Monday, December 31, 2007

What Is Al-Anon? And How Has It Helped You?

Earlier - I mentioned several people asking me about Al-Anon. I have requested several people to post comments here.

The question(s) that may stimulate your comments are:

  • What is Al-Anon? How does it function? Has it helped you?

Many people are asking. Many people have misconceptions. They may be able to use your advice.

Please comment. You can sign in or if you prefer to, remain anonymous.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Old Indian Story - A Lesson & Tool

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight between two wolves."

"One is evil - he is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, inferiority, false pride, superiority and ego."

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love. hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

"The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather which wolf would win.

The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed!"


What this old Indian parable means to me is this; You get what you pay attention to. This is a version of; "You become what you think about." It is also another form of the newly popular, "The Law of Attraction."

What can we learn from this? How can we keep the wolf of negativity from winning? We need to focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. We feed the positive or the negative through what we think about.

The main thing we have control over in life is what we decide to think about. How we think determines our actions (or our behavior). And our thinking, what we think consistently about over time, becomes our destiny. Change your thinking, and you do change your life.

I hope this note finds everyone very well.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blame & Anger & Codependency - The Root Cause?

What a word..."Blame." Often we look for "Who did this?" (who is to blame?)

For example: We are missing our favorite book. It is misplaced. "It was right on the table last night. Now it is gone. " And the more direct: "Who took it? Did you take it?"

Or for example: We are looking for our keys. "I left them right here on the kitchen counter. Have you seen them?"

The words put together in a sentence have the tone of accusation, apportioning blame, and looking for the guilty party. We sound accusatory. [note to myself; YIKES! I can relate to this right away. Then you find it. You remember you put it over there last night. And you are a big dummy. No one moved it. No one did it to you.]

Or the example: You feel like no one cared about your feelings. They made you wait. "How could they?" You feel this. You don't necessarily say it. You project it though. Others feel it.

Blame. It can be a way to start an argument. It can be the beginning of making others feel bad. It can be a way of starting a small conflict, a large war - all with a disastrous outcome.

Blame. What if you and I eliminated blame from our lives? What if Just For Today, you didn't look for anyone to blame. How would that feel? What would your day look like?

At the root of almost all negative emotions, is the word and feeling of blame. They did it to me. The republicans did it. The democrats are going to do it. The rich are to blame. The boss said this. He did that.

What if, no one, absolutely no one, did anything, to You? Today? Right now? From now on?

What if, YOU decided, that no matter what happened, you were not going to evaluate or judge anything, as "good" or "bad." I can tell you, my best days were when I did not evaluate or judge anyone or anything as good or bad, especially when I felt someone was saying something "negative" to me or doing something to "hurt" me.
It was a day of serenity. I felt empowered. I felt in control of my feelings and my thoughts. And I really, and I mean really felt good. It almost felt angelic. [Note: I am not saying "be a push over" or allow anyone to abuse me or you. But reread this passage again. It is the small stuff that winds up setting our moods, for the most part.]

Just for Today - I am not going to evaluate anyone or anything as good or bad. And therefore, this will help me keep from apportioning blame on anyone.

Just for Today - I am eliminating blame from my thinking and reacting

Just for Today - I am going to reread this post tomorrow too. And do this exercise.

PS - Please join me next week for a special on What is Al-Anon? And How Can It Help You? See my Post Here: A Special Invitation (click on this link)

Friday, December 28, 2007

What Is Al-Anon? A request for you . . .

I have received several questions over the past few weeks. They come to my mail - an option not to post. The feeling of anonymity (remaining anonymous would have been easier to say) must feel better through email than to post a comment.

The question I receive the most is something to the affect of:

What is Al-Anon? And, Does it work?

I am going to explain Al-Anon next week, to the best of my ability.

What I request of many of you is this;

Can you provide your comments to the posts that I make next week?

Your comments can cover things such as:
1. How it works.
2. Who should attend.
3. What it has helped you with and how it has helped you.
4. The topics covered.
5. What will my Spouse, Parent, or Friend think since they are the "alcoholic"?

