I started getting the shakes yesterday morning.

Previously, I had been so pleased with my progress, my lack of anxiety surrounding the Thanksgiving trip coming up. I’ve been out of touch with more than half my family of origin off and on for some years now, and haven’t seen these individuals in person for more than a decade. But right after last Thanksgiving, a sibling who recently got back in touch thanks to the miraculous powers of Teh Interwebz invited me for the next Thanksgiving, and I said yes.

So here we are.

I depart tonight for quite a long road trip, at the end of which is a family full of resentment, pain, and misunderstanding, with an addict in the middle (and an alcoholic off to the side, but I am unconcerned – that person is a past chapter in my story, not a current one). What’s so odd is that the trigger yesterday morning was the sudden memory that one parent used to criticize me on my appearance, along with the realization that they are likely to do that still. How could I have forgotten?

This is kind of minor, isn’t it?

My self image is so fragile, my desire to look good is sometimes so desperate, that I have to remind myself not to invest much in other people’s opinions. It’s important that my appearance please myself, and no one else. (Although it’s terribly nice that it pleases my spouse.)

I’ve decided that if this unacceptable behavior begins again, I will excuse myself to get some water. This way, I can have serenity and hydration too! A good boundary?

I am taking two daily readers with me (although not my favorite one – my spouse is borrowing it) as well as phone numbers for my sponsor and some Al-a-pals. With the help of my Higher Power, I can handle this one hour at a time, if I need to. And I don’t have to stay, if things become too much. I have another sibling who is not involved in any of this, and I’m staying at their house both before and after the visit, so if necessary, I can change plans.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Syd speaks in Nothing to give about reaching that place where it’s necessary to let someone go. This kind of situation is sad, but what can ya do? The phrase that really caught me was “negotiating with reality”.

I too love someone with whom I negotiated with reality for a long time. They were sick and destructive, and I believe they still are. It took a long time to realize that I don’t have to be involved in their sickness or their secrets. In fact, it became imperative for my serenity and likely my survival that I don’t.

When maintaining a relationship means spending as much time in someone else’s head as my own, that’s a sign I’m negotiating with reality. When describing a relationship with an objective third party, if I have to include a lot of caveats and explanations, that’s another sign. If my friend or partner tells me something that makes perfect sense at the time, but is confusing the next morning, that’s a blatant sign. If I use the phrase, “… but it’s okay because …” I might be trying to justify something, and that’s a sign.

My sickness is insidious, and so is the sickness of the alcoholic. This is one of the ways these diseases can harm us. I very much appreciate the experience, strength, and hope that have been shared with me to thwart it.

It hurts to see someone in pain. I very frequently see a fellow Al-Anon in such incredible pain from their resentments, and I’ve been struggling with whether to say anything or not, because the nugget of the pain is blaming the alcoholic for their choices.

I’ve been blessed with a sponsor who made sure I started off with a thorough understanding of the disease of alcoholism and what it does to the alcoholic, well and before anything it does to the friends and families of the alcoholic. All of it is terrible and horrible, but it’s important not to miss the most basic element, the physical and spiritual disease. Having this saves me from judgment and resentment that were misplaced before. It saves my peace and helps me heal my relationships.

It hurts to see someone in pain, getting by without that.

So I spoke with my sponsor about whether to say something or not. I don’t want to give advice, because that’s not what we do. We share our experience, strength, and hope. My sponsor said that saying, “It looks like …” is not giving advice. And speaking of what works for me is not giving advice. I knew already that whatever I say, I have to let go the results. Whether the other person uses what I share or not, it’s their decision, their life, their stuff. So I can share, but I have to let go the results.

Being mindful of this, I did share, in exactly that form. I shared that it looked like the person might not have accepted alcoholism as a disease, and that having a sponsor start me there was incredibly valuable to my serenity, to alleviating the pain.

Then I reminded myself to let go.

I’m still reminding myself to let go. The person did not welcome my sharing and told me that I was taking their inventory, when I should instead be taking my own. I wonder if this is the case. I’m not always sure that everyone who talks of taking someone else’s inventory is talking about the same thing. I do know that “let there be no gossip or criticism” is there for a reason, and I take that pretty seriously.

Have I criticized? Have I taken someone else’s inventory? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. Deep inside, saying nothing at all feels wrong. Criticizing feels wrong as well. I could try to think my way around the issue, but my best thinking got me where I was before the program. I’m an Al-Anon! I’m here to help whether you like it or not! *grin*

I’m reminding myself to let go. Whether my words will ever be of use to the person to whom I gave them, that’s their business. I have put my words above so that they can be whatever use they’ll be to whoever encounters them. Or not. So now I can let go.

Let go already. 🙂

I am just so grateful for my sponsor. When looking for a sponsor, I looked for someone unconventional, like myself. I looked for someone I thought might not judge me for being a weird person with an unusual family. This turned out to be the case entirely, and she understands me in even more ways than I thought she would, but that’s only one of the big benefits.

My sponsor, as it turned out, was herself sponsored in such a way as to have a firm foundation in the AA program. We began studying the steps with a thorough study of Alcoholics Anonymous, the book. I’m talkin’ The Big Book. I thought this was incredibly odd at the time, maybe even heretical. Isn’t this supposed to be Al-Anon?

But the thing is, in order to take the first step and know completely my powerlessness, I need to know alcoholism. Completely. I need to know it as deeply as I can without being an alcoholic myself. Coming to understand the deadly effect of the disease on its acute sufferer is instrumental to understanding the chronic family disease of alcoholism, how the illness spreads, harming everyone and distorting everything. Until I could put myself in their shoes, I couldn’t really understand the scope of my own powerlessness. And of the beautiful but fragile humanity of all us sufferers.

I feel this approach makes me a kinder and more serene person than I might have been otherwise. This approach helps me use part of the Fourth Step Prayer, when confronted with some behavior that tempts me to judge someone:

This is a sick man, how can I be helpful to him? God save me from anger. Thy will be done. Alcoholics Anonymous, p75

I also feel a special kinship with AA people as I am working the steps, knowing that I am working them in almost identical fashion that they do. Because the disease manifests differently, my Fourth Step may take a different shape, and my sponsorship family may do these things much, much more slowly (I’m about 70% through the Fourth Step, and I had my second year anniversary this summer.) but the basics are very much the same.

The people I find challenging to deal with today are not alcoholics, but the things I am learning now help me incredibly in interacting with them. Again, a thing to be hugely grateful for.

I sure hope so. That’s kind of the point of this blog. I live on the Internet, openly and plainly. Because of this, I can’t really share program stuff, and that bothers me a lot.

Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV and films. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.

The eleventh tradition is there to prevent problems, and I believe it is solid wisdom, so how to live it in my context?

Blog anonymously, yes?

I do have a very private area of my online life where I break my anonymity with close friends, the sorts of people I’d be speaking with about Al-Anon verbally if they were in my dining room. That seems appropriate and in keeping with the traditions. But what about things I’d be sharing in a meeting if I were there?

This place feels more like that.