Walls and Bridges

From Courage To Change, January 22:

“Detachment is not isolation, nor should it remain focused on not enabling the sick behavior of the past. Detachment is not a wall; it is a bridge across which (we) may begin a new approach to life and relationships generally.”

 

I had a hard time at first understanding what detachment was. I thought it was an uncaring way to behave. How could I detach? I was so enmeshed with my daughter Angie and intent on saving her from herself that I couldn’t think straight. I was just being a warrior mom, and I had a lot of company.

It was only when I faced my (misplaced) guilt and recognized it as a stumbling block that I was able to get some emotional distance and see what I was doing.

I needed to get out of the way.

Walls vs. bridges. I used to think that detaching from another person’s problem was like putting up a wall: separating myself emotionally and physically. But I needed to establish healthy boundaries in my relationship with Angie. That’s what was missing.

I realized that it’s not okay to be overprotective; she would learn nothing otherwise. Instead of erecting a wall, I built this bridge, stone by stone, rail by rail, reinforcing it with the boundaries I needed to honor my own needs.

One of those needs was to try and be a responsible parent. I needed to stop enabling Angie to continue her behavior without consequences. I know she’ll do what she wants with or without me. But I have torn down the wall of shame and anger that separated us before.

As long as she’s alive, I have hope that she’ll walk across that bridge and face what’s ahead of her with the love and support of her family.

 

 

 

Everyone Benefits

From Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, p. 172:

“I was powerless over the death of my husband, but I had choices about what to make of my life from that point on. I could choose to be bitter and angry that my husband was gone, or I could be grateful for the time we had together. I could look at life as something to be endured alone, or I could embrace every moment. I could choose to look at my future with fear, or I could think of it as an adventure waiting to unfold…I’m astonished to discover that not only in spite of, but because of my losses, I am more keenly aware of the tenuousness, the delicacy, and the beauty of every moment.”

 

I particularly like this book because its premise is a dark place and we are shown through the sharing of others’ stories the importance of attitude and how transformative it can be. How we can and should rise above the pain of our losses. Things are what they are, to be sure, but how we choose to view our circumstances determines our state of mind.

Recovery has opened my mind to choices I never felt empowered to make before. I was on automatic pilot, held hostage to many ideas and behaviors that were unhealthy. But I’ve learned that I can change, and making different choices puts me on a path to greater peace and serenity.

At this time of new resolutions every year, I resolve on a daily basis to do what works best for me. And if I’m happy with my choices I can see that contentment rubbing off onto those around me. Everyone benefits from my ongoing recovery.

Sunrises and Sunsets

“Taint worthwhile to wear a day all out before it comes.”

 Worry.

We all do it. It’s normal to think about those we love, and when they’re in trouble, think about what we can do to help.

But it’s when that worry extends beyond a day—as well as to matters we have no control over—that WE get worn out, not the day.

And when we’re worn out, our life is in danger of becoming unmanageable: we’re tired; we make bad decisions; we lose all healthy perspective; we lose our sense of humor, and without that, we’re whipped.

So how do we not worry? By remembering that tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. It’s wasteful to put our mental energy into it.

I try to focus on today, on what’s right in front of me. Like the laundry.

Yes, it’s a distraction from bigger things. But sometimes getting a nasty spot out of my favorite jeans, or watching the colors of the sky change as the sun goes down—or anything positive that’s happening in the moment—might just take the sting out of all the worrisome tomorrows that will still be there when I wake up.

But at least I had the good sense to enjoy that sunset.

Accepting Ourselves

“If we have submerged ourselves in the needs of others we may have lost sight of who we are, our self-esteem and individual rights. Awareness of the futility of doing the same things over and over, trying to control another person, and expecting that one day these actions will work, is freeing if we allow it to be. We are entitled to our own opinions, beliefs, limitations, and strengths. Accepting and loving ourselves for who we are will enable us to grow and change.

The less we try to manage others’ lives, the more effective we become. If we are accepting of others and the things around us, we can simply be ourselves.”

The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I have accepted that my Higher Power will restore me to sanity. I will cease trying to force solutions and control my daughter.

She has her own path and her own Higher Power. And I have mine.

Letting go of Angie in this way has been very hard. But it’s the only way that I’ve successfully been able to reclaim my life and live well. There are other voices calling out to me, and I’m listening.

 

The Serenity Prayer At Work

From Each Day A New Beginning, November 19:

“Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.” ~Minna Antrim

“…Our longing for only life’s joys is human—also folly, Joy would become insipid if it were our steady diet. Joyful times serve us well as respites from the trying situations that push our growth and development as women…

Joy and sorrow are analogous to the ebb and flow of the ocean tide. They are natural rhythms. And we are mellowed by their presence when we accept them as necessary to our very existence.”

