Information

In this blog you'll find mostly my thoughts and experiences as well as poems in regards to my Al-anon 12-step recovery.
I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to leave me comments.

Thanks

If someone's drinking, drugging or sobriety is bothering you or if you grew up with drinking or drugs in your home, please find an Al-anon meeting.
http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm your disease

This is an anonymous post that a dear friend, from Twitter, sent to me. This is printed on a poster that she found, and its message is very powerful. She asked me to share it with you.



I’m Your Disease

“I hate meetings. I hate Higher Power(s). I hate anyone who has a program. To you who come in contact with me: I wish you death and I wish you suffering.

Allow me to introduce myself: I am the disease of addiction. Cunning, baffling, and
powerful - that’s me.

I have killed millions and I am pleased. I love to trick you with the element of surprise. I love pretending I am your friend and lover.

I have given you comfort, have I not? Wasn’t I there when you were lonely? When you wanted to die, didn’t you call me? I was there.

I love to make you hurt. I love to make you cry. Better yet, I love when I make you so numb you can neither hurt nor cry. You can’t feel anything at all. This is true glory.

I will give you instant gratification and all I ask of you is long-term suffering. I have been there for you always. When things were going right in your life, you invited me. You said you didn’t deserve these good things and I was the only one who would agree with you. Together we were able to destroy all the good things in your life.

People don’t take me seriously. They take strokes seriously, heart attacks seriously, even diabetes, they take seriously. Fools that they are… they don’t know that without my help these things would not be made possible.

I am such a hated disease and yet I do not come uninvited. You choose to have me. So many have chosen me over reality and peace.

More than you hate me, I hate all of you who have a Twelve-Step Program. Your program, your meetings, your Higher Power, all weaken me. I can’t function in the manner I am accustomed to.

Now I must lie here quietly. You don’t see me, but I am growing bigger than ever. When you only exist, I may live. When you live I only exist. I am here... and until we meet again - if we meet again - I wish you death and suffering.”
…Anonymous.

My friend Amy has been struggling with this disease. I don't know her personally, and yet I do, since I talk with her frequently online. She has shared with me her struggles and I have talked with her openly about the disease of alcoholism and addiction.

I've written posts before about whether this disease is a choice or not. Do I believe people wake up and decide to be an addict or drunk? No, I do not. I do believe, however, that at some point when the power of choice becomes present, and the desperate need to seek recovery is staring you in the face, it’s between you and whatever God you may believe in, and no one else.

Not everyone recovers, not everyone has the capacity to be completely honest with themselves, and not everyone survives and lives to find recovery.

Amy, I pray that it’s your turn to recover. It's right there waiting for you, just grab it with both hands. Like the quote above said, this disease lays in wait. It’s doing push-ups in the back room, getting stronger each day. Feed your recovery, don’t feed the disease.

Much love,
Wookiesgirl

Monday, September 19, 2011

This Past Weekend

This past weekend I attended a retreat for teens in a mountain camp just outside of Prescott, Arizona. Although it was 12 step recovery based, it wasn’t like any of the other retreats I’ve been to over the last seven years of my recovery. It was more. It was just... better.

My son had attended this retreat four years in a row and, because he needed to have his space from me and be free to have his own experience without me hovering, I had never attended. That was okay, as I am not the kind of mom that needs to be into every single thing he does. He no longer attends, so now it was my turn.

I drove up the hill into the mountains with seventeen teenagers in tow. Five of them were in my truck and my partner in crime and best friend, drove a van filled with the other twelve, plus one more adult. After an enormous amount of finagling to pack the vehicles, which included thirty cases of water, we finally got on the road. Jammed in like sardines.

I’ve been involved with supporting the teens for a number of years now, and it’s had its fair share of ups and downs, for sure. I was a bit reluctant and really didn’t know what this weekend had in store for me.

What I want to tell you about is the amazing blessings I received this weekend. These kids have all been affected by the family disease of alcoholism. Many of them are still living in active alcoholism or drug addiction and some of them have had the blessing of recovery enter their homes. A few have been removed from their homes and no longer live with their parents. And, some have even lost their parents to the bowels of this disease: Overdose, resulting in death. I’ve not lost a parent to this disease, but I have lost two close family members, as well as friends, and I know what this kind of pain feels like.

