From Each Day A New Beginning, Karen Casey, CAL, August 20:
“’Everything in life that we really accept undergoes change. So suffering must become love. That is the mystery.’ ~Katherine Mansfield
Acceptance of those conditions that at times plague us changes not only the conditions but, in the process, ourselves. Perhaps this latter change is the more crucial. As each changes…life’s struggles ease. When we accept all the circumstances that we can’t control, we are more peaceful. Smiles more easily fill us up. It’s almost as though life’s eternal lesson is acceptance, and with it comes life’s eternal blessings.”
This is a hard one for me. Hard because, like many people, it is hard to accept the pain of loss. Like a recent amputee, I miss what’s not there. I miss my high school job; I miss my daughter; I miss some friends who have passed.
And at times I resist. I go into fighting mode where I refuse to accept. But that place is not peaceful for me. It stirs up feelings, long set aside as harmful: guilt, longing, even at times the wish to punish myself.
Whoa! This is why I need my recovery program, to keep me, first of all, on the road and secondly, charting a healthy course. It will do me no good to dwell on the pain of my losses. But it will help me grow a great deal if I can accept them with grace and try to let go of the pain. It will lead me to love.
There are joys in my life that clamor for my attention. That I still have the heart to embrace them openly, not as a consolation, but as emerging gifts worthy of my full attention, is how my grief leads me to a place of love.
Acceptance is the answer for me. It prevents me from getting stuck, and gives me the freedom to move forward.
My sponsor often scolded me when I put myself down, even slightly. Until I got into recovery, low self-regard followed me most of my life. I had some bad habits that needed correcting. If I had a hard time accepting myself, how could I expect anyone else to?
Thank goodness I found the rooms of recovery before I grew too old to reap the rewards! The twelve steps, when practiced with the help of my sponsor, have brought miracles of transformation into my life. I’m so grateful that I’ve remained teachable and not too set in my ways.
I, along with millions of others in our fellowship, have found the courage to change. We only get one chance to go around the block, and it’s never too late to try to do better. My life and relationships have grown richer and more rewarding as a result.
There was a time in my life when genuine joy was a foreign concept to me. Now, upon waking, each day is a new beginning, a chance to check my attitudes, my words, and my behavior.
The three A’s: awareness, acceptance, and action. Each night before my head hits the pillow, if I’m following my program, then I know I’ve done the best that I could do. I especially need to watch what I say because words can’t be taken back and they often do much harm. So, I try to be mindful that my words reflect the best in me.
Other people can be mirrors for us, and if I pay attention, I learn through my every interaction with others what is working and what is not. My program offers an endless array of guidelines to help me make the most of my life.
My joyfulness, on any given day, springs from that.
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen Casey, December 1:
“’And it isn’t the thing you do, dear, it’s the thing you leave undone which gives you a bit of a heartache at the setting of the sun.’ ~Margaret Sangster”
A quality many of us share, a very human quality, is to expect near perfection from ourselves, or to expect the impossible in all tasks done. I must rejoice for the good I do. Each time I pat myself on the back for a job well done, my confidence grows a little bit more. Recovery is best measured by my emotional and spiritual health, expressed in my confidence and trust in “the process.”
Creeping perfectionism is a strange form of self-sabotage. At first it seems like such a good and healthy attitude. But setting realistic goals and doing my best to achieve them is very different from placing unyielding demands on myself and feeling “less-than” if I fail to meet them.
It all boils down to being honest and knowing myself as I am, not as I think I should be. Knowing myself and coming away liking myself—well, for many of us, that’s a process that takes a long time. Holding onto realistic aspirations can be a healthy thing. But demanding perfection of myself and worse, punishing myself when I fall short, is not healthy. It’s a bitter tyrant holding a whip at my back.
Strong language, yes. But not as strong as the sting of that whip on my back. I’m happy to be free of it. I love my recovery fellowship where I’m just one in a community of equals, where I can mess up and they love me anyway. I’ve grown up in the rooms all these years and I’ve learned to love myself, warts and all. This is where I found my humanity. I am truly blessed and happy to be alive, now more than ever, as we join hands to strengthen our communities. Thank you, HP!
This is a hard slogan to practice. When our loved ones are thriving and living good lives, it’s easy to let go of them and concentrate on our own, sometimes messy, lives. But when we love someone who is hurting him/herself, how can we look the other way? Short of burying our child, the next hardest thing is standing by while he/she self-destructs, knowing we lack the ultimate power to control the disease.
