Monday, December 29, 2014

Pointless Rebellion

A reader wrote to ask me about rebellion.

I grew up with an intensely rebellious nature. I was a child, and then an adult, with no respect for authority. I've come to understand that this had its roots, in the sexual and physical abuse I received at the hands of several adults in my early childhood.

 I had enough fear of authority figures, to keep me behaving until adolescence, and then I began to stay out past my curfew, hang out with the wrong crowd, and run away from home for days at a time.

When I look back now, my rebellion was pretty tame, I didn't shoplift or commit other crimes, and the wrong crowd consisted of some people who smoked cigarettes (gasp!) and sometimes pot. That was enough to demonise them in the eyes of my adopted parents, so of course those were the people with whom I wanted to spend my time.

I'm grateful now that I was such a craven coward, because it kept me from doing anything which would have ruined my life through addiction to drugs or alcohol, or a criminal record. I think the police in our tiny town had a pretty good idea of what was going on at home, because they would find me, tell me I had to go home now, and then take me out for a hamburger or an ice cream cone, first.

That early relationship with the police, is probably why I spent 8 years working with the RCMP Victim Services - I've always been comfortable around cops.

I gave myself a great deal of misery with my inward rebellion. I rarely had the courage to express it openly, but before Al-Anon, I was very uncomfortable around authority. I rebelled against the authority figures in my life, because I seethed with anger and hatred towards the people who had abused me, and I had no way to deal with my rage.

 It manifested as pointless rebellion - rebellion for its own sake, not because of a cause, or a deeply held philosophy, or even a belief.  I rebelled because I felt no attachment to any person apart from my adopted brother. Since I felt no attachment, why should I care? was my attitude. As I've said earlier in this, I was afraid to rebel openly, so it was mostly through sullenness that my rebellion was expressed when I reached adulthood. I was a sullen, depressed, angry person before Al-Anon.

One act of pointless rebellion which springs to mind, was the day an employer asked that the women wear dresses or skirts to a work social function. I went to the function wearing dress pants, determined to rebel against what I saw as an unreasonable request. It seems silly to me now, because I often wore dresses to that job, and had many I'd made and enjoyed wearing. I justified my rebellion by telling myself that it was not fair to be asked to wear a dress just because I was female. Now I look back and shake my head at that stubborn creature I once was.

 I would have benefited from Al-Anon, long before I went to my first meeting.

Al-Anon taught me that other people (I do not include abusers in this) deserve respect, in the same way that I deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy. My rebellion faded as I matured in Al-Anon;  I have become much more accepting of reality, and of life itself.

I no longer have my childhood miseries driving an inner rage, because I have accepted that I cannot change the past. It was what it was, and although I was unhappy for most of it, I made it through to adulthood, and I have recovered, through time, and hard work in program. I've changed to such a degree, that when I describe the pre-Al-Anon me as continually angry and seething with resentment, friends in program say that they just cannot imagine me like that.

Another aspect of my life which has been changed and enriched by this wonderful recovery program. I'm grateful.

I have day surgery tomorrow, to get the PICC line removed, and a port installed. I'm feeling happy anticipation, to be relieved of the endless maddening itch caused by the allergy to adhesive bandages, and to know that if all goes well, I'll get out of the hospital within a few hours of entering. I like that idea. I might even make it to the meeting tomorrow night.

Bless you all.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy To Be Alive And Well This Christmas

I got up late this morning and am having tea and breakfast before I shower and go to the Christmas Day meeting here in town. I like to go to these meetings, because I've noticed that they are usually full of newcomers who are suffering high stress at this time of year. I think it's good to have some old-timers there, it balances the meeting a bit more.

As of May this year, I was told by my surgeon that I had six months to a year to live. (This was challenged and disputed by my oncologist, who said I could live for years with cancer in my lymph nodes, with regular chemo)  I wasn't sure if I'd live to see another Christmas. My last CT scan was clear, so it may still be in my lymph nodes, but the rest of my body is cancer free at the moment.

That's pretty much the best Christmas present I can recall receiving.

I'm grateful for time with my beloved Robert, who can make me laugh no matter what the circumstance. I'm grateful to be alive, and feeling well, and also because I'm getting a port installed in my shoulder this coming Tuesday. I've developed a ferocious allergy to the adhesive in the plastic bandages used to cover my PICC line, so it's coming out, and a port is being put in. I can't wait - the port sits just under the skin, so no more bandage changes, no more wrapping myself up like a sandwich before showering, and NO MORE ITCH!

The itch from the allergy has been driving me to distraction. But it will be over soon, and my arm will feel much better.

 I'm grateful for Al-Anon, which is where I learned about the practise of gratitude.

Bless you all, and Happy Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

We Are All Siblings Under The Skin.

Anxiety is one aspect of being co-dependent that I have found to be universal - I hear people share at meetings about anxiety, old and new, and every sponsee I've ever had, has been well aware of the level of anxiety they carry. I used to get regular panic attacks before program.

People-pleasing is another character trait that seems common. I learned in childhood that if I could please someone, I had a much better chance of getting what I thought I wanted or needed.

Denial is rampant among those of us who deal with alcoholism. My denial was so thick at first that I was completely unaware of its existence.

Self-loathing is a phrase I've heard many times in the 30 years I've been in Al-Anon. I know I felt self-loathing because I'd been trained by abuse to think of myself as "less than." I considered myself to be a terrible person, and incompetent because I couldn't make my first husband stop drinking. I believed that had he just loved me "enough" he would have stopped. Al-Anon taught me that this kind of thinking was akin to believing that if he'd just loved me enough, he wouldn't have pneumonia. Alcoholism is an illness.

Judgementalism - I still struggle with being judgemental at times, although nowadays I can hear myself thinking that way, and will respond to my own thought with a correction, or reminder that most of us are doing the best we can at any time, I'm not the thought, activity, clothing, or behavior police; I need to keep my side of the street clean, and not be meddling in the affairs of others; even if that meddling is only inside my own head, it's still a loss of focus.

Fear is another emotion with which so many of us in program have had a long-term connection. I feared my own fear, which led to panic attacks. I feared other people, which led to loneliness. I feared authority, which led to my doing what I didn't want to do, in an effort to ingratiate myself.

Mistrust was my major defense against closeness with others. I can recall going around muttering to myself,  "I hate people!"  From a very young age, other people had caused me a great deal of physical and emotional pain, and I feared getting close to anyone, because I feared yet more hurt.

Al-Anon, and a zealous and impassioned working of the Twelve Steps, is helping me to lead a more peaceful, satisfying and enjoyable life. I can revel in the delights of a friendship, I can feel enormous gratitude for the gift of my partner Robert, I can greet a new day with happiness for the sight of the sun lighting my way. Any winter day with sun, rather than being overcast and cloudy, is a good day in my book.

If we stay in program, and work our program, the Promises will begin to come true, and we will be amazed at how different our lives can look and feel. Bless you.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Progression of Addiction; But First, A Silly Joke.

Robert and I were talking earlier today, about some of the alcoholics in our lives - whether in immediate family, or extended family, we agreed that often, they seem to be living in their own little universe, and that those of us who are not addicted, can have great difficulty understanding the thinking or the choices. He went on to joke that most alcoholics are the centre of their, and our, "soon-it's-worse."

That joke is silly, but it speaks of an unfortunate piece of reality. Alcoholism is a progressive, increasingly destructive disease, which if left untreated, will cause nerve, heart, liver, kidney, and brain damage - the list goes on endlessly. Over the ten years I was married to an active alcoholic, I watched him go from a man who could drink a 12-pack of beer and seem only moderately intoxicated, to a man who was drunk out of his mind on 6 beer, consumed over the same time period.

When I asked my doctor about this, he shook his head, and said that this was one of the signs that the alcoholic had moved into the latter stages of the disease. His body could no longer excrete the alcohol quickly, because his kidneys were no longer functioning at their previous level.

One afternoon, while I was rooting through the junk drawer in the kitchen looking for something, I found an invoice from a ambulance service. When I asked him what had happened, he refused to answer me. I phoned his best friend to ask if he knew - he told me that my first husband had started to vomit blood.

At the hospital, it was determined that he had thinning of the esophageal walls, a result of heavy alcohol consumption, and he was told if he didn't stop drinking immediately, he was courting death, that he could bleed out from one of the swollen veins in his throat before help could arrive.

He continued to drink, and I left the marriage about a year later. Almost three years ago, I was out walking my dogs, and encountered one of his daughters, now an adult with children of her own. She told me that her father was still alive, but in dreadful shape, because he was still drinking.

He was looking bad by the time I left him; I shudder to think what havoc and destruction another 26 years of drinking has wrought upon him. I pray for him, as I pray for my sister - not that they stop drinking, because that's not my job. I pray for their safety, and for my HP to bless them.

I feel enormous gratitude that Robert is not an alcoholic. Also, he has about 6 years of 12-Step experience, from the time when he was trying to quit smoking cigarettes, which he did manage to accomplish. As a result of this, he understands program principles, philosophy, and language, which makes for another area in which we are intimately connected.

I don't live with an alcoholic, both my birth parents are dead: the alcoholism in my family is my two sisters. The middle one is sober now, and the oldest is not.  I have recently ended contact with my oldest sister, because I am no longer willing to subject myself to her verbal and emotional abuse. It was getting worse as her alcoholism progressed.

