Tag Archives: May

My serenity is up to me

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

Upright and balanced—on the trail and in life

This past summer, my daughter and I planned to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. Although we both loved the outdoors and were frequent day hikers, neither of us had attempted an overnight backpacking experience. After watching numerous on-line videos for advice, studying trail maps, and loading our packs, we set off for adventure, compass in hand and a smile on our faces.

Seasoned backpackers will tell you that “newbies” on the trail are easily recognized by the size of their packs, carrying everything but the kitchen sink. We were no exception. Our packs were easily half our body weight and towered over our heads. After the first mile, we got the hang of balancing our loads and conquered one steep ascent after another.

All was well until I had the misfortune to misstep and “roll” on a stick. I was thrown off balance, my feet went out from under me, and I found myself looking up at the sky, my fall cushioned by my pack. My daughter ran to my aid but was quickly overcome with fits of laughter at the sight of me attempting to get back on my feet.

Every effort to stand up was negated by the heavy pack. No matter how I tried, I was stuck, much like an overturned turtle. After valiant efforts to right myself, I lay exhausted by the situation, needing some kind of helping hand to stand. Once I gave up fighting the pack weight, a thought came to me. If I just unclipped my pack, I would be able to stand. I did. Now free from the weight of my burden, I stood upright.

My experience on the trail holds many lessons for me when compared to Al-Anon. Many of us carried a burden from the effects of alcoholism, causing us to lose our balance and get stuck. Our best efforts were ineffective in “righting” ourselves in our relationships and lives. For me, the experience, strength, and hope provided by the program are the freeing solutions to the family disease of alcoholism. The Steps and Traditions help me unclip the burden of the effects of growing up with alcoholism, allowing me to proceed down the trail of life upright and balanced.

 

By Mary Jo H.
The Forum, May 2016

Shedding the emotional weight

It has been almost 14 years since my father had his last drink, his last rage, his last broken promise, and his last lie. But it wasn’t until he stopped drinking that I realized I was just as sick as him. I wanted so much to trust his words, to not be afraid of him getting angry, and to trust that he wouldn’t lie to me. But the reality was that I still feared all of it. He stopped drinking, but I didn’t stop fearing.

The sickness boiled over into other relationships and affected my social life. As long as I could remember, I feared alcohol and places where people would over-drink, like parties, weddings, and bars. I never knew if someone would get out of control and hurt me. When deciding on who I was going to let into my life, I had a strict screening process. I felt I had to protect my children and myself from going through what I had lived through as a child and young adult. I thought all this made me healthy. I thought that although I couldn’t control my father or my home life when I was a child, I could certainly control it as an adult. I was protected and I was safe.

In Al-Anon, I have learned that control is a façade that people who live or have lived with an alcoholic needed to protect themselves. In reality, I don’t have any control over people, places, or things. I have learned that not only do I not have control, I don’t even want it. Having that much control meant that I had to have that much responsibility in everyone else’s life—a burden much too heavy to carry. In Al-Anon, I learned ways to become free of that emotional weight. I learned that in trusting myself, I could trust others. In loving myself, I have learned to love others. In being strong and emotionally sound, I have developed strong and emotionally sound relationships. Al-Anon gives me the tools to set me free.

Today, through my continued commitment in the Al-Anon program, I am strong and I know that no matter what happens in my life, I am capable of handling it. I am no longer afraid.

“Looking back and remembering what I was like…makes me realize how grateful I am to the program.” Alateen—a day at a time (B-10), p. 366

 

By Sarah R., Maryland
The Forum, May 2016