Nonresistance

From Each Day A New Beginning, Conference Approved Literature, January 9:

“’The Chinese say that water is the most powerful element, because it is perfectly nonresistant. It can wear away a rock and sweep all before it. ‘ ~Florence Scovel Shinn

Nonresistance, ironically, may be a posture we struggle with. Nonresistance means surrendering the ego absolutely. For many of us the ego, particularly disguised as false pride, spurred us on to struggle after struggle.”

Well, I don’t do anything absolutely, but my time in recovery has strongly encouraged me to remain right-sized in my thinking. EGO—Easing God Out—is a useful reminder that I don’t always know what’s best in any situation. But my resistance often keeps me stuck.

Whether it’s wondering how to cope with my addicted daughter, or wondering how to continue facing the loneliness of Covid, or determining what to do about a barking dog in the wee hours of the morning, all of these problems require some level-headed judgment, which I don’t always have.

So I find the power of prayer to be a wonderful relief and solution to my thinking that I have to fix every problem.

If it’s a situation I can control, I’ll try to do something.

If it’s not something I have the ability to control, I’ll try to let it go.

And determining which is which, needless to say, is our biggest challenge.

The 7 Rules of Life

Happy New Year! Regardless of the storms swirling around us, I will try to remember what’s most important in life. I ask myself, “How important is it?”  before I work myself up into a lather! I’ll try to slow down and not overreact to events. I’ll try to keep things in perspective and maintain a healthy attitude.

Let us all try to live well and hope for the best in our world.

Surviving Slumps

“A slump can go on for days. We feel sluggish, unfocused, and sometimes overwhelmed with feelings we can’t sort out. We may not understand what is going on with us. Even our attempts to practice recovery behaviors may not appear to work. We still don’t feel emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as good as we would like.

In a slump, we may find ourselves reverting instinctively to old patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, even when we know better. We may find ourselves obsessing, even when we know that what we’re doing is obsessing and that it doesn’t work.

We may find ourselves looking frantically for other people to make us feel better, the whole time knowing our happiness and well-being does not lay with others.

We may begin taking things personally that are not our issues, and reacting in ways we’ve learned all too well do not work.

We’re in a slump. It won’t last forever. These periods are normal, even necessary. These are the days to get through. These are the days to focus on recovery behaviors, whether or not the rewards occur immediately. These are sometimes the days to let ourselves be and love ourselves as much as we can.

We don’t have to be ashamed, no matter how long we’ve been recovering. We don’t have to unreasonably expect “more” from ourselves. We don’t ever have to expect ourselves to live life perfectly.

Get through the slump. It will end. Sometimes, a slump can go on for days and then, in the course of an hour, we see ourselves pull out of it and feel better. Sometimes it can last a little longer.

Practice one recovery behavior in one small area, and begin to climb uphill. Soon, the slump will disappear. We can never judge where we will be tomorrow by where we are today.

Today, I will focus on practicing one recovery behavior on one of my issues, trusting that this practice will move me forward. I will remember that acceptance, gratitude, and detachment are a good place to begin.

From the book: The Language of Letting Go: Hazelden Meditation Series

The Promise Of Change

From Each Day A New Beginning, Karen Casey, October 1:

“’Women are often caught between conforming to existing standards or role definitions and exploring the promise of new alternatives.’ ~Stanlee Phelps and Nancy Austin

…Recovery means change in habits, change in behavior, change in attitudes. And change is seldom easy. But change we must, if we want to recover successfully.”

This applies to both substance users and to those who love them, for we all need recovery.

At first, many years ago, I had no idea that loving a substance user had the potential to make me sick: denial, guilt, obsession, depression and anxiety; it would be hard for a parent to not experience one of those things.

But over time, I realized that I was doing things I never would have done under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances, and I let myself justify a number of things, the most damaging being not making my daughter accountable for her actions. I enabled and overprotected, which stood in the way of her growing, changing, and recovering.

Fortunately for me, I have adopted many new attitudes from sitting in the rooms and enjoying the support of many other parents. My knee-jerk habit of rescuing has stopped, and my behavior has changed toward everyone in my life. I believe that it has a lot to do with my inventory work in Al-Anon, but others find the ability to change through other means. It doesn’t matter where we gain our strength. The important thing is to make the necessary changes that will enable us to live well and be happy—because we all deserve to have a good life.

Memories

An old middle school friend of my daughter’s from 30 years ago found me on Facebook this week. Then she called me on Facetime from North Carolina.

“Jaime, omg, how are you? What are you up to?”

“Oh, I’ve got three boys and I’m doing well. But I’ve been wanting to get in touch with Annie.”

So I told her a short version of our story.

“I’m so sorry for the hell you’ve been going through, Marilea. Please know that I remember her to be the best kid, loyal and kind. It’s hard to believe how drugs have changed her so completely. If you ever reconnect with her, tell her I miss her and want to reconnect.”

Christmas is always hard for this mother, no matter how much recovery I have. I’m only human. But Jaime’s phone call made me feel better. It was a real time reminder that I once had a daughter who was doing pretty well in the world. She did some things to be proud of. She had friends who remember her like she was before drugs. And family.

Keeps things in perspective. We all have kids who were once doing well. It wasn’t all bad. As I decorate my Christmas tree, I proudly add the decorations she made in preschool. I remember the good times, and I smile when I look at the tapestry she made for me.