The last time I spoke with her, was when she called to rant and rave at me, because I'd asked her politely in a recent email to please not criticise our middle sister to me. That brought on a torrent of verbal abuse about how "people like you are so self-centered and selfish," - on and on she went, ad infinitum. I listened in astonishment for a minute or two, astounded that she would make a call and say things like that to me, when she knew I was going into hospital the very next day for the second major cancer operation, not knowing if I'd come through it, and yet she felt quite comfortable with calling to upbraid me, for setting a boundary with her.

That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back - I prayed about it, thought about it, talked to my sponsor, Robert, and a couple of program friends, then decided that I don't need to subject myself to that level of abuse just because we're related. A friend asked would I accept that from a stranger? I said I certainly would not. She smiled and raised one eyebrow, and we laughed together.

I cut contact off by writing another courteous email to say that's what I was doing, and why, then blocked her from my email. I recently changed my phone number because my ex got my old one, and she hadn't been given that yet, so she has no way of contacting me, since she doesn't have my address, either.

I find I can lose sight of what is and isn't appropriate, possibly because I've had so much verbal abuse earlier in my life from various family members, that it can feel almost like a normal family interaction.  Al-Anon is teaching me that I have choices in these matters, and blood may be thicker than water, but it does not justify abuse.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Detaching Without Anger.

Before Al-Anon, the only way I knew how to detach, was with sufficient anger to keep me motivated to withdraw.

With  years of program behind me, I can recognise, accept, let go, and detach, all without any anger at all. Some times, many times, what I'm feeling is wonder, at my own inability to see a situation with clarity, even when I've experienced it's like, many times in my own past.

Denial is like that, though - once I stop denying and begin to accept the reality of a situation, I can  be stymied and baffled by my own ability (and willingness) to ignore red flags, ignore my own body sending up signals which indicate my discomfort, ignore the evidence of my own eyes, because I don't want it to be that way. I want it to be this way, instead. I'd like to rewrite reality, please.

When I heard in Al-Anon that I had a part to play in every situation in which I was personally involved, I fought the idea tooth and nail. I wanted to blame the alcoholic for everything, I didn't want to believe that I had any responsibility, and was completely resistant to the idea that anything I was doing, or had done, had contributed to my misery.

In Al-Anon, I have learned that if I'm there in the room, I have a role, and although it may be a small one, it's got my name on it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Other People's Feelings

I grew up believing that it was my job to make other people happy, however that could be managed, and I tried to do so, even if it meant that the outer me was smiling and pleasant while the true, inner me seethed with resentment, judged, blamed, and felt I was being used.

I've slowly, sometimes at a snail's pace, been able to let go of most of my people-pleasing. A newcomer approached me after a recent meeting, to ask if I'd sponsor her. It wasn't until afterwards that I realised that I'd stopped to consider carefully if I felt physically or emotionally up to the job. I don't want to do her a disservice by not being able to offer her the time she may need, but I also don't want to take on, that which is beyond my capabilities because of my health challenges.

I will be seeing the oncologist tomorrow to find out whether or not they are going to offer me another 12 rounds of chemo. If they offer, I will accept. I've been supremely fortunate in not having had much in the way of side effects, and if it can extend my life, I'd like that. I still have many yards of fabric, with plans for the garments I can make, with all those lovely materials, and patterns.

I also have lots of paintings I'd like to do.

Last week, Robert was talking to a friend who lives with alcoholism, and is miserable, but whom, after having been taken to his first meeting by Robert, didn't choose to continue with Al-Anon. I feel for him, but was astonished to hear that he had dismissed a remark made by Robert about how good it feels to accomplish goals, even the smaller kind, with a contemptuous: "People don't set goals!"

I thought that was sad. I know I get enormous pleasure from achieving my goals, whether they may be to: create a painting: make myself a coat, or other garment:  clean my apartment until it sparkles and gleams. There are many times, and many areas in which I set a goal for myself.

Before Al-Anon, my goals were mostly to change another person in some way - show them the error of their ways, perhaps, or make them feel better.

I believe that we cannot change the feelings of another person. I also believe that we don't have to be slaves to either our own feelings, or the feelings of someone else, even if that someone is a loved one.

We can detach, allow them to have their feelings without blaming, for as long as they need to work it out. While we are waiting for them to come back to a even keel, we can be doing what gives us pleasure and satisfaction.

It used to be for me, that if  a loved one was angry, I was distressed until I could "make" them happy again. I felt it was my fault if they were upset, that I needed to "fix" it, that somehow it was my problem.  I can recall my shock the first time my first sponsor said to me, "It's not your problem, stay out of it."

Stay out of it? But I had so many great ideas about how to fix it!

That makes me laugh now, the arrogance inherent in that thinking, but I was oblivious to it at the time. I merely thought I wanted to be helpful; I was unaware of my controlling.

I'm learning that everyone has the right to their own feelings, and that it is neither my responsibility nor a chore I wish to take on, to make anyone but myself happy

My main goal in life is achieving serenity.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Friendship and Fabric

When I moved to this city at the end of my 17-year marriage, I became friends with a woman who is  a sewing enthusiast. Two days ago we went together to a fabric store she frequents, but with which I was unfamiliar.

What a treat that was - luscious high quality fabric of every type and pattern. Rich solids in deep dark shades, as well as light, crisp colors. Rayon, velvet, wool, cotton, and notions galore. I bought some royal blue melton wool to make myself a new winter coat. My present coat was made about 5 years ago, and is showing its age. I am grateful that I have the skill and ability to make clothes for myself. It permits me to make what I want to wear, instead of being restricted to what is available in stores.

I made a coat last year, but don't like it much, so I'm going to donate it, and make a new one.

I'm grateful that I've learned to let go. I spent many hours tailoring that coat, but the finished product doesn't satisfy me. I don't like the way the fabric handles, and I don't like the feel of it, it's too heavy, and not nearly as warm as it should be, with all the lining and underlining and block fusing I did.

I can easily and happily donate it, to a charity shop here in the city, and walk away hoping that it will prove to be a delight for someone who finds it there. It's okay that I spent time upon it, but it didn't turn out the way I'd wanted. That doesn't matter to me anymore. I see that, accept it, and move on.

I can do this because of Al-Anon. Life doesn't have to go my way in order for me to feel satisfied, happy or content. I have matured in my ability and willingness to go with the current, instead of always trying to fight my way upstream. I can relax and float, admiring the scenery, enjoying the gift of the wonderful loving people my Higher Power has placed in my life.

I'm working on a painting for my brother at the moment, and when I'm in my little workroom slopping paint onto the canvas ( I find my paintings are much better when I work quickly, with not too much time allowed for picky little brushstrokes) I am filled with joy. Just as I was bursting with delight at the fabric store with my friend, or when my sponsor came over for a hug before last night's meeting. What a comforting feeling that was, to get a big warm hug from someone I love, admire, and who will give my tail a yank, when I'm wandering off the path.

I was walking out to my car last night when a newcomer from the meeting approached me to ask if she could have my number for twelve-step calls. I gave it gladly. I'm grateful to have something to share, which may be of some help to a new member of our incredible program.

The sun is glorious today, and I'm feeling good. I see the oncologist on the 8th, to find out if I will be given another 12 rounds of chemo, or if they are taking a "watch, test, and wait" approach. Either way, no matter how this goes, I'll be all right. I know that now. I'm at peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Compassion For Those Who Do Not Understand, and For Ourselves,

Those of us who deal with active addiction have an unfortunate knowledge, not granted to those who live their lives escaping the ravages of alcoholism. I would once have considered them lucky and myself unlucky, but my years in Al-Anon have been such an enormous gift and a blessing, that I now gaze at the past with a completely altered attitude.

People who have never have a loved one struggling with alcoholism, may make off-hand comments meant only as conversation, which when we are newcomers to program, and still suffering terrible torments of mind and spirit, can slice us to our core.

I have raged and agonised over those little throw-away remarks in years past, wondering "How could they could be so light-hearted about it, so unkind, so unthinking!'

It is rarely cruelty truly meant, it is so much more often innocence of the reality with which I deal, when I love an alcoholic.

Those who are only really aware of social drinking, can have little understanding of what I may be enduring. And I didn't help matters by keeping secrets and putting on a façade of happiness and satisfaction while inwardly I felt used-up, bereft, and painfully lonely.

I have learned to have compassion for those who don't know about, deal with, or battle the effects of alcoholism on friends and families of alcoholics. I allow them to say whatever they need to say, and do my best not to take it personally. I try not to substitute their judgement for my own; when they say that "The alcoholic is bound to fail, they always do at first" I have no need to accept that as truth.

I pray to have compassion for myself, so that I also allow myself to feel my own feelings, sit with them for a while, then release them, and let them go.

When I am practising compassion, I feel more loving, more loved, and more at peace.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Accepting Powerlessness.

Some days are easier than others, even in long-time recovery.

Today I've been having a struggle, with the part of me determined to be offended by what someone I love is doing. I've had to ask for help from my Higher Power over and over again today, because I've been obsessing, and when I manage to stop, with the help from my HP, I seem to take a short break, then start right over again. I don't get times like this very often anymore, but I do get them, and they can be relatively lighthearted (a weird way to describe obsession, I know) or they can be supremely difficult to handle.

Why do I want to take personally, that which has nothing, (the rational side of me knows this with a kind of crystal clarity) absolutely nothing to do with me, but is just the way the alcoholic deals with stress? I believe it has to do with ego, and my wishing they would deal with their stress in some other fashion. I want to "help," I want to get in and meddle about and show them a "better" way to deal with it, I want to spout program, I want to control.

