The Spirit Coming Alive

“The idea of God is different in every person. The joy of my recovery was to find God within me. “ ~Angela Wozniak

One of the promises of 12-Step recovery is that we shall learn to be “happy, joyous and free.” I like the free part best. For too many years I’ve been chained to my own human failings. I never understood with such clarity my own defects and limitations until I started to work this Program. I was so lonely and isolated. But when I came to believe after much trial and error that I was in fact powerless over substance use disorder—mine, my daughter’s, and anyone else’s—I fell to my knees and turned this struggle over. And I felt so much lighter. Now, at last, I was off the hook. I’ve turned over all the lost years with my daughter and turned my attention to things I can control now. And that has given me the freedom to focus on other things.

My spirituality is based on three factors: far less EGO (Easing God Out), humble acceptance of whatever my lot is in life, and the vision to appreciate every day for all the good that I can see and experience. In this way, the principles of this Program have changed my life. It’s really great to be alive, and for so many years my life was utterly joyless. That’s the power of the spirit coming alive in me through my spiritual Program.

Chasing The Butterfly

From Each Day A New Beginning, July 19

‘At fifteen, life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.’—Maya Angelou

“We had to surrender to a power greater than ourselves to get where we are today. And each day, we have to turn to that power for strength and guidance. For us, resistance means struggle—struggle with others as well as an internal struggle.

Serenity isn’t compatible with struggle. We cannot control forces outside of ourselves. We cannot control the actions of our family or our co-workers. We can control our responses to them. And when we choose to surrender our attempts to control, we will find peace and serenity.

That which we abhor, that which we fear, that which we wish to conquer seems suddenly to be gone when we decide to resist no more—to tackle it no more.

The realities of life come to us in mysterious ways. We fight so hard, only to learn that what we need will never be ours until the struggle is forsaken. Surrender brings enlightenment.”

Surrender is not transactional. It’s not submission. It’s freely giving up our wills to a power who is smarter than we are, a power who has our back. Surrender is like wearing a loose-fitting garment. It’s easy, comfortable, and doesn’t restrict me to my own demands. It is, as the third step prayer tells us, “freedom from the bondage of self.”

Acceptance and surrender. Peace and serenity await me there.

A New Kind Of Freedom

From Each Day A New Beginning, November 25:

“’Change occurs when one becomes what she is, not when she tries to become what she is not.’ ~Ruth P. Freedman

Learning self-acceptance, and then loving the selves we are, present perhaps our two biggest hurdles to the attainment of emotional and spiritual health. Fortunately, they are not insurmountable hurdles. The program offers ready assistance.”

Well, learning to be comfortable in my own skin has been a lifelong process for me. But not until I found 12-step recovery did I discover such a well-conceived plan to achieve that. Before I found a way to recover from substance use disorder—my own and my daughter’s—I wore masks to conceal how unhappy I was. It all started with me in an unhappy childhood. But I don’t dwell on any of that anymore because it represents the beginning of my problems, not the solution to them. I think it can be self-defeating to remain stuck in the past because I can’t do anything to change it. But I can, with effort, keep laser-focused on the present and paying attention to what I can do something about.

“Learning to love all our parts, the qualities we like and the traits that discouragingly hang on, offers a new freedom. A freedom that invites change. A freedom that safeguards the emotional and spiritual well-being that we strive for.”

“Freedom From The Bondage Of Self”

From Each Day A New Beginning, January 6:

“Wanting to control other people, to make them live as we’d have them live, makes the attainment of serenity impossible. And serenity is the goal we are seeking in this serenity program. In this life.

We are each powerless over others, which relieves us of a great burden. Controlling our own behavior is a big enough job…”

When I took the Third Step, and turned my concerns about my daughter over to the God of my understanding, I felt a freedom that I’d never felt before. I stopped trying to control everything so much, stopped trying to play God when that’s not my job. With this freedom comes the faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to, without any help from me. Acceptance of life on life’s terms gives me peace—and the energy to open my eyes and keep moving.

Baby Steps Lead To Bigger Ones

“First Step Prayer:

Dear Lord,

I admit that I am powerless over my addict.

I admit that my life is unmanageable

When I try to control him/her.

Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness.

Remove from me all denial of my loved one’s addiction.”

The first step is probably the most important one in assuring our recovery from the effects of another’s substance use disorder.  And it’s because I refused to take it that it took me so long to start to recover. I simply wouldn’t accept my powerlessness over my daughter’s disease. I felt as though I would be dropping the ball and appearing not to care about her. I felt that I had to do everything in my power to save her. “Power,” I realized later on, that I didn’t have.

So, deep pockets enabled me to put her through four rehabs. Deep pockets also had me paying her rent, paying off her loans, paying back the creditors she got into trouble with. All my “help” simply gave her more money for drugs. In short, deep pockets can be dangerous if used for the wrong things. She might have learned something from the consequences of her actions if I hadn’t kept getting in the way.

So yes, my life had become unmanageable. I love my daughter very much. And I kept making things easy for her. But we can enable our children to death. Now I’ve let go of all my attempts to control her and her disease.

And I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.

Expectations

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 ( the SESH book) 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.”

In an earlier blog, “Redemption and Freedom,” I said, “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.”  This is a difficult statement for some of us to make.

