I would like to note: my recent holiday was absolutely, miraculously, stress-free, a fact for which I am truly grateful, because I know that many cannot say the same.
I have been absent from WordPress for close to a week now, there is lots going on, much to write about, but for continuity I want to recap yesterday’s meeting. I am hopeful to be back on track now that the kiddies have gone back to school (are my kids the only school district in the universe to have off Thanksgiving Monday? Is Thanksgiving Monday even a thing?).
Yesterday’s meeting, in the rotating literature format, was a Big Book meeting. I selected the very last personal story in the book, entitled “AA Taught Him To Handle Sobriety.” This selection was a deliberate one that relates directly to events in my personal life, which I will write about in the upcoming weeks, but the main take-away that I received from the story is this: it is no great feat to stop drinking, quite probably most of us who call ourselves alcoholics have stopped drinking at various points in our lives. The real challenge for an alcoholic is to stay stopped. So how does that work? To use the author’s words:
By learning- through practicing the Twelve Steps and through sharing at meetings- how to cope with the problems that we looked to booze to solve, back in our drinking days. -Pg. 559, Alcoholics Anonymous
There is, of course, so much more to this gentleman’s story, I would encourage anyone to read his message of experience, strength and hope.
The shares that followed took an interesting turn into the trials and tribulations that come with being part of a family unit. I believe I am correct in assuming that the recent American holiday of Thanksgiving, and the subsequent family rituals that go along with the celebration, played a direct role in the angst about which people were sharing. All sorts of different issues were discussed, but the bottom line for each person was this: resentment is the end result, and resentment is the one thing an alcoholic cannot afford to cultivate.
Even though this holiday is over, the next one is on the horizon, so how does someone in recovery handle it? The first step is to talk about it, get it out, shine a light on the dark thoughts racing around the mind.
The next, and somewhat illuminating, message that came out of the meeting (at least for me, anyway): spin the resentment around, and look for that which you are grateful. If nothing else, if every person in your life is doing you wrong, and you feel that you are the only person doing right, then be grateful that: you are handling yourself with dignity and grace. Could you have made that statement in active addiction? God knows I couldn’t!
Get out of victim mode and see what you can do to better the situation; if you can’t find anything to do, then find a situation you can make better. This last piece comes with a lifetime guarantee: if you get out of your own head long enough to help somebody else, you will go a long way to feeling better about the resentment with which you started.
So many to choose from.. how about this: it is December 3rd, my Christmas cards are out, the house is decorated, and the bulk of my shopping is done. I can tell you, in my 44 years, I have never been able to string those words together, and have them be true!
12-year old sister (with malice aforethought): “Mommy, Danny just said something he shouldn’t have said.”
10-year old brother: “Mommy, I have no idea what she’s talking about.”
Me: “So, Reilly, after all the times we have talked about tattling, you are choosing, again, to volunteer information to get your brother in trouble?”
Verbatim will take this post into the 1,000+ word category, so let’s fast forward. Reilly tattles, the incident is small, but extremely typical of Danny. Danny flat-out denies, and a heated argument ensues. I ask Danny to admit what he did, he repeatedly denies his wrongdoing, and now I get involved.
Me: “So, Danny, you are saying that even though the incident sounds exactly like something you would do, and even though Reilly has never been known to lie, and you have been known to be less than honest, you are still claiming that you did not do it?
Me: So someone is blatantly lying, and must be punished. If you are telling the truth, then Reilly has just made up an outrageous lie for no reason other than to get you in trouble, and she will be punished severely. Are you okay with this?”
Danny: “Yes, I am okay with this.”
At this point we are getting out of the car and into our home. I hand out various punishments, and start to send them to their rooms. Danny lingers, and I seize the opportunity.
Me: “Danny, here is the issue. Everything about this story leads me to believe you are lying, and, if this is true, then you have turned an extremely minor incident into an extremely major one by not simply admitting what you did. I am going to give you one more chance to tell me the truth.”
Long, long pause… then Danny: “Alright, I did it.”
This leads to a discussion about how lies exacerbate whatever problem you are trying to solve, and how the fallout of lying is broken trust. He becomes extremely agitated at this point, and is crying as he yells, “well, since you are never going to trust me again, why even bother trying?”
Here is the turning point of the conversation for me, the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, I have been exactly where Danny is right now, feeling the frustration and desperation he feels, and I am quite a few years older, and should know a hell of a lot better. So I say to him, “There are two ways to deal with this situation, and it is your choice. You can be angry and feel like a victim, believing no one will ever trust you again, and you can continue to kick and scream. You have taken that road before, and you know where it leads. Or you can try another path. Admit you did wrong, accept the consequences, and do your best not to repeat the mistake. It’s the only way to build back the trust.”
I can now process this incident in one of two ways. I can feel immense guilt that my past mistakes have somehow taught Danny by example how to lie to get out of uncomfortable situations, and I can beat myself up for being the worst Mom in the history of the world. Or… I can use my past as a tool. First, I have an empathy for Danny, because I have been there and done that. And since I am actively working on correcting my past, I am in a position to teach him how to do the same.
I guess time will tell…
It’s not what you were, it’s what you are today. -David Marion
First, I hope everyone had a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving day. I did. I was most grateful for being able to cook a meal alongside my husband, while navigating through children-generated chaos, and to sit down at a table and share that meal with people I love, and who love me. It is a small way for me to give back to the people who weathered the many storms I brought to their lives.
But onto new topics… today I attended my regular Friday morning AA meeting, this week was a speaker meeting. I had never met the woman who spoke, but it felt like I did, because she told my story. I have heard many speakers in the last 10 months, and I can usually relate to some part of their story, but today was the first time I actually felt uncomfortable as I listened, because so much of her pain was my pain, and it hurt me to relive it.
But here is the cool part of recovery… growth. In the past, when I heard something to which I could relate, I would feel a sense of kinship, or I would feel validated that I was right where I needed to be, which is good stuff. Today, I heard this woman’s message, and I realized that while I am proud of the accomplishments I have made, I can see, through her, what I aspire to be. While I don’t enjoy remembering how bad it was, I can look to this woman as a source of inspiration, and realize that I have more work to do. I want what she has, so I need to do what she does.
For me, that growth took place by walking up to her after the meeting, introducing myself, and letting her know how her story affected me. I am still on the shy side when it comes to opening up to speakers and chair people, but I realized that if I want to learn from her, she has to know who I am. So I just did it. And she was as wonderful as I knew she would be. We exchanged phone numbers, and I hope to meet up with her again soon. It is just another step on the journey, but I can recognize the steps as I’m taking them now!