This is a question I think we should all address. There are people who are struggling who could use guidance and could use some encouragement.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Diffuse Anger and Codependency - "Save Yourself" Part 3

Diffuse Anger and Codependency - "Save Yourself" Part 3. This is a multi-part series. See the posts on the lower right hand side. You can search by date or by the label. Under label look for Anger or Codependency.

Anger serves no purpose. We need to remember "character" and its development. We are here to serve a purpose, a greater good.

If you are unsure of this - yet - the best thing - in my opinion is to develop character. Character to me is; integrity, goodness, a centeredness, living in honor. It means to me, not to judge others.

I notice when I force myself to think about not judging and evaluating, I find myself more peaceful. I do not evaluate who is good, bad or wrong or right - when I am in the "zone" of being noble, of developing my character. Right now some of us want this "inner peace," but are having difficulty with anger, frustration and losing our cool. (See note below, if you are being abused)

How Do We Get Over Anger? Or Keep From Losing Our Cool?

  1. First and foremost, you must believe you should eliminate it. Then do not allow it to occur and build that path that was discussed in Part 2 (click here).
  2. Second, do not feel guilty for the alcoholic's life or behavior. You have not caused it and you cannot control it. And you cannot fix it. Guilt serves no purpose either. Guilt as defined by me, is anger inner directed.
  3. Breath. Say the word out loud; "Breath". Take a huge, deep breath.
  4. Walk away. As Stephen Covey says in Principle Centered Leadership, "Step out of all poisonous orbits." Walk away. Do not engage. Disengage.
  5. Smile. Fake the smile. As stupid and ignorant as this sounds, it works! It worked for me earlier this week.
  6. Also, listen to your tone of voice! Talk in a sing-song voice. Your tone is a dead give away. Now, I might of looked and sounded a little nuts, but it made for an uncomfortable position to be in for my spouse as I was being baited and my buttons were being pushed, and all she heard was a happy person. Also, action and behavior - even faked - can change your current thoughts and feelings. Go to a smile and pretend you are happy. In a matter of minutes you are happy! This does work. It worked so well this past week - I cannot believe it.
  7. Don't take the bait. You will be baited. Go back to numbers 4, 5 and 6!!!!
  8. Sleep. You need and must get 7 to 8 hours sleep. Lack of sleep causes you to react improperly. You are more irritable. SLEEEEEP!!!
  9. Do not blame others or your spouse or qualifier (the addict in your life). Blame is related to be right and righteous. You don't need to be right and have to prove you are right to anyone - ever! And don't make this statement to another person, because when you do, you are proving you are right - again.
  10. Eat right. When we don't eat, we are hungry. This makes us irritable. Eating too much, makes us feel guilty, stuffed, and we become - irritable (again). Also, in times of stress we can have irritable bowel syndrome. This is a big problem for men and especially women of a spouses and children of addicts. It makes us feel bloated and uncomfortable. For more on irritable bowel syndrome click here. Eat foods high in fiber. Sorry about this folks. But many of you are eating cheeses and crud. Fiber - I found the cereal Kashi - Go Lean to help here. Again, sorry about this one. But it is a very common ailment with spouses of alcoholics
  11. Keep a journal on your anger triggers; use the following headings across the top of your journal; Time of Day ; Trigger (cause) ; Scale (intensity 1 - 10) ; Duration ; What I did - My Reaction (i.e. I yelled about ... I tensed up ...etc). Keep the journal for 21 days. If this is too long for you, then do it for seven (7) days. Look for patterns. You will find triggers and patterns. They will be people; they will be slight remarks you take as rude; you see motorists cutting you off; you will see things that are not personal or not aimed at you as a person and your self-worth, but you take it personally.
  12. Stop watching the news at night before bed or first thing in the morning. Also, stop reading the paper. Stop altogether. Or if your job requires you to read the paper, depersonalize it.
    Substitute negative for positive; Read and watch inspirational movies and books. This leads to living at the top of Maslow's Self Actualization hierarchy. This really works! It fills you with hope and eliminates your despair.
  13. Create a repertoire of reactions that are pleasant when faced with anger or when anger is directed at you. For example, say "I am sorry." Or even better, "I apologize." Saying you're sorry is not accepting blame or about being weak. Only the strong can apologize. Weak people are too filled with blame to apologize. They see these as one in the same. Say, "I apologize. I must have said something or did something that came across in the wrong way. Please accept my apology." This takes the wind out of most people's sails. And stops anger in its tracks. Another may be, "This must be a tough day for you." Saying this in a compassionate way and not a condescending way is the difference. Come up with your own and practice these. You will be surprised at the difference in the reaction. A repertoire of reactions, and making them your habit, keeps you from falling into the trap of anger.
  14. Remember, anger is about going down the scale of humanity, not up. Love is up. Hate and anger are down.
  15. Remember your mother's advice; "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything."
  16. Take Thomas Jefferson's advice; "When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred."

