We Have The Power

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!

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

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.”

The Power Of Speaking

Deborah Meier said in her book, The Power of Their Ideas, “Teaching is mostly listening, and learning is mostly telling.”

I love this because as a former teacher I used to have it turned all around. I got better, fortunately, but then I retired. Now I’m an author and what I’ve learned about myself by writing has filled three books.

I speak a lot, telling my story, mostly at recovery meetings. And when I’m not speaking to other people, I’m speaking to a piece of paper—many pieces of paper. It’s my therapy. It’s how I learn about myself.

It’s a constant practice of self-discovery, this discipline of pen to paper. I cross out, revise, change my mind, rephrase things. All this writing and rewriting helps me clarify my thoughts, my understanding of what’s real to me: what’s authentic. It’s how I learn about myself.

How I’m learning.

Continually.

It’s an ongoing process.

I find that as I keep growing and changing my writing reflects that as well. There’s nothing static about me or about my writing.

And just as the words flow out of my pen onto paper, my recovery continues to flow from my heart to those around me. It’s a real symbiosis, this relationship I have with my pen. It eases the words out of me so that I can share what I’ve learned with others.

The rare epiphany I experience is like a volcanic eruption. I had one recently, and writing and rewriting about that has taught me so much about its meaning. But mostly I’m just going with the flow of life, trying to pay attention with what’s going on with me.

So I continue to do public speaking, which is a tremendous learning experience. And the more I write—the more I speak on paper—the more I learn about who I am and who I’m becoming.

I just have to keep my heart open and listen.

“Recovering From Fear”

From The Forum, November, 2022:

“When I came into Al-Anon at the suggestion of a friend, my life was unmanageable in so many ways. I was unaware that living with alcoholism was involved in my broken relationships, divorce(s), several addictions, inability to be honest with myself, people pleasing, and other things I had not uncovered yet, either because of denial of lack of discovery.”

“lack of discovery…” Bingo! I feel as though I’d been living in a fog for most of my early life, only I didn’t know it. I didn’t know anything about the family disease that (I now know) was interfering with my well-being.

Where was this article—this enlightenment—when I needed it? As a younger woman I blamed myself for everything that was wrong in my life. I understood nothing about the complicated disease of substance use disorder. But twenty years of work in Al-Anon have opened my eyes. The fog has lifted and now I see more clearly. I understand why I internalized so much of the dysfunction that was happening in my family and carried the guilt myself from which there was no relief.

Not until I entered this compassionate fellowship. It is in these rooms that I found forgiveness for my parents and myself, along with critical tools to continue the healing work I was doing. The 12-Steps and the slogans, when practiced, have helped me navigate through my life. And life, itself, is a mixed bag. I’ve had joys, but also incredible sorrows. Using the teaching of Al-Anon as a guide, I’ve learned to be grateful for my blessings. And I’ve learned to accept my sorrows with grace without being destroyed by them. Learning how to put things into healthier perspective has been a gift of the program.

I have been given hope for a better life, and I’ll always be grateful that I opened my mind to some good advice: “Go to a meeting, Marilea. It might be the answer for you.”

It was. And my fears have been replaced by the certainty that all will be well, in God’s plan.

Now

From Each Day a New Beginning, August 4:

 “’Let me tell thee, time is a very precious gift of God, so precious that it’s only given to us moment by moment.’ ~Viola Spolin

Being in tune with now, this moment, guarantees a direct line of communication to God. It also guarantees a full, yet simple life. Our purpose becomes clear as we trust our steps to God’s guidance. How terribly complicated we make life by living in the past, the present, and many future times, all at once…One step, one moment, and then the next step, and its moment. How the simple life bring me freedom!”

It takes a lot of discipline to clear out the clutter in our minds: the clutter littering our past; and the clutter of fear, projection and worry about the future. Before I got into recovery, one foot was in the past, while I massaged my wounds and was full of regret. The other foot was in the future, making dire projections and rendering myself sick with worry.

Stuck in one of those two realities, or both, was punishing and painful. It really was a form of self-flagellation. And doing so prevented me from focusing on what was right in front of me. But as I grew in my recovery, I found a new and higher regard for myself. It was like putting on a new dress, a little stiff and uncomfortable at first. But it had a positive effect on all my relationships, so I kept it in the closet.

That new dress reflected an increased self of self-worth, and the more I wore it the less I needed to punish myself. Guilt had been an old nemesis for many years, but as I grew to love myself, I felt no need to punish myself with it any more. It’s a very destructive, crippling emotion, but it no longer holds me hostage.

Well, now I have a lot of free time! So I keep my eyes on today. My life is full of many wonderful people and moments. I want to stay focused on it today, to appreciate my blessings. It’s a happier way to live—this simple life—and I’m grateful to have the good sense to live in the now. There’s so much freedom in that!

On Guilt And Helping Our Loved Ones

It’s great to be a giver, a person who thinks of others and can put others first. That’s a beautiful thing. But when my giving compromises my values, drains me, or defeats my purpose, then I need to question my motives.

My guilt crippled me very badly, and in “giving” to my daughter—over and over—I was making a deal with the devil. It backfired badly. And I learned a valuable lesson: work through my guilt first—or it will control me and put my relationship with her at risk.

Loosen Your Grip!

From Survival To Recovery, page 268:

“Living fully requires enough trust to release our manipulative, tight-fisted control of life, for only then can we accept the guidance of a Power greater than ourselves. For adult children of alcoholics, our damaged, devastated trust has to be healed and nurtured bit by bit until we feel safe enough to truly let go and let God. Trust does not come from reading a book, however inspired, but from experiencing new relationships in which we are trusted and we can learn to trust those around us…If we willingly surrender ourselves to the spiritual discipline of the Twelve Steps, our lives will be transformed…Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential…We will laugh more. Fear will be replaced by faith, and gratitude will come naturally as we realize that our Higher Power is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves…”

“We will laugh more.”  How can I, beset by depression and instability for many of my years, come to revisit my life now from another perspective? How have I learned how to laugh and see the comedy in things? What has enabled me at last to live well and be happy?

Being in the rooms.

But I hasten to add that we can learn the same tools elsewhere: the tools of letting go and accepting what we can’t change; the tool of gratitude; the tool of detachment and understanding our personal boundaries in relation to our substance user. There are many places where we can pick up these life skills: from our family, friends, church, from our own life experiences…

I might have been luckier, like many of you, and learned these tools in a happy, functioning family when I was growing up. But I learned them later.

And it’s never too late to learn how to be happy.

White knuckling it through life is exhausting. Different methods to relax work for different people. Yoga, prayer, knitting, running, reading, listening to music—the list is endless. The best thing for me to relax is the Serenity Prayer. It has become my mantra:

“God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

I embrace this prayer in big and little ways every day. Its wisdom keeps me right-sized and humble, while at the same time encouraging me to make changes in my life that are within my reach.

We are all challenged, of course, by the last line. That’s why I keep going back to recovery meetings!