“But For The Grace Of God…”

“There’s always going to be someone out there with far less than I have who is happy.”

It’s so important to keep things in perspective. Even though the compounding tragedies that bring us together in the rooms consume us, they needn’t. When I take a fully inventory of my life and recognize that my blessings far outnumber my losses, I know how much worse things could be.

And, for me, that makes all the difference.

Keeping things in perspective is a daily balancing act for me. Especially now, when everyone’s life is out of whack, it’s easy to get overly emotional and overreact to small things that we used to ignore. In a way, with all of our worlds reduced to the inside of our homes, we are living under a microscope. Families that used to send three kids off to school every day with husbands and wives sharing the car with public transportation are having to remain inside their home, constantly bumping into each other.

This is not something I’m experiencing, but millions of other families are, and results from this new normal will start pouring in. All anyone can do is try to make the best of a new situation. Hopefully many families will be stronger on the other side of this. My recovery demands that I remain grateful for my blessings because “there’s always going to be someone out there with far less than I have who is happy.” I’ll take a page from his/her book.

Good Vibes

From the blue Nar-Anon pamphlet:

Changing Ourselves

“Addiction is like a chain reaction. It is a disease which affects the addict as well as the family members, friends and co-workers. We try to control, cover up, and take on the responsibilities of the addict. The sickness spreads to those of us who care the most. Eventually, we begin to feel used and unhappy. We worry, lose trust and become angry. The addict blames us and we feel guilty. If only something or someone would change!

When we discover Nar-Anon, we find others with the same feelings and problems. We learn we cannot control the addict or change him. We have become so addicted to the addict that it is difficult to shift the focus back to ourselves. We find that we must let go and turn to faith in a Higher Power. By working the steps, following the traditions and using the tools of the program, we begin, with the love and help of our Higher Power and others, to change ourselves.

As we reach out for help, we become ready to reach out a helping hand and heart to those in need of Nar-Anon. We understand. We do recover. Slowly, new persons emerge. Change is taking place.”

Though I have changed and grown through my work in the program, I. of course, still love my daughter and am available to help her if she reaches out to me for help. Detachment is not desertion. The difference is that I’m a healthier person now and am able to make the tough choices I couldn’t make years ago. I pray she finds the strength to come back to her family. We can’t get back the lost years, but I still have hope, like the warm sun shining on my face, and keeping my love strong.

Love and hope in the time of coronavirus. If “addiction is a chain reaction,” moving through our society like a massive nimbus cloud of loneliness and despair, then kindness and good will can also be a chain reaction, propelling people to examine their lives and make necessary changes. There was never an easier time to do this, when all these weeks of enforced reflection carry the potential for change in all of us. In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” has two characters: one for danger and the other for opportunity.

This is humanity’s opportunity to move forward stronger and more effectively than ever before.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” ~Charles A. Beard

“One Day At A Time”

Involvement in the world of substance use disorder is overwhelming, whether I’m a substance user or love one. So when I try to do things on a daily basis, and not for the rest of my life, getting through every day seems more manageable.

I am not able to multitask. Not at all. If I try to do two things at once, neither of them gets done. I’m just not able to juggle two things at once. So I make a lot of lists and I try to manage things simply, doing one thing at a time. This process has taught me a lot of patience, if only because the rest of the world is screaming at my back to hurry up! So—with difficulty— I tune them out, listening to my own drummer.

The pressures of living are out there, relentlessly telling me to do this or finish that. It takes discipline to ignore the ads, the competitive wars I unconsciously wage against others, and proceed at my own pace—often just putting one foot in front of the other. This is more necessary than ever in pandemic mode.

Living for this day only—yesterday never happened and tomorrow is just a dream—keeps things remarkably simple and uncomplicated. I’m also, consciously, learning to set healthy boundaries, where I recognize my own needs as they bump up against the needs of others, figuratively, not physically! It’ll be a while before I bump up against others.

Oh brother! Life is so complicated. That’s why I make an effort to “Keep It Simple”! 🙂

We’re Good Enough

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, 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 apparent confidence and trust in “the process.” This is especially true now, in the middle of our national health crisis, as we learn to put aside our egos, sometimes staying at home, in the interest of protecting others.

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 elbows 🙂 to strengthen our communities. Thank you, HP!

Just Breathe

From Each Day A New Beginning, Karen Casey, August 19:

“’…to have a crisis and act upon it is one thing. To dwell in perpetual crisis is another.’ ~Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

Exaggerating the negative element in our lives is familiar behavior for all too many of us. But this obsession is our choice. We can stop at any moment. We can decide to let go of a situation that we can’t control…and be free to look at the possibilities for happiness.”

When my daughter first became sick with addiction, I followed my instincts and ran to her rescue. I was totally caught up in the drama of it, the pain and heartache, eventually even a feeling of martyrdom. It wasn’t long before I became sick too—sick with depression and anxiety—and I sought relief.

My recovery program has helped me understand the nature of addictive disease and accept that I have no more control over it than I would have over diabetes. A diabetic might need to take a pill to get better; Angie also has the power to heal from her illness. But the initial decision rests with her, not me. I can only offer support.

Such acceptance has enabled me to let go of my inflated sense of responsibility and detach from my daughter’s problem. That in turn has allowed me enough space, enough breathing room, to step back and remove myself from all the drama. I no longer get sucked in like I used to. Now I’m “free to look at the possibilities for happiness.”