Ugh. Even after so much time in program, I can still display control freak tendencies.  If I'm under stress myself, and triggered in a certain way, the record drops onto the turntable, the arm swings over, the needle lowers, and it's the same old song.

The difference is that now I know this fact, and am aware enough of my own internal dialogue, to be able to hear myself singing that old refrain. In the same way that the occasional catchy song can turn into a brain worm, which burrows mercilessly into my head, so that I find myself singing one line from the darn thing repeatedly for two days, until I'm ready to scream with frustration,  obsession about another person's behavior or choices can get me by the throat with an iron grip.

This hasn't happened to quite this degree, since a while before the cancer - with lowered defenses,  more stress, and about ten months of missed meetings, I have backslid some way down the control hill. I need to be more vigilant in my self-assessment, and more questioning of my thinking, I can see that for certain.

I have my Step Group meeting tonight, for which I am deeply grateful - and I spoke to an Al-Anon friend for a while today. My sponsor was working, so I didn't want to be bothering her with my insanity this afternoon. I'm hoping we can spend some time together this weekend, she's such fun, and a voice of reason. I'm so grateful for the program, my friends, my partner, all of my blessings.

Hope you had a day with little or no insanity!

Thoughts On a Sunny Day

As time goes by, and the readership of this blog slowly grows, I am receiving more often, emails asking if the writer can please use my blog for their own agenda. They have a book they've written that they want to publicise, they own a recovery facility they want to advertise, they have a blog which doesn't pertain in any way to Al-Anon; the requests are varied, and interesting.

Interesting because if you look to your right, at the top of the page, is a note with the first part of the Sixth Tradition: "Our Family Groups ought never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any outside enterprise..." beneath a title stating that this blog is advertisement free.

Perhaps people don't bother to read that, or they think they have a cause which would be acceptable to me, or they imagine me to be swayed by promises of monetary compensation. Whatever the thinking, I continue to receive requests from people wanting to use my blog for their own ends.

I find it interesting also, because I was raised by a woman who got her own way with the sheer force of her will - she wanted what she wanted when she wanted it, and it was either going to happen, or those involved would suffer the results. She still behaves this way to my brother, her blood child ( I was adopted at the age of six) calling him at all hours of the day or night, with no understanding that he is employed full-time, and cannot always return her calls within a few minutes.

She will call him at 3am, ranting about someone with whom she is having a feud - lots of those - about something from the news, about her medication. She is a woman who does not hear what she doesn't want to hear, and doesn't see what she doesn't want to see. I feel grateful not to have her in my life anymore, and I feel for my brother, who is enmeshed, and cannot seem to break free, or get her to hear him when he protests.

Not having to deal with her is on my gratitude list.

So is having program friends who support and encourage me.

So is a partner who makes me laugh uncontrollably, and is a man of integrity and kindness.

So is life in general. I'm grateful to be alive and feeling relatively healthy on this gorgeous sunny day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Intermediate CT Scan Results

I had an appointment with an oncologist this afternoon. I had been nervous prior to the CT scan of yesterday, but that was more about the test itself, than fear of the results. I'm  very claustrophobic, so being run through the hole of a large metal donut is not my idea of a relaxing time.

My scan hadn't been "read" yet, but the oncologist went to have a look at it online, and came back saying that she could find no signs of metastasis, that my liver and my lungs are clean, so that's wonderful news. With luck, when it's been properly "read" by whatever experts do that, the rest of the news will be as positive.

I'm still waiting to hear if I will be allowed to take another 12 rounds of chemo after I finish this batch. That's usually only permitted if the patient is tolerating it well, and if the results are noticeable, which so far, mine are.

So I'm feeling fairly positive today, just had a nice walk home from the library, after Robert dropped me off there, and went off to run his errands.

I stopped in at the Cathedral on the way home, and spent a few minutes in silent prayer and meditation, thanking my HP for everything with which I've been blessed. I hope for you all a good weekend, in whatever fashion you define "good.'

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Lamb Has Wolf Whiskers.

Silly title, I know, but it was only recently that I came to the realisation that once again, I have been sucked into the "orbit of self" of a sober alcoholic. I was gobsmacked when I began to see the pattern.

The details are irrelevant, what does matter is that I am still, 2 1/2 years out of my long-time marriage to an alcoholic, susceptible to some of the behaviors.

I have spent many years trying to be a use and a comfort to those in need - on the Crisis Line, in Victim Services, as a sponsor, so it takes me a while to stand back and say, "Wait a minute, I'm not comfortable with this - why is that?"

This time, it took me a couple of days, but when the light finally dawned, it illuminated some of the old, old patterns of behavior I've fallen into, so many times in my life. I can still get sucked in to the "Poor Me, See How I Suffer" dance, and be whirled around the ballroom a couple dozen times before starting to think, "I'm feeling some dizziness and deja vu, what's really going on here, inside my head?"

I can start out wanting to offer encouragement, support and help, do it willingly and gratefully, and it can take me ages before I am able  to see that the supply line is only going in one direction. In good friendships, it goes both ways. In times of trouble, there can be a momentary shift, but it will soon settle back into a mutual give-and-take.

I'm deeply grateful for a sponsor who has the directness of honesty, the love of program, and the willingness to suggest oh-so-gently that I'm, well, barking mad on a particular subject. She's off on holiday right now, and I hope she's having a magnificent time. She made a point of letting me know that I could still reach her by email, and we've exchanged a few. Whenever I think of her, I smile, because she's such an enormous gift in my life. It's powerful to know that this person I love will take me to task if she thinks I need it, but do it in such a gentle way that I can hear what she is saying, and feel nothing but gratitude.

Yesterday I had a visit, from the partner of the friend whose death propelled me to look with clarity at my life and my marriage of 17 years, and was thereby instrumental in getting me out, into this new and amazing life with Robert and my program friends down here.

Their anniversary, and my dead friend's birthday are coming up, and his partner is struggling with his grief this time of year. We sat and talked and laughed, because like Robert, my friend was one of life's great masters of humour, able to use it to comfort, to enrich, to warm, and I spent many hours with him, laughing so hard I'd have tears in my eyes, having to take off and wipe my glasses, and beg him to stop, oh stop, my sides hurt from laughing.

He was such a gift, my friend, he and his partner would still, after 21 years together, light up at the mere sight of one another. I remember being delighted at the strength of their union. With Robert, I understand for the first time in my life what it is to feel safe, loved completely, and know that this wonderful man walking in the door, will have me laughing myself silly in no time. We spend a lot of time laughing together, over life, and over nothing at all.

I'm going for a CT scan on Nov 6th, in the hopes that it will show the cancer to have been reduced somewhat. I wasn't nervous about it at all, because the two lumps I have which are palpable, have been greatly reduced in size, and that's good news. But Robert admitted that he is a little frightened.
I know I would be, too, were our positions reversed.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Qualifies as "Gossip or Criticism."

I was raised in an adoptive family in which the major form of humour was sarcasm. I picked it up along with some other bad habits, and used it right into the doors of Al-Anon.

Before progam, I used sarcasm as a weapon, as a rebuttal, as a defense, and to score points in an argument.

 I spoke to my first sponsor about it, and she reminded me that in our closing, we read, "Talk to each other, reason things out, but let there be no gossip or criticism of one another. Instead, let the understanding, love and peace of the program grow in you one day at a time."

I define "let there be no gossip or criticism of one another" very narrowly. Many times, a new sponsee will ask me who my other sponsees are. I don't tell them, because that runs up against my strong belief in keeping confidences. If one sponsee wishes to break that confidence by talking about who their sponsor is, that's up to them. Nobody is going to hear it from me.

I'm not comfortable in hearing about who irritates or bothers you at a meeting, because they are too this or that. I am not at a meeting to sit and fume because someone has a personality quirk I find irritating. I am at a meeting to share the experience strength and hope I have to offer, to bask in the atmosphere of love and acceptance, and to learn.

My experience in this program has taught me right from the start, that it would invariably be the person who was irritating me the most, who had the lesson I most needed to hear at that time.

In my second group, which was a home-group meeting, we went to a member's apartment, and we were no further that just inside the door, before I was silently judging her for her décor. (I was a supremely shallow person 30 years ago, I lived in anger, fear, and judgement.)

During the meeting, I was judging this same woman for the way she spoke, her choice of clothing, her speech patterns; everything about her, got my goat. The meeting ended, I went home, and found that one thing she'd said, was getting more and more powerful the more I thought about it. It applied to my own character defects, and it stuck in my head all week, like a cocklebur seed to a sock. It poked, prodded, and needled at me day upon day. I finally called my sponsor to complain about this obsession, and we had a very interesting and to me, madly infuriating discussion, in which she suggested, not for the first time, that what most annoyed me in another person, often turned out to be a character defect or personality quirk of my own that I disliked.

I swallowed and muttered and grumped while she explained this idea in greater detail. When she was finished, I didn't have much to say, I was too offended, so I said a stiff goodbye, thanked her, and hung up.

Talking to her hadn't helped me in the way I'd hoped or wanted. I didn't get what I thought I needed from that discussion; instead I was, as so often in the early days with my sponsor, mightily offended. I took offense very quickly when I was new to Al-Anon. My self-image was so negative and so shaky, that even the slightest suggestion that I was wrong could send me into a tailspin for days. After a few months of dealing with this aspect of my personality, my  sponsor suggested that perhaps by being offended, I didn't have to hear what she was saying?

That hit home with a thump, because it was simply, and undeniably true. A large part of my judgement, when it wasn't about allowing me to feel superior, because I didn't do that at meetings, was about being to cut that person out, as someone I didn't need to listen to very carefully.