We have learned in recovery that there are many things we can do to help. We can try to remain a positive force for them, offering love and encouragement. Drug rehabs work as a recovery tool for many troubled young people, and if parents can make that happen then that’s a good thing. But without the cooperation of our loved ones to follow through on what they learned in those rehabilitation rooms, our efforts are sometimes ineffective. That’s when I have to look the other way. I give myself and my child credit for trying, and then I let go and leave the responsibility for follow-through with the substance user. This is hard. I want to fix everything, make it easier for him/her, protect; it’s intuitive for me. Oh, how hard it is to let go, knowing they could die without our vigilance. Even with it, they could die. Substance use disorder is a cruel taskmaster.
And so, as I keep saying over and over, I must leave my daughter to the life she is bound to if she doesn’t choose recovery from this relentless disease. If I want to have any peace in my life, any joy in what’s still here for me to cherish, then I must do this. I hope for all my brothers and sisters in recovery that they may find peace in their lives, by whatever means possible.
From my forthcoming memoir, Gene and Toots: A Love Story, to be released this summer:
The lessons I’ve learned in life have brought me closer to an understanding of the mysteries of love. And it has everything to do with one of the Greek words for it: agápe. The Greeks certainly understood the difference between different kinds of love—eros, or sexual love, for example—but agápe is the word for humanity’s love for each other. My understanding of the word further leads me to an English word derived from it: agape, or open-mouthed.
Loving between two people almost always involves an openness of mind and heart. Gene and I were hoping—this second time around—to embrace some of the lessons from our past for a greater purpose. We’d hoped to find a way to be happy together while still honoring our differences, even our whims at times.
We haven’t always agreed on things, but we either found a way around disagreements or lay them aside to look at later, without losing our individual integrity. There were times when these disagreements were costly. But we’ve learned to look at these problems with cooler heads, figure out who is responsible for what, and try to resolve them favorably. That’s the most any couple can do when conflict arises.And because we love each other, we are determined to work things through amicably—always hoping for the win-win.
Loving can be expansive. It has the capacity to make us bigger than we were before. I was thoroughly against gardening with Gene, much less running an orchard. But over time, seeing all the blood, sweat and tears he put into it, and with such rich fruits of his labor, I began to feel swayed. By the time we moved to Camano Island, I’d opened my mind enough to work our garden with him. And I’ve learned to love it. Loving Gene transformed me into a novice but enthusiastic gardener.
Gene has showed that same openness to me and my needs. When we moved to Camano Island putting us near my son and his family, Gene left part of his family behind in New Mexico. Bridget still lives there and is happy with her life in community theater. That was no small sacrifice for Gene. But we do spend money and time to go back and visit, reconnecting with Bridget, just as we do with Patrick in Virginia and Caroline in San Francisco.
“And the learning process must be coordinated so that the actor learns as the other actors are learning and develops his character as they are developing theirs. For the smallest social unit is not the single person but two people. In life too we develop one another.” ~Bertolt Brecht
When I met Gene, I was at a point in my life where I craved independence. And Gene also enjoyed the freedom I encouraged him to explore. This is where we were when we met, and we found the ability to remain open to the challenges we faced. Rather than running from them, we let them shape us.
We worked hard to meet each other where we were—in our work lives, in our wilderness adventures, in our living arrangements, and in supporting our families. We learned early on that those families—whom we loved without exception—would have the ability to test us. We have walked with them through their trials—they, in turn, have helped me and Gene through ours. We can look at each other now with the certainty that we did our best for our children. And that—sincerely loving that part of each other that is separate—brought us closer together as a couple.
Gene and I developed each other’s capacity to love well. We did our best to feed each other’s good wolf. I blossomed, in midlife, by uniting with a man who loves me the way I am, and I him. And from that foundation we both grew in our willingness to try new things, secure in our faith about the mystery of love.
A simple message, but not easy to execute. I do this, not because it comes naturally to me (it doesn’t), but because my experience has shown me over and over again that self-flagellation just keeps me down and out—stuck in a bad place and unable to reach higher. So many years of that negativity and I started to feel that it was my destiny.
Then I was introduced to a recovery movement that changed my life. And it began with what was between my ears.
At what point do we feel restored and able to get up and join the living with confidence and hope for a better life? We are all different and reach that point at different times. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. The student was finally ready for the teacher. May we all rise up and reclaim our own wellness.
Pat yourself on the back often. Because you’re worth it!
