“I’m so grateful I found a way out of sadness, a way to take care of myself each day, and a relationship with the God of my understanding, who will never abandon me. The pain I’ve felt in the past is equal to the measure of joy I feel now.”
That’s quite a mouthful. Whoever wrote those words in “The Forum” is saying that somewhere between despair and happiness she or he did some work, and found some answers. For me, anyway, I entered into a state of grace. I quite deliberately let go of my precious wounds, which served no further purpose in my life. The lessons they taught me have been learned. I’ve put my sadness in a back drawer—and replaced it with positive thoughts that keep me motivated to reclaim my life, my remaining loved ones, and keep my heart ticking.
Grief is not a badge I wear anymore. Joyfulness is.
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?
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen Casey, January 1:
“Acceptance of our past, acceptance of the conditions presently in our lives that we cannot change, brings relief. It brings the peacefulness we so often, so frantically, seek.”
The drama that filled my life when my daughter, Angie, first got sick was overwhelming. Eventually, it broke me. And I needed to step back and take a look at my behavior. The first thing I did was remove “frantically” from my vocabulary. Next, because I realized that my guilt and inflated sense of responsibility were actually harming her and preventing her from learning, I needed to step way back and detach, but always with love. Loving detachment need not be a slap in the face to our loved one, but rather it gives him/her the freedom and opportunity to be accountable for choices they made, often under the influence. If I continually step in and try to fix everything for my daughter, she will have little or no opportunity to accept life on life’s terms. And isn’t that, without resorting to substance use disorder, what we all need to do?
Life on life’s terms. Substance use disorder around the world is a deeply disturbing reflection of how people respond to loneliness and alienation. When emotional longing collides with the easy availability of substances—dangerous drugs, too much food, alcohol sold at gas stations—that’s a recipe for problems which might end with physical illness, but they didn’t begin that way. Emotional pain, Dr. Edwin Shneidman calls it “psychache,” came first.
There isn’t a nation on earth that doesn’t have people with some form of emotional pain that he writes about, and their solutions vary. In America, though, there has been a growing epidemic of substance use disorder for many years. The experts can figure out what this means, but as a substance user myself, I’m observing my world, and the world of all my friends in recovery, from that perspective. Only time will tell how the pandemic will affect those of us who used various substances to lessen our “psychache.” But I’m grateful, one day at a time, to continue the work on my emotional sobriety and enjoy the positive effect it has on those closest to me. My world may be turning slower than it used to, but it’s still turning!
“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.
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen
Casey, April 12:
yourself a blessing to someone. Your kind smile or a pat on the back just might
pull someone back from the edge.’ ~Carmelia Elliott
We are healed
in our healing of others. God speaks to us through our words to others. Our own
well-being is enhanced each time we put someone else’s well-being first…We are
all on a trip, following different road maps, but to the same destination. I
will be ready to lend a helping hand to a troubled traveler today. It will
breathe new life into my own trip.”
Easter, 2020, seems to be ushering in a brave new world to us all. I remember hearing the term “globalization” about twenty years ago, and I wasn’t sure what it meant because I wasn’t experiencing it personally. Now, in the throes of a worldwide pandemic that I’m gratified I saw in my lifetime, I am experiencing what it means.
I’m living through this crisis because it is unveiling so many unsung heroes.
My confidence in the human race is soaring. My grandchildren getting
home-schooled by two loving parents tirelessly stepping up to the plate in a
game they never planned for. Health care workers risking their lives so that we
might live another day. Postal workers, baggers at the grocery stores; the list
is endless. But what I’m seeing as a result of all this courage is what Ann
Frank saw in that attic in Holland before she died: “In spite of everything, I
still believe people are really good at heart.”
every day that our lives, and how we live them, are brought into such sharp
focus, from frequent hand washing to thinking twice before we hug someone. How
life has changed for us all! Now it is abundantly more clear to us how what we
do in our individual spaces has an impact on the community we live in, and in
neighboring communities and so on. I’ve learned a great deal about what happens
in a petri dish.
But of much
more interest to me now is how the health crisis has brought out the best in
millions of people around the world. There are also sad, angry stories of
corruption popping up like weeds in my garden. But I don’t focus on them any
more than I focus on anything else I can’t control. I am heartened by this
Easter’s celebration of humanity and hope in a time of fear and uncertainty.
And how creative we are! Drive-in movie theaters have become venues for church
services. And long after Easter Sunday this year there may be a revival of
drive-in movie watching!
My Latin tells me that word means “live again.” Is that what we’re all doing
now? Learning how to live again?
day is a beautiful room that’s never been seen before. Let me cherish the
seconds, minutes, and hours I spend here. Help me to THINK before I speak and pray
before I act. ‘The program helps me gain the freedom to make wise choices that
are good for me. I choose to put that freedom in my life today.’”
used to be on automatic pilot, prone to old actions and reactions that were
familiar to me. But I wasn’t happy. So when I began my recovery program
eighteen years ago, I learned that I can switch that autopilot off. I learned
that I have choices about how I want to live.