Here is some more advice:

  • You don't have to do all of these.
  • Pick and chose.
  • Remember: Crawl before walking. Walk before running. Run before the Olympics.
  • Pick and chose. (Again). There are some things that are easier. Journaling might be your thing. Do that then. Writing out pithy reactions (number 13)
  • We can all try smiling!! And talking in a positive voice.
  • Fake it 'til you make it.
  • Remember, this is not for anyone else, but YOU. You may feel "Why should I change my behavior for them??? Well, it's not for THEM silly. It's for YOU!!!!

[Note to you: Abuse is not to be tolerated. Directed at you or your children. That is not what I am talking about here. If this is your case, report it. If you are unsure there are crisis centers who can help guide you.]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the Razor's Edge

I drove five hours - alone - the annual trek to my in-laws house. I am blessed. Strange that I say that today. I used to say this all the time. I came from poverty. I worked my tail off, married the ideal women - from a nice, well-to-do, well-respected family. Did I marry the woman or the entire "thing." Did I get caught up in the entire "package"?

Who knows?

I will not ponder this - this is fruitless. The only gain may be some insight to how I was thinking and my beliefs. I am not sure the analysis serves a purpose.

Today I use this post to divert away from my next two posts on Anger and Codependency.

Allow me to indulge myself in writing about Christmas Eve. I pulled in the driveway of my in-laws, walked into the house, only after passing my wife, daughter and dog on the way to the grocery store. I walked into the kitchen, somewhat on edge, expecting the eyes to pass over me and judge me for my faults. I did not get the examination however. What I expected never came about. Another amount of time expecting something bad. What stupidity on my part.

Instead, I was hugged. I am still of the defensive, saying it's to myself, "It's a trick! It's a trick! Do not let your guard down!! The knife in the back is coming!" And then .........

Nothing. Nada. Zip. No Pearl Harbor attack. No Spanish Inquisition waiting for me in the den.

Just a hug from my mother-in-law. My father-in-law, a good eyeball to eyeball, and handshake. We talked.

Then my daughter ran in. She grabbed me. She's pulling me. "Daddy I need to talk to you." What is it? What did I do now? [Note to myself: I am really beating myself up - aren't I? The guilt for getting angry last Saturday still resides within me. I am my own worst enemy. No one needs to criticize me. Hell, I am excellent at it. I am silent, but deadly.]

My daughter pulls me through the kitchen, back through another room, and finally to the bedroom in back of the house. "Daddy, mommy is drunk. She drove to the store, couldn't remember why we were going, asked me twice why we were going, daddy. She then pointed to the church, to houses, and drove into the parking lot of the supermarket. She hit a curb. Made a sharp turn and had the dog rolling through the car. And, she pulled up to the house and I was getting out when she pulled the car forward again."

I went to her mom, my wife, to see - to make the diagnosis, the big "Is she drunk?" I saw her. She moved unsteadily. I spoke to her. Her eyes were unfocused. Her voice different. Different tone. Different approach, like "Hey man, I am cool. What?" The "What?" part gets me every time. It's like she is saying; "Are you an idiot? Again?" [Note to myself: Yes I am. Thank you very little. I am a big idiot.]

I tell my daughter to tell my wife's mother.

I need "validation" or "verification." Or I need redemption? Or I need to be seen as the good guy, because . . . ? Is the answer . . . because; it's not me? I am not the asshole? I am - the "sad guy" as my friend who told me I was and have become. My friend whom I met for dinner asked; "What happened to you? You were the funny guy. You are not to blame here. You are the guy who is keeping it together."