“As we let go of obsession, worry, and focusing on everyone but ourselves, many of us were bewildered by the increasing calmness of our minds. We knew how to live in a state of crisis, but it often took a bit of adjustment to become comfortable with stillness. The price of serenity was the quieting of the constant mental chatter that had taken up so much time; suddenly we had lots of time on our hands and we wondered how to fill it.”
I’ve learned how to “be still in the stream.” Obsessing over my daughter and living in all her drama was threatening my health. I was suffering from severe PTSD and endured many other negative consequences in my life as a result of my constant worry over something I couldn’t control.
So, I took the first three steps in my recovery program. It was hard to do that because I felt that letting go was giving up on my daughter, not loving her enough anymore. But that’s not how I feel now.
Once, not so long ago, she was a loving daughter to me, a college graduate with her whole life ahead of her. Then, like the great cosmic crapshoot that afflicts millions of families, she fell out of her life and into substance use disorder. She’s been lost to us all for a long time now.
But my daughter, not the substance user that lives in her body, would want me to reclaim my life as I have, and learn to be happy.
I believe this with all my heart. I love my daughter. And love always wins.
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen Casey, November 28:
“The idea of God is different with every person. The joy of my recovery was to find God within me.” ~Angela L. Wozniak
Well, there’s a thought…and how empowering! Too much do I rely on the outside world for kindness and goodness and strength. When I don’t always get those things, I feel vulnerable. We’re all flawed human beings, and we don’t always give or receive what’s craved in the moment. All the more reason to maintain a wellspring within ourselves—one of faith and hope for better days.
Isolation is not the answer for us who are in recovery. But neither is too much dependence on how we interact with others. We have to face life’s inevitable disappointments. I try hard to keep my expectations in check, do what I can to make a positive difference in the world, and then let go. I can’t control other people, places or things. But I can try to remain a steady force in my own life and those closest to me.
My recovery has taught me how to manage my ego and remember how small I am in the scheme of things. I have to muster humility in order to take the first three steps (the “God” steps), and humility is knowing my place in relation to God’s: a very small one, like the grains of sand on my beach. Every day I have the ability to marshal my thoughts and inner resources so that I’m not thrown off balance by what’s happening in my small world or in the world at large. All I can do is use the tools of the program as best I can. And, for me, that means keeping God close in my heart and relying on His strength as I watch what’s happening in the world. We all have the power to find peace amid the storms swirling around us. Blessings to all my sisters and brothers!
From Hope for Today, Al-Anon approved literature, January 7:
“One of the first Al-Anon sayings I remember hearing, known as the three C’s, embodies the concept of powerlessness over alcoholism: ‘I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.’…
’I didn’t cause it’ relieves me of any lingering guilt I may feel: ‘If only I had been a better (fill in the blank), (fill in the blank) would not have become (fill in the blank).’…
’I can’t control it’ gives me permission to live my life and take care of myself…
’I can’t cure it’ reminds me that I don’t have to repeat my insane behavior over and over again, hoping for different results.
I don’t have to search for the magic cure that isn’t there. Instead I can use my energy for my recovery.”
When we love someone caught in the trap of substance use disorder, we want to do everything possible to help. That’s only natural. In the beginning of my daughter’s illness, she enjoyed periods of sobriety, and I gave myself a lot of the credit because I was so supportive. Then, over time, her life went south and she went out again. And I was left to feel “What did I do wrong? I’ve been so supportive!” Again, over time, I learned in MY recovery group that her illness had nothing to do with me. And her facing down her demons and reclaiming her life was even less of my responsibility.
That’s where the rubber hit the road for me. That’s where I had to do the most difficult: lean into acceptance, let go of my own daughter and pray she finds her way back home. A friend who’s not walking in my shoes used to chide me, “Don’t just sit there; DO something!”
Well, I’ve done all I can. Maybe the seed of recovery will sprout in her. But for now, I choose to let go and let God. And I realize there’s a lot of strength in surrender.
Excerpt from my forthcoming memoir, Gene and Toots: A Love Story
“When my daughter was in trouble, my instinct was to rescue and protect her from harmful consequences. It was losing my child to the torture of substance use disorder that led me, quite accidentally, into confronting myself and the landscape of all my own inner conflict. And in so doing, ironically, it was I who came away more healed, less broken, and more able to accept—with grace—the disappointments in my life. Now, after years of recovery, I know that those same consequences might have been her best teachers. This is precisely where faith might have helped me; I didn’t have any when I most needed it.”