The Talk

From Living Sober, AA World Services, Inc., p. 49:

“Many of us, when drinking, were deeply sure for years that our own drinking was harmless. We were not necessarily smart-alecky about it, but when we heard a clergyman, a psychiatrist, or an A.A. member talk about alcoholism, we were quick to observe that our drinking was different, that we did not need to do any of the things those people suggested. Or even if we could admit that we were having a bit of trouble with our drinking, we were sure we could lick it on our own. Thus we shut the door against new information and help. And behind that door, our drinking went on, of course.

Our troubles had to be pretty dire, and we had to begin to feel pretty hopeless before we could open up a little bit and let in some fresh light and help.”

Not all of us reach the same bottom, of course, before we decide not to drink. For many, it’s that first (or third) DUI. It could be lost employment for others. I’ve seen a couple of people with late-stage alcoholism awaiting liver transplants. Hopefully more and more alcoholics will decide to quit long before that happens.

My bottom cut me to the core and maybe that’s why I haven’t wanted to drink since. My son and his wife had an intervention with me. They called me out on my habit of drinking alone in their basement, something that I thought I was getting away with. Didn’t I think they’d notice all the empty vodka bottles? That and the fact that I was being secretive about it were red flags. Shame and secrecy all play into the denial that enables us to keep up bad habits.

I was stunned and deeply ashamed. And only because I’d had many years of work in another 12-Step group did I have enough recovery to stay in my chair and listen to their concerns. They were concerned about their children, my grandchildren, and the danger of drinking and driving. But most of all they were concerned about me, keeping me safe and alive long enough to enjoy watching them grow up.

I am so grateful to my son for stepping in. He saved my life. My own father was just a couple years older than I am when he died prematurely from alcoholism and smoking. History does not have to repeat itself.

When my children were young, I was not always emotionally present for them. To feel my son’s forgiveness now and to see his concern for my welfare is incredibly gratifying to me. I’ve been given a second chance and I want to take advantage of it. How many people get do-overs like that?

Guilt And Redemption

“This journey of mine, this parenting journey, would involve going two steps forward sometimes and then three steps backward. It was not vertical progress I was making, but it was progress. And strangely, the more I kept the focus on myself and striving to be happy, the easier it was to let go of my child. I knew I had paid my dues, and I feared no one’s judgment, least of all God’s.

I’ve railed at God many, many times during these dozen years of joy and pain, this God they speak of at Twelve-Step meetings. How many times had I sinned in my life? Many, more than I want to remember. And so the child in me had been sure, earlier on, that I was being punished for all of them. It was my karmic payback. “What goes around comes around,” etc. Indeed, for all of my life, before my breakdown, I had no faith in anything or anyone other than myself. I grew up very lonely and isolated, and if there was a god, he wasn’t paying any attention to me. So I learned to be very independent and self-reliant. 

But when I finally found myself on my knees, I felt broken and whole at the same time: broken because my MO for dealing with my problems hadn’t been working; and whole because I finally let myself believe in something outside of myself to strengthen me, to fill in the gaps that were missing in me, and to help me cope. I was starting to develop and cling to a faith that assured me that I was not being punished and that I would be OK in the end, no matter what happened to my daughter.  And I realized that fighting Angie’s battles for her was not only a waste of time; it was also useless and of questionable value.

            My energies, spent though they were, would be better directed toward reclaiming my own life, which had been sorely compromised in the fight to save my daughter. And in reclaiming my own life, I was bidding for my redemption, long overdue, but just within my reach. This was my journey now, I knew it; I sadly accepted it. I wanted us to be connected but we weren’t. I wanted her struggle to be our struggle, but it wasn’t. I wanted to save her life but I couldn’t. I could only save my own. And I’d keep working at it—or this relentless disease would claim two more victims instead of one.”

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

Leave The Past There

From Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature, p. 216:

“Look back without staring.”

It’s important to understand where we’ve come from, what was done to us and what we did to others. There might be many lessons for us in the past. But the time to apply them is now.

If I can learn from my mistakes and try not to repeat them, then they have value. Making amends is a good thing; but they’re words. Of far greater value, to me, is the practice of living amends. We can’t do anything to change the past, but we can try to do things differently now.