Why do we beat ourselves up? Why do we need validation and verification?

I saw Donald Trump on the CNBC Christmas Eve. It was a rerun, and it was about success. I listened to the way he spoke. Confident. He spoke as a "matter of factly"I bet he didn't let his daughter run to his mother-in-law and report the status of his wife's drinking.

His confidence - like him or not - was contagious. He spoke with in a manner that said, "Hey, take me as I am. I am who I am and can only be that person." Confidence. Made his point. Stopped. He didn't beat a dead horse. People either took him at this word or tough... you know what.

What can we learn from this?
1. Stop beating yourself up. You didn't cause it. You can't cure it. And you can't control it. I started repeating this over and over to myself. It works. It helps. This is from Al-Anon. It's a great saying to state out-loud to yourself.

2 When you make a mistake, admit it. And apologize if necessary. And, most of all; get over it!

3. You are great. You don't need anyone to validate your opinions or feelings. You were confident at one time. Look back at yourself and see the times you were confident. Be yourself. Stop undermining your confidence by questioning yourself.

4. Emulate a role model. Think about someone who has their act together. Role model their behavior. Act in a positive manner and in a manner with the person you would like to become. Pretend. Fake it until you make it! In Hollywood, they pretend themselves into the role, before reading the script and they become the person. I am not saying we all become Donald Trumps. But there are characteristics of certain people we could all borrow and help us get through the moment. It's better than pitching a fit!

I how this note finds you well.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays - and a note to myself

Happy Holidays. I want to thank everyone for their kind words over the past few weeks.

Also - a note to myself. When I am around people who may blame me or who may bait me because of my spouse's drinking - or - her problem, I will smile, I will say in a "sing-song" cheerey voice;

"I understand your feelings. I wish you the best. Merry Christmas to you and your family."

I will not engage. I will smile and kill'em with kindness!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Codependency Anger Cycle - A Treadmill To Hell

As part of this series I have created what I call the "Cycle of Codependency and Anger" (below). It is a cycle linked to that of a treadmill. As codependents we "express" our transgressions in manners that can be unhealthy. Our outburst of anger feels "righteous" and our outburst is filled with "justice."

However, this "justice" and "righteousness" is only from our perspective. It is seen through the lens from which we are seeing the world.

Unfortunately, our world has become distorted. It is a sad world. No one knows the hurt, the shame and the trepasses we have endured in living with an alcoholic. The deceit and the lies and the feeling of guilt does hurt. Still - our world is not normal. Don't make it less normal!

With all that said, look at this diagram. Our lashing out, screaming, resorting to manipulation, and coercian has no affect on the alcoholic. As a friend told me, "It rolls off the alcoholic like water off a duck's back." And he is an attorney who has a friend he tried to "talk out of being an alcoholic." It just doesn't work. Same is said for trying to "get even" with the alcoholic.

You and I vent. It feels good . . . for a moment. Then we feel guilty! Look below and see if you can relate.

Then read my post - Part 2 on Codependency and Anger written this morning.

Anger and Codependency - Or - "Anger Sucks" Part 2

Anger and Codependency Part 2

Should you express your anger? My answer: No.
Ever? My answer: No. Never.

Here's Why:
First, it's unhealthy: In studies, when the subjects expressed their anger, their blood pressure soared. Just in case you don't know, this is not a good thing. It hurts your heart.
In the other group (of the same characteristics), those who held their anger, their blood pressure went down. This was performed with several different groups and other factors were accounted for, making anger the target of the study.

So, these studies dispel any theory that anger held causes high blood pressure or is unhealthy.

It becomes a habit: I believe that once you begin to allow anger to flow, or your vent anger at the target, you create mental grooves or a deep and wide path that allows anger to flow too freely, and after awhile flows so freely, it becomes uncontrollable. I believe that you become addicted to the rush - the feeling of adrenaline, the blood coursing through your veins. It then becomes easier and easier to move closer to the next stage of anger, which is releasing uncensored, angry remarks and destructive criticism. When this happens, we get angry at the wrong people and release a torrent of words at unintended targets. It can be directed at our children, our neighbors, the operator, the checkout person, the . . . - well you get the picture. And I think you might be able to relate to this.

