as I did when I began it, but I still feel a responsibility to share here, the same way I do in meetings, albeit at far greater length.

I received a phone call from my lawyer a few minutes ago, she said that my husband has closed down his business and will be applying for disability, so there's no point in going to court and asking for spousal support. I felt sad for him, I know how much of his self-esteem has always come from work. I hope that he has good support from his AA friends, and his sponsor, and that he will find other ways to feel good about himself.

I'm grateful that Al-Anon has changed my thinking to such a great extent that what I feel is only compassion, and gratitude for my freedom today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


So much of my time before Al-Anon was spent enumerating all that I considered wrong about the world, and the people in it. I was forever judging, considering, comparing, analysing, and deciding. I had expectations of those close to me, and were they not to perform up to the level I determined correct, I would be silently fuming and frothing away to myself, in a stew of self-righteous indignation. I believed that I knew precisely how everyone else should be behaving, and was more than willing to share that belief with anyone who would sit still long enough to listen.

Letting go of my idea that I had the right to decide how anyone else should behave or act, has allowed me to be appreciative. I can simply enjoy other people. Inside a meeting, or out, I can find something in every person, which gives me pleasure - this one has great empathy, that one is wonderfully funny about his own character defects, a third has a kindness which envelops and soothes the wounded hearrt of newcomers.

I've been thinking about this after working through the questions in Al-Anon's Pathways to Recovery
on Step Three with a sponsee yesterday, and one question has stayed with me:

"What can I do to try and see others as God sees them?"

I didn't actively start out doing this, or even working towards it, this ability to appreciate has grown quietly with my recovery in program. Somewhere along the line, I realised that other people didn't annoy me the way they once had.  I'd sit and listen while someone spoke of how annoying or irritating they found a third person, and I'd think to myself, "Hmm, he/she doesn't have that effect on me, isn't that interesting. I quite like that person who they find so maddening."

I realised that it had finally sunk in to my stubborn brain that other people weren't driving me nuts, I drove myself nuts wanting other people to be someone other than who they were. I lost my serenity each time I became annoyed when someone did or said something I thought they shouldn't have.

Father Tom W., a Jesuit priest active in AA and Al-Anon, speaks of the paradox of acceptance, and how it isn't until we accept "to our bones" our own reality, it isn't until we admit our powerlessness, that real change begins.

With this acceptance has come the ability to politely defuse rudeness or unkindness, without heat or anger on my part. I don't have to feel indignant about it, I can simply feel that I don't wish to stand quietly by and be an audience to rudeness. If, as often happens, the person who is being snarky or sarcastic or sharp is asked nicely to please moderate their tone, and they choose to do so, that's the end of it. I don't hold it against them for ever after, I don't judge them for it. I let it go. We all have our bad days.

I extend an offer to start again, whether with a small silly joke, or a comment showing that I appreciate something else they said or did, and almost always, the other person is perfectly willing to start the encounter over with kindness on both sides. It amazes me how well this works.