Of particular importance is my ability to let go of resentments when they crop up. Sometimes I find myself holding onto my anger, even clinging to it. But such behavior is a big threat to my serenity. An oft-heard saying in the rooms of recovery: “Having resentments is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Holding onto resentments hurts me the most.

Bearing grudges toward people or over events from the past is a heavy undertaking. It’s that knapsack full of stones (boulders for some) that is burdensome to carry. When I set it down and free myself of its weight, there’s a lightness in my steps, and my days flow more easily.

This is another example of how I’m striving to live well. For all  of us familiar with the living death of drug addiction, the value of life comes into sharper focus. How I live mine, today, will bring me the peace and serenity I work hard for.

Self-Love 101

“How I relate to my inner self influences my relationships with all others. My satisfaction with myself and my satisfaction with other people are directly proportional. ~Sue Atchley Ebaugh

I grew up with two hypercritical parents. The negativity, of course, affected me profoundly, and I was saddled with low self-worth and self-esteem issues. And though I recognize that I’m an adult child of an alcoholic, I no longer have to view my life through the eyes of a child.

My recovery program has opened my eyes and presented me with new perspectives. My father had problems of his own, and my mother, an untreated Al-Anon, suffered as she tried to cope with him. The children in such a dysfunctional family are bound to be affected in adverse ways. That’s why they call it “a family disease.”

Learning to re-parent myself with compassion and understanding is a task for many of us adult children. And as I continue to view my life through a different lens, my inner self blossoms. In turn my self-acceptance reflects itself in those around me as I cease to criticize.

The best reward of self-love, I think, is that it’s a magnet for others. No more loneliness and isolation. As I learn to treat myself with love and respect, those positive feelings are mirrored in all of my relationships. Life is good!

Make Room For Love

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From Courage to Change, December 8:

“As I release my resentments, I can extend compassion to the alcoholics in my life. I can love myself enough to love them too, even though I hate the disease that hurts us both.

I become so full of love and compassion that I can’t keep it bottled up inside. I need to share it with others. My compassion becomes the healing light of my Higher Power shining through me to welcome and comfort other friends and family members of alcoholics.”

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” I have observed how anger and resentment have made people I know sick. So I’ve never forgotten this quote that I picked up in the rooms. Whenever I start to feel burdened with resentment towards someone, my blood pressure goes up and I lose my serenity. That’s when I make an effort to shed it like a dog’s coat in the summer. The dog is much cooler and I feel lighter!

Happiness Is A Choice

From “The Forum,” December, 2016

“Someone else’s drinking brought me to the meetings, but day-to-day living keeps me coming back.”

When I joined the rooms of recovery, I thought that if my daughter would just change, then I would be happy. I looked everywhere for the magic bullet to bring about this change. Time passed, and for a while it looked like Angie was changing. And then she wasn’t. I was confused. How was I ever going to be happy if I kept riding on the roller coaster with her?

It was time for me to get off. I needed to realize that a lot of my problems were of my own making. And allowing my happiness and well-being to depend on other people isn’t wise because I have no control over them.

But I do have power over my own life and the choices I make. So I’ve learned to put the focus back on myself and change in ways that will help me to live better. I’ve let go of obsessing over a disease I can’t control. And I’ve turned my attention to other things and people in my life that bring me joy.

My recovery program has shown me how to work the tools “in all my affairs.” It has shown me how it benefits me everywhere. It started with my daughter. But, with or without success on that front, I can still lead a good and productive life elsewhere, enjoying healthier relationships to really make my life worth living.

Enough

“Enough is enough when the hurt inflicted is greater than the lesson learned.”

 

I felt that because I was Angie’s mother, I just had to put up with things. But underneath that martyred attitude was a shaky self-esteem that whispered to me, “This is what you deserve. It’s your fault.”

When I recognized the truth of that, I became willing to take up the yoke and start working on myself. After many years of working the steps and arriving at a place of self-love, I no longer hear those voices.

I’ve gotten my life back, and concentrate on what I can control in my life. I give thanks, multitudes of thanks, for what I’ve been given. This year on Mother’s Day, I’m able to celebrate myself. And I’m grateful to Angie for getting me into recovery.

