I’m having the food fight again. Most of the fight is internal to me, but it’s in reaction to my spouse. Oh, Al-Anon tools, how rusty you get when you’re not being picked up!

I perceive pressure from my spouse to eat, eat, eat. It’s relentless. It’s interminable queries about whether I really did get enough to eat. It’s handing me a plate heaped with enough to stuff two teenagers. It’s handing me a bowl with enough ice cream in it to wipe out three days’ worth of calories. It’s constant offers of cookies.

I know my spouse loves me. I’m also a Southerner, so I understand the mentality that food = love. I get that.

I also get that I do get to choose what to eat, how much, and when. I get to have boundaries – and I’ve been letting those slip. That’s on me.

Whatever my spouse does, there is nothing in the world stopping me from taking my plate to the kitchen and putting away the portions I don’t want into the fridge. Same for all the extra ice cream in the bowl. I don’t have to accept the whole helping; I don’t have to eat it all. And when the question, “Did you get enough to eat?” turns into nagging, it’s completely okay for me to smile, get up, and go somewhere else. I don’t have to sit still for it.

All the above is a reminder for me, because I’ve been forgetting. I’ve been getting so angry and sulky and resentful. I’ve gained weight again and my pants don’t fit and I’ve been blaming the spouse instead of taking responsibility.

Sometimes I feel so tired, and so discouraged. Maybe when I feel like this, I can pray for help.

Anonymity Within Al-Anon/Alateen

Members use their full names within the fellowship when they wish. The degree of anonymity a member chooses (first name, pseudonym, or full name) is not subject to criticism. Each member has the right to decide. 

Regardless of our personal choice, we guard the anonymity of everyone else in the fellowship, Al-Anon/Alateen and A.A. This means not revealing to anyone—even to relatives, friends, and other members—whom we see and what we hear at a meeting. 

Anonymity goes well beyond mere names. All of us need to feel secure in the knowledge that nothing seen or heard at a meeting will be revealed. We feel free to express ourselves among our fellow Al-Anons because we can be sure that what we say will be held in confidence.

 2010-2013 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual, 
Digest of Al-Anon and Alateen Policies, 
page 89

Anonymity in Our Personal Growth 

In Al-Anon/Alateen we share as equals, regardless of social, educational or financial position. Common sense in the use of anonymity provides freedom and the security each member is assured in Al-Anon/Alateen. Our spiritual growth has its roots in the principle of anonymity. Each member has the right of decision regarding personal anonymity within the fellowship, which we respect whether the member is attending meetings, not attending meetings, or deceased. 

 2010-2013 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual, 
Digest of Al-Anon and Alateen Policies, 
page 91

I’ve been handing my serenity over to a long-timer with an understandable frustration. They are annoyed with the level of personal anonymity some people maintain. I understand that it’s not unusual to go to the hospital to visit someone and to be unable to do so due to not knowing their last name. I’ve heard this example a few times from a few different sources.

The argument provided against it is the Eleventh Tradition:

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 argument goes that on a personal level, we don’t do anonymity, just at the public level. The argument goes on before and after meetings, and it goes on loudly.

Thing is, I worry that newcomers will hear this criticism and feel that they don’t get to have personal anonymity, or that if they do, they will be resented. I also have a concern about those who are not newcomers who may feel pressured to give more information about themselves than they want to. I sympathize with people who are not yet out of dangerous situations, where a breach of anonymity could result in a beating and therefore don’t want to give their names.

These pieces of guidance do not contradict each other. The Eleventh Tradition does not say we maintain personal anonymity only at the level of press, radio, TV, and films. It’s there to remind us that no matter how well we get, no matter how safe we feel, no matter how comfortable we are with breaking our anonymity on the personal level, we don’t get to be Miss or Mister Al-Anon. Here’s how it’s explained in the service manual:

The principle of anonymity acts as a restraint on members at the public level to assure that no one will use Al-Anon for profit, prestige, or power. This means that at the level of press, radio, films, TV, and the Internet, full names and faces of Al-Anon and Alateen members would not be used.  No Al-Anon member can speak as an authority on Al-Anon in the media.  No one’s story is more important than others.  We are a fellowship of equals and Al-Anon is a program of principles, not personalities.

