I keep forgetting to consider that my changing biology could be a factor in my irritability. Most of my adult life, I could have as much coffee as I liked. A few weeks ago I started getting the jitters if I had more than two. Last week I got the jitters after only two. So now it’s one. Will it soon be zero? Could the jitters be related to irritability? Could my symptom be a physical one rather than a spiritual one?

The House was waiting for us when returned. Right where we left it. The spouse and the pet were happy to be home. I was relieved to be done with the traveling for a bit. But the House was there. Right where I left it.

Sometimes I kind of get used to it and don’t think about it very much. I’d like to get into that state today. It would make me more comfortable. I have so much to be grateful for. I have a warm, dry place to sleep where there isn’t any violence and where I can put some of my stuff. That hasn’t always been the case in my life. The animals have sufficient space to do what they need to do comfortably. If they need to chase or hide or stalk or whatever, they can do it pretty easily.

My internal whiner is whining yesterday and today about not really having a home. My spouse was widowed before me. My spouse is also something of a hoarder. So the house is full, and it’s full of their life together. I have to try to fit myself in the edges and the cracks of what there is.

My spouse wants to be supportive but doesn’t know how. I’ve been told to change whatever I want, that it’s my home now too. So I make some changes. To be fair, many are met with approval and encouragement. Some are not. I’ve asked for two less-important rooms of the house to do with what I want and was given the go-ahead. In one, it’s gone well. The other is much, much harder. If my spouse can’t find something that lives in that room, there is hardship for both of us.

It’s in my nature to want a swift and radical fix to any situation, so of course what I want right now is a different house. Hopefully in a different place entirely. Maybe with a different job and everything.

On our trip, we discovered a lovely little town in a lovely little area, and in it, a lovely little house that’s for sale. My brain is all over that. We could move there and in the process jettison so much redundant stuff, and we could put away so much of the life-that-was-theirs stuff and replace it with life-that-is-ours stuff. It would all immediately be fixed and we could Live Happily Ever After.

That sort of thing never works of course. That’s how I wound up with a house before, more or less, thinking that a different structure in a different place would solve all our problems, and instead we wound up with a whole new set of problems along with several of the old.

Then I remember a thing that went right. I accepted that my HP might never let me move away from the place I hated to live. So I had to find some way to accept that place and be happy with it. I realized it was the region that I hated but it had a lovely town in it. So I chose the town and my HP made available an affordable place in a delightful neighborhood. I moved in and personalized it completely and was so content with it.

I kind of tried to do that with this house. I tried to accept that my HP may require me to live here until my spouse dies, so I asked for the two rooms so that I can personalize them completely and be happy with them. But I don’t actually have one of the rooms, really. A bunch of stuff is stored there that I don’t feel at liberty to move or store somewhere else.

Maybe I need to stand up for this room. Maybe I need to relocate these things.

It’s just so much easier to daydream over the lovely little house in the lovely little town, isn’t it? And make myself miserable in doing so.

I just got back from a long weekend with my spouse, and it was wonderful. I didn’t completely expect it to be, but it worked out really well. Acceptance was the key. I need to develop more fully the practice of acceptance, of keeping my mind on right now, and turning things over to my HP.

Before the trip, I was concerned that my spouse’s control issues were going to make me crazy the whole time. The week leading up to it was anxious and fraught with tension as my lover tried to get things satisfactorily organized. My sweetheart prepares. A lot. A whole lot more than I do. And my dear heart was suffering from self-inflicted strife over it.

I did my very best to prepare what I could for my part and stay as far out of the way as possible. I didn’t want to get sucked into insanity and I believe I did rather well at that. But it was so intense that I worried it would come along with us on the trip.

It didn’t. At least mostly it didn’t. And what little control-itis crept in was easily handled by good boundaries. I didn’t take things personally and I had a great time. A really great time.

I blogged yesterday about one of the things that has been bothering me lately. The other thing, I believe, has to do with control of my environment. I’ve recently moved in with another person, and each of us has lived alone for a long time, so each of us is used to being able to make whatever changes we want. Each of us is used to an environment where changes do not happen without us.

Now, I feel insecure, because changes happen that I do not expect. Doors that have so far been unlocked are sometimes locked. Keys that usually live in certain locations now live in others. Items that were stored here are now stored there. I get used to the new environment, but then the new environment changes, and it wasn’t me doing the change, and the change wasn’t mentioned to me when it occurred.

My conditioned reflex, my old way of being, is to react defensively. It is to blame the other person for making changes unfairly. It is to keep a resentment about the changes. It is to read meanings into the changes. My security instinct feels threatened, although no actual threat is occurring. It is all about control, and the loss thereof.

