The Freedom Of Surrender

From Courage To Change, January 23:

“Today’s reminder: At the start of each day I can make the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. This way I begin my day with a strong assertion that I choose to accept the reality of my life. I am growing in a healthy direction, growing ever more able to live a good life and to love those I meet along the way.

‘Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.’”

My will(fullness) has gotten me into trouble often. I’ve exercised bad judgment and made questionable decisions, especially around my daughter Angie. I wanted to help her beat her addiction—as if I had any power over that.

When I was finally, after much trial and error, able to accept my powerlessness, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Nothing changed in our situation except the way I began reacting (or not) to it.

Taking my attention away from Angie and the struggle that is hers alone, what was I going to do with all my energy?

Focus on myself and all the blessings God has given me. When I turn my burdens over to Him, I am free.

Something To Leave Behind

My shell collection is extensive and surprisingly sturdy. I’ve dragged them around with me from all my travels over the years. But I’ve run out of space to display them. And I wonder why I’ve collected so many. What have they represented to me? Maybe the assurance that something of me will be left behind.

Ego. Such a fundamental part of the human condition, the very thing that makes us human, and separates us from God. It’s ego that keeps us struggling in our relationships, ego that keeps us from accepting things as they are and feeling content with what we have. Ego and our willfulness beneath it that traps us in our restless search to outdo ourselves and others.

And it’s ego that makes us want to leave an imprint in the sand.

All human beings wrestle with ego, but substance users have found a solution that elevates them from their soul sickness: losing themselves in substances and behaviors that provide oblivion for a time. “We want what we want when we want it.” That tired old phrase smacking of egocentricity and immaturity.

Substance users in their disease are all about themselves. In Alcoholic’s Anonymous, one definition of an alcoholic is an “egomaniac with low self-esteem.”

To be “relieved of the bondage of self,” as the Third Step Prayer states in the Big Book, I’m learning how to nurture a relationship with God and remember my place in relation to him.

My importance is next to nothing in the scheme of things. This keeps me right-sized and humble.     

I’m just another grain of sand on the beach.

The Benefits Of Self-Reflection

When I go to bed at night I ask myself, “Did I do the best I could today?” Sometimes my answer is “yes” and sometimes it’s “no.”

I read somewhere that a life without regret is a life without reflection. So if I’m able to think about my actions—sometimes with regret and sometimes with pride—then I feel that my awareness in itself can be a source of strength. It points the way for me to change when it’s necessary. And it boosts my self-confidence when I can recognize—and give myself credit for— a day well lived.

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.

Lessons In Letting Go

A Memoir of Recovery

 

“Her apartment was only two miles away from the condo. I parked on her street and was relieved to see her car, so I knew she was home. Running up the stairs, I tripped over a cat and sent it screeching down the steps. I knocked on her door but there was no answer. I knocked again—again, no answer. Music was playing, so I knew she was home. If she’d answered her phone, I could have told her I was coming. But I was determined to see her so I banged on the door.

Finally, she came and opened it, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while she zipped up her jeans. Without waiting for an invitation, I brushed past her and approached the bedroom, but stopped in my tracks. Joe, her boyfriend, was lying on the bed, prostrate, his long legs hanging off the end. He was so out of it I don’t think he knew I was there.

‘Mom, come back here,’ she hissed, frantically beckoning me back

into the living room where she was standing. ‘This is not a good time.’”

‘It’s never a good time, Angie. You’ve been avoiding your father and

me, and I want to know why.’

‘Mom, I know you’re worried. Joe’s really trying to kick the stuff,

honest. Me too. We’re detoxing right now. That’s why it’s not a good time.’

‘Not a good time…’ Summer of 2005 was upon us, and Angie had been struggling with serious drug addiction for four years. First it was methamphetamine, then cocaine, and now meth again. There had been countless betrayals, one rehab, and brief, blessed periods of sunshine between the clouds, not to mention the accomplishment of earning her college degree. The highs and lows were exhausting me. But I was so sick of it all and frankly really angry with my daughter for not trying harder to work on her own recovery.  She had so much going for her; it was such a waste.

‘I can’t deal with this, Angie. You know what you need to do, forchrissakejust do it!’ Pausing to take a breath and looking back toward the bedroom, ‘And get rid of that creep on your bed,’ I hammered.

I turned and left the apartment, slamming the door. I was furious—and terrified. It was so overwhelming after all we’d already been through, to be watching her in the middle of another relapse. Had Angie learned nothing from all her suffering so far? And what about me? Was the teacher still teachable?”

Excerpt from my award-winning memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero

Yes, I used the word “teachable.” What was it that I needed to learn? Angie was 26 that year, an adult. I needed to leave her to face the consequences of her own choices. I raised her along with two other children with a strong moral code. But Angie had an illness, something that trumped all the lessons from her upbringing. You don’t tell a drug addict to stop reaching for drugs, or an alcoholic to stop needing the numbness that a drink provides. Addiction is unlike cancer or diabetes in that it is spiritual in its outset and then becomes a physical problem. But telling my daughter what to do was totally ineffective, and it was wearing me out in the process.

The effects of living with the disease of addiction were destroying my life. In 2008, I had a nervous breakdown and had to retire from my teaching job. As all addicts need to find their bottom in order to recover, so do their families. That was mine. That was where the rubber hit the road for me. I stopped obsessing over my grown daughter and tried to get my own life back.