I listened to them share in the workshops that were held. I listened to them talk of the blessings in their life and how this very retreat keeps them going, on a daily basis, throughout the year. They live for it. For some, it’s the only brightness in their life and the only place they feel they receive unconditional love and acceptance.

I watched them laugh with each other, listened to them curse like sailors, and I also watched them care for each other with such a remarkable amount of unconditional love that I was moved to tears.



Many of these children, and yes, I’ll call them children, lost their innocence long ago. They’ve been witness to things no child (or adult) should ever have to see, and they have survived it. Some of them still struggle, which is to be expected, but they are fighters. Growing up as they do, as I did, hardens you. It leaves scars that take years to heal. They want to grow and overcome the things that they’ve had to experience and they want to learn how to give love and accept love…unconditionally.

These retreats offer them a safe place, where they can be themselves. Where they can cry or laugh or be silent and maybe feel some peace. Miracles happened this past weekend. I watched them, I felt them. Some of these kids experienced some healing and I watched some of them, that haven’t healed yet, wrap themselves up inside our warm circle of love, comfort, and friendship.

In total, there were forty two teens in attendance, ranging from ages twelve to nineteen. There were also a handful of adults that attend every year. Some of those adults came to this retreat when they were teens themselves. They come back now because of the gifts that they were given as kids, they come to offer that gift to the newest generation.

Many of the kids and the adults I saw on this retreat know my son. They told me how wonderful he is. How they miss him. I think, next year, I’ll be dragging him up the hill with me. At twenty, he’ll be one of the adults that attended this retreat as a kid, and he’ll be able to give back, too.

I met some young ladies that I had the honor of bonding with. I got to sit and laugh with them and talk about our similarities and differences and maybe, just maybe, I was able to be an example for them. It was an opportunity for me to stand in the gap for some of them, be a friend or a mother figure that loves them unconditionally. Accepts them as they are.



Among the many tears and emotions, there was also a ton of laughter. My best friend and I got to be a part of that too. We didn’t have to, we got to. We got to forget, for just a couple of days, about the serious lives we lead; the jobs and bills, all those things that accompany being an adult. We got to joke around and act like kids ourselves. I needed that.



Although I didn’t get to know all of the kids, the ones I did get to know have left their mark on my heart.
My best friend and I even found a couple of teen girls who seemed as if they were clones of the two of us. We had an absolute blast goofing off with them.



During the long drive up the hill, I sat next to a young lady who is a dancer, a singer and a writer. Wow! We sang together, we talked about dance, and then we talked about writing. What a gift I received. God put that girl next to me in my truck. I could never have planned that.



I cannot express how absolutely profound this weekend was for me. I cannot begin to even explain the amount of gratitude I felt as I drove those same five kids down the hill back to town.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these kids. Without a doubt I will be back next year. I can’t wait to see them all again and see how they’ve changed.
I wouldn’t miss it for the world.


I offer a big Thank You, to each and every teen that I met this weekend. You are a bright light for me. Equal thanks goes to all the adults, who give of themselves so freely every year, for making sure this retreat continues to happen for these kids. You are an example of recovery and unconditional love. There are simply not enough of you.

I’m blessed and my cup runneth over.

Much love,
Wookiesgirl

P.S. If you know me personally, and wish to comment, please refrain from using my name. I prefer to keep my blogs anonymous.
Thanks. *hugs*

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Definition of Me


I’ve had this idea poking at me for a while now. I’ve wanted to write a blog post in which I could define me for you. Not an easy task, since I am still figuring out exactly who I am. 

Do any of us truly know who you are? It’s something I wonder about. Do you really know yourself and can you be honest enough to bare your belly and show all?

I work a 12 step program, (Al-Anon) and one of the principles of this (and any 12 step program) is honesty. Honesty with others, but more importantly, honesty with ourselves. I work with a great number of women in my program and one thing I tell them constantly is:  Know and own your truth. Know who you are and why you do what you do. They love me and hate me for it.

I’ve learned to be honest with myself about a great many things. I’ve had to look deep inside and review my motives, my thoughts, and my actions. I’ve had to be willing to cut away the parts concerning everyone else and only look at my own actions. Not easy. Today, I have a pretty good understanding of what makes me tick. Why I do the things I do, think the things I think, and why I get hurt so easily. None of this stops me from being hurt, though. It’s a problem that seems to plague me.

Recently I was doing some research on my birth sign. I’m a Cancer. The Crab: Hard on the outside and extremely soft on the inside. I learned some very interesting things that I already suspected about myself. More insight. Yay!