 

Of all the tools at my disposal in recovery, I think acceptance has been the most valuable. When I practice the Serenity Prayer, I am free of the resistance and pain that have held me hostage for so long. I’m learning to “lean into my life,” as a friend said at a meeting. In this way, I can let go of things that have held me back. I can practice serenity and strive to be happy—an ongoing process. And I wish that for all of my sisters and brothers in recovery. God Bless!

 

Is It Working For You?

From The Forum, June, 2015:

“The Suggested Preamble to the Twelve Steps have been the most helpful in my recovery: ‘We believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.’ That is to say, it is our attitudes, not our situation, that cause our unhappiness.
When I first came to Al-Anon, and heard these words being read, it was like listening to a foreign language that I did not speak. It was beyond my comprehension that I could find peace and happiness through a change in my own attitude. As I heard these words being read week after week and meeting upon meeting, I resisted the suggestion that I could find peace and contentment if I would become willing to change the attitudes that kept me a prisoner of pain and suffering.
First of all, I didn’t know that I had any particular attitude. My thinking made perfect sense to me. There was nothing wrong with my attitude. I didn’t even understand what my attitude was. Slowly, as I listened in meetings and began working the Steps with my Sponsor, my attitude did begin to change. I was not consciously aware of the change, but I did recognize that my life was less stressful and I was finding periods of happiness and serenity.
One night, a few years into the program, it hit me. I was leading a meeting and as I read the Suggested Preamble to the Twelve Steps, these words ‘…changed attitudes can aid recovery’ struck me. I wanted to laugh out loud and say, ‘Duh…do you think?’ It was so completely clear to me. I got it. I really got it!
Although up to that point, I had changed in many ways, I really believe that this singular, amazing, and powerful moment of clarity was the turning point in my recovery. Reflecting on that moment and remembering the words ‘changed attitudes can aid recovery’ during personal struggles and moments of frustration, kept me willing to continue my journey of self-discovery and brought me a spiritual awakening I would never have thought possible.”

Beautifully spoken by Paula w. of Arizona. I can’t really add much to that, except something my sponsor told me to always ask myself when complaining about a situation that I find myself in: “Is it working for you?” I should always ask myself, and if it’s not, what can I do to change it? Often, it’s a change in my own behavior, but when that proves fruitless then sometimes a change in attitude is all I need to get a good night’s sleep. Is it a problem I have any control over? No? Then let go and let God. Go to sleep. Maybe other solutions will present themselves tomorrow. But for now, give yourself a good night’s rest—because you’re worth it.

Guilt, The Most Crippling Emotion

A Memoir of Recovery

“The ride (to rehab) was quiet. Xavier played a lot of tapes so we wouldn’t be able to talk much. And what could we say? All I could think was that Angie would snap out of this. She would get it right away; I was sure of it. How could this be happening anyway? I was certain I had been dreaming and would wake up from this nightmare. This sort of thing happens to other people’s children, I assured myself.

Angie was a Foreign Service brat.  She was born in South America and moved easily from country to country, or so it seemed.  When we lived in Greece, she competed in England with the gymnastics team. When we lived in Rome, a scout picked her to be in a movie. She was a shining star, and her outward accomplishments duped me into thinking she had a bright future. Oh boy, was I ready to take the credit! Ten years later, when she was twenty-one, I was completely unprepared when she started tumbling into the hell of drug addiction. I should have, but I didn’t see it coming. Oh boy, was I ready to take the blame.” excerpt from my award-winning memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero.

 

It has taken me sixteen years of 12-Step recovery to relieve myself of the guilt that acted as a roadblock not only in my own recovery but, so very tragically, in Angie’s. Guilt kept me pandering to her needs and enabling her at every turn. It put at risk all the healthy boundaries all parents need when dealing with this disease. My guilt and shame prevented her from facing the logical consequences of her behavior. Now she’s on her own in San Francisco, completely estranged from her family for almost six years. I pray she finds the motivation to reach for recovery as so many addicts do. Miracles happen every day. I know that inside the addict my daughter still lives, and I have hope that she’ll return to her family someday. I will always keep my hope alive and a warm place in my heart for Angie.

 

Personal Progress

From Each Day A New Beginning, December 31:

“…Daily attention to our spiritual side will foster the spiritual and emotional health we long for. Prayer and meditation, combined with honest inventory-taking, can show us the personal progress needed, the personal progress made. However, we will falter on occasion. We will neglect our program some days. But it won’t ever be beyond our reach. And each day is a new beginning…”

It’s a comfort to know that I can start my program over at any time. Perfectionism is a hard task master, and it used to drive me to unrelenting self-criticism. I wore a tough outer shell that was hard to penetrate; no wonder I was lonely!

My Higher Power has shown me how to me gentle with myself and kind. As I learn to treat myself better, this behavior extends to those around me. All of my relationships benefit from my new and improved attitudes. I am grateful for the softness and light I have found in the miracle of twelve-step recovery.