God Bless Us, Mamas. We do the best we can!

The Power Of Faith

 

From Hope For Today, June 13:

“…What I had overlooked in Step Two was the word ‘Power.’ The day I started placing my attention on that Power instead of on insanity, I began to see miracles in my life. One such miracle was my ability to talk about my fears in Al-Anon meetings. Other miracles included taking the Twelve Steps that lead me to serenity, and engaging in the process of forgiving and healing.”

It has taken many years of hearing Step Two read at meetings for me to really hear the word ‘Power.’ Now I realize how much more awesome my Higher Power is than this disease. That power has always kept me from tumbling into the chasm.

Before recovery, I was spiritually bankrupt. I had no faith in anyone other than myself. But that wasn’t working for me: I needed to bet on another horse. As I slowly accepted that I was powerless over other people, places, and things, it became easier for me to bring God into my life and let Him take over. Suddenly, I felt much lighter.

Instead of dwelling in fear, today I am striving to pass on the miracles of recovery to my children and grandchildren. With faith and hope in my heart, I look forward to getting up every day. I’m just glad I stuck around long enough for the miracle to happen.

 

 

Resentment Hurts Us

When I feel resentment it’s uncomfortable, and I’m prone to want to stuff my feelings. But that’s never good for me. It’s an old bad habit that my years in the program have enabled me to give up.

I need to stay in tune with my resentments every day and deal with them constructively. Sometimes that means airing them; other times I need to bury them. Otherwise, they will come back and destroy me.

I’m so grateful to be able to look at negative behaviors and try to replace them with positive ones. It’s “progress, not perfection” that keeps me moving forward to calmer waters.

“Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

 

Reconciliation

When I met my partner, Gene, twenty-four years ago, he was an experienced canoeist, and he loved paddling every summer. So I figured I’d better learn fast. One memorable incident was during a trip to Quetico Provincial Park across the Minnesota border in Canada. It was there that I added a chapter to my “Life Lessons” journal.

Gene and I always went canoeing with his friend, Stewart and his wife, Joan. I didn’t like Joan from the beginning. She talked non-stop, endlessly showing off how much she knew about everything. And worst of all, because I can’t even boil a carrot, she was a gourmet cook.

So the two weeks of wilderness paddling and camping were a challenge for me. At the end of one day, we scouted around for a stellar camping site and I showed Joan the one we had found.

“This island sucks,” she sniffed, “Stew and I’ll stay on that one over there,” she informed us, pointing to another one across an inlet.

“Okay,” I chirped. “See you tomorrow.”

I was awakened in the morning by the smell of smoke in the air.

“Gene, get up!” I screamed, looking across the water. “There’s a fire on Stew and Joan’s island!”

We piled into our canoe and raced across the inlet to find them frantically trying to remove the underbrush from the flames. Soon we heard the Canadian Forest Service arriving by helicopter to douse the area. It took twenty-six hours, but they finally extinguished the fire.

Joan had neglected to stamp out her cigarette while she was shitting in the woods, and, well, shit happens.

She was inconsolable. She loved nature and couldn’t bear to see the results of her carelessness.

The Canadians sent a crew of four, two Ojibwa Indians, the ax man and the pump man, an assistant chief and a chief, both White.  The cost of the manpower and equipment could have exceeded $12,000 if they hadn’t called off the aerial  bomber. It was a particularly dry season that summer in Canada, but they didn’t fine us. We were lucky.

Joan and I had pushed each others’ buttons plenty before that incident. But our esteem for one another began then. I suppose the dark side of our natures enjoys it when our adversaries falter. And I’m no different. But somehow that smug inner smile turned the mirror back onto me, and I didn’t like what I saw.

“Joan Joan, come on,” I insisted, offering her a hug and a shoulder to cry on. “It could easily have been me. I smoke too. Please, don’t be so hard on yourself. It was just a terrible accident.”

She and I hold each other in very high esteem now. This brief confrontation with my darker side opened my heart to appreciating Joan’s good qualities. Maybe it also reminded me how human we all are and how important it is to lift each other up as we pass through life.

Beats bitchin.’