Every week I go swimming at my neighborhood pool. I usually go early in order to get a lane and to avoid a grumpy old codger No such luck today. I do tend to veer off course sometimes and today he barked, “Stay in your own lane!”
“Living fully requires enough trust to release our manipulative, tight-fisted control of life, for only then can we accept the guidance of a Power greater than ourselves. For adult children of alcoholics, our damaged, devastated trust has to be healed and nurtured bit by bit until we feel safe enough to truly let go and let God. Trust does not come from reading a book, however inspired, but from experiencing new relationships in which we are trusted and we can learn to trust those around us…If we willingly surrender ourselves to the spiritual discipline of the Twelve Steps, our lives will be transformed…Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential…We will laugh more. Fear will be replaced by faith, and gratitude will come naturally as we realize that our Higher Power is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves…”
“We will laugh more.” How can I, beset by depression and instability for many of my years, come to revisit my life now from another perspective? How have I learned how to laugh and see the comedy in things? What has enabled me at last to live well and be happy?
Being in the rooms.
But I hasten to add that we can learn the same tools elsewhere: the tools of letting go and accepting what we can’t change; the tool of gratitude; the tool of detachment and understanding our personal boundaries in relation to our substance user. There are many places where we can pick up these life skills: from our family, friends, church, from our own life experiences…
I might have been luckier, like many of you, and learned these tools in a happy, functioning family when I was growing up. But I learned them later.
And it’s never too late to learn how to be happy.
White knuckling it through life is exhausting. Different methods to relax work for different people. Yoga, prayer, knitting, running, reading, listening to music—the list is endless. The best thing for me to relax is the Serenity Prayer. It has become my mantra:
“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
I embrace this prayer in big and little ways every day. Its wisdom keeps me right-sized and humble, while at the same time encouraging me to make changes in my life that are within my reach.
We are all challenged, of course, by the last line. That’s why I keep going back to recovery meetings!
“…Today my sense of humor is a natural reflection of who I am. I experience the world through smiles and laughter rather than through bitter smirks. I share joy with others rather than seek company for my misery. I help others heal rather than attack them. I allow my sense of humor to unfold naturally, just the way it was meant, and I watch the wonderful results as my Higher Power works through me toward a higher good.”
Finding my sense of humor has been a reflection of how I’ve changed in recovery. I’ve worked through my grief around my daughter and continue to do so every day. But the darkness has receded. Somehow it’s not as heavy to carry as it used to be. It seems lighter. I’ve gained perspective from years of reading and writing, and listening to other peoples’ stories. Being able to laugh, and cease to take myself too seriously, has eased my journey through this frightening tunnel. I can see the light at the end of it.
At times I wondered if I would ever laugh again, but my Higher Power wanted me not only to survive but to do so joyfully. There are many other people in my world, and my recovery spills over onto them in countless ways.
Cultivating a healthy sense of humor keeps me right-sized; I stay small and HP stays big. Then I don’t get in my own way so much!
Before I went into recovery, I was pretty lost. On the outside, my life seemed to be rolling along well. But on the inside, I was insecure and sad. I dealt with these feelings in unhealthy ways, but didn’t feel much pressure to change them. I never missed a day of work, and I appeared to be fine. But appearances can be deceiving. Nothing had yet occurred to call my choices into question. Nothing had happened yet to push me out of my complacency.
But when my middle child fell victim to substance use disorder, after I had tried and failed over and over again to help her, I broke. The carefully manicured life I had been living was a treasured glass from my cupboard, smashed onto the kitchen floor. Many little shards, and some big ones. I cut my fingers cleaning it up.
My recovery fellowship comes with a philosophy that teaches me many different things. And one of those things is to forgive myself and others for the transgressions we inevitably commit in our lives. Our common humanity dovetails at every meeting I go to, where we encourage ourselves to face our defects, let them go, and move on.
For years, I held on to mine to punish myself for my part in Annie’s disease, and most importantly, for failing to “save” her. I have learned, gratefully, that my daughter suffers from substance use disorder, as do I, and I could no more save her from it than if she’d had diabetes. I simply don’t have that power.