Angie to the hellish world of substance use disorder helped bring some things
into focus for me. But not until I spent a lot of time grieving for her. I
tried to help her, made many mistakes in the process, but ultimately as a
matter of survival, I had to let go and practice acceptance of what I couldn’t
did so without shame or guilt. I started to hear, faintly at first, the voices
of other people in my life calling out for attention. Ten years ago my first
grandchild was born, and that changed me forever. I was no longer just a mother
who had struggled to raise her children. With the birth of both of my
grandchildren, I could now start over with a clean slate. I’m not the same
troubled young woman who raised my children. Now I’m a recovering grandmother
with better health and a happier spirit to help raise this new generation. This
is God’s gift to me, a second chance to try and live well without the demons
that plagued me when I was younger.
the beneficiaries of this second chance? Everyone who is in my life today: my
remaining family, of course. But even without family, the world is a big place:
neighbors, co-workers, the delivery man, the man I pass when I walk in the
morning, my friends in and out of recovery, the people I sing to in the nursing
home (on hold for the foreseeable future! L)—the list is endless.
me open my eyes and appreciate this beautiful room that I’ve never seen before.
I believe that if I look for joy, I will find it.
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen
Casey, November 28:
of God is different with every person. The joy of my recovery was to find God
within me.” ~Angela L. Wozniak
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 needed. All the more reason to maintain a wellspring within
ourselves—one of faith and hope for better days.
is not the answer for us who are in recovery, though, admittedly social
isolation is necessary for some of us right now because of the health crisis in
America. 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.
recovery has taught me how to manage my ego and remember how small I am in the
stream 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 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 in the weeks ahead. Stay safe!
road to my spiritual life began when I was a young child growing up in an
alcoholic family. But I didn’t start to walk down this road until halfway
through my life when my daughter fell ill with substance use disorder.
was very unhappy growing up. It’s a classic story of family dysfunction that
many of us have experienced as children. But back then I didn’t have Alateen to
go to. My father was never treated and died prematurely because of his illness.
I, too, was untreated for the effects of alcoholism, and grew into an adult
many of us know how rocky that road is: low self-esteem, intense self-judgment,
inflated sense of responsibility, people pleasing and loss of integrity, and
above all, the need to control. I carried all of these defects and more into my
role as a mother to my sick daughter, and predictably the situation only got
was a very hard sell on the first three steps of Al-Anon, and my stubbornness
cost me my health and my career. But once I did let go of my self-reliance, my
whole life changed for the better. The
Serenity Prayer has been my mantra every day. I’ve learned to let go of what I
can’t change. I don’t have the power to free Angie of her disease, but I can
work hard to be healed from my own. This
is where I’ve focused my work in the program.
daughter has gone up and down on this roller coaster for nearly eighteen years,
and right now she’s in a very bad place. But that has only tested me more. My
faith grows stronger every day when I release my daughter with love to her
higher power, and I am able to firmly trust in mine.
of mine ask me, “How do you do that? You make it sound so simple!” I tell them, “First of all, getting here
hasn’t been simple. It’s the result of years of poisoning my most important
relationships with the defects I talked about earlier. I knew I had to change
in order to be happy. Secondly, I fill my heart with faith-based unconditional
acceptance of whatever happens in my life. It’s my choice.
in the readings, someone wrote ‘Pain is not in acceptance or surrender; it’s in
resistance.’ It’s much more painless to just let go and have faith that things
are unfolding as they are meant to. There’s a reason that HP is running the
show the way he is. I just have to get out of the way; I’m not in charge. I
also read somewhere the difference between submission and surrender: submission
is: I’ll do this if I get XYZ; surrender, on the other hand, is unconditional
acceptance of what I get. Well, the
latter is easier because I’m not holding my breath waiting for the outcome. I
just let go—and have faith. Again, it’s a very conscious choice.
all have different stories. What has blessed me about a spiritual life is that
I can always look within myself and find peace regardless of the storms raging
around me. I’m learning how to dance in the rain.
cannot be discovered by a journey of miles…only by a spiritual journey…by which
we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.” ~Wendell Berry
Without the gift of spirit in my life, I would be drifting on an island in the middle of the ocean. Spirit can be anything we want it to be: some people say God, or Higher Power; others focus on a statue or a tree in the garden. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it’s not US. “My best thinking got me here.” (into the rooms of recovery)
another acronym: EGO=Easing God Out.
floating island in the middle of the ocean can be a dangerous vessel without a
steering wheel. Maybe not dangerous; just completely self-reliant and without
was something I learned as a child because I had to. The adults in my life were often distracted with their own
problems, so I learned to do things by myself. This was a vital survival
strategy when I was a child. But as an adult, it became a huge defect.
adult, I’ve too often carried that survival tool into situations in my life
that required outside guidance. Too proud sometimes, or afraid, to ask for help
or advice, I steered my ship into some dangerous waters. Like everyone else,
I’ve made mistakes, and some of them were preventable if I’d had the humility
to ask for help.
like everyone else, I’m just a child of (God, a tree, the stars), and I’m
growing every day, learning (hopefully) from my mistakes and trying to do
better. Humility is a great leveler, and it has brought me closer to the one
thing I’ve missed all my life: being part of a community of equals. When I’m in
touch with the spirit within me, I’m no longer alone or isolated. I’m at one
within my fellowship—and it feels good to be alive.