M(3), 9/5/16: To the Family Afterward

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Suddenly it’s Tuesday morning, and still no wrap-up post from yesterday’s meeting. I’m going to blame the three day weekend, and an aging, limping mess of a dishwasher that needed some funeral arrangements, but the time is coming where I figure out what comes next for this blog.

In other words:  sorry again for the delay.

It was a decently sized meeting, considering it to be a holiday.  It’s counterintuitive to me that holidays produce smaller sized meetings.  I would think more people would show up, since more people have off from work.  In any event, we had the usual suspects, plus one or two extras.

We read from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (the “Big Book”), a chapter entitled “To the Family Afterward.”  This is another chapter, much like last month, that deals with topics pertaining to the loved ones of the alcoholic, rather than the alcoholic himself/herself.  As I mentioned last month, these two chapters are the prologue to Al-Anon.

According to this chapter, there seem to be two watchwords for the recovering alcoholic and his/her family in the early days of sobriety:

  • patience
  • balance

The chapter breaks down a whole bunch of possible scenarios that family may experience as the alcoholic recovers, and how best to handle them.

Attendees in the meeting shared their validation of the various scenarios laid out, and added a few more.  One gentleman told an amusing story.  He came home the night of his seven year sober anniversary, and proudly presented the coin to his wife.  She replied, “Congratulations, these were the happiest six years of my life.”  He gently reminded her it has been seven years, not six, to which she replied, “Yeah… I’m leaving out that first year on purpose.”

The expression “it’s a family disease” exists for a reason, I guess.

That illustrates the patience part.  The balance concept?  Well, those reading this post who are in recovery are likely chuckling ruefully.  Alcoholics are known for a lot of things, but balance and moderation are not at the top of the list.  Or at the bottom for that matter.

So it follows that in recovery, we can go in a bunch of well-intentioned but over the top directions… we find God, then shove Him down everyone’s throat.  Or we lose sight of the friends and family that supported us in favor of our new recovery activities.

So the family reacts, and the cycle of chaos starts all over again.

The solution is for everyone involved to communicate honestly and productively, and bring those two watchwords back to the forefront.

As another gentleman pointed out in the meeting:  if you go walking into the woods for three days straight, then finally decide you want out, do you think you’re finding your way back in an hour?  It took time to get in, it’ll take time to get out again.


It was an interesting chapter for me to read, given the holiday on which we read it (for those not in the United States, we celebrated Labor Day yesterday).  Normally when I read this chapter, I have little to no reaction.  I am one of the extremely fortunate ones who had complete family support as I recovered.  None of the anecdotes described in the chapter apply directly to my life.

However, Labor Day weekend holds a bi-annual event in my family of origin.  We have been holding a family reunion for as long as I’ve been alive.  Longer, actually, which makes me want to find out how long it’s been going on.  At this point we have about 150 people in attendance, and it is an all-day, much-of-the-night affair.

There have been three so far in my sobriety.  I believe I skipped entirely the first one, I attended briefly the second, this past Saturday I stayed the longest.

The days leading up to the event had me in a state of… something along the lines of discontent, I suppose.  You see, this is the one situation on which I haven’t readily been able to slap the “sober is better” sticker.  The event is largely outdoors, at a time of year where it is humid.  I am not the outdoorsy type (understatement).  There are tons of people, but these are people I see either at this event, or a funeral, so a catch-up conversation (and sometimes a reminder of names) is required each and every time.  The vast majority of these people will be imbibing a social lubricant called beer (or a mixed drink); I will be consuming the social lubricant called Diet Pepsi.

If I’m being brutally honest, I was dreading the event, and then I was berating myself for dreading it.  What kind of person does not want to spend time with their family?  But the equally brutal truth is that pre-recovery, I couldn’t wait for the event, because it was an all all-day drink fest, and now it’s not.  For me, anyway.  For many others, it continued to be.  So it felt like I had more to dread than I had to anticipate.

Luckily for me, I have tools in the toolkit to use in times such as these, and I had my pre-game rituals in place.  The most important of these tools, in my opinion, is to have a quick exit strategy should I become uncomfortable around the alcohol/excessive drinking.

The other tool that I used, and was the turning point in the event, was to remember why I was actually there:  to spend time with family, and to participate in a long-standing family tradition.  When I kept that in the forefront of my mind, instead of focusing on the alcohol that surrounded me, I was able to relax and enjoy the event.

People still got drunk.  In fact, I heard tales of overturned golf carts at the end of the evening (which was really early morning) that had me belly laughing.  But the reality is the people who got as drunk as I would have gotten were in the minority.  The majority of people were casually drinking, or not drinking at all, and they were a delight.  I dragged my feet going to the reunion, but I left with a grateful heart.

And then I got to read and remember why I am so grateful!

Today’s Miracle:

Family love and support are perennial miracles

 

 

 

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Posted on September 6, 2016, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Family get-togethers can be trying….Family get-togethers with alcohol can be awful! Hooray for Diet Pepsi 🙂 I’d love to hear how the golf carts ended up overturned, that took talent(or lack of)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wait… you seem to be implying that family get-togethers happen without alcohol? No way 🙂 There was an image I was going to use… one of those some ecards… it said “Next time I’m planning our family reunion in the parking lot of a liquor store, for convenience.” But then I worried one of my family members would read and get pissed off.

      Okay, golf cart story, I was hoping someone would ask! The main event takes place down the hill from the parking lot, so a golf cart is provided for the older folk (or lazy folk) who don’t want to walk up the hill at the end of the night. Unfortunately, many of the group has been drinking for hours by the time the shuttles need to happen. So a member of the generation ahead of me (think mid-sixties) is shuttling the generation ahead of him (think mid-eighties) to the parking lot, overshoots, and tumbles down the hill, golf cart, octogenarians and all. Thankfully my son and a few other teens were around to upright the golf cart and its occupants. I asked, “Was anyone hurt?” He (my son) said, “Well, they kept cackling and saying they were going to post pictures to Facebook, so I guess not.”

      I’m just impressed that they HAVE Facebook accounts!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for putting this out there Josie…for all the good I’ve accomplished in sobriety so far, I still avoid drinking events so I don’t know how I’ll do with the next family/drinking event…Guess I’m about to find out over Thanksgiving this year. I’m hoping to make it about family and connecting and no about what happens to be in my glass. Reading your post gives me hope 🙂
    Jenn

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Overturned golf carts – plural- ha! Sounds like you had the perfect reunion experience. Also chuckled at the happiest 6 years comment on your friend’s 7 year soberversary. Good thing we don’t realize how tough year 1 is until it’s past.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Josie!
    My last family event was a wedding.
    YIKES!
    My hubs and I were the only ones not drinking.
    But it was ok, as we danced and just hung out.
    I was glad to see my family because they live different states and we hardly ever see them!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. PS – I’m two years sober now!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Two years is HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so happy for you, Wendy!

    Liked by 1 person

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