This woman taught me to listen carefully when anyone speaks during a meeting, because I've learned that the most (to me) unlikely person, may be the one person at the meeting who is carrying the message from my HP, that I most need to hear.

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Treatment

I saw an oncologist on Tuesday of this week, and she said that because I'm responding so well to the treatment, and tolerating it so well, also, that they are considering another twelve rounds of chemo as soon as the present batch is complete.

I'm feeling fine with that prospect. For me, chemo has not been the horror story I had been led to expect, from all the reading and listening to stories about "My aunt had cancer, and when she was in chemo it was awful, it aged her terribly, she was sick all the time, etc etc."

In the last year or so, I have noticed that whenever some people find out that one is facing a procedure, they will immediately begin reciting every horror story  that they, or anyone they've talked to has ever heard.  I was hugely fortunate, in that a friend in program whom I love and admire, had undergone one of the same major operations I was facing, and she had me over to her place to talk all about it, show me the scars, explain what to expect, what might hurt, what might be an improvement over the results of the first operation, and a few other things.

When I got back home that afternoon, Robert took one look at me, and said, "You look much better." I told him that this time with my friend had removed about 80% of the fear I'd had about that particular part of the second operation. And it has proven to be quite true, it's nothing as negative as some told me it would be, and it is a relief after the results of the first operation, which was most definitely not a success.

Had I not had her experience strength and hope, I would have been much more frightened, and some studies have seemed to suggest that the better of a headspace one is in before a procedure, the better one is able to deal with it, and any side effects.

One oncologist told me that she thought that chemo was about 10% medical, and 90% mental. I find that I have been able to go through it with gratitude, peace and joy, for my life, and time with my beloved, wonderful Robert.

When I was still so upset about the call from my ex, and obsessing as to how he had managed to secure my unlisted number, I called up my first sponsor here, and asked if I could come to talk? She immediately and warmly agreed, and I went to spend an hour and a half with her wisdom and support. When we hugged goodbye before I left, we were both a little choked up and teary. We have talked a few times about her unfortunate comment, and my over-reaction to it, but have put it down to just a misunderstanding, and agreed this time to resume working through the new 4th Step workbook, "Reaching For Personal Freedom"

We had barely started with it, when the misunderstanding took place, but I find that I miss the meetings with her, talking and laughing. My new sponsor is a great help to me, and I enjoy and appreciate her enormously. That doesn't mean I can't also enjoy and appreciate my first sponsor, and spend time in her company. We may not consider it a sponsor-sponsee relationship, but I'm thinking that it's in name only - the sharing of experience, strength and hope is all still there.

Knowing that I have people to whom I can turn, during difficult times in my life, has been a blessing for which I am continually, deeply grateful. And I truly believe that the practise of gratitude transforms our lives in ways we cannot imagine when we first start to try to work it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Taking Care of Myself

Thursday evening, around suppertime, my land line rang. I checked the display screen, and it showed the name of the area, but no specific phone number. I often get calls like this from the Cancer Centre, so I picked up the phone, without waiting to hear if the caller was going to leave a message.

A voice said, "Hi! It's (ex-husband)"

I was taken aback, my phone number is unlisted, and I am very careful about to whom I give it out; everyone knows not to give it to my ex. Last time he had my cell phone number, after I had left him, and been gone for several months, he started to call me every day.

Time and again, I had said to him, "Don't call me anymore. Call your program friends, call your sponsor, call someone else, don't call me, I don't want to talk to you. I left you because I didn't want to be with you anymore, that includes talking to you. Leave me alone!"

It was, as it always was with him, like talking to a brick wall. The next night, the phone would ring, and it would be him again. I realised the only way to stop him was to get an unlisted number, so that's what I did. I got an unlisted land line.

Somehow, 2 1/2 years after I left him, he managed to get my unlisted phone number, and called me.

I should have just hung up immediately, but I was startled, so I asked, "What do you want?" (I don't care what he wants, I want to be free of him.)

He replied, "I just called to talk."

I said firmly, "I don't want to talk to you." and hung up. Within about a half hour, I phoned my service provider, explained the situation, and asked for a new unlisted phone number. It went into effect today, and the old number is now "unassigned."

It felt thoroughly unpleasant,  to know he had my unlisted phone number, and could call me any time he chose. If this happens again, and he gets my new unlisted number, I'm going to go to the police and charge him with stalking. The laws here have changed considerably with regard to stalking, and continual unwanted phone calls fall within the stalking legislation.

I was disgusted that he felt he could try to force himself back into my life in this way, but when I considered it calmly, I thought, why should anything have changed in his thinking, just because I've been gone for 2 1/2 years?

By the time I left, after 17 years, I just wanted some peace. I realised, after a couple of days in this city to which I moved, that the strange feeling I had, was the result of no-one being angry with me. At first, I had a bit of a hard time getting used to how lighthearted I felt. But as time went on, and I began to understand just what a difficult situation I'd been surviving, and how much better my life was without him in it, my joy of living started to resurface. I started to wake up happy again, ready to face another day, secure in the support of my HP.

Then, after almost a year down here, I met Robert, and thought we could be good friends, which we were, for quite some time before the relationship deepened into what it is now. Having a loving relationship with a man who treats me with respect and care,  has shown me how much I was missing, living with an alcoholic who was not in recovery, and saw no need for any change on his part. My ex lied to everyone, not least of whom was himself, all while presenting himself as the soul of honesty - ironic.

I made new friends in program, and have found myself to be in a safe place.
Even with the cancer diagnosis, I am the happiest and most grateful, I've ever been in my life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Speaking At A Meeting.

Last night, after the meeting, I was standing with my sponsor, and a woman who I hadn't seen before came up to say to me, "You could be a stand-up comedienne." She smiled at me, and walked away. I turned to my sponsor and asked, "Why would she say that to me, I didn't say anything funny tonight, did I?"

My sponsor said a few things about my delivery, and honesty, and left me feeling somewhat more understanding of what that had been about, but not much. I don't plan what I'm going to say, I just open my mouth, and start speaking about the topic, and allow my Higher Power to direct the flow. Most times, if you were to ask me afterwards what I'd said, I couldn't tell you.

It's like writing a blog post here - I may have a slight idea of what I'd like to get across in my writing, but once I've begun, it goes where it will, and I follow. When I was new in Al-Anon, I felt very anxious about speaking at a meeting, and it seemed of paramount importance that I get it "right." I judged myself so harshly, that it was a small jump in thought, to assume that everyone listening was doing the same - judging.

I've learned that what other people are thinking of me is none of my business. My job is to clean my side of the street, keep it neat and tidy through practising the Steps and Traditions, and whatever other people get from my shares is not up to me. This allows me to not worry if the newcomer is hearing what they need to hear - they have their own Higher Power, and things will work out for them with my only input being my sharing at meetings.

I've often begun speaking, thinking I was about to talk about one thing, and found myself a mile down a side road, talking about something else entirely, which somehow is closely related to the topic, but for some reason, seems to be what I need to talk about that night. There have been many times when I've surprised myself by what I've shared - I may not have realised I had that outlook, or still carried that doubt or guilt, until I hear myself saying at a meeting that this is how it is for me right now.

Today and yesterday I was worrying about the future, how long do I have to live? What will my health be like in six months? What end am I facing?

I had to stop and say to myself, "Live in the moment!" repeatedly, and force my mind into that place, as I mixed our home-made muesli in the giant tub we keep for just that purpose. Later, we went out for a nice long ramble around downtown, and to the bead store, where I bought enough findings to make myself four pairs  of earrings. I've always wanted to make my own earrings, but have never gotten around to it. Now seemed like an excellent time.

Walking and talking with Robert brought me sharply into the present - his company is such a gift and a pleasure, that I can easily revel in the moment. Tonight, I have my new step group to enjoy. Life in the now, is a glorious adventure; it's my choice as to whether or not I live there.

When I speak at a meeting, I try to allow myself to be a conduit for my Higher Power; I do my best to keep my ego in the back seat, and let my HP do the steering. I am no longer overwhelmed with insecurity, and I don't give what I've got to say, nearly the level of importance I once did.  I've said most of it many times before, in the 30 years I've been in program, and I'm grateful for the chance  to listen and learn.

Friday, September 26, 2014

'Obedience To The Unenforceable.'

I've heard that phrase used to describe how 12-Step meetings work - we all agree to a loose framework of behavior which makes the meeting safe for everyone. But in truth, there is no-one in authority who will, or can, force us to abide by the framework of respect and consideration; we do it because we want the meetings to be comfortable, useful, hopeful, and a soft place to fall for each of us.

Now and then we will hear a newcomer, or less often, a member with some years in program, admonish a meeting for being a certain way - the member might feel that some people are laughing when they shouldn't, or perhaps topics aren't being addressed the way this member feels they should be.

In the book, "How It Works, for Families and Friends of Alcoholics" a group conscience is defined as "the voice of the majority of the members." This voice is reached through discussion, and then voting on the subject, with an agreement beforehand that we will abide by the decision reached.

I've seen group consciences where one member asked for a discussion and vote, on something about which he or she felt very strongly, and I've seen the discussion bring to the surface, aspects that other members hadn't considered, and which in the end, changed the way we voted.

I've also seen members ask for a group conscience because they felt that something wasn't right, and the vote went with the majority of the members voting against their idea. Some members can accept this as the voice of the majority, apply Tradition One: "Our common welfare comes first, personal progress for the greatest number depends upon unity" and with good grace, understand that they are in the minority on this issue, and things won't change to suit them.