Did you know that Cancers are the most emotional sign of all of the Sun Signs? I didn’t know that.  Did you know they are the mothering ones too?  And that they can be quite moody? Everything I read was spot on for me in the most eerie of ways. Things I knew about me already, but defined so clearly in print. Now, I realize that this astrology stuff is subjective right? I mean, you can take anything you read like that and twist it to fit your own life or situation. In my case, I tried to be objective and at every turn was slapped in the face by another clear definition of myself.

My father once told me, “You get too attached. You have always been that way, even as a child.” I’ve written about that before. It seems that every time I turn around I’ve gotten myself into another situation where I get hurt.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Hell, who am I kidding? Truth is, I wear my heart all over my entire body. It’s there for all to see and touch. Available for you to appreciate or to harm. Choose your poison.

I give my all to my friends, even when it’s not asked for. I love too much, give too much, expect too much and leave myself open to be hurt. Not everyone wants or needs my brand of love. Not everyone has it in them to give back to me what I find so easy to give to them.

That’s okay, you know? I accept that, and in most cases I expect it. Though, there are a select few that I let inside my soul that are dangerous. For example, people that are emotionally unavailable. Those are the people that I tend to gravitate toward the most. Only God knows why.

I call it my broken picker. I pick broken people and fall madly in love with them. I cherish them. This goes for friends and romantic relationships. And I get hurt. I suppose I see something in them that others don’t. Maybe I think I can be that soft place they’ve never had before. It’s not completely clear why, and the reasons vary. One thing is for sure, if I see something inside you, then I dive head first into that friendship or relationship and I give and give and give until there is nothing left of me. When there is not equal reciprocation of my loyalty, affection, and attention, then I am hurt. I am let down. I am disappointed. Have I not just set myself up for this hurt? If I am honest, then yes, I absolutely have.

I take full responsibility for the fact that I do this to myself regularly. I seem to need to learn this lesson over and over again. Here’s the deal: I don’t give to people expecting a return on an investment. I truly do not. But if I dig, and if I am honest with myself, then there is always a bottom line motive behind my love and affection. I’m looking for that love and affection, appreciation or loyalty, to be given back. It’s almost entirely impossible to give to someone without some sort of self-will involved. All roads lead back to self, in my opinion. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about this.

“Selfishness--self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.”

What does that mean? It means I keep going to the hardware store for bread. Does the hardware store sell bread? No, of course not. So why would I go there to buy bread? Basically, I keep going to the wrong people to make me feel better inside. To shower me with the same love and affection I give to them and to give me the same undying loyalty I show them. What happens is I end up with a broken heart, and that’s never pretty. Then I retaliate, or lash out, or worse, retreat into my hard Cancer shell where I am safe and can lick my wounds in private. When I retaliate, it usually isn’t received well and people get pissed off. Pull back from me and no longer want to be my friend, aka hostage. Because believe me, it can sometimes feel like that to them.

Basically, I step on the toes of my fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt me, seemingly without provocation, but I invariably find that at some time in the past, I have made decisions based on self, which later placed me in a position to be hurt. The other clincher in this is that no one person or persons can do this for me. People are human and are usually walking through their own stuff in life. They cannot be all things to someone. That’s just not possible. I know this, I understand it, yet it makes no difference at times when I seem to have forgotten that my brand of love and affection can, and has, driven people to want to retaliate, and then run for their lives. The world does not revolve around me. Although in truth, if I am honest, I really wish it did.

I’m a pain in the ass. And although, depending on your personality, it’s not like this with everyone I am in a relationship/friendship with, it is still definitely a problem I have with some. I seem to not have this issue with Virgos or other Cancers. They understand me in ways that many others don’t.

Ultimately there is a price to be paid for my friendship. It’s a risk many may not want to take. But it’s also a benefit too. You’ll find with me, a place where you can always have love and acceptance. You’ll find with me that I will always be honest with you when I see you screwing up. That I will always be there when you need someone to hold you and just listen. You will also find with me a loyalty that knows no limit.

As I mentioned above, you may not be the kind of person who wants or needs this brand of love and friendship. Many are not. I get that. Yet, I still wear my heart all over my body and I leap before I should. Simply to scoop you up and love on you.

