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.

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.

Just Being Myself

“The Al-Anon program has helped me see that pleasing others over myself is no longer in my best interest.” ~The Forum, 8/19, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature

I’ve always been a people pleaser. I wanted others to be happy, and I often sacrificed something of my own to achieve that. Not always something obvious like an object: my dessert, my jewelry, or my car. Usually it was much more subtle so I wouldn’t take notice: my time, my opinions, even my values.

There was a time when I was like a chameleon, but like the lizard I was usually afraid of offending people. That’s why I made the “sacrifice.” But it was my integrity that, over time,  I lost.

In recovery, I’ve learned to understand that people pleasing isn’t always a healthy behavior. Often we lose ourselves in the process. My step work has helped me get to know myself more honestly and like myself anyway. If I value who I am, it’s easier to stick to my guns and not fear the consequences if someone disagrees with me. The cost of losing myself to please others is greater than the benefit of being who I am.

People respect honesty.

Empowerment

What I like about my recovery program is learning that I’m not a victim—that I have choices. My daughter, Angie, is an addict, yes, but I haven’t been victimized or punished for my sins. Angie is sick; addiction is a brain disease, and she has the power to fight it. She can choose. Not easily, to be sure, but the power is in her hands.

By detaching myself sufficiently from the agony of her struggle, I can recognize that I am free to choose too. I can help her, if she wants recovery, but beyond that it’s not my battle. As heartbreaking as that is for any mother—to admit her powerlessness—it’s what I have had to do in order to reclaim my life. I love my daughter, and I pray with all my heart that she chooses recovery someday. But in the meantime, I have many blessings to enjoy and pay attention to.

Even if Angie were my only child, there are still sunsets…

Awareness, Acceptance, Action


“The universe is run exactly on the lines of a cafeteria. Unless you claim—mentally—what you want, you may sit and wait forever.” ~Emmet Fox

Fear has always kept me from asking for what I want. But the older I get, the less I care about rejection. Living fully means facing that on a regular basis. And I always learn something. Maybe I learn that my request was ill-timed or inappropriate. Other times I might learn that I asked for just the right thing, but it was denied. I can spend hours ruminating on why it was denied, driving myself batty. Or I can accept that things worked out differently, and let it go. My energy is better spent on other things I have control over now.

That’s important. Because wasting my energy on things I can’t do anything about saps my strength—strength I need to stay in recovery.

Freeing Our Children

F

“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.

The Comfort Of Faith

From Each Day A New Beginning, November 24:

“’If onlys are lonely.’ ~Morgan Jennings

“The circumstances of our lives seldom live up to our expectations or desires. However, in each circumstance we are offered an opportunity for growth or change, a chance for greater understanding of life’s heights and pitfalls. Each time we choose to lament what isn’t, we close the door on the invitation to a better existence…

The experiences we are offered will fail to satisfy our expectations because we expect so much less than God has planned for us in the days ahead…

I will breathe deeply and relax. At this moment my every need is being attended to. My life is unfolding exactly as it should.”

I’ve wrestled with my faith most of my life, always too self-reliant for my own good. But as I’ve watched my daughter succumb to heroin addiction, it has been a great comfort to me to learn how to harness a newfound belief in the power of something outside of myself, something I can turn to in my despair and know that something beautiful will come out of it. And it has: my whole life, and how I choose to live it now, is a miracle.

Just For Today

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, but only saps todays of its strength.” ~A.J. Cronin

Wow, it takes tremendous discipline to stay grounded in the present. To live “just for today.” On any given day, how do my thoughts wander back to past times, and the inevitable regrets that crop up from time to time? And if I’m not looking backwards, I’m projecting into a future that hasn’t even happened yet. This is natural for some of us who have an addicted loved one. It’s called “anticipatory grief,” and it’s meant to prepare us for the worst.

And though it may be a way to soften future blows, the act of being there in a sad future keeps me from smelling the roses under my nose.  Today the sun came up over the mountain and last night there was a beautiful crescent moon. My friend has pneumonia and I’m going to take her flowers in the hospital. I’m reminded to be grateful for my good health. My friends and family in our recovery program are a great comfort to me as I move forward in my life.

When I remember to stay focused on the present day and all the blessings that fill my days, I can step out with confidence and faith in my Higher Power, assured that all is well.

Empowerment

From Each Day A New Beginning, October 20:

“’You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.’ ~Joan Baez

How thrilling to contemplate that we can choose every attitude we have and every action we take. We have been gifted with full responsibility for our development.”

Those of us who come to these sites are united by the sad reality of addiction, either in themselves or a loved one. Sometimes both. And I find myself coming back in order to learn how to live with that reality.

But I long ago stopped playing the blame game. What good does it do? Surrendering responsibility for my fate to others? That attitude strips me of the power to determine my own fate.

I would rather retain that power, wherever it takes me. And claim responsibility for my choices.

Anyone But Me

From Each Day A New Beginning, February 19:

“’God knows no distance.’ ~Charleszetta Waddles

Relying on God, however we understand God’s presence, is foreign to many of us. We were encouraged from early childhood to be self-reliant. Even when we desperately needed another’s help, we feared asking for it. When confidence wavered, as it so often did, we hid the fear—sometimes with alcohol, sometimes with pills, Sometimes we simply hid at home. Our fears never fully abated…Slowly and with practice it will become natural to turn within, to be God-reliant rather than self-reliant

There’s a joke in the Program that “our best thinking got us here (into the rooms of recovery).” And it’s so true! I joke at meetings that I’ve always been “CSR,” compulsively self-reliant.” I have been for much of my life, afraid to ask for help and even more afraid to accept it. As a child I had to rely on myself for so many things, and that became a survival strategy. But as an adult, that very façade of strength can become a terrible defect. Appearing as a formidable wall of arrogance, it only served to isolate me and separate me from my peers. I had to tear down that wall.

And when I did, when I found the courage to bare my fears and vulnerabilities and ask for help when I needed it, I found my humanity. My faith in a power greater than myself enabled me to let go of my self-reliance and join hands with others as we reached out and helped one another.

It hasn’t removed the problems from my life. But it has made facing them so much easier.