By contrast, I've seen members become more and more agitated about having been voted down, until their anger causes them to decide to attend a different meeting. I once worried that this was a bad thing, that in voting, and the voting going against their pet idea, we might be "driving them away."

It was my first sponsor who pointed out to me, that each of us has a Higher Power, and that maybe this person needed to move to another meeting, in order to be able to learn something he or she desperately needed to learn, in order to continue to grow.

Many Al-Anon members have spoken to me about how one person has said something in a meeting which was life-changing for them - I like to call these "startling revelations." I enjoyed the first meeting I attended, but it wasn't until I moved away, and began attending a new-to-me meeting, that I had a startling revelation about some part of my life. It was the result of hearing a member speak who had I not moved, I'd never have heard. She was a force for change in my life, but I had to go to a different meeting to meet that force.

Because of this, I believe it is vital for all of us to allow meetings to be run by our Higher Power.  The more that I can set aside my ideas about what should be being read, or discussed, or evaluated, and allow the meeting to flow with its own speed and power, the more I am uplifted, refreshed and granted serenity.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Am I Open To Constructive Criticism?

Today I was nattering to Robert about something, and he replied in his laidback way, with a grin, "Thank you for making me aware of those alternatives," at which I burst out laughing. That's his gentle way of saying - "I know that, I can think for myself, you're being controlling."

Constructive criticism used to make me squirm and writhe, with shame and anger. I had no way of understanding that criticism didn't necessarily mean that the person was condemning me as a human being, perhaps they were offering me a different way to do something, another viewpoint about a topic, or a new way to frame a problem, which reduced it to a manageable size, and allowed me to have a completely changed outlook.

I took criticism as an insult and a betrayal. I couldn't hear it, I wasn't interested in receiving it, I'd go miles out of my way to lay the blame at the feet of anyone else, so I didn't have to be told that what I had said or done was not the best way to do it.

When anyone would offer me even the gentlest of criticisms, my first response was first a hot anger, then self-pity, and then a seething resentment. How dare they? Didn't they know that I was already struggling with an unmanageable home life? That I'd had a rotten childhood? That I was exempt from the normal feedback because I was unhappy and depressed?

When I consider what it must have been like for my first sponsor, I have to laugh. That woman offended me more times than seems humanly possible for anyone acting from the best of intentions. She'd offer me a constructive criticism miles more delicate than the one of Robert's mentioned at the beginning of this post, and I would swell up like a puffer fish and take serious offense. I will never forget the day that she said gently to me, "Well, you know, righteous indignation is delicious, but it's not the best way to go about things."

I thought she was talking about the drinking alcoholic. I said, "You mean him."

She looked at me with loving eyes, and replied softly, "I mean you."

I was shocked and mortally offended. I wasn't righteously indignant! I had a darn good reason for my feelings. I was a martyr! I had a right to be obnoxious, because I was only responding to what I received with like behavior. And with my first husband, that may very well have been true. But it wasn't helpful to him or me, it wasn't kind, it wasn't loving, and it got me exactly nowhere at all in working my program.

That was one of the first times in which I slowly came to believe that what my sponsor was offering me was a way to see more clearly, and a way to change. It took a while from her comment until my grasping dimly what she was on about, but it did slowly happen.

When I can accept my character defects without blame, shame or guilt, I am free to behave differently. I can accept that I am not perfect, and never will be. I can clarify Step Seven for myself:

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

I need help to change my behavior, I cannot do it on my own, because I have only my mind and my personality to do it - I need a power greater than myself to be able to stop, admit, accept, and then let go, and try a new way of responding.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Levels of Faith.

One of Robert's favourite jokes is a line from standup comedy, which he heard many years ago:

"I'm more the paranoid agnostic type - I don't believe in God per se, but I do believe there's some force out there in the universe, working against me."

I love that. I can relate to that. I was an unbeliever in anything positive, and a strong believer that the world was out to get me, when I was new to Al-Anon. It seemed as though no matter what ideas I came up with, or how hard I tried, I was unsuccessful.

I'm referring, of course, to trying to make the alcoholic stop drinking. I remember going for walks with my dog - I would stomp off, after an encounter with a sodden husband who was enraged and ranting, and I'd go to sit in the park near our house, while my dog ranged all over the park seeking out whatever it is that dogs look for, in the dark.

I'd sit on the swings and fume. I recall asking aloud, "What do you want from me?"  I didn't know of whom I was asking that question, it would just burst out of me in moments of intense frustration, and there is no frustration quite so intense, or so doomed to failure for those of us who are control freaks, as trying to make an alcoholic quit drinking.

My first sponsor asked me, "Who are you talking to, when you ask that question?" I was taken aback, and had to sit and think for some time, before answering haltingly that I thought maybe I was talking to God.

She smiled at me, saying "But you call yourself an aetheist."

I replied, "Well, I've thought I am, but...."

She smiled again, that irritating sponsor smile that lets you know that she's been through all this once at least, and probably more times than she could count. I was very God-shy when new to Al-Anon, and all those mentions of God, or a Higher Power, were almost more than I could stomach.

Where was the handout with the list of ten ways to make the drinker stop drinking? That's what I'd been expecting; I was completely unprepared for a total change of life.

But I kept going to meetings, and working the program, even when I wasn't sure what I believed. I just knew that my sponsor and other old-timers for whom I felt respect believed, so I decided to coast on top of their belief for a while, and see what happened.

And I kept having conversations with my Higher Power, although nowadays I'd call them complaining sessions or rants more than conversation. I was too emotional to have many rational conversations, whether with people or my HP.

My belief in a Higher Power has grown and ebbed throughout the years. I feel conscious contact when I am grateful and seeking humility.

I lose that feeling of conscious contact when I'm full of fear and anxiety, as I was shortly after being told by the surgeon that I was terminal. It's been a real mind-shift to accept that he was mistaken, I'm not terminal, and who knows how long I've got on this earth; it could be years yet.

My oncologist is very positive, and so am I. This last chemo, the volunteer came to take us in and asked how I was feeling. I replied honestly that I'm good, I feel good, and I feel happy. He passed his hand over his eyes and said, "I must still be sleeping."

It didn't register at the time, but he was commenting upon my ability to feel joy even as I walked towards the chair for another chemo treatment.

I give all the credit for this to Al-Anon, and the support and love of my beloved Robert, my family and program friends, and my HP. Life is good. I'm so grateful to be able to know that.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Problem Is What We Make It.

This past summer, Robert and I were walking downtown in a fairly busy area, and found ourselves face-to-face with an attractive young woman. We did that little dance to one side and then the other, trying to move out of the way, yet moving in unison, so that we were still unable to pass. Almost every other time this happens, I find myself laughing with the other person, and then one of us will stop trying to get out of the way, and wave the other by, with good feeling on both sides.

This young woman became angry, we couldn't believe it. We've talked about it since, laughing that if that is a big annoying incident for her, she must be doing very well in her life. I wonder how she'd manage if she were to lose a loved one, or get diagnosed with cancer?

It took me years in Al-Anon to realise that my problems had precisely the room in my head and in my life that I gave them. I was shocked by that suggestion the first few dozen times I heard it, and then irritated and then angry - were these people trying to say that my problems were minor?

I thought them enormous, insurmountable, terrible and depressing. That was my take on them, that was my description of them, that was the amount of room I gave them in my life.

When I began in my fumbling way to try to practise gratitude, I slowly but surely discovered that I had many things in my life for which I could feel grateful. And doing that regularly, searching out the people, times and facts of my life for which I could feel nothing but gratitude, changed my attitude completely.

"How Important Is It?" became my favourite slogan, and I used it on everything over which I became upset or even slightly annoyed. My first sponsor would ask me, "Will you remember this in a week? A month? A year? Will you be lying on your deathbed thinking about it, and wishing you had handled it differently?"

I found her questions blasted my mind open to a way of living I'd never imagined. Why, I could let go of this stuff as soon as I decided to! It's my choice to decide that something may require thought or effort, but it only becomes a "problem," and only takes up room inside my head, if I choose to allow that to take place.

Let me say that another way - I may get stray thoughts flitting through my head, but I can sit quietly and watch them float by; I don't have to reach up, get a stranglehold upon them, and then spend the next two days obsessing over them.

I can watch them come and go, then turn my mind to thinking of that which gives me serenity, peace and joy. As with so much of this wonderful program, it's my choice. I do not have to give the committee of assholes any room at all inside my head. I've got the key to the lock on that door.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Letting Go Of Other People's Choices.

This past summer, Robert and I had a fantastic garden on the rooftop terrace - many residents of the building spoke about how much they enjoyed it.

In the last 3 weeks, someone has started stealing the plants, we've lost 6 very nice perennials, and who knows how many  more will go - it's easy pickings, we can't be out there 24 hours a day guarding the plants.  Last night, instead of taking both pot and plant, someone just dug up the plant, took it, and left the pot.

The first day I realised that plants were missing, I was shocked, but managed to let it go fairly quickly. The second time, about two weeks later, I was furious, frustrated, resentful, and all sorts of other unpleasant feelings. As I was walking down the hall to my apartment a short time later, I asked my Higher Power, "Please help me with this."

That has evolved to be pretty much the only prayer I use anymore, my HP doesn't need details, and going over them just brings up sad feelings for the realisation that some folks are thieves, and given an opportunity, they will steal. This is beyond my control. I can't change anyone but myself: if this person chooses to be a thief, I cannot stop them.

That's an unfortunate fact of life. What's my choice in this kind of situation?