Each time you release this groove is well traversed - and becomes a habit. It becomes our new "normal." It becomes a way of acting. We become conditioned.

It gets targeted at the wrong people: Unfortunately, we release at work, at our family, at passersby, at motorists . . . and at ourselves. At work people begin to see we are not a person they want on their team. And when budget cuts come, and downsizing occurs, guess who's one of the first to go?

You want a good reputation: You do not want to gain a reputation as angry. Anger and asshole are closely aligned labels! On our gravestone it would read, "Thank you God for taking this angry asshole off the face of this earth." No we really want on gravestone, "Thank you God for bringing this person into our lives, he acted in a manner that showed us how we all could become."

All the good things you have ever done - are wiped out, with one little outburst of anger. No one remembers all the good things you've done. What is etched in their minds in your display of anger. And it just has to be one event.

Gone. All the nice things you've done, never to be remembered again. With one little outburst.

You are a role model: Think about your children. You are their beacon of hope. Their model of who they should become. They will pick up this behavior - a behavior you know you don't want them to pick up.

Anger and Arguments
I have not seen any studies about the correlation between anger and arguments. However, my general feeling based on observation and analysis, shows that arguing in a precursor to anger. And the two are very closely linked. Arguing in some parts of the country are viewed as more "OK" than in other parts of the country. And the same is true in some cultures and heritages.

Our voices become sharpened, and our rationale for our positions become, strident, loud and uncensored - if - we feel we have become slighted, or insulted. In other words, we set ourselves up for someone rolling their eyes at us, or saying, "What ...ever!" Two ways we are "baited."

The best way to avoid these attacks - and they are attacks - is not to engage - at all.

Who cares what someones opinion is about the President, the democrats, the republicans, abortion, or some other volatile subject. Does it really matter what someone thinks? Really? We have seen the talk shows - and these have led to an "impolite discourse." We emulate these talk shows because they have desensitized us to the old way of being "polite" and being "of higher character." A good discussion can now lead into an argument.

Arguing never changes any ones mind. It in fact makes them more cemented in their position. It has the opposite affect!

So, what have we learned about anger?

  1. Anger serves no useful purpose. Period. Ever.
  2. We look bad when we are angry. It shows we are not mature.
  3. Anger shows we have "lost it" and we are "out of control." These are two labels in your life you cannot afford to have.
  4. It's bad for our health.
  5. It sets a poor example for our children.
  6. It affects our entire day - at work, or at home. It sets our mood for the remainder of the day.
  7. Once released, it becomes easy to release again. And again. It can become a ritual. A habit.
  8. We say stupid, regretful things. Things uncensored. It usually makes us feel guilty - as codependents - and this leads to more anger! And then more guilt. It becomes a circular treadmill.
  9. While we feel righteous, and feel it is our "duty" to show "them" and teach others a lesson, it is a lesson and it is a just cause - only through our eyes, our point of view.
  10. Last, it sets you up, as being labeled and remembered as an asshole, a jerk, a person who cannot be trusted.

See the next post for Part 3 on How To The Codependent Can Diffuse Anger Positively.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Anger and Codependency - Or - "Anger Sucks" Part 1

Anger can be a sure sign of codependency at its tipping point. The codependent person will use anger like the kettle uses steam when it has reached a boiling point. Anger is a release mechanism. It is not the right tool to use, but it is a result of not using the proper tools ahead of the slow boil we go through.

We all have heard of the story of the putting frog in a hot pan - he would jump out. That's us. We would not get angry. We are fun people, nice people. But put a frog in a cool pan and put the pan over a fire and slowly turn up the flame the frog adjusts to accommodate for the rising in temperature - to a point.

Slowly, the frog continues to adjust, he sits and continues to adjust. Until he cannot adjust for the heat any longer, and he boils from the inside out.

That can be us. And we boil from the inside out and anger rises until it has to be released in the form of lashing out verbally, perhaps physically, perhaps with silence, perhaps uncontrollable crying.