What can I say, that I am sorry?  I’m not sure I am. But believe me, I’ve paid dearly with my bleeding heart, considering some of the things I have suffered due to this little trait in myself. Sometimes I truly wish, with every fiber or my being, that I was not this way. But then again, that really wouldn’t be me would it?

I’m not sure I was able to capture in these words all my thoughts on this subject. There is so much more to it. Maybe it helped you to see something about yourself, maybe it didn’t. Either way, at the very least, I hope you might consider seeking your own truth and finding out what makes you tick. Peel the layers of the onion, it’s worth it, but be careful; when you really dig, what you find tends to stink a little until you air it out.

Take care,
Wookiesgirl

I wrote this today as I listened to many Alanis Morissette songs. Her lyrics are a great muse for me and they are also very real, raw, and honest.


Playlist: Alanis Morissette
Flowers of Entanglement
         Straightjacket
         Not as we
         Madness
         Limbo no more
         Orchid (one of my favorites and most accurate)
         Moratorium
         Torch
         Tapes
         The guy who leaves

Under Rug Swept
         Hands clean
         Flinch
         That particular time
         You owe me nothing in return
         Narcissus
         So unsexy
         Precious illusions
         Surrendering

City of Angels
         Uninvited

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Today


In memory of Josh and Jacob.
I miss you both.


When I woke up and rolled over in bed this morning, I did what I usually do: checked my phone for messages and then checked my Twitter. The first thing I read was that Amy Winehouse had died. The cause is as yet undetermined, but Amy had a history of alcohol and drug abuse. Most likely, she overdosed.

I’m disturbed today because the next thing I saw on my Twitter time-line was people talking about how Amy had a choice, or that she was selfish. That she had no regard for her family or fans. Let me tell you, this disease is very selfish, that is true, and alcoholics and addicts appear to be very selfish as they continue to use and drink to the point of self-destruction.

Tell me, do you really believe that someone has a choice? Do you really believe when Amy was a little girl she said, “When I grow up I want to be a drug addict and alcoholic”? Do you really believe any alcoholics or addicts set out to become what they are? Of course not. No one would choose that life. It seems so simple to those of us who maybe used drugs recreationally when we were younger or can have one or two drinks and then walk away. Why is it so hard for others who seem to have a problem?

For an alcoholic mind, there is no choice in the matter, folks.

Now, I am not writing this to talk about Amy… I didn’t know her, obviously. I’m writing to share with you my experience with drug addiction and alcoholism. My condolences go out to Amy’s family and friends. I, too, know what it’s like to lose someone to this horrible disease.

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a chapter that speaks to the insidious disease of alcoholism. It is a disease. It is NOT a choice. Please read it: http://silkworth.net/bb/doctorsopinion.html.

In fact, buy a copy of the book and read the whole thing. If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, it may help you. If you love an alcoholic or addict, it may help you, too. If you are just a person who wants to understand the disease, it will change your view.

This amazing book was written in the late thirties. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous had to have been touched by the hand of God. They created this amazing program that has saved countless lives. That program birthed the next in line: Al-Anon. Hundreds of programs followed after these two, all of them based on the core principals of AA.

I have known and loved many alcoholics and addicts. My father is an addict/alcoholic. I watched him get clean and sober, as well as relapse, many times. Today he is sober. I watched both of my husband’s cousins, Josh and Jacob, die from their addictions to heroin. I loved them both. My husband has a long history of alcoholics and addicts in his family. In addition to Josh and Jacob, I have lost at least two other friends to drug overdoses. This is a very real and very horrible disease and it takes lives. Society only pays attention when it happens to be a celebrity.

The sad fact is addicts/alcoholics die every day. Some find recovery every day too.

But, what of the families? How does all this affect them? There is always much focus on the actual drunk or addict isn’t there? Always much talk about what they should or should not be doing. And then of course those people who share their opinions of said addicts/drunks, that most likely have no idea what it’s like, or worse, they do, and they themselves have never sought help.

Let me tell you, I am a crazy, CRAZY alanon. I grew up in this disease. I call myself an “alanon” like you would call an alcoholic a “drunk,” etc. What I have come to learn is that it’s a family disease. My father was not home a lot, and though he used drugs and drank regularly, he didn’t do it at home. He was, however, very grumpy, and also violent. My mother’s first husband was a violent alcoholic. She had two children with him, and after divorcing him she met my father and had me.