All of this disquiet is happening on the inside of myself. This is my stuff, my issue. I cannot see into the inside of the other person and they cannot see into the inside of me. Outside of ourselves, in the physical reality, I don’t think there really is any threat or danger. There might be inconvenience if I need to get something that I cannot access, but I’m not likely to die of it, and I can ask how to get to it again. I can ask that it not be moved. I can ask what place would be better. I can participate and communicate.

And I can, like yesterday, presume goodwill. There is no reason to expect that the other person is out to get me, that they need to obtain some advantage over me or that they enjoy keeping me off balance. It is entirely reasonable to assume that they are just living life and getting things done the best way they see to do them.

Just writing about these things, I feel better already. I can keep praying for acceptance, the ability to detach, and the ability to set healthy boundaries in this as in all things. Then I can focus on the present, the next right thing to do, and be grateful for what I have right now.

I am having an acceptance problem. I have to accept that an intimate relationship with a recovering alcoholic is still an intimate relationship with an alcoholic. It’s nice that my qualifier doesn’t drink and continues to work a program toward serenity. The fact is that certain classic characteristics of alcoholism remain, and they may never go away. It’s unrealistic to expect them to. Just because they were not in evidence during the courtship and honeymoon phases does not mean that they have been absent. I don’t know what it means – either the other person was too focused on something to engage in them or I was too blinded to observe them. Or some other factor. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are there.

Back to ADB we go!

  • I need to accept that they are there and there is nothing I can do about that. That’s firmly in the hands of my qualifier and their HP.
  • I need to detach from the internal workings of the alcoholic. While these classic behaviors may be affecting me, they are not about me. The alcoholic’s feelings, moods, psychology are not mine to own or be responsible for.
  • I need to form boundaries to take care of myself. How can I take care of myself in this situation?
I have noticed over time that alcoholics can be oblivious about the world around them, so wrapped up in their internal workings that they don’t notice things in their physical environment. Sometimes this can be so egregious, it’s on the level of a physical disability.
I have discovered that simple, explicit verbal communication is sometimes required for things that non-alcoholics understand immediately without it. For instance, if an ordinary person were to take my hand and I were to flinch way and put the hand behind me, the ordinary person would expect that there is some reason I don’t want them holding my hand, whether it be an interpersonal reason or a physical reason, such as an injury. The ordinary person might ask what the problem is. 
In the same position, an alcoholic may simply reach for the hand again, perhaps even taking the arm and following it down to the hand without any apparent hesitation. Conversely, the alcoholic may assume an interpersonal reason and leap directly into an offensive or defensive measure. I’ve seen that too. It can be an illness of extremes. Either failure to notice at all, or beyond notice into hyper-focus and reaction.
Some of these physical issues have occurred, and it’s too easy for me to read into them meanings that probably aren’t there, such as, “That person doesn’t respect me.” or “That person is treating me like a child.” or “That person thinks they have the right to jerk my body around.” Maybe it will help to remember to “presume goodwill” and use that simple, explicit verbal communication. I can say, “Please don’t take my hand; it hurts.” I have to then let it go, not brood on it all day. It fouls my mood.
Actually, I have acquired several new resentments and fears, so I’ve started working on a 4th Step inventory about them.
The title is half in jest, because taking an inflexible right/wrong stance is one of my character defects and an aspect of being judgmental. Maybe it’s important to note that I am not making any character judgment of the people doing the things below. They’re as human as I, and Heaven knows I err and slip. I feel love and empathy for the people, even though I am not cool with what they are doing. I do reserve the right to speak up if I see something uncool going down.
So, anticipating possibly having a larger service role than in my last Area, I ordered the new service manual that just came out, and then I read it. This was a big surprise, not expecting the thing to be readable, much less engaging. I’d had some disquieting feelings about a couple of situations around my recovery; now they are thrown into sharp relief.
Doing it wrong #1: my sponsorship family. The service manual is very clear – we do not use materials that are not Al-Anon conference approved, and more specifically, we do not use AA literature. I’m deeply conflicted because I value highly the aspects of my recovery I gained in studying The Big Book and the AA 12&12 with my sponsor. But I also understand the reasons given for their not being conference approved. In fact, I’ve experienced some of the negative effects mentioned.
I don’t know yet what to say to my sponsor about this or when to say it. After a great deal of thought, though, I have come to decisions regarding the other aspects of this situation:
  1. I am committed to this course of study and will continue it myself, although my new local sponsor, whoever that turns out to be, will not likely be going there with me. I’m okay with that. I badly want to continue to learn the journey of the alcoholic through the AA program as much as I can, while I make my own journey using Conference Approved Literature too, which my sponsor also guided me to do.
  2. I will not use these resources when sponsoring others. Instead I will share my experience with them and suggest that if they decide to study the steps a second time after completing them with Conference Approved Literature, they might choose to try an AA self-study. And I will be happy to share my reasons for both decisions.
Doing it wrong #2: an exclusive meeting. The service manual says this about meetings with special focus:

Some relatives and friends of alcoholics find it easier to address their common problems in dealing with the effects of someone else’s drinking with those in similar life situations. These members have formed Al-Anon groups for men, women, parents, adult children of alcoholics, and gays and lesbians. The group may include this designation in its group name with the understanding that, as with all Al-Anon groups, membership remains open to anyone affected by someone else’s drinking. members of these groups are encouraged to attend other Al-Anon meetings as well.

Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual 2010-2013, page 32

It looks very clear to me that it’s not cool to exclude someone for not being in a specific situation.
This one meeting I’ve been to advertises itself as a “closed” meeting, which is most common for Al-Anon meetings, but what they bluntly explain “closed” to mean is that people not experiencing the same situation are not welcome. (The handbook defines a closed meeting as being for Al-Anon members only, members being defined as persons whose personal life is or has been deeply affected by close contact with a problem drinker. Open meetings are for anyone interested in Al-Anon.)
This really makes my spirit itch. Not only this, but when new people come to the meeting, they are looking for and are steered toward only meetings with this same focus. It’s as though other Al-Anon meetings are not even within consideration as a possibility.
I met a newcomer tonight who fell into this category, and they asked me about other meetings of this focus. I explained that I didn’t really know, but that I find many Al-Anon meetings quite helpful, especially as a significant portion of members experience our situation. This made the newcomer blink speechlessly a bit, as as though they considered Al-Anon to be some completely separate program. Veteran members of this meeting have expressed dismissal of the idea that meetings without this focus might pertain to us.
I don’t like the thought that people who need help are denied or self-selecting out based on whether they are affected by a special focus situation or not. I don’t like the idea of avoiding this meeting myself, as it’s one of only two “local” meetings I can get to at all (local in quotes because it takes more than 2 hours travel each way to get there). I’ve only been to this meeting twice, and the negative vibes of this issue have been far numbered by the positive vibes from the sharing and caring of the members.
So, as above, I do not know yet what I will say or when to say it. This I turn over to God until God drops a clue on me. I do not know when or if this group does business meetings or group conscience. I’ll keep coming back and will wait and see, continuing to mention Al-Anon and other Al-Anon meetings as the essential elements of my recovery that they are, and not treating this group as some kind of separate entity.

My sponsor is taking me through the 4th step really slowly and exhaustively thoroughly. The box with my paperwork must weigh like 14 pounds. We’re doing an AA-style inventory, but it’s almost absurd what’s included. I like it. I’ve been at this for almost a year and a half, and I’m midway down the 4th column.

I’m learning some very interesting things. For instance, nearly all my work-related resentments have to do with lack of detachment, lack of boundaries, or both. I tend to take ownership of the behaviors of other people, and thus deeply resent the uncool things they do as some reflection on me. I don’t set a protected area for myself or make a decision about what to do if unacceptable behavior occurs, so I wind up feeling stuck with it and resenting it.

One really neat thing that dawned on me was the cascading nature of some of my three biggest failings.

1. Lack of acceptance – I tend to have trouble accepting people for who and what they are, forever wanting them to be what I figure they should be. Funny thing is, I never thought I was doing that. But anytime I became angry at someone from failing their potential, that’s exactly what this was. Anytime I expected someone to do or be what I needed, when there was no reason to believe they were naturally inclined to, that’s what I was doing.

2. Lack of detachment – As mentioned before, I was personally invested in the behaviors of others. I also took on resentments that were not mine, being angry at people who had hurt people I cared about, whether that was deep in the past or not, whether I had any objective information about the reported harm or not. I thought of it as being loyal, but it was really just poisoning everything.

3. Lack of boundaries – When faced with a pattern of unacceptable behavior, I didn’t know I could plan ahead healthy things to do to remove myself from a toxic situation. I can decide, “If so-and-so starts to do that, I’ll excuse myself to go to the bathroom,” for instance. I used to let people run roughshod over me, or I’d build walls to shut them out. One of the daily readers has a passage that describes a boundary as not a wall, but a bridge, to help facilitate linking ourselves with others. Sounds weird at first, but I get it. I can connect with you, and still have room to lovingly withdraw if I need to. That’s cool.

I can’t get boundaries if I can’t detach my emotions from someone else’s behavior, and I can’t get decent detachment if I can’t accept them as they are. So, like the first step says, it starts with acceptance.