I’m very codependent; my daughter’s active drug addiction shook me to the core and made me decidedly unwell. Her illness had the power to ruin my day (and my life) before I got into a recovery program and started practicing the concept of detachment with love.

This concept has placed me at a healthy distance from my daughter so that I could view her situation with some objectivity and respond to her with intelligence and compassion. I’m very grateful for the education I’ve received in the rooms of recovery. I will always love her and I grieve the loss of her. But there are other people in my life, and I want to stay well for them. Thank you, Nar-Anon, for helping me reclaim my life!

One Path To Peace

From One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, June 17:

“The words, ‘Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,’ could make life so easy for me. If only I could subordinate my will to His. This is a stumbling block for so many of us: we feel obliged to apply the force of our will to our problems. No solutions can be found in this way.

‘There is a guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment.’’ ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Especially when motivated by fear, applying the force of my will to my problems has often proved disastrous. When I rely on myself alone, exercising my own will and agenda, I have made many mistakes.

The difference now is that I have a program to guide me in my decisions. The education I’ve received in the rooms has helped me fight off some of my worst impulses: self blame, guilt, the need to cover up and over-protect, and worst of all, the ability to withstand painful abuse.

One thing has never changed, though: the unconditional love I feel for my troubled daughter. The key ingredient that has sustained me through years of self-doubt and recrimination is my growing faith in God and His will for me. Without Him, I was flailing around without an anchor. With Him in my life, I feel utterly secure that the world will keep turning as it is meant to. And I feel a peace I never felt before. There’s a lot of freedom in surrender. For me, acceptance is the key to “accepting all of life on life’s terms.”

Breaking The Chains

From Daily Word, May 20:

“I Celebrate The Free Spirit I Am

Sometimes I may forget to give thanks for one of my greatest gifts—freedom. I am free to believe what I wish and worship where I want. I am free to travel and free to express myself. Most important, I am free to choose my thoughts and responses.

In the Silence, I let go of fear worry and pain. I release any limiting opinions or views of myself and claim my divine potential. My heart expands with gratitude as I connect with the part of me that know no limits—my spirit self.

I affirm: I am free to choose my thoughts and responses and align my dreams with the highest good. I rejoice in the presence of unbounded Spirit in me and claim my infinite potential.”

For much of my life I suffered from depression, and I didn’t know how to be free of it. I just resigned myself to feeling sad much of the time and filled in the hollowness with food and drugs and alcohol. Working the Steps in several 12-Step fellowships has given me the tools to look at myself, work on things that were getting in my way, and point me in a positive direction. I can choose to do this work or I can choose to be the unhappy person I was for so long.

I’m free to choose. And I choose joy.

Rising Above Fear

From The Forum, November, 2022:

“Connecting with My Spirituality”

“Amid chaos, when I most need to find relief and serenity, it can be difficult to slow down and use the tools of prayer and meditation. Even when I can’t still my mind, meditation can help me steer it in the right direction…Meditation helps me to be mindful instead of mindless in all aspects of my life…Mindfulness isn’t limited to techniques like sitting cross-legged, reciting a mantra or focusing on my breathing. It’s about noticing my default mode and realizing that I have choices. It’s a slowing down that grounds me and gives me a sense of opening and expanding, of pushing back against the walls and gaining space. It’s the opposite of pressure and fear.”

My default mode: fear and panic. Slowing down and recognizing the source of my fear helps me get a handle on it. Then mindfulness: I draw on my program and examine my choices about handling that fear. What can I do? Do I have any control over the source of it?

My 44-year-old daughter is in the clutches of substance use disorder. She has been in and out of recovery for twenty-two years. She is not in recovery now. That might make me fearful without my recovery program.  What can I do about her? She’s in charge of her own life. I wish I had the power to change it. I don’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. After years of managing my fear and anxiety through enmeshment, helicoptering, and people-pleasing, I’ve learned that those means are unhealthy. They give me the illusion of being close to her and “helping,”  which has always backfired. It just kept her learning from her mistakes and growing. So now I have let go. I know that I can only love her. And staying in that positive space removes my fear and makes my life more enjoyable.

Fear has the potential to bury me. Loving sets me free.

Worrying

  

Annie was 21 when she surrendered to drug abuse. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I was in denial, totally blindsided. I frantically sought answers, heaping much of the blame on myself, trying at times to be a firm and responsible parent, but always slipping back into my worst defects. My self-will was running riot, and I was making myself sick with PTSD, anxiety and clinical depression.

My obsession with saving her—my constant worrying—contributed bigtime to my downfall. I couldn’t let go of it. And it was so easy to justify it to myself: I love my daughter so much and I want to save her from herself. I won’t give up on her. I’ll do whatever it takes.

We are parents who love our children without exception. But our dilemma is not about love. It’s about the many stresses on that love that, in my case anyway, made me very sick. One of those stresses is worry. Too much of it can make us feel martyred, which is so passive. I was in a constant state of anxiety. And for what? It changed nothing.

These past many years striving toward recovery have slowly helped me feel worthy of being a better me and therefore worthy of having a better life. For me, that includes grieving in my own way around my daughter, while at the same time embracing all the love and joy in family members and good friends who stand by me always. It doesn’t include putting one foot in a future that hasn’t happened, weakening my footing in the present.

It’s a waste of time. And couldn’t I be doing something better for myself?