My mother was very focused on my father. Always trying to control, to get him to “behave” and do whatever it was she needed or wanted him to do. She worked a lot out of necessity and was angry a good majority of the time. She had bouts of depression my entire life and took most all her frustration out on my two siblings and me.

Don’t get me wrong, my father was a bastard, but he was also predictable. My mother was a damn roller-coaster ride. You never knew what sort of mood she would be in or what might set her off. I suffered more damage at the hands of my mother than I ever did from my father. And although my siblings grew up in the same home as I did, their experience was different than mine. They may feel as though they suffered more at my father’s hands than my mothers. I can’t share their story, it’s theirs.

My father got sober for the first time in the early eighties. My mother took me to Alateen and she went to Al-Anon. Al-Anon uses the same steps and principles as AA. Like AA, it works, but you have to work it. You have to have a willingness and capacity to be honest. You have to be willing to see your part. Mostly, you have to be ready. My mother never seemed to really grasp the principles of the program. She was still very caught up in my father and blamed him for everything. In her mind, it was all his fault and there was nothing wrong with her. She couldn’t see her part.

I learned about alcoholism and addiction at an early age because of Alateen. I learned it was a disease and that I didn’t cause it, I couldn’t cure it, and I couldn’t control it. I was not cured though, and I still went on to make many mistakes as a young adult and still continue to work on myself today. Growing up in the family disease warped me. I had and still have distorted thinking, and as a result, I made and make poor choices. I still have a laundry list of things I try to control. It just is what it is.

I had a son at the age of nineteen and I was not a good mother for a long time. My son is now twenty and let me tell you, he has never lived with active alcoholism or drug addiction. He is pretty screwed up and he has only ever lived with me. ME!

My two youngest children, ages eight and seven, have never lived in active alcoholism, and though for the majority of their lives I have been in active Al-Anon recovery, they are not immune to this disease. Any of them can become either an alcoholic/addict or an alanon. Maybe even both. There are no guarantees. It’s a family disease and it spreads through generations. It’s cunning, baffling, and powerful. It manifests itself in many ways. Gambling, sex, food (over-eating or anorexia), controlling, worrying, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.

The list goes on and on. It doesn’t just show up as alcoholism or drug addiction, and I’ll tell you something else: I believe whole heartedly that the non-drinkers spread this just as rapidly, if not more so, than the drinkers themselves. This is my opinion and many of you will not agree. I’m okay with that.

My mother was out of her mind. She was consumed with my father and trying to control him, and as a result, she neglected us kids. She took her frustrations out on us. She did just as much damage as he did. I chased around plenty of alcoholics when my son was young. I was always consumed with a “him” and I neglected my son. I took out my frustrations on my son. I did plenty of damage. Again, no alcoholic present in his life.

If my son ends up being an alcoholic/addict or even an alanon like me, is it the family disease or did I play a part? I believe it’s both. The same goes for my younger children. I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I sure as hell can’t control it, but I play a part in it.

I hated my mother for years because I felt that she never took ownership of her part. I believed that, although she attended Al-Anon meetings for years, she chose not to get better. She CHOSE!

Now, doesn’t that sound awfully like what people say about addicts and alcoholics? It does, doesn’t it?

I had buckets of compassion for the alcoholics and drug addicts in my life. I even had it for the newcomers in Al-Anon, but I had none for my mother. In my mind, she should have known better. She should have been able to be honest about her part, her wrong doings, and contribution to the insanity in our home. I struggled with this prior to entering recovery and for a very long time after. Then a miracle happened. One day a friend said something to me that completely changed my thinking. She said that maybe my mother was never meant to find recovery. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to so that I could. Whoa!

In that moment, everything changed for me. I couldn’t really blame my mother, then, could I? If she was never meant to recover, then that means that she didn’t have a choice. I’ll say it again: She didn’t have a choice.

Was it God talking through my friend? I believe that it was, but who knows? All I know is in that moment I saw my mother differently, and because of that I was able to love her again. I was able to be a good daughter and stop treating her so poorly. I was also able to make amends to her verbally as well as through changing my actions. I was able to see my part.

My mother is still a crazy untreated alanon and she is also very sick with Parkinson’s disease, but I love her today. I don’t always like her, but I love her. That is recovery.

Some alcoholics and addicts never recover. Some die and some just exist. It is not a choice. It’s between that person and their God. Some have to die so others can recover.

