M(3), 3/28/16: Is Dysfunctional Family a Redundancy?
A damp, drizzly Monday in my neck of the woods, hope the weather is better for everyone else!
This morning we read from the book Forming True Partnerships: How AA members use the program to improve their relationships. I selected a reading from the chapter “The Family.” Since it is the day after a holiday I figured people could use some inspiration.
The author told the story of a 24-year old resentment she held against her sister-in-law. A resentment she thought she resolved in early sobriety, but found out, 13 years later, that she did not. She learned that forgiveness is something she needs to do with her heart, not just with words. She found joy in being the agent of positive change in her relationship with her sister-in-law. Finally, she realized that she is only given challenges in life when she is able to handle them. Clearly, she needed to be further along in sobriety before she was able to tackle the challenge of her problematic familial relationship.
Many times the subject matter of my weekly meetings covers topics that fall under the umbrella “life problems” rather than “alcoholic problems;” family resentments most assuredly counts as one of them. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say all human beings have a tricky or troubled family relationship to which they lay claim. So it was unsurprising to find that every member of the meeting today had their hand raised to talk about a resentment with which they are struggling.
Some of the resentments are long-standing ones. For example, one woman identified almost to the word with this morning’s reading, in that she has a resentment with a sister-in-law that spans her entire married life… almost 50 years! She had a situation with her sister-in-law in early sobriety that she felt justified in handling somewhat aggressively. However, she finds as time goes by she is better able to see the gray in what she once thought to be a black-and-white issue.
Some of the resentments have cropped up within sobriety. One woman spoke of an issue with her sister, who continues to drink in ways which are painfully familiar. On the one hand, it is difficult to watch… why does she get to drink that way and I can’t? Can’t she consider my feelings, even just a little? On the other hand, it is easy to remember the feelings that go alongside that kind of drinking, and the behavior that accompanies it. She can easily find empathy to replace the resentment when she considers that not too long ago she was in her sister’s shoes.
Some resentments are easy to examine and identify the solution. One gentleman, sober for decades now, describes his personality in active addiction to be sarcastic and intimidating. He has done his best in sobriety to correct this tendency, but he found family memories to be long… it was many years before people trusted his sober personality to be the authentic one! He is grateful that he was given the opportunity to prove himself.
Other resentments are less clear-cut. One gentleman spoke of a resentment he has with his mother and brother. It is clear through his telling of the situation that his resentments could be justified. It is equally clear, however, that for the sake of his serenity, and possibly his sobriety, that he finds a solution that brings him peace.
For myself, I shared of an ongoing situation that causes me angst, one in which I am resentful of someone else’s resentment… if that makes any sense at all! Like most of the stories shared this morning, I imagine the situation would exist whether or not I was sober. The difference for me is two-fold. First, because I use the 12 steps of recovery as a blueprint for living my life, I find it more difficult to ignore or avoid resentments, because I have been taught that resentments are a tremendous roadblock to a peaceful existence. So when I realize that one of my relationships is in turmoil, I consider what is my responsibility in repairing the problem, even if the turmoil is not mine.
Second, and more important, I look to clean up my side of the street. Now, in a situation where the resentment is mine, it is simple enough to do: I either confront the problem, or I work it out myself by remembering there are two sides to every story, and that my viewpoint is often not shared by others.
It gets more difficult to resolve when the resentment is not really of my doing. On the one hand, I think: not my problem to fix. If someone has an issue, that’s on them.
On the other hand, I consider that I am part of a relationship. If I know someone is in distress, don’t I have a responsibility to help them with their distress?
But if I am the distress… then what?
No easy answers for me this morning, but what I can take away is considerable. First, I feel less isolated; everyone has a troubled relationship with which they struggle. Next, I am a deep believer in the notion that when the time is right, the opportunity to resolve problems will appear. If I remain confused, then I can trust that the time is not right. Finally, I will be mulling over the idea of forgiving with the heart versus forgiving with words. That popped up a few times in the shares this morning, and I’m thinking that is some thing to examine in my own life.
The reminder that everything happens for a reason, even when I don’t understand the reason.
Posted on March 28, 2016, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 steps, AA, Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, dysfunctional family, fellowship, Meeting, Miracle, Recovery, Resentment, Sobriety, Substance Abuse, Support group, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.