I can either seethe and fume, thinking about it time and again, bringing my feelings to a boil and keeping them there, for hours, days, or weeks at a time, or I can ask my HP for help, and choose to let it go. Having cancer concentrates one's mind wonderfully in this kind of situation - I don't know how much time I have left on this earth, and I don't want to spend it in anger, resentment and revengeful feelings.

I choose serenity, and if I have trouble letting go on my own, I ask for help, and always, always receive it. After the second operation, I wasn't asking for help, I was in such shock from the terminal diagnosis.

As it turned out, I'm not terminal, I'm one stage before that, and people have lived with it for years at this stage. Robert's sister was terminal when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but with the help of chemo, had three good years with her family before nothing more could be done. So, I'm hopeful, as she was further along the path than I.

The surgeon made a second pronouncement about what I would and would not be capable of, and that too has proven incorrect, but we believed him, he's at the top of his field in this area, so it took me a couple of weeks to realise that I was shutting my HP out. It wasn't from anger or resentment, but a result of overwhelming pain and sorrow. I was obsessing, mourning and grieving, and I was trying to do it on my own.

I'd look at my beloved Robert and see the agony in his face, see how he had lost his usual peaceful, witty, relaxed attitude, realise that he too was grieving terribly, and it mirrored my own state of mind.

 We suffered from May 9th until June 6th, our first meeting with the oncologist I liked. The first one we met was not a good fit for either of us, so I'd asked to be assigned another doctor, and they got me into see her within a week. We both liked her immediately, and she was the one who said firmly that I am not terminal, it's not in any of my major organs, just my lymph nodes, and she couldn't understand why the surgeon would say I was terminal when he did the operation and stated in his report to Cancer Care that I had no metastases to any major organs.

I've talked to quite a few nurses and doctors since then, and it's fascinating to be told that surgical mentality is like no other, it's tunnel vision, they all seem to have enormous egos, and need them, in order to be able to do what they do.

As my GP said to me, in his inimitable British way: "If you had a small mole on your arm which was annoying you, I could give you a shot of local anaesthetic, and nip it off, but to take a scalpel and begin carving you up? I realised very quickly in medical school that I just don't have the temperament or the ego to be able to do that."

I've let go of my anger with the surgeon for scaring us, but I am going to send a letter asking him to consider referring people to specialists, rather than make pronouncements after a surgery, when the patient is first awake, which are taken to heart by the patient, but may be a mistake, as both  mine were.

I've ranged far afield from the start of this post, but it's all about lack of control, and the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
 the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dealing with Relapse.

A reader posted a comment about her long-time partner relapsing, several program friends have been going through this with their adult children. My own niece, who is at present, in rehab for the first time, has plans to rejoin her drug-dealing boyfriend when she gets out - my sister is at her wits end, and has finally begun to attend Al-Anon meetings, which she is finding helpful.

A relapse can be agonising for those of us who love the alcoholic. I know when my first husband had been sober for nine months and then relapsed, I was devastated. This was before I joined Al-Anon, and I felt somehow responsible, that if I'd tried harder, done something more, said something more, it wouldn't have happened.

This is just not the case.

 We have no control. We don't cause it through our behavior or actions, we can't control it with any amount of talking or decisions, and we can't cure it by sacrificing our own happiness.

Letting go of wanting to fix the alcoholic is a process learned slowly by most of us, myself included.

I was raised with the family myth that if things aren't going the way you want them to, you just need to try harder. Increase your effort, put in longer hours, talk your way into what you want. So when I encountered alcoholism, I put all of myself into the effort of stopping the drinking, and I failed spectacularly. 20 years after the end of our marriage, and my first husband is still drinking.

All of my years of trying to make him quit had no effect. I ran into one of his children during the last year I was in my second marriage, and she told me he was still drinking, and had never quit. I was saddened to hear that. I'd let go of all of the misery of that marriage many years back, and have no hard feelings towards him.

I felt sad that he was still in the grip of the addiction. He has an uncanny skill when it comes to anything mechanical. He can take apart something he's never seen before, discover how it is supposed to work, and then fix it.  He was in high demand as a mechanic when his drinking was still somewhat under his control, when he was what I've heard AA members call a "high-functioning alcoholic."

By the time I left that marriage, his business was failing because he'd begun to drink during the day, something he hadn't done for years. He was beginning to move into the final stages of alcoholism.

I couldn't stay with active drinking. Some people can live with active drinking and manage to have a good life of their own. I was too new to Al-Anon, and the trust between my first husband and I had been shattered by an affair he engaged in shortly before I left the marriage.

When he relapsed after nine months of sobriety, I didn't realise that during those nine months, his sobriety was what an AA friend would call the "white-knuckle" variety - he was hanging onto it through sheer force of will, with no help or support from AA.

What retrospect has granted to me, is the ability to see that although during the marriage I may have believed that I had a part in his drinking or not drinking, in reality, I had as much effect upon it as the kitchen table might have.


I was incidental, really. That was a blow to my ego when it fist became evident to me. Now, I feel a little sadness for the young woman I was, who felt responsible, and was struggling to survive, in a situation which would bring most of us to our knees.

Accepting doesn't mean condoning. When I accept that the alcoholic is going to do what they are going to do, and I am powerless, I set myself free from the hopeless battle. When I turn towards that which I can change - myself, I set in motion a powerful force for serenity in my life. There's always room to work towards making me a better person.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Active Listening.

In one of his July emails, my brother mentioned that when his father (my adoptive father) was a small child, he thought there was a holiday by the name of "Forchuly." He was raised in the Bronx, and that's how everyone sounded to him, when they were talking about the Fourth of July.

It started me thinking about how difficult it can be to understand someone at a meeting, when they have a very soft voice, or don't enunciate well. Over the years, there has been the odd person who may as well have been speaking another language, for all I was able to understand a word of their share. At first, this annoyed me. Why didn't they speak clearly, or raise their voice a bit? Time and experience has taught me that for some people, that is all they can manage; fear, or a wobbly self-image, inhibits them.

I may not be able to hear what they say, but that doesn't mean I can't project the same acceptance and love towards them as I would to anyone else - we are equals in the rooms of Al-Anon. 

When I chose many years ago to volunteer for the local Crisis Line, I was trained in what they termed "active listening." It requires effort to learn to listen with our focus and attention solely upon the other person, and not upon what we want to say next, what we need to get for dinner, what happened at work to cause us anxiety.

I'm grateful that I did my stint on the Crisis Line before I joined Al-Anon; I think it helped me to listen more carefully than I may have been able to otherwise. When I was a newcomer, I had no concept of how to go about implementing the wisdom imparted to me, and, many times, I was in such a state of anxiety, anger, depression or frustration that I heard what was said at the meeting, then forgot it all the moment I walked out the door to go back home to the alcoholic.

But that early training in focused listening has stood me in good stead. I believe it has helped me in my sponsorship, in relating to others at meetings, and in being empathetic to those who still suffer.

Listening to newcomers takes me sharply back, to the terrified and confused woman I was when I was new.

I try to extend a warm welcome. I don't leap upon them to fill their ears with all the advantages of Al-Anon, because I was so shy and self-conscious that I found all that warmth and love a little too much to take at first, and would rush out the door after the Serenity Prayer, so as to avoid being hugged. I had no trust, and hugging relative strangers made my weird meter leap to "overload."

Listening well is an art. I think many old-timers in program are good listeners. We all need a safe place, and someone with whom we can speak, knowing that our privacy is assured, our sorrows are shared, and we can unburden ourselves in the knowledge that we won't be interrupted.

 An Al-Anon meeting is a safe place.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Old Friend.

This week, I celebrated the milestone of 30 years in this life-saving, sanity-preserving program, by purchasing again, for probably the tenth time since I started all those years ago, the first piece of Al-Anon literature I ever read, the book entitled: "How Al-Anon Works, for Families and Friends of Alcoholics."

I've bought this book for myself many times, then lent it to one of my sponsees, or a newcomer who couldn't afford to get one for herself, and all but one time, it has never been returned. The one which did get returned, got lent out to another sponsee and it went the way of all the others. I've never minded not getting this book back, because I knew I could always get another one at any of the groups I attended, and because I was hoping that it could give to the reader some of the enormous comfort and calm that it gave to me when I was so new.

I love this book. I've read it dozens of times from cover to cover. I've read it in small sips of a few pages at a time, and I've read it like a novel, starting at the beginning, and continuing right to the last page. Either way, each time I read it, I find something new that had eluded me.

I'll never forget an old-timer at an Al-Anon meeting reading a page from the book aloud, and stopping partway through to exclaim, "I've read this 20 times, when did they put that paragraph in?"

That's one of the wonders of this program, and of Al-Anon literature - I hear what I need to hear when I am ready to hear it, and not before. When I'm ready, the wisdom washes over me in a wave of astonishment - I had never thought of it that way!
(whatever "it" is at the time.) 

With that new thought, my perception and my attitude shift: sometimes a few feet, sometimes only a millimetre or so, but there is movement, and with it, the world is new again, and possibilities appear that until now, were hidden in the shadows of my confusion.

I recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with the awful agony of trying to live in peace with another person's addictions without being swamped and swallowed up.  I also recommend it to those of us who have reached a peaceful place in our lives, and are dealing with other challenges in our lives. It's a great read, and it helps.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When We Love An Alcoholic.

When we love an alcoholic, we may start off believing that with sufficient rational and careful thought, we will find the "right way" to explain to them, the damage their drinking is causing us and the family. We might think that because of our care in choosing our words and our tone, the alcoholic will be able to hear us.

