Let me start by saying I don’t often like epiphanies. The sudden awareness of something I didn’t understand before can be unsettling—and annoying.
During my first few months in Al-Anon, I kept saying, “I don’t get it.” I saw other members of the group smiling, laughing, exchanging hugs, and generally looking happy. Often those people had stories far worse than mine, and I couldn’t understand how they could seem so calm and content.
I kept repeating that phrase to myself over and over, “I don’t get it.” Then one day, it occurred to me that I wasn’t saying it correctly. I realized how strong my resistance was. I was so afraid of being disappointed once more that I was holding back. In that moment, I understood that “I don’t get it” really meant, “I won’t let it.” Fearing failure, I was being self-protective and wasn’t letting myself grow. Once I admitted that to myself, my experience in Al-Anon began to change.
Another time, I was talking about wanting to get off the roller coaster, a phrase I have heard others use as well. But this time I heard something come out of my mouth that surprised me. I started by saying, “I really want to get off the roller coaster” then added, “But I keep buying the tickets.” It was a moment of realizing my role in my own happiness—and in my unhappiness as well.
Sometimes, a new understanding can bring comfort out of misery. In my first few months in Al-Anon, I often felt worse at meetings than I did other places. Part of that came from feeling as if I could never achieve what others seemed to achieve, but I’ve come to understand there was another reason. I often felt worse in meetings because that was the one place in my life where it was safe to be unhappy. There wasn’t anyone there who didn’t understand, and on some level I knew no one there was going to judge me for it, or try to change me. I was allowed to be me—tears and all.
Let me repeat what I said at the beginning. I often don’t like epiphanies. They often remove my excuses for not learning and changing, and they remind me that my serenity is not dependent on what someone else does or doesn’t do, it’s up to me. But it is also a reminder from my Higher Power that serenity is possible, even happiness, and sometimes I just need to get out of my own way. I also need to remind myself that “Progress Not Perfection” lets me grow in my own way and at my own pace—a priceless gift.
By Eric F., California
The Forum, May 2016
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.