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.

Last year, at Thanksgiving, I went to visit my family of origin, full of nerves and anxiety, not knowing what kind of a time I would find. It all wound up being fine, so this year I planned a longer break, a Christmas break, and am bringing my offspring along.

Because it went so well and I feel so good about it, I see the danger sign of complacency, which could set me up for an incident, such as happened when my children were born. The first time, I went to Lamaze classes, practiced all the time, and read up on everything I could. That birth went well. The second time, figuring I remembered all that stuff, I didn’t go to classes or practice or refresh my education. It was miserable! I just could not manage the pain at all, not even the pain of having the anesthetic administered.
Now I know that when I am going to do a stressful thing multiple times, I need to prepare each time, regardless how well or poorly the last time went. So, too, this time I must remember to
  • take along Al-Anon literature
  • take along some phone numbers
  • decide some good boundaries ahead of time
  1. get a glass of water if I feel criticized
  2. remove myself entirely if it seems prudent
  • take things one hour at a time if necessary
  • turn things over to my Higher Power, who is always with me
This time I have Al-Anon Phone Meetings as well. If I take the tools of the program with me and remember to use them, this can be a good time.

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?

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!