Not so. We as humans all have the ability to deny, some of us to a level of what may appear insanity - that's addiction.

When we love an alcoholic, we may want to believe that what they are telling us is the truth this time - they won't ever behave like that while drunk again, we don't have to cringe in the face of screaming rage, because that was the very last time, it will never happen again.

But if they continue to drink, and rage is part and parcel of the intoxication process for that person, then we will face it again.

When we love an alcoholic, we may be stunned to discover that when we finally make up our mind to make the break, after perhaps years of suffering with the effects of their alcoholism, that is the time that they decide to stop drinking - once we are out of the picture.

I've seen that happen more than a few times, and the partner who has made the break may feel an overwhelming anger - "Why now? Why couldn't they do that when we were still together? I gave years to that man/woman, and begged them a million times to quit drinking, and they wait until I leave the marriage, and then they quit??"

When we love an alcoholic, we may hope that if we bail them out of a bad situation, provide them with money/ a place to stay/ groceries/ a vehicle to drive, they will be grateful, and will try much harder to get or stay sober. In Al-Anon, this kind of behavior is termed "enabling," because it makes possible the alcoholic's ability to maintain their balancing act for a longer period, before it all collapses around their heads, and they face the consequences of their own choices.

Enabling may feel loving and caring, but can often be more about us, than about the alcoholic. We may need to feel that we have "done all we can" or are "a good parent/wife/sibling" in the hope that our example will show them how their behavior is by contrast, destructive.

Perhaps we are caught up in a cycle of enabling, in which we believe that if we do not act to save them, they will be lost in their addiction forever, or even die.

The sad truth is that not every alcoholic is able to get or stay sober. Many of them are lost to addiction, and many die each year from the effects of drinking.

In Al-Anon we learn that we didn't cause it, we can't control it, and we can't cure it. This can be either a blow to our ego and self-image as a helper, or it can be a step towards freedom, when we understand that it is truly possible for us to have a satisfying, productive and serene life, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.

Detachment is not cruel or heartless; detachment saves us from continuing to labor at that about which, we can have zero effect.  When we love an alcoholic, one of the kindest things we can do for them is to allow them control of their own lives. We may feel agonised by their choices and self-destruction, but when we honestly admit our own powerlessness, we have begun our own journey of healing.

I pray to continue to detach from the alcoholics in my life, and to be able to see without judgement, and love without blame.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Where Is My Focus?

When I came into Al-Anon, my focus was squarely upon the alcoholic. He seemed to take up all the space in our house, and in my mind. I didn't have to be with him to be obsessing about him and his drinking. He'd disappear for days on a bender, and I'd go to work, come home, feed the dogs and myself, worry for the entire remainder of the evening, then go to bed and toss and turn wondering where he was, what he was doing, and if I was going to hear a knock on my front door, and find police officers standing there, telling me that he was seriously injured, or dead.

It was a terrible way to live, and I did it for about 8 1/2 years, until I finally listened to my GP, and went to my first Al-Anon meeting.

I went to that meeting expecting all of the people there to be squarely focussed upon the alcoholics in their lives. When I was told that Al-Anon was for me, and that I needed to find a way to live in serenity whether the alcoholic was drinking or not, I was so surprised that I just pushed that concept to the side. It seemed clearly impossible.

Over the years that I have been in Al-Anon, I have become much better at aiming and focusing upon that which gives me pleasure, satisfaction, and hope. I have become more skilled at letting go of that which does me no good, only torments me, and over which I have zero control.

It's the same with cancer. I have a choice, I either obsess about it continually, ruining whatever time I have on this earth, or I let go of it, and live my live the way I would had I never had the diagnosis. I choose to do the latter, because I've learned how, and it allows me to take from each day enough to feed my soul and mind, and not open myself to worry, anger, stressful imaginings, and resentment.

Life is what I make it, to a great extent. This is true regardless of my income or social status. I am the one who gets up in the morning and decides whether or not I'm going to enjoy the day. Al-Anon has taken the furiously angry person that I once was, and transformed her into a woman who loves to laugh, and to make others laugh. That's an amazing feat, any way you look at it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Humour Opens Our Hearts As Nothing Else Can.

I went for my 5th chemo treatment yesterday. I had just made myself comfortable in the chair, when a woman about my age, and her friend, were led to the chairs directly across the aisle. They were discussing IV's, and how the friend could not for the life of her watch the IV being inserted. Because they seemed open and friendly, I commented that I was the same, I can't watch, or I begin to feel a strange wooziness.

We began to joke  back and forth, and soon were laughing hilariously over each other's dog, family member, and doctor, stories. It was wonderful, the time flew by, while we kept ourselves vastly entertained for almost three hours, until Robert arrived to get me, and they too were finished, and going home.

I was thinking about it later, and realised that this time, chemo was fun, because these two women were funny, friendly, open, thoughtful, kind, all sorts of good things, and willing to share of themselves with me. It would have been very easy to have just been a group of two, I see that often in the chemo room - people may say hello and smile politely, but they don't want to talk, and I respect that.  So I read, or lay back in the chair and think of all of the things for which I am grateful, including chemo, or maybe even doze a bit.

Robert sat with me through the entire first chemo, but I've convinced him that I don't need him to do that, and he can easily drop me off, then come for the last 15-20 minutes until I'm unhooked and can leave. He feels guilty, as if he's abandoning me. I know I have his support, I don't need him to be stuck in there for 3 hours with me, I feel better if he goes off and does whatever he needs to do in the intervening time. I take books to read, and I have always been able to entertain myself when I'm alone, so if the people in the chairs around me don't want to talk, I read, or people watch.  He felt better this time, to meet these women and hear that we had been laughing for almost 3 hours together.

It was fun to enjoy chemo. I'm so grateful for all the gifts in my life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Do What You Can And Let The Rest Go.

I told my GP when I was in to see him yesterday, that I felt as though I have had enough blood taken from me in the last two weeks, to fill a small dog. A Pomeranian, perhaps? We laughed together, and then had an excellent discussion on the way that serious illness can suddenly make clear to a person just what is and is not important.

Some of us are fortunate, and have had enough time in twelve-step programs, that we can already grasp to some extent, what matters and what truly does not. I find myself full of gratitude that I've had all these years in Al-Anon; I can just picture the roiling mass of anger, resentment and self-pity that I would be in this position, had I not had years learning to seek humility and serenity.

If I want peace, I need to do what I can, and let the rest go. I might be able to go out and walk in the park after treatment, but I also might only be able to come home and sleep for hours. It will be what it will be, and I have no control over it. What I do have are friends, my wonderful Robert, and a good solid program to help me get through whatever I am facing. I am content.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What We Fear Consumes Us.

I had a day recently of obsession, around and around inside my head, unable to get past it, unable to get by it, chained to that circular route of thought. Horrible. I haven't had a day like that in a long time. The only way to break the obsession was to go for a nap. When I woke up, I was no longer  obsessed. What a relief!

I find it hard to believe that I once lived my life like that, substituting one obsession for another, never being able to live at peace inside my own head. I think that may be partly why I read so much; when I was reading, I wasn't thinking about the current obsession.

And where did all that obsessing take me? To misery, time and again, but I hadn't any clue about how to break it, how to get out of it, how to avoid starting in the first place. I had to be in program for quite some time before I realised that some thoughts were just not good ones upon which to dwell - they were the opening bars to an obsession.

I was trapped inside a prison of my own thinking, with no awareness of that reality. I remember feeling very doubtful when anyone in a meeting would talk about "changing their thinking." I was so far removed from that, I couldn't even imagine it. My first attempts were more like pleading with my Higher Power to help me get off a road upon which I'd purposefully set out, hours earlier. I recall walking with my dog, and saying the first line of the Serenity Prayer repeatedly, anything to try to stop the obsessing.

There have been times when the only way I knew I'd been obsessing, was with the feeling of overwhelming relief that washed over me when I managed, somehow, to stop.

My fears consumed my life without me knowing - if anything, I would have considered my worry "prudent."  It was an awful way to live, and the only way out was with Al-Anon. I learned to control, to some extent, my own thinking. I learned that some topics were forbidden if I wanted peace. I couldn't say to myself "I'll just worry for half an hour, then the rest of the evening, I'll do something else." For me, it doesn't work that way, if I allow a fear headroom, it will consume me. I may appear to be living my life, but I'm not really there. My body is, my mind is miles away, trapped on a circular treadmill.

Friday, July 25, 2014


I have reached a point in my recovery, where I rarely become angry. When I do, I am able to count to ten, remain silent, or speak without heat.

Since this last operation, I find myself more short-tempered with all the appointments, visits, chemo treatments, dressing changes for my PICC line (a catheter inserted in my upper right arm and left in for the entire duration of the chemo, six months) trips to get bloodwork, and waiting waiting waiting to be able to do all of the above.

On Tuesday I had to go see a chemo oncologist for my regular bi-weekly checkup, to make sure I was healthy enough for the next treatment. I was sent from pillar to post to try to get the dressing change, because I kept being told by ward and clinic clerks "Oh, we don't do those here, go there, and they'll do it for you." I went back and forth several times before suggesting that one clinic clerk come with me to tell the other, that someone over there was supposed to do my dressing change. I then waited for another hour and a half, so by the time I was called, I was feeling quite annoyed. I'd forgotten to bring a book to read, so was reduced to either Economist magazine, or home decorating.

