Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Love You, But I Don't Like What You Did.

One action I still find extremely difficult, is setting a boundary with someone I love. I did this recently, and it was agonising, trying to find the right thing to say, to express my feelings without condemning or accusing, while letting them know that I felt they had overstepped one of those personal lines.

Sponsoring for many years has led me to an understanding that there will be times for each of us when we will be told what we most definitely do not want to hear, and if we can stay quiet long enough to really, truly, listen to what is being said, there will be a pearl of self-understanding encased in the rough and scaly shell of explanatory words.

I've moved slowly from being someone who accepts everything, excuses it all, makes up reasons to ease the hurt of someone's behavior, finds some way to choke it down regardless of how offensive or repulsive, to believing that if I am as careful as I am able to speak my truth kindly, I can let go of the outcome and trust in my Higher Power to work things out for the best, whatever the result.

Sounds good, right? And I do believe it, but the reality of doing so is surprisingly painful, especially when the person I'm setting the boundary with is someone I love dearly. I dither and waffle about whether I should say something or just let it go, I struggle mightily with "How Important Is It?" And then when I finally make the choice to set the boundary, and the recipient is sincerely apologetic, I'm horrified to have been the cause of their pain, lash myself with regret for having caused it by speaking up, and feel guilt.

When I think about it hypothetically, setting a boundary seems neat and precise and if I'm careful, as though it should be relatively painless - the truth is that it's invariably messy and hurtful and sloppy and awful.

Why then should I do it?

I do it because I've come to the realisation that when I accept unacceptable behavior, I am lying about who I am, what I feel, and what I believe.

The saying is, "the truth shall set you free." not, "the truth shall set you free, and you won't feel a thing."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Acceptance, And Facing Our Own Powelessness.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader who had found a loved one dead from a heroin overdose, and felt guilty because they'd talked themselves out of a feeling of concern that something was wrong, and the next day, found his body.

I read the comment this morning, and was reminded of Neil Young's "The Needle And The Damage Done", in which he sings, "...but every junkie's like a setting sun..."

I came to my blog this morning meaning to write a post about "Live and Let Live." I read that comment and thought of the last young man I knew who died from a heroin overdose. He was in his early twenties, a handsome university student. When I heard that he'd been found dead with the needle still in his arm, I recall being swept by an almost overwhelming sadness at the waste of another life.

When still married to my first husband, (who as far as I know is still drinking, 20 odd years after we've been divorced,) and very new to Al-Anon, I found the idea that I was powerless over his addiction to be maddening. Again and again I would speak at meetings about wanting to change him, and would hear others sharing about the difficulty of realising and truly accepting that the alcoholic or addict makes their own life choices. We can decide to stop enabling, and we can work on our own recovery. We cannot force them into sobriety. We are utterly and completely powerless.

We cannot save them from themselves, regardless of what the recovery business would like us to believe. I know couples who have almost bankrupted themselves putting a child into one rehab centre after another, only to lose the thousands of dollars expended, when the child leaves before the end of the treatment and picks up again. We are unable to fix what is wrong with them, they must be desirous of fixing their own lives. Some will, and go on to lead happy fulfilled lives. Some won't, and will die young, of alcohol or substance abuse. That's an unfortunate reality, but until we accept our own powerlessness, we can't be set free.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Being Satisfied With Our Daily Accomplishments.

I've heard many times in meetings, and from sponsees, and once upon a time, believed myself, that what I (we) managed to get done in a day was never enough. I gave myself no wiggle room for illness, fatigue, or simple mood - every day was the same - I hounded myself mercilessly to do more, always do more. I couldn't look at what I'd accomplished and feel satisfaction.

Today I was out picking moss from the stone verge of the rooftop terrace. The crows like to come down, pick up a clump of moss, and fling it out onto the terrace, looking for worms and other insect life. We end up with a terrace covered in small clumps of moss with mud attached, distributed evenly on the walking surface.

 I figured out that if I just remove the moss, they have nothing to fling and I feel immediate gratification at the resulting clean space. Much of gardening seems to consist of various tidying and neatening jobs of this sort, and I enjoy them all. Years ago, however, I wouldn't have been able to do what I did today, which was to do half the task, then stop for the day. Or had I been able to stop before completing the job, I'd have been completely unable to take any pleasure in the work I had completed, because I would have been nattering at myself about not staying at it, until I finished.

I was raised to believe that half-done was the same as not started. I had to be in Al-Anon for quite a few years, before I could give myself credit for whatever I managed to get done in one day. And it took a few more years after that, before I could even consider giving myself permission to take a day of rest. It felt like the "thin edge of the wedge" to get up in a day and decide that if I did not much of anything that day, I was still a good person, and my world wouldn't fall apart.

Challenging this kind of message instilled in early childhood can feel world-shaking to begin with, but after we've moved through the process to a state of clarity unsullied by emotions of guilt or shame, we may be astonished to realise their power over us.

Today I accept that whatever I get done is enough for today. Some days I will accomplish everyday tasks, as well as clear up a backlog of waiting chores. Other days, I'm doing well to be up, washed, and dressed. It's all okay. What matters is that I have love and respect in my life. Picking moss can be spread over two or even three (gasp!) days.