Alanons die too. No one realizes it. We don’t see headlines in the paper about the woman who ran a red light and killed herself and two other people. Was she driving blind with fury, chasing after an alcoholic child or spouse? Was she so caught up in her own thoughts that she wasn’t paying attention? We’ll never know, because it’s not talked about. Hell, it’s not even recognized. It goes unnoticed because we are all so focused on the alcoholic and addict. WE: The children, the spouses, the friends, WE get sick too. Sometimes we even get sicker than the alcoholic/addict. I know I did.

Today I work a twelve step program known as Al-Anon. I go to at least two meetings a week. I have a sponsor; I call her every week at a designated time. I sponsor other women; they call me at designated times every week. I pray on my knees to a power greater than myself, whom I choose to call God. I take commitments in my meetings. I work the 12 steps as they are laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I do these six things because I want to and need to. I do them because I want to own my part and I want to recover.

I study the Big Book, and everywhere in the first 164 pages where it references the “alcoholic” I change it in my mind to “alanon” and everywhere it references “drink” or “drinking,” I change it to “control” or “controlling.” When I do this, every damn word of that book applies to me.

I will never graduate and never be perfectly healed. I will, however, get a daily reprieve from my insanity, contingent on my spiritual maintenance.

Bill W., the author of the AA Big Book, wrote it for the sick and suffering alcoholic, but he also wrote it for their families and friends. It’s a design for living and it works for me.

The book applies to life. I suggest you read it. It may just save your life. It saved mine.

Much love to you all.
WookiesGirl

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bridging the Gap Recovery Retreat Weekend 2011



A little history for you:

Bridging the Gap... A weekend retreat for Alcoholic and Al-Anon women in recovery.

This year marked the 17th, held in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona. This same type of retreat, although called different names, is held all over this country, as well as Europe. It was started by a small group of women in the first groups of Al-Anon in Texas over 30 years ago.

Things like this were not done then. The wives (and yes, at that time they were mostly wives) of recovering alcoholics didn't associate with the women of Alcoholics Anonymous. Marci W. from Texas decided it would be a great idea to start a retreat weekend conference for Al-Anon. While she was at it, she also decided to invite the recovering alcoholic women to attend as well. Prior to that, the AA women and the Al-Anon women did not mingle. That legacy has been passed down and around this country for, as I said, over 30 years.

My sponsorship line descends from that great woman. I can trace my Al-Anon family tree straight back to Marci. She was a member of Al-Anon before there even was anything known as Al-Anon in Texas.

This retreat is a safe place. It allows Al-Anon and AA women to come together and grow in their recovery. We bridge the gap between us and find safety and love together in recovery.

******
Every time I go on a weekend retreat, or attend a special 12 step recovery event, I blog about it. I have a desire to share my journey with you. I love to write and my recovery blog is a wonderful way to let you see my recovery; the good and the bad parts of it.

This is my fifth year attending this weekend conference. We refer to it as a retreat because we seclude ourselves up in the mountains at a specific church camp. We’re not there for church, we are there for AA and Al-Anon recovery. And, though it is not church, God is present. He’s surrounding all of us the entire time we are there. I feel Him everywhere, and he touches me through the women that are there for those three short days.

The theme of this year’s retreat was:
“…our pick struck gold. Joy at our release from a lifetime of frustration knew no bounds.” AA Big book, pages 128-129

The first thing I want to tell you is that, for the first time in two years, I did not dread heading up to this conference. The last several events and conferences I attended, I grumbled the entire time and absolutely did not want to be there. This year was different. Needless to say, I am quite glad for that. I was just mellow. I packed and then I got in the car. One of the women I sponsor and my best friend were with me. It’s a tradition that my best friend and I drive together and we’re typically joined at the hip all weekend at these things. Two peas in a pod and I love it. We were friends before she entered the rooms of Al-Anon and I am forever grateful that she did. It’s like having the best of both worlds. She’s a gift from God for me.

So, what did I learn this weekend? Per usual, a lot. We’re told the first night to listen for a word or phrase that keeps coming up for us through the weekend. This year it was a phrase and, just like last year, it was on Friday night. Again, like last year, it was something the AA guest speaker said. She was sharing about doing her first 5th step with her sponsor; this was early in her recovery, over 20 years ago.

The 4th step is: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
The 5th step is: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This means you read the inventory to someone you trust, usually your sponsor.