We - unlike the frog - can be taught the warning signs of heat being turned up, and make moves to avoid anger all together.

ANGER - Its 3 Components
Anger is a thought, that as a codependent comes about when we feel "unappreciated" or feel we are "sacrificing" and "why doesn't anyone else see what I am doing to keep everyone happy."

Does this sound like anyone you know?

These thoughts have the underpinnings of "I am being trespassed against." Often, these thoughts occur very quickly, and they create a reaction inside of us, a "fight or flight" reaction that stems from our ancestral background (from the cavemen days) - where we have this in-built - a reaction that is instantaneous - attack the attacker or flee the attacker.

This is the bodily reaction. The sympathetic nervous system and your muscles tense to mobilize for a physical assault. Our blood pressure skyrockets. Our digestive processes stop.

Brain centers are triggered and our brain chemistry signals attack.

These are accompanied by subjective feelings of anger.

The third component - which has been introduced, is attack. The first two phases ready you for attack. Your attack is directed toward ending the trespass - as quickly as possible (if not immediately. So - you lash out.

With codependency, the attack may be misdirected or the attack may come about from a small trigger - it may be the slightest of slights; a small remark taken as rude or hostile, for example.

The attacks may come at various points and we may mute them - suppress them, because we are better socialized than our caveman ancestors. We may turn the other cheek.

What happens to the anger is of debate among psychologists. Some think it is bottled up and results in high blood pressure. Some believe it gets bottled up and explodes in time in the most unlikely of places (in a supermarket line or talking to a child).

Proactive Treatments
Tool #1 REFRAME: How do we stop anger altogether? We stop it, by immediately not allowing the thoughts to enter our minds. Instead of the thought "we are being trespassed against" - we can revise the thought to fit a better - more positive perspective. When we do this - we reframe the data coming into our brains from hostile to one of more sensibility - to something like compassion.

Start with asking yourself: "Is the person trying to harm us? Really?" Forcing yourself to stop through questioning, allows us to see the other person's perspective. What is she trying to do? Provoke us? Bait us? To these;

- I wonder if she's having a bad day?
- I am not going to take this personally. (from "I am not going to take this!")
- Don't be a jerk because he is being a jerk.

These is a Murphy's Law that says; "Never argue with an idiot, because an on-looker may not know who is who.

Tool #2 USE HUMOR: When you are "attacked" - see the person looking like Bozo the Clown in your mind. Think about the attacker in complete and vivid detail. Play music in your mind like you heard at the carnival, or the circus (you know the music?). See the Clown doing somersaults. Laugh and let it go.

Or if you see them as acting like an "ass," see a big donkey with big buck teeth and large ears. Put a straw hat on the donkey, a corncob pipe, going "heee haw, heee haw!".

Now, do something outrageous. Decorate the visualization with feathers, pink feathers. Give them wings. Big wings. And let the person "fly away."

Tool #3 GO TO THE BALCONY: This is a negotitator's tool. Visualize yourself in balcony, looking down at the play. See all the actors, yourself included. But dis-identify from yourself. See the actors from the balcony and you are in the balcony watching the scene unfold. You are removed from the feelings.

I hope this information helped and provided you some useful tools

Friday, December 21, 2007

Codependence - The Serenity Prayer (the entire prayer)

I am posting the serenity prayer, in it's entirety for all of us to read, repeat aloud, and give us ALL the solice and comfort we need during these holidays.

The past few nights I have awoken at 2:30 AM and sat repeating several prayers.

I hope this holiday brings all readers joy and peace.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with
Him forever in the next.


The second verse may not be familiar to all. I certainly have not seen or heard it before.

The following comments come from a church in the UK about this prayer.

Pointers for Prayer : The ability to accept things that we may not like, courage and wisdom are three qualities that build our character. Pray for these three qualities, that God would grow them within you, and pray specifically about any particular situations where you need the wisdom to seek whether you should accept or change your approach to it.The serenity prayer expresses the truth that life can be a struggle, and seeks God's help with this, one day at a time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Breaking Co-Dependency - Second Step

"If you think you are dependent upon another individual -you are!" Dr. Robert Anthony

Our Circles - Who We Are and What We Do
Whenever we see a loved one's life in disarray, part of us wants to jump in and manage it. Think of a circle drawn around a person's feet. The circle represents who that person is. The circle is their work life, their family and the interaction with the family, their obligations - like paying the bills, household duties, etc. It represents their promises and commitments, their hopes and dreams and their beliefs - such as religion, politics, self, etc.