But first I needed to find “the grace to release my addict with love, and stop trying to change her,” as it says in the Naranon pamphlet. What could be harder for a parent? It’s the hardest lesson of all, letting go of an addicted child. But I have finally found the strength to do that, by using the tools in my recovery program. I have learned to accept what I don’t have the power to change, and to have faith that life for me is unfolding as it was meant to.

And so it is: faith and acceptance go hand in hand.

Getting Ready For Change

From Hope for Today, June 17:

“Thought for the Day:  Although God does not completely eradicate my defects, I am provided with Al-Anon tools to maintain my separation from them.

‘I expected to just say, ‘Okay, God, take over!’ and they’d be gone overnight. It didn’t quite work out that way.’”

 

If only things were so simple! I’m in partnership with my Higher Power, but I still have to do the footwork.

The key word above is “separation.” I will always have defects; that’s what makes me human. But to be able to step back and look at them, to separate myself from them for just a bit, gives me the chance to take a look and decide what to do.

It’s hard, sometimes, to let go of some defects. Sometimes stubbornness masquerades as determination; sometimes martyrdom looks like healthy self-sacrifice. There are a million ways to justify our behavior and rationalize it.

But when a defect stands in the way of my well-being, or that of someone I love, then I’m grateful for the objectivity I’m given, allowing me the grace to separate from it.

 

 

Turning It Over

  

           From Courage To Change, January 23:

“Today’s reminder: At the start of each day I can make the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. This way I begin my day with a strong assertion that I choose to accept the reality of my life. I am growing in a healthy direction, growing ever more able to live a good life and to love those I meet along the way.

‘Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.’”

 

My will(fullness) has gotten me into trouble often. I’ve exercised bad judgment and made questionable decisions, especially around my daughter Angie. I wanted to help her beat her addiction—as if I had any power over that.

When I was finally, after much trial and error, able to accept my powerlessness, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Nothing changed in our situation except the way I began reacting (or not) to it.

Taking my attention away from Angie and the struggle that is hers alone, what was I going to do with all my energy?

Focus on myself and all the blessings God has given me. When I turn my burdens over to Him, I am free.

 

Beach Combing

I have a huge collection of shells that I’ve amassed over fifty years. But I’ve pretty much stopped collecting because I have no more room to put them! It’s time to enjoy what I have. And to wonder what they’ve represented to me all these years.

Ego. Such a fundamental part of the human condition, and yet the very thing that makes us human and separates us from God. It’s ego that keeps us struggling in our relationships, ego that keeps us from accepting things as they are and feeling content with what we have. Ego and our willfulness beneath it that traps us in our restless search to outdo ourselves and others.

And it’s ego that makes us want to leave an imprint in the sand.

All human beings wrestle with ego, but addicts have found a solution that elevates them from their soul sickness: losing themselves in substances and behaviors that provide oblivion for a time.  “We want what we want when we want it.” That tired old phrase smacking of egocentricity and childishness.

Addicts in their disease are all about themselves. In Alcoholics Anonymous, one definition of an alcoholic is an egomaniac with an inferiority complex..

To be “relieved of the bondage of self,” as the Third Step Prayer states in the Big Book, I’m learning how to nurture a relationship with God and remember my place in relation to Him. My importance is next to nothing in the scheme of things. This keeps me right-sized and humble. I’m just another grain of sand on the beach.

Learning to live beyond ego has been one of my biggest challenges. And, like all my work in the school of recovery, there is no graduation.

I line up all my conches and other shells, like students in a classroom, mindful of what they are teaching me.

 

The Path To Peace

From Each Day A New Beginning, 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, turn it over to God, and be free to look ahead at the possibilities for happiness…Perhaps we can learn to accept a serious situation in our lives as a special opportunity for growth first of all, but even more as an opportunity to let God work in our lives.

Serenity is the gift promised when we let God handle our lives. No crises need worry us. The solution is only a prayer away.”

In my recovery program we are quick to replace the word “God “with “higher power.” A tree, the sunset, a friend—anything but me, because “my best thinking got me into the rooms.” The point of this reading is Step Three: turning our crises, burdens, whatever is too much for us, over to another being who is stronger and wiser than we are.

It took me a long time to take this step because I thought I was strong and wise; I didn’t know how to rely on others. My faulty thinking was: I’d better be able to handle all this cuz who else has ever helped me when I needed him?

Fortunately, I’ve learned to change my attitude about many things, including my ability to handle my life which wasn’t working for me at all! I’m grateful to have been unhappy enough, desperate enough, and finally open enough, to consider other options toward living better. And one of the most critical ones was turning an unbearable situation over to a higher power. The weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, and I found a new freedom. I began to focus on my own happiness and well-being—because without it I wasn’t much use to my other loved ones.

Recovery has been all about self-care—from letting go of guilt, to putting an end to enabling, to accepting what I can’t change.

I do this because I’m worth it.

“Let Go And Let God”

“In Al-Anon, letting go and letting God means exchanging the finite, narrow limitations of our own self-will for the infinite wisdom of our Higher Power. We turn our lives over to the Higher Power’s care, confident that in God’s time, solutions to our problems and relief from our pain will come to us.

The lily symbolized this slogan and was inspired by the biblical passage that tells us:

‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’

By making the Twelve Steps a part of our lives, learning to trust God’s will, and practicing program principles in all our affairs, we continually renew our faith and achieve our own special beauty as our serenity grows.”

My life is so much simpler when I let go of things and people I can’t control and turn the struggle over. What had been weighing me down is lifted from my shoulders and I feel lighter, more at peace. This frees me to live my life better, unencumbered by negative thoughts for which I have no solutions.

Life can still be good for us; it’s all a matter of perspective.