Monthly Archives: February 2017
M(3), 2/27/2017: It’s a Family Disease
I’m not sure I’ve ever been more excited for a month to end… it’s so exciting to write that date out. We are almost there!
Today’s reading came from the book Forming True Partnerships, and this morning’s chapter concerns the family. The author is an alcoholic in recovery, but her story focuses on the way she handled the alcoholism she found in three out of her four children. She learned early on that the most effective way she could help her children was to let go of the need to fix them, and to be a good example of sober living. The story has a happy ending in that all four of her children find sobriety (even the one that did not become a full-blown alcoholic), and together they have 73 years of sobriety. Inspirational stuff for sure.
My first reaction to reading this story was horror. I have a healthy fear of even one of my children having to grapple with this disease, and how I will handle that issue should it arise. To have three children suffer, and to know that powerlessness, would seem too much to handle.
The silver lining I heard in this cloud is that she got to experience the miracle of recovery over, and over, and over again. By doing what she had to do to stay sober herself, she was able to be there for her children when they needed her, and she got to see them recover. What a blessing that must have been.
The larger message I read, the broader issue that impacts each of us, is learning to let go of the need to control and fix our loved ones. Even if it is not as serious as the author described, three children facing the crisis of full-blown alcoholism, virtually all of us struggle with the need to “fix” people in our lives. It is so easy to see the problem when we are outside of it… surely people would be happier if they just did what we can so clearly see they should be doing! But of course we are powerless over the actions of others, as well we should be. This lesson is an important one for me to hear on a regular basis.
And that was only what I got from the reading! Here are some other great insights:
- This message applies to all sorts of family issues, and it is all too easy to get sucked into the drama of a family member’s life. A 12-step program is a true gift in times of family crisis, because it is a reminder that we can only control ourselves.
- Even without children, we all experience the situation where we are asked to fix someone else’s problem. When this happens, it can jeopardize our own sobriety. It is important to remember to put our own recovery first. We are of no help to anyone unless we are on solid sober ground.
- There are so many side benefits to a 12-step program besides helping us get sober, and this reading touches on an important one: using the tools of the program to more effectively parent our children. So many of the pithy expressions we take for granted in our fellowship are useful messages for our children. Take things one day at a time, do the thing right in front of you, first things first… these are not just ways to stay sober, they are ways to live the best life you can live.
- This story is more common than you think. An alcoholic parent of multiple children is likely to go through this, and it can rip a family apart. It is so useful to read a story such as this, and learn the things the author did to keep herself sane and sober, and to put yourself in the best position to help your children. The biggest piece in the puzzle, and the most challenging part, is to learn to let go and let God.
- One of the sneaky ways to parent a child that you worry might have some of the characteristics of a potential alcoholic, is to let them see how your recover. Let them read the things you are reading, let them help you get sober, and hopefully a seed has been planted should the problem surface for them later in life.
- It is frightening as the parent of small children to spot the characteristics that could lead to the disease of alcoholism, so it is important to learn how to detach from this fear and live in the present. Again, we have no control over this type of outcome, or of the future itself. We only have today.
- When caught in a situation where you feel like you need to fix someone, it is critical to share what’s going on with someone you trust. For those in a 12-step program, a sponsor is critical… make sure you are bouncing your thoughts, feelings and actions off someone who has an objective view of the situation.
- This whole reading seems like it is about setting boundaries, something that is tricky for almost all of us to do, especially with our children. An expression that is helpful when trying to create healthy boundaries is “let go or be dragged.”
Hope everyone is enjoying seeing February end as much as I am!
My initial reading of today’s story did not do a whole lot for me. But thanks to the miracle of the wisdom of the group, I gained a wealth of ideas and perspectives that really helped me appreciate the story. I am so grateful for my Monday morning peeps!
M(3),2017: From Your Mouth To God’s Ears
A very happy Monday, and a happy President’s Day to my American readers! I’m hoping you are having as beautiful a day as I am having. It feels more like spring than it does late February in my neck of the woods!
Today’s reading was from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, where we studied:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
There was a great crowd this morning… just enough people that everyone had a chance to share, a nice mix of long-timers and those with a smaller amount of sober time, a group of regular attendees and those who were new to the meeting.
When I read this particular step, I break it down and look at prayer and meditation as two distinctly separate things, though I suppose in an ideal world they would be connected. As for prayer, the chapter defines prayer perfectly:
Prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God. -pg. 102, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
My prayer life, or ritual of praying, has evolved quite a bit over the years, and I imagine will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I am currently at a point where the bulk of my praying is conversational in nature… I talk to God, express gratitude, ask for intentions, in much the same way as I would talk to another human being. I shared as much with the group this morning, and I wondered aloud if I am missing something important by not including more formal prayers in my daily practice. I invited anyone in the group that might be willing to share with me the benefits they receive from praying in a more formal manner.