I truly believe that in her best moments Angie would want me to. God Bless all of our loved ones caught in the hell of addiction! Many find the relief of recovery, and I pray my daughter will too someday.

Where there is life, there is hope.

Expectations

A Memoir of Recovery

Memoir excerpt:

“In recovery, we learn to profoundly adjust our expectations, hard as it is. We raised one child, and now we have another. We are all too aware of the change that drugs have produced in our children. A parent wrote in Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope a very revealing statement, something I could have written myself. It is a key to understanding my story, my mother and father’s stories, and my daughter’s painful struggle:

‘I expected my children to be perfect, to always do the right thing. I tried to control them by giving them direction and making them do things in a way that I felt was correct! When they didn’t, I could not handle it. I could not accept their drug use and I felt that their behavior was a reflection on me. I was embarrassed for myself and scared to death for them. I became so distrusting of my children that I showed them no respect. I would meddle and invade their privacy looking for any excuse to challenge and confront them. When I came to Nar-Anon, I learned that my interference and my attempts at controlling them were actually standing in the way of their recovery. I learned to let go of the control I never had in the first place.'”

You can find my book, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero (pseudonym) on Amazon.

Serenity Every Day

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From Hope for Today, November 12:

“Serenity? What is that? For years I was like a weather vane that spun around according to the air currents that other people generated… I attributed these mood swings to nervousness, lack of assurance, and whoever else occupied the room at the time. Serenity always seemed beyond my control… Where does this serenity come from? It comes from trusting that everything in my life is exactly as it should be… It comes when I choose to care for myself rather than to fix someone else…

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I am powerless over many things, but my serenity is not one of them.”

“Trusting that everything in my life is exactly as it should be…” That’s the hard part, because everything in my life is not great. My daughter Angie is lost to me and has been, on and off for seventeen years. How does one learn to live with that? Everyone is different, but I find serenity by focusing on my blessings. They’re all around me: my other children, my grandchildren, and nature. The honeysuckle just blows me away with its fragrance, and the Spanish broom is an explosion of bright yellow in my back yard. My friends and my partner Gene are my daily supports. And God—he pilots my ship. In spite of my loss, I find myself saying all the time, and feeling sincerely in my heart, that life is good. And I’m filled with the elevating power of gratitude.

The Yin and Yang of Living

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From Each Day A New Beginning, April 8:

“’Life is patchwork—here and there, pleasure and despair, Joined together, hit or miss.’ ~Anne Bronaugh

As you look ahead to this day, you can count on unexpected experiences. You can count on moments of laughter. And you can count on twinges of fear. Life is seldom what we expect, but we can trust that we will survive the rough times. They will, in fact, soften our edges. Pleasure and pain share equally in the context of our lives.

We so easily forget that our growth comes from the challenges we label “problems.”  We do have the tools at hand to reap the benefits inherent in the problems that may face us today. Let us move gently forward, take the program with us, and watch the barriers disappear.”

If we remain steeped in sorrow, are we receptive to joy? If all goes well for us, are we prepared for the valleys? There will always be a mix of both in our lives. The trick is to find a balance and not be overwhelmed by either emotion. To be able to say, “Okay today was not a good day, but I’m confident tomorrow will be a good day.”

I have found that when I look for joy, I find it.

Just Love Them

J

From Hope for Today, April 1:

“Growing up in an alcoholic home gave me ample preparation to become a perfectionist. Almost nothing I did as a youth was ever right. Inside I felt rage at never meeting my parents’ expectations. I promised myself I would do things differently. By the time I reached my thirties, however, I could hear my parents’ critical voices speaking through me. I knew I was using the same words spoken to me.”

I could have written that myself. And I’m so grateful for the awareness I’ve picked up from my years of recovery. In the early years of my daughter Angie’s addiction, I was oppressive in my attempts to get her to “buckle under and shape up.” What? Would I use those words if she had cancer or any other disease?

I got quite an education in the rooms of recovery, first of all in accepting that drug addiction is a brain disease. The American Medical Association has been saying that since the 1950’s, but who was listening?  With that awareness, there was no room in my heart for judgment  or criticism. Only compassion, understanding, and love.

Now, if I have any interaction with Angie, all that I say or do springs from the heart of a mother. I love my child. Some things are beautiful in their simplicity.

Freeing Our Children

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“Angie told me once that that’s why she hated NA meetings: often in attendance were drug addicts not in recovery, people she needed to avoid. But in her case I don’t think that’s true. I think she didn’t go to meetings because she needed to deal with her addiction her way, and not be told by anyone else what to do: CSR—compulsively self-reliant—just like her mother.

Or maybe she just wasn’t ready to embrace recovery at all, a painful possibility I had not yet considered. I was still determined, at that point, to believe that she was going to beat her addiction and that I, of course, would be the glorious savior she would spend the rest of her life thanking, handing me my redemption on a silver platter.

I would finally, thank God, let go of the oppressive burden I was placing on my daughter by demanding she get well so that I could be OK. My mother unconsciously did the same thing with her children: she was a demanding perfectionist, beating back the pain of self-doubt and unworthiness by raising “successful” children. I’m very glad to have found recovery from my dysfunctional upbringing. It has helped to  “relieve me of the bondage of self” (Anonymous Press 63). And most importantly, most importantly of all, my recovery has freed my children.”

You can find my book, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero (pseudonym) on Amazon.