  2010-2013 Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual, 

Al-Anon and Alateen Groups at Work, 

page 40

I do understand the frustration over not knowing people’s last names. It took me some time to learn that it’s okay, it’s not taboo or likely to cause offense, if I ask someone whether they would be willing to let me know their last name, if I explain why. Before I learned that, I was hyper-concerned. Part of the price of that is that I now don’t have names and addresses for people in my old home group, except for one person who broke her own anonymity when she mailed me an invitation. I miss those folks and it would be nice sometimes to send a card.

For my part, the way I see my anonymity is that my identity is mine to give, and mine alone. If you are someone I want visiting me in the hospital, I will make sure you know my last name – not necessarily for that purpose, but because we will be close enough by then for me to have revealed it already. It comes up in conversation or, like my Al-a-Pal, I send you invitations. I give business-style cards to people sometimes so that they have my phone number, and these have my full name on them. It’s part of my personal email address.

But there truly are some people, even people in Al-Anon, whom I do not want visits from in the hospital, and they will likely not have my last name. I don’t put my last name on signup sheets, phone lists, meeting minutes, or anything else for general consumption. I reveal my last name to individuals in whom I place a certain amount of trust. That is my right.

Now that I’m done with my rant, I need to look at why I’m handing my serenity over to this person, what to do or say about it, and how to let go the outcome. They are entitled to their opinion and free to express it, and I respect that. I also have an overpowering need to be right, thanks to my character defects, so I need to make sure that this isn’t all about that need. Examine my motives and put them in their proper place.

I’ve been having a bit of an obsession problem lately. I’m having trouble letting go of someone else’s wrongful resentment of me. It recently surfaced that they bitterly resent me for not having done something they wanted me to do some time ago. It hurts, because at that time I did a great deal of research about what they wanted done, to include consulting the authorities. I reported in detail why I would be unable to perform the task and thought I was well understood.

This came to light recently because I called the person out on unacceptable behavior, and they angrily responded that the reason for the behavior was my failure to do this thing.

This person is one of my qualifiers. I know that it is useless to argue with someone whose illness makes them forget facts that don’t fit with their worldview. I know that proving myself right won’t actually resolve anything – they’ll resent me for that as well, and for anything else remotely related. Alcoholism is a disease of resentments, and those resentments belong to them, not to me, even if I’m the object.

I know these things in my brain, but I don’t always remember them in my heart or my spirit. My sickness whispers to me, “If only they realized you did all you could, they wouldn’t be so upset with you anymore, and you could be together again and live happily ever after. It’s just a misunderstanding.”

I want to be free of this pain, so I’m doing some of the things that are meant to help, and maybe they eventually will.

  • I am praying, “Thy will be done.”
  • I am praying for the other person to have all of the things I want for myself.
  • I am praying for my Higher Power to take over this, and that I am letting it go.
  • I am telling myself that the illness makes people forget things like this and makes them build resentments. It’s not about me.
  • I am reminding myself that this is a sick person and it’s a sad thing, but I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Cure it, and I can’t Control it – I can only choose not to Contribute to it.

I think it’s starting to work. The prevalent feeling is starting to be a sad resignation rather than a deep and personal hurt. I don’t have a relationship with this person any longer but sometimes believe it would be wonderful to have one again. There were so many good things about the relationship, and it’s so easy sometimes to forget the pain. This is part of my own obsession. I have to remember what my boundaries are, what my needs are. Conditions are not even remotely right for seeing each other, not by miles.

So the loss I feel … well, I had hoped too soon, hadn’t I?

Meanwhile, I write this entry because, to be honest, I feel the powerful urge to tell my story and to be right. I know that’s part of my sickness too. What should I be doing instead?

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.