No Man’s Land

Excerpt from my first memoir, written under a pseudonym, as my healing journey began:

“Meth addicts can go for days without sleep sometimes, and then they need to crash, recoup their energy and start the cycle all over again. I went back upstairs, tiptoeing around the house, a minefield waiting to be activated by just the wrong look or comment. Most of the time I felt like a scared rabbit.

Angie came and went like a phantom between the holidays. She was a body, yes, but nothing else resembled my daughter. Her face was still healing from the burns she had gotten from freebasing crack cocaine back in October. She lost all her beautiful eyelashes then and had been wearing false ones ever since. How bizarre: false eyelashes at age twenty-two. And the eye drops—always the eye drops. She ate not at all as far as I could see, nothing from my refrigerator anyway. She was painfully thin. But, of course, meth took away your appetite. That was the point, one of them, anyway. All those years ago when I took amphetamines, I delighted in the same side effect. Life was repeating itself and I was in a time warp observing myself at the very same age. God, it was so painful.

We barely spoke. Sometimes she mumbled “Hello,” but mostly she just needed a place to crash and get her clothes…Every day was a surreal pageant, dancing around with this stranger. The terror was so disorienting that I lapsed into denial sometimes and pretended it wasn’t happening. But that was easier to do when I was working. I was on a break from school now and I couldn’t escape from it. It was right in front of me.

As New Year’s approached, I couldn’t bear it anymore. Did I snap? I hadn’t even joined Al-Anon yet, but years later I would hear a saying at meetings: “In Al-Anon we learn to trade a wishbone in for a backbone.” Amazing! I was ready to cross these frightening waters before I even had the support of the group. But I would flee, in subsequent years, to higher ground all too often, unable to navigate effectively. This was going to be a journey as much for me as for Angie, I soon found out. And like most journeys there would be many bumps in the road.”

© Maggie C. Romero, 2014. Excerpt from A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Mercury HeartLink)

Hope For Whom?

From Hope for Today, Al-Anon approved literature, January 5:

“During each Al-Anon meeting…I hear ‘In Al-Anon we discover that no situation is really hopeless.’ At first I had a hard time comprehending that idea in my mind and heart. I felt anchored in a place so dark and full of despair…Even if Al-Anon folks could stop my mother from drinking, they certainly couldn’t go back in time and give me a happy childhood. I felt doomed. Yet as I looked around me at meetings, I saw many smiling faces. Maybe there was hope after all.”

When I first went into recovery, I always challenged the word “hope.” I said to everyone at the meetings, “Hope for whom?”  For my daughter—or for me? In time, though with tremendous difficulty, I accepted that I had no power over my daughter’s choices and I learned to let go. Then I put the focus back on Marilea and started to feel an unfamiliar brand of hope: for myself.

As it says in the reading, “Situations don’t lose hope; people do. What is lost can be found, restored, replaced, or recovered. Even though the members of Al-Anon didn’t change my mother or my childhood, they did help me change my attitude.”

I realized with stunning clarity that my “poor-me” attitude was getting me nowhere, and I’d better make an effort to be more positive if I wanted to be happy. I’m not unique; I’m no different from millions of other parents out there who have lost children. We are an army of men and women who are facing one of our society’s cruelest challenges.

But if we can let go of our substance user at his worst, we find that what’s left in our lives looms larger. My other children are more precious to me now precisely because of the sister they have lost. I would prefer to have all three of my babies healthy and happy. But we don’t always get what we want. Accepting that with all the grace I can muster, I’m able to move forward in my life and enjoy the years left to me.

Hope for whom? Hope for me—because I’m worth it. Believe it with all your heart, my friends, believe it until it comes true.

Keeping Secrets

It’s important for families to communicate well, especially where illnesses are involved. We didn’t talk much in my family, especially about the elephant in the living room, my father’s alcoholism. In those days there was so much shame and stigma, and it was swept under the rug.

Not a healthy way to deal. I always knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what. Many children are naturally egocentric, and I thought everything was my fault. I internalized all of the dysfunction and blamed myself. So that’s how I proceeded through life, feeling guilty for what was not my responsibility.

If I had been told what was going on—even later on when I could handle it— I would have gotten a healthier perspective on my family and my place in it. And I would have let go of the guilt, which wasn’t mine to carry.

Talk to your kids, no matter what. It might not change what’s going on, but it might provide a smoother landing pad for your kids later on in their lives.  “Knowledge is power.”

Living In Abundance

“Life holds so much—so much to be happy about always. Most people ask for happiness on conditions. Happiness can only be felt if you don’t set conditions.” ~Arthur Rubenstein

All of us in these rooms have experienced substance use disorder in one form or another: in ourselves or in a loved one. Many serious illnesses are incurable, but SUD is often conquered by the sufferer. Many substance users recognize that they have the power to change if they are committed to recovery. Different people have different ways of dealing with it: some use 12-Step recovery, some use prayer, or yoga, or running, or writing things down. No one way is better than another. Whatever works for you.

Substance use disorder is painful and messy. My life was derailed because of it. But I found a way to recover—from my own substance use as well as my obsession with saving my daughter, and I got my life back.

I’m filled with gratitude every day for that. And I wish us all the same peace and joy for that freedom. I’ve learned to be happy and to make the best of things as they are. And that’s quite a lot. Gratitude keeps me grounded in recovery, and not just on Thanksgiving!