We all have a circle. Don't reflect on the size of the circle. Just visualize this.

When we see someone step outside the circle, they stop paying the bills, they don't go to their work, - they don't do what they are supposed to do . . .

The person - us - wants to "fix" things. And we "jump into their circle." We still have ours - by the way! We try to manage or help the other person by managing the things they have to get done.

"No" is a Complete Sentence.
We still try to manage and get done the other things we have to do too. We - in essence - are doing the work of two!!!! Let me give you some examples:

  1. We pay the bill for a son who got the DUI.
  2. We allow the son to borrow money from us to go buy something they cannot afford (nor can we - by the way!).
  3. We call into the office of our spouse to tell the people there, that our spouse is sick today, and cannot make it.
  4. We tell people when our spouse is passed out drunk, that they had a long week and are tired.

We make excuses, we do things for them, we allow them to "get off the hook" by not facing reality. At the same time our lives become unmanageable. We cannot manage two lives. Hell, we can barely manage our own. What in the world makes you think you can do both????

This is where we become sick. We become unmanageable. Our children suffer. Our work suffers. We feel like we are a prisoner - in some odd manner.

Visualize yourself standing, one foot in the addicts circle and another foot in your circle. The addict has drifted out of their circle. He or she sees someone managing the circle. They may think, "I don't need to come back. Some body (you) is taking care of me (my circle - my obligations."

Or -The addict may think, "I will keep drinking" (or using). They don't even care about their circle (their old self). They are "not in reality." Their drinking becomes worse. They reality is further covered up.

You - So you are helping - trying to stabilize and keep things together. You are in two lives. Here's what happens;

  1. You are trying live both and doing a "sucky" job doing it - and you know it.

  2. Sooner or later you start to lose your identity.

  3. Sooner or later you don't remember you are.

  4. You have glimpses of a life - a previous life you lived. You see this old self.

  5. You miss your "old self". You get "pissed off." You want it back.

  6. Your anger becomes misdirected.

  7. You lash out at people at your office (the last place you want to do this by the way).

  8. You lash out at your spouse's family (and you become labeled a "bitch" or an "asshole" - and of course you feel guilty/bad about this and you think they think "No wonder he/she drinks." adding more guilt/bad feelings to your psyche).

  9. You may lash out at your children about something trivial.

  10. You begin to isolate yourself because you don't want to "burden others."

  11. You feel stuck. You are in a death spiral.

Break it. Say, "No." The word "No" is a complete sentence. It's a long-time get well process. It doesn't happen over night. It takes courage and one small step at a time. Because you have to "ween" others off it too - the ones who know you are always there for them.

Next post - More on co-dependency. By the way, who am I to write about co-dependency? I am "Mr. Co-Dependency" and don't you forget it! I write this today, with the full knowledge I can break this, but tomorrow, I am back. This post is dedicated to the therapists at the clinic, who will remain nameless and who are so dedicated that they give out their time almost 24 by 7 to family and addicts. God Bless them. I do not know how they do it.

Last, the work here is from Virginia Satir. Satir served as the director of training at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto from 1959-66 and at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur beginning in 1966. In addition, Satir gave lectures and led workshops in experiential family therapy across the country. She was well-known for describing family roles, such as "the rescuer" or "the placator," that function to constrain relationships and interactions in families (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Breaking Co-Dependency - First Step

Here are some ways to break co-dependency. I would be more than happy to post anyone who has ideas and methods they have used in the past. Just put it in the comment box, and I will place in tomorrow's blog post.

Learn how you feel when you are asked to do something. What is the feeling you get from it? Is there a sense of satisfaction that someone thought well of you to ask you for help?

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Who in the world doesn't feel some sense of satisfaction of being thought well of by others? But getting praise versus recognition - are two different things.