This woman is amazing. I’d not met her before or heard her story but I could relate to many things she said. She shared with us how she had read that inventory to her sponsor and there were so many ugly things that she had done during her drinking. Naturally, she felt a lot of shame about those things. Her sponsor said to her, “You are not what you did. And you did the best that you could at the time without God’s help.”

When those words came out of her mouth, as she stood at the podium in the front of the room, she may as well have been talking directly to me. I heard her…really heard her.

I am not what I did. Or what I have done. I did the best I could without God’s help. Now, the difference is, for the years that I have been in Al-Anon recovery, I have had God’s help. But, sometimes, even while in recovery, we still do things we are not proud of, or feel shame over. I have always had God’s help…when I asked for it.

The last two years, I was not asking for God’s help. Instead, I was running on complete and total self-will.

Wow! This was profound for me. I have to tell you, I think shame is a useless emotion. It does nothing but feed misery and guilt and ugliness inside. I have only felt shame one other time during my journey of recovery and, here I was feeling shame again. And, I didn’t even realize that I was feeling it. One more time, I am reminded that this disease, my disease, alanonism, is cunning, baffling and powerful.

I carried this message from her through the whole weekend. I cried and I laughed and I let those women fill me up. I also let God fill me up. And I felt whole again. Another thing I heard that same speaker say was: “God doesn’t teach me lessons, life teaches me lessons and God gives me the strength and the courage to get through it. If… I call on him."

I got the privilege to sit and talk to two other women that I know in program, but never had a chance to get to know one on one. One of those women I’ve heard speak and tell her story at an anniversary event almost a year ago and I’d written about her in this blog. It was cool to be able to share that with her and then read it to her. Amazing.

I got to see my newest sponsee experience the power of this weekend and watch that power fill her up completely. What a blessing and an honor to be a part of her life.

I got to go to sleep next to my best friend each night and, before we closed our eyes, talk about what we had experienced that day. We also giggled to the point of exhaustion. Another blessing.

I don’t have to do any of these things. I get to do them. I get to experience this.

Here are a few more gems that stuck out for me this weekend. Some were funny and some were very serious and profound for me.

“If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’ve missed the joke of the century.” This made me laugh, and laugh hard.

“There is nothing that consumes a person more than the passion of a resentment.” Wow, yeah, that one was a great reminder.

“We cease fighting anything or anyone. “ AA big book

“You never need to defend yourself. If you are wrong, then you have no defense. If you are right, you have nothing to defend.” I needed this reminder, too.

My great, great, grand-sponsor shared something that she had heard a late, long time member of AA say years ago. “A big old fish was swimming along in the ocean, and he swims by three young fish and says: 'Hey, boys. How’s the water?' And then continues on past them. The young fish all turn to each other and say: 'What’s water?' They then spend the rest of their fish lives swimming around the ocean, looking for the water."

I have heard her tell this story before, but this year she added something. She said: “It’s the same for us right here in this room, in regards to God. He’s all around us; we’re already swimming in Him and His love. And many times we don’t see it and we keep searching for it. We don’t realize it’s already here. We’re already surrounded by it."

I always thought I understood what that little story was saying, but I realized in that moment I didn’t. Now I know what it means. God is all around us, and yes, sometimes we believe that he wasn’t there through the hard times or the horrible things that we went through, growing up or living as adults, in this disease. He was there and He is there now. All we have to do is invite him in. The late Pat C., a member of Al-Anon for over 30+ years, said it many times. “God is a gentleman and he waits for you to invite him in.”

Today, I’ve invited God back into my life and I’ve asked him for help. The release of my pain, my fears, and my anger is profound as a result.

I am not what I did or what I have done. It is not who I am. It does not define me. And my God loves me no matter what I did or have done.

He loves me and He forgives me. Clearly my pick struck gold and continues to strike it.

Much love and blessings to you all!

Wookies Girl

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Acceptance

Lately, I’ve been struggling with acceptance.

Over the years of my recovery, there have been times that I’ve had no trouble accepting things in my life as they are. Sometimes, though, a situation slaps me upside the head and, no matter what I do, I cannot get into a place of acceptance. Why is that?

There are several reasons why this happens to me, but the main one is fear. Fear of losing what I have, or fear of not getting what I want.

What if?
What if I accept the situation as it is and it stays this way forever? The situation looks nothing like I want it to look, quite opposite in fact, so what if it stays this way? And so goes the struggle.

