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M(3), 2/27/2017: It’s a Family Disease

alcoholsayings-1160

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!

Today’s Miracle:

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!

 

When to Hang on and When to Let Go

 

I’ve been dealing with two different issues that have remained unresolved for long enough that I thought I needed to make a decision:  either keep trying different strategies in the hope of enacting change, or let go of the situation entirely and decide that since it is out of my control, then I should remove it from my life.  Neither of these options was sitting well with me, so I figured I would sit down and write about it.  In looking for an image to correspond to this writing, I came across the one shown above.  And I am so glad I did, because it really gave me some clarity for both of the issues with which I’ve been grappling.

The two situations are entirely different, involving people from different parts of my life, but in the end the struggle I’ve been having involves the same thing:  I am putting myself, and my thoughts of what is right and wrong, front and center, when in fact I am almost completely immaterial.  In other words:  there is a God, and I’m not Him.  In both cases my motives are pure enough, I want what’s best for people who are struggling.  The problem, of course, is the idea that I know what’s best, and that I think I hold the answers to solve anyone’s problems.  Pure, unadulterated ego at work.

I have known for some time that my all-or-nothing thinking rarely gets me anywhere productive.  The notion, “well, I tried, you’re not listening, so I’m done” is an attitude that I have used, unsuccessfully, in the past, and I’m not sure why I hang onto it.  After all, what if anyone in my life had acted on that thought with me when I was in active addiction, where would I be now?  I shudder to think of what my life would be like today if that were true.

So the key for me (as it usually is) is finding the balance.  Balance between being helpful and supportive, but not being overwhelmed or consumed by the problems of others.  Balance between being there for people, but creating healthy boundaries for myself.  As with all matters, I am a work in progress, but the self-awareness and consideration before action are definitely areas of improvement for me!

Today’s Miracle:

A little more than two years ago, my husband had to cancel a business trip because of my active addiction.  Today, I am more than halfway through a week with him away on business, and all is well.  I am so grateful that my sobriety has brought back the trust in our family!

 

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