When I did get in to see the doctor, I was short with her, and said that I didn't appreciate being kept waiting for an hour and a half. She gave me several reasons, and we talked about it a bit, but I was annoyed, and stayed annoyed throughout the 10-minute visit.

At home that night, I felt that I owed this doctor an amend. So, knowing that the chances of me being able to catch her long enough to make an amend face-to-face were slim to none, I wrote her a two page apology.

This morning she called me at home to thank me for my apology, and we talked for a bit. I'd explained what is going on for me, how I'm struggling with the limitations imposed upon me by the second surgery, and waver between acceptance and anger. She revealed that her daughter had undergone the exact surgery, and asked if she could refer me to another specialty doctor who might be able to help. I agreed, apologised again, and we parted on good terms.

I felt the enormous relief that comes to me after I've made an amend that I know I need to make, and I also found my eyes welling up with tears. Had I not been willing to make the amend, we would most likely not have ever spoken about the limitations, we'd just have discussed the cancer. God puts these people into our path, and it's our choice to either turn away, or turn towards them.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hair, and Sponsors.

I've always found it fascinating, the amount of money and time that our culture devotes to telling us about how our hair can be softer, bouncier, lighter, carefree, sophisticated, playful....the list is as endless as the advertisements.

I've had hair down to my butt, and I've had hair an inch long, and now I have hair about 1/8" of an inch. It was starting to fall out just a few at a time, 10 here, another 10 or so there, so I went and had my head shaved.

My sponsor and I went wig shopping last week, and found a wig which looks very much the way my own hair does. Dark brown with a bit of grey through it. Wigs have come a long way in terms of looking natural, even when they are 100 acrylic. My sponsor and I had a great time in the wig shop, trying on Dolly Parton look-alikes, and all sorts of strange colors and styles, and laughing ourselves silly. We even got the saleslady into it after a while, she was picking out some hilarious styles for me to try and then the three of us would stagger around the shop in giggling fits, with the saleslady never getting past saying more than a gentle, "Oh dear, I think that's not you!" while my sponsor was more upfront,  at one point making me howl by saying firmly, "That's hurting my eyes, you need to take that one off."

I went wig shopping with my sponsor because I knew it would be fun with her. I'm not terribly broken up by my hair loss, I don't love it, but I'd rather laugh than cry, since it's part and parcel of the chemo I'm getting. By shaving my head early into the process, I gained a little control, and that felt good.

Wig-shopping with my sponsor was a pleasure. I feel completely safe with her, I can relax completely, say exactly what I'm thinking, and get good honest loving feedback. And lots of laughs. Just thinking about her brings a smile to my face; she's great fun, and excellent company. My first sponsor down here was wonderful while we were in that relationship, and I feel a heartfelt gratitude for all of the help and support she gave to me, and now we are friends, and talk on the phone once in a while. We've talked about what happened, she's apologised, and I hold no grudge or bad feelings about it, but it did affect my ability to trust her, and it was time for a new sponsor. So it goes.

I was just incredibly lucky enough to know someone who I wanted to be my new sponsor, and she accepted. A good sponsor is a friend, a confidante, and for those of us who are long-time members of this program, a lovingly honest reality check. I can write her an email about exactly what's going through my head, and she will hear me, validate my feelings, then offer her ideas. And because I love and respect and admire her, I'm completely openminded to the way she sees it. Already, in the short time we've been sponsor-sponsee, she's been a comfort and a help in ways too many to enumerate.

A sponsor is a gift we give to ourselves in this marvellous program.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Control and Perfectionism.

I was writing to my sponsor last night, and mentioned that I can still be powered by those two engines of insanity - control and perfectionism.

I can detach enough from myself and my emotions at this stage, to be able to watch the way having cancer, and being pulled into the whirlpool of treatment, affects my desire to control, and awakens the old demon of perfectionism.

For now, much of my time is not my own, through hours spent getting chemotherapy infusions, going for blood tests, appointments with doctors, nurses, dressing changes for the PICC line - the list seems endless, but then when I have a couple of days with no appointments, I feel a gleeful freedom.

After so many years in Al-Anon, I've become rather skilled at letting go - this has been of huge importance to me since the diagnosis. I've learned to live in the moment, and to take pleasure from these moments as they happen, not allowing the spectre of what may lie ahead to poison my joy in today.

A friend is coming to take me for lunch today; we haven't seen each other since before I was diagnosed, so she may be expecting me to look ill. I have had to laugh at how many of my friends who haven't seen me for a while exclaim in surprise "You look so good!" Cancer is a loaded word, and with it come many assumptions.

My sponsor and I are going wig-shopping tomorrow - I'm really looking forward to this, she has a wicked sense of humour, and her many years in Al-Anon allow her to see the silliness that surrounds us in daily life. I know that I can be truly myself with her, whether that be me on a day when I'm working my program and managing to balance quite nicely, or on my not-so-program days. Tears or laughter, she accepts them all, and that is a great gift.

I'm grateful for this wonderful program, for allowing me to be having a conversation with Robert, and know to stop and laughingly "out" myself as a control freak, telling him to do whatever he's doing however he pleases, and I will be quiet now. When I'm in HALT, (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) my desire to control can begin to overcome me. I can focus on it, or let it go - my life works well, or I stumble, depending upon which I choose.

Perfectionism is another character defect I have had in abundance. I see that it was inculcated in childhood, when a higher mark was always better, and nothing was ever enough. I was never enough.
That feeling stuck with me through most of my early years in Al-Anon.  Anxiety can cause it to start up in my head again, that feeling of having to do everything and anything perfectly, so that no possible criticism can be levelled against me. Fortunately, again, I've had sufficient experience in Al-Anon that I know not to allow that feeling to override my common sense. I can feel it, validate it, then set it aside, and do what I need to do to look after myself.

Twice since my diagnosis, I have asked to see another doctor, first the surgeon, and then the medical oncologist. I didn't feel comfortable or confident with the first doctors I saw, so got up my nerve to ask for a second opinion. I'm learning that I need to be willing to advocate for myself. Cancer Care here has a wealth of information and help available, but in order to access it, I have to admit that I need some extra assistance, that I'm not perfect, and I can't manage all on my own. What a relief that is.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Reader Asked About Depression.

A reader wrote to me noting that "depression" does not appear on the topic list to the right side of my blog, and wondering if I could please address this topic?

I don't write about depression because it stopped being a state of mind for me many years before I ever started writing this blog in 2009. I don't believe that it's possible for me to feel depression and gratitude simultaneously, and I've had heartfelt gratitude for so long now, that I have a hard time recalling just what it was like to be depressed and angry.

Even this bout with cancer, and the possible cutting short of my life span has brought me to tears of gratitude; I have so much about which to feel grateful. I have my beloved Robert, my brother, and sister, my good program friends, the health care system which is doing its best to keep me well.  I may wake up feeling some fatigue with chemotherapy, but I wake up feeling, and that's a gift.

I believe that our attitude is our choice - I choose whether or not to look for that which enriches and fulfills me, and to let go of what doesn't work well.

Rather than write about depression, which I can't imagine helping anyone, I prefer to write about the positives in my life, and share with you all, joy, freedom and serenity.

Friday, June 27, 2014

First Chemo Yesterday

Yesterday was my first chemo treatment. When we'd seen the oncologist for our first meeting, she said that some very tiny percentage of the population lacks an enzyme to deal with one of the drugs she would be giving me, and because of that, they die. Their very first chemotherapy treatment proves fatal. And the only way they discover this is when it happens, there is no way to test for it!

That was disconcerting, to say the least. We both went in yesterday morning wondering if I'd survive, or be in the group lacking the enzyme. Apparently it happens immediately upon the start of the infusion,  so within a few minutes, they know you're fine. I sat in a quite comfortable reclining chair, with pillows and warm blankets, and dozed through part of it. I talked to my neighbours, who were a very nice older couple from one of the islands around here. She'd had some vague bleeding, and went to her doctor to receive the devastating news that she has cancer.

I came home from chemo and slept for most of the rest of the day, getting up at 11pm to eat a little cottage cheese. I had hot and cold sweats, but other than that, I was just exceedingly tired.

So none of my not-very-invasive fears of what it would be like, came to pass. I'm hoping things will continue to be this way. I'm attached for two more days to a little bottle contraption attached to the PICC line, which is infusing more of the one drug for another 46 hours after the in-hospital treatment.
Robert was willing to be trained how to detach the bottle when it's empty, to save us a trip to the hospital for a ten-minute procedure. 

He is such a loving comfort to me, with his willingness, his loving caring, and his wicked sense of humour. We were lying in bed this morning laughing, and I felt that same enormous gratitude that the gift of his presence always stirs in me.

Yesterday's lesson was another one in gratitude for the wisdom of Al-Anon. Apart from a few qualms I've already mentioned, I was able to detach from the future possibilities, stay in the moment up until it was time for chemo, and be happy and relaxed. I was able to push intrusive thoughts out of my mind, and as my first sponsor used to say, "... firmly shut the door on them."

When I consider what going through this would be like, did I not have close to 30 years in Al-Anon, it gives me pause. I used to live in the future, or in the past, with most of my days sliding past me almost unnoticed, while I railed over the past hurts, losses, and sorrows, or trembled and raged in fear of what my future might hold. I was a supremely negative person. I have changed so much as to be almost unrecognisable as that terror-stricken woman with a non-existent self-esteem.

And I owe it all to the wonderful program of Al-Anon.

May your Higher Power be close beside you, and may you feel a sense of delight in today, because as a wise old AA gentleman used to declare:
"Today is all you get, so you better make it a good one."