I fight, kick, scream, cry, beg and then scream some more. "No, no, NO! This can’t be the way it is. It just can’t be."

The Acceptance prayer in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous taught me that everything happens for a reason. This is what I believe. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake, so then why? Why is this happening? Is it the will of others or is it God’s will? What about what I want? What about how I feel?

What about me?

It’s always about me, at least I believe it is. I’ve learned this truth about myself long ago. I want what I want when I want it. I am selfish and self-centered.

I don’t want to accept things as they are because I don’t want them to be as they are.

Here is the prayer that I pray (read) almost every day. You can find it in the AA Big Book on page 449 of the 3rd edition and on page 417 in the 4th edition.

** For the Al-Anon’s, I’ve tweaked it just a bit. If you do this little trick with the entire Big Book of AA, you will see yourself in the pages and not just the alcoholic. Bill Wilson and the co-founders of AA knew what they were doing when they wrote this book and it applies to everyone, no matter what your “issue” may be.

Acceptance Prayer

God, acceptance is that answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation- some fact of my life- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I can accept my Alcoholism (Alanonism), I cannot stay Sober (Sane); unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitude.


I’ve experienced the freedom of acceptance many times in my life. I know that reaching a place of acceptance does not mean that I am suddenly okay with the situation or that I am excusing it in some way. It simply means that I now realize there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve accepted that I am powerless and nothing I can do will change what’s happening. I don’t have to like it.

When I am in a place of acceptance, I am free to live. Free to breathe. God has a plan, and though I may not know what it is, I do trust in him.

When I am not in acceptance then I suffer. Right now I am suffering.

I’m desperate to feel the peace that will come from finding acceptance, but I am also desperate to hold on as tightly as I can in hopes that the situation will change. This is insanity. I know it. But…what if?

For now I will pray for willingness and I’ll say the acceptance prayer and eventually it will come. But it will only come when I am ready.

Good thing my God is patient.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Resolutions or Just for Today?

I want to talk about New Year's resolutions.

I don’t believe in them. If you do, that’s fine. I’m a big believer in To each their own, but making a resolution to be held for the entire year just doesn’t work for me. I’ll tell you why.

I am a member of Al-Anon, and my program teaches me to live in today. I have learned the value of living one day at a time. It’s only Tuesday, and Tuesday (or whatever day it happens to be) is full of enough things for me to worry about. Work, kids, home, husband, and let’s not forget, ME. I’m usually tied in knots over something emotional and it’s all I can do to just focus on what’s in front of me. If I start thinking about tomorrow, or, God forbid, a year from now, then nothing gets done.

In truth, I do fail at this regularly. Good thing the program also teaches “Progress, not perfection”. I fail because I am human and my mind has…well, it has a mind of its own. It’s magical. It takes most things I perceive and magnifies them. It takes information, obtained from nowhere, and makes it fact.

Let me clarify that “living in today” does not mean that I never plan things or look at future goals, because I do. That’s human nature too, and it’s not a bad thing to do. I just try and avoid obsessing over things that I have no control over or projecting into the future what I think may or may not happen with any given situation. When I do this, I get into trouble. And before I know it, nothing’s been done. Work wasn’t finished, the kids are crying, the bills aren’t paid, the house is a mess, and worse, my husband is furious.

My mind is a dangerous neighborhood that I need to learn to stay out of.

Another reason why I don’t make the typical yearly resolution is because I already make resolutions daily. Sometimes I am successful, but most times I’m not. Today my resolution was to focus on work. Get done the things I needed to accomplish since I’ve been out for 2 weeks on stay-cation. I did get most things completed in regards to work, with minimal distractions. I had several moments during the day where I became caught up in my own thoughts, my own selfish wants and desires, as well as obsessing about things I am not happy about in my life.

It’s obvious that for me, making a yearly resolution is a recipe for disaster.

I function much better when I break it into smaller pieces.


Here are the Alanon “Just for today” principles. I can’t tackle all of these in one day either. But, I can pick one that makes the most sense to me that day and work on it.

 Just for 
Today
 
Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my "luck" as it comes, and fit myself to it.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don't want to do - just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won't find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anybody but myself.

Just for today I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

0, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Note: The "Just For Today" thoughts are from a bookmark produced by:

Al-Anon Family Group
Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617
Phone: (757) 563-1600 Fax: (757) 563-1655

Thanks for reading
~Wookies Girl