As is always the case, my fellow Monday meeting attendees did not disappoint. Each person shared with me the various ways they pray, and how their prayer rituals help them. Unsurprisingly, the list was a diverse one:
- Morning prayers said immediately upon waking
- Morning prayer said over coffee
- Morning prayers said on the commute into work
- Reading from a daily devotional book
- Listening to Christian radio
- Formal meditation
- Yoga as a form of prayer
- Chanting and singing prayer
Believe it or not, I’m not sure I listed them all! In every case, the benefits received were the same, no matter what type of prayer is uttered: a deeper relationship with one’s Higher Power. In deepening the relationship, each person reports receiving a deeper sense of gratitude, a feeling of connection, and an overall sense of peace that, prior to a prayer life, had not been experienced.
Most important, not a single person could list a negative side effect to prayer. There simply is no downside! Even those who fall on the spectrum of agnosticism did not find a drawback in attempting to pray.
The group did not speak as much on the meditation piece, so it is hard to try to write a consensus. Speaking for myself, and I know I’m repeating myself from past blog pieces, meditation is a practice I dearly wish to master. Hell, I’d settle for being able to claim that I am half-assed meditator! Sadly, I can make no such proclamation. Here’s what I can say: when I have been able to meditate on a regular basis, I am able to draw upon a reserve of calm that I don’t otherwise have. That calm allows me to pause in stressful situations, and thoughtfully consider the best way to react.
Regular meditation also deepens my sense of gratitude, and allows me to be more present in my daily activities.
Finally, I feel a strong sense of accomplishment when I engage in a regular meditation practice. Similar to when I exercise, I feel empowered by the regular practice of something I know is good for me mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
Maybe, just maybe, now that I’ve written all this out, the fire will be lit, and I will restart my meditation practice!
Writing a post when everyone is home from school/work. Usually people around means I am anywhere but in front of the computer!
M(3), 2/6/17: D.E.N.I.A.L.
Somebody astutely pointed out this morning that last night’s Super Bowl excitement took a good chunk out of our usual attendance. It was strange at first to see such a low number of meeting attendees, but by the end of the meeting I was grateful. I forget the intimacy a smaller meeting brings. Every single person got to share on his or her take on the reading, and a few of us shared twice. It was a lovely, nostalgic hour for me.
Being the first Monday of the month, we read a personal story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous entitled “Crossing the River of Denial.” A compelling tale of a woman whose ability to deny her alcoholism knew no bounds, this story touched a nerve with each of us in the meeting this morning.
I was hooked from the synopsis of the story, located directly below the title:
She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking, she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it, she couldn’t enjoy it. – pg. 328, Alcoholics Anonymous
That line took me back to the thick of active addiction. Many a time I convinced myself that I had no problem, because when I chose to I could control how much I drank. What I failed to notice that on those occasions (that, by the way, became less frequent as time went on) when I controlled my drinking, I was generally not enjoying the occasion at all. I was too focused on keeping my drinking at pace with someone else, or counting the drinks I had, or making sure I drank water in between glasses. It’s fairly difficult to stay present when you are that preoccupied with the amount of liquid you are consuming.
Another theme of the story is the depth of denial one is capable of experiencing. The author suffered rather dire consequences, and hit lower and lower “bottoms,” and continued to deny her responsibility for her behavior. It was always someone else’s fault, there was always someone whose problems were worse than hers, there was always a justification for her actions.
Again, this theme brought back painful memories for me, as I was an expert at dodging blame. Either it wasn’t as bad as you were making it out to be, it wasn’t your business to be noticing, or why are you talking to me when you should be talking to (fill in the blank, someone whose behavior was far worse than mine).
Of course, all personal stories in the Big Book end happily, and this one was no exception. Once she was able to hear for herself that she was not alone in her thoughts and feelings, that others had gone before her and changed the course of their lives, she knew she wanted what they had. She jumped in with both feet, and her life is dramatically different today. She’s not sure which part of her 12-step work is keeping her sober, and she doesn’t really care. All she knows is that it works, so she keeps at it, one day at a time.
What a message of hope, and a great reminder not to get too caught up in the “why’s” of any given situation. Do what works, and give the result up to the Universe.
Some other great insights from this morning’s meeting:
- One of the great lines from the reading speaks to the idea of doing the next right thing:
“… the Big Book had no chapters on “Into Thinking” or “Into Feeling” – only “Into Action.” -pg. 336, Alcoholics Anonymous
- Some of us think that the great hope is to control our drinking, but upon further investigation we realize it’s not that we wish to control our drinking, but to drink as we wish and escape consequences. And when we are able to honestly acknowledge that, we are well on our way to choosing sobriety.
- The story is a good reminder of the value of keeping things green. It is easy to forget, as time goes by, how difficult and painful active addiction truly is. By reading the depths this woman experienced before choosing sobriety, we remember ourselves how painful it was for us.
- The unacceptable becomes acceptable is yet another theme of the story that is poignant for those of us in recovery. Almost all of us can point to a time where we said that we are not alcoholic because we didn’t (fill in the blank). As time went on and we continued to drink, those same statements became null and void. Because this is a disease of progression, all those things we claim we haven’t done become a “yet…” things that will eventually come true if we continue to live in denial.
- The word denial itself can be used as an acronym:
Happy Monday to all!
Learning from, and being inspired by, a small group of trusted friends!