It's when you get your sense of self-worth, your internal barometer of how worthy you feel of yourself as a person, from others opinions of you, that you may be in trouble.

One form of praise is being asked by someone to help them out. How we love to be praised. Like a dog, we sometimes set ourselves up to be loyal and "always there" on command. And the command is, "Can you help me?" or it is telegraphed, not stated, "I need some one's help . . ."

We get an emotional "high" from it. They become in a sense a "pusher" and we become the "addict." We become addicted to the "approver" - the pusher. The pusher "approves" of us, and we feel "accepted" which makes our self-worth rise. Our self-worth is the value we place on ourselves as "good" or "bad" or perhaps "smart" or "stupid." Our self-worth is how we value ourselves in - and this is a key word - in comparison to others. While the comparison to others is not a good measuring stick - it is worse. Because in co-dependency we are compared to others by someone else. And if this is not stated by the pusher, it is in our minds.

When we seek praise or adoration of others - we set ourselves up for failure. Why? Because we will never be perfect all the time, in the eyes of others. You are on a perpetual treadmill, and the problem is, the other person, the pusher, will never be able to give you what you need all the time - the praise you seek, the acceptance you need and now crave.

Action Exercise: When you don't get the praise - what happens to your feelings? Stop here and think about this just for 5 minutes. Take out a pen and list your feelings out.

Now, did you write out any of the following words:
The feelings of "I can't do anything right." or "I must not be good enough."

There may be other feelings you get. But the important thing here is to recognize this; You are not alone. And more importantly, you are co-dependent. Your "disease" is your sense of self is derived from helping others.

To break this you must recognize when you are setting your self up for failure. Ask yourself:
1. Am I doing this for this person because I want them to see me as a good person?
2. Am I doing this because I have done this for them all the time?
3. Is this a person I look up to or need their approval of what I do?
4. Is this something I don't have time for, will impact what I had planned to do instead?
5. If I don't do it, will they think that I am selfish?

The next time, get into your head. Think about your thinking and therefore your feelings.

The next time say the following, with genuineness and kindness, when someone asks you for help that maybe you are "addicted" to helping;
"I'd love to help out. But I have other plans. Let me know how it turns out."
"I can't get to it right now, can it wait until later?"
"Can you do that for yourself? I am in the middle of something right now."

These are kind ways of saying "No, I can't." They are not meant to be mean. Start here and try these this week - for an entire week (of course modify the sentences to meet your situation). The exercise is not meant to drive the other person away, it is meant to break your need for the other person's approval.

Next Post - Breaking Co-Dependency - Second Step

Sunday, December 16, 2007

10 Co-dependency Questions

Below I gathered information from various articles and books I have read and put them in the form of questions to determine if you are co-dependent. Let there be a little light shed here on this point.

Co-dependency is not about the alcoholic. It is about you and how you are caring about yourself (or not caring about yourself). And if you are co-dependent, you are not a bad person.

Last, let me say this about co-dependency. I know I may catch some flack on this one, as I do not agree with the 12 pages of adjectives listed in Melody Beattie's renown best seller on Co-dependent No More. According to her list, if we are all co-dependent. I feel like she was afraid to leave some word off her 12 page list of adjectives which translates; "If you have one of these descriptors, then you are co-dependent."

Anyway, it's a good book and far be it from me to judge it bad or wrong, as I own two copies and recommend it to everyone because there is not much written on the topic.

So here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you have a chronic "helping" behavior pattern that may be related to a co-dependent personality.

1. How easy can you say; "No" to helping someone? Is it hard? Too hard, that you give in, even when you don't have time? Or at the expense of what you need to do for yourself? (i.e. exercise

2. Do you feel better when you are offering help and doing the work? Does your value or self-worth seem to increase when you are "needed"?

3. Do your feelings get hurt when you are not appreciated for the "sacrifices" you are making, that no one else recognizes? Do you feel angry, resentful or unappreciated when you have helped someone or the same person or group of people?

4. If you did say "No", would you feel guilty? Would you have an urge to call them back and tell them "Okay, you'll manage?"

5. Do you wind up doing a majority of the work by offering to help someone?

6. Are a majority of your relationships built around helping others? Do you find that people rarely help you? Or that