So I try to stay away from martyrdom and self-pity, because neither of those feelings will help Annie get well, and they hurt me a great deal. That’s where the weeds are. They muddy the waters; they keep me angry and sad. When I steer clear of them, it takes some of the sting out of losing my daughter. I can more easily open my heart to what remains in my life.
The miracle of my recovery is that, like a gentle breeze blowing away the clutter of remorse, my eyes can see my life through another lens now, one full of gratitude, humor and love. The fruits of my recovery rest on these three things.
“We forget that the depths teach us how to better appreciate the heights.”
Pity the poor fly. Its brain is pretty miniscule and not capable of making decisions that might lead it to its final flight.
Have you ever wondered what they were thinking flying through our open doors and/or windows? Well, they weren’t thinking; remember, they’re just flies. They had just spent a lovely day outside, gobbling up insects, laying eggs on piles of compost, and just frittering away their time, wondering what to do next.
“Oh, there’s an open door,” they venture excitedly, “maybe there’s more food through that door.”
“Nope, not a good choice,” we implore, as we flail around trying to whisk them back outside. But too late for some. They get lost in the curtains, the laundry room, the bathrooms. They do tend to linger around windows as they wistfully wonder how to get back out into the open air. Yet they have no idea how to accomplish that.
“Oh, look at all those ants…” precursors of a thought, their jaws watering at the sight of all the insects through the living room window. My son leaves the doors open sometimes, just so that they can escape the doom that awaits them.
But then more just come in.
Oh, pity those poor flies. They’re not suicidal. That would require some forethought, and they don’t think at all, remember. They just like to eat bugs. And poop. And make more flies. One place to do all that seems just like any other one.
Wrong! Inside most reasonably well-kept houses there are not a lot of bugs. So there they sit, or flit from room to room, vainly scrounging around for some edible bugs, while they slowly lose their energy, utterly bewildered by it all.
Finally, unable to carry on and fly, these lost and confused insects drop down onto the floor where I find them, usually near the windows—those glass barriers that kept them from swooping down and devouring all those ants. One by one I pick them up and take them outside, where they become dinner for other insects.
old timer with 40 years of sobriety had a dream. In it, his first sponsor, who
passed years before, appeared. The old-timer, seizing the opportunity, asked
him one question: ‘Is there AA in Heaven?’
Jim,’ his first sponsor replied, ‘there’s good news and bad news. The good news
is yes, AA meetings are held in heaven. The bad news is, you’re chairing this
Saturday.’” ~Marty Z., Palm Bay, Florida
used humor as a manipulative tool to get people to like me. …My sense of humor
wasn’t spontaneous or appropriate. I used it to please people. When no one was
around to please, however, I was miserable…
sense of humor is a natural reflection of who I am. I experience the world
through smiles and laughter rather than through bitter smirks. I share joy with
others rather than seek company for my misery. I help others heal rather than
attack them. I allow my sense of humor to unfold naturally, just the way it was
meant, and I watch the wonderful results as my Higher Power works through me
toward a higher good.”
I’m finishing up my second memoir about addiction, a sequel to A Mother’s Story, but had to visit a major crossroads in my life first. My daughter Angie was ten when a big change occurred in our lives, and I needed to revisit Greece with a fresh perspective nearly thirty years later. Sending love to all my FB friends from the top of a volcano, Santorini, where they have internet and TV, lol!
My inventory has shown me who I am, yet I ask for Your help
in admitting my wrongs to another person and to You.
Assure me, and be with me, in this Step,
for without this step I cannot progress in my recovery.
With Your help, I can do this and I will do it.”
I’ve stopped the blame game. Admitting my defects to God and another human being has been critical in my recovery. Denial is like a dark cave: we hide there, from ourselves and others, and without any light it’s not easy to see the truth.
I’ve struggled with addictions my whole life, but until I told someone about them, brought them into the light, they weren’t real to me, and I could continue on the merry-go-round of denial.
But when I told someone else, I couldn’t pretend anymore. Sharing with someone else makes me accountable. Admitting our defects to others shines a light on who we really are. Then, and only the, do we have the opportunity, through God’s help and the support of others, to work on our defects and our recovery.
P.S. It’s also kinda necessary to know who we are, and admit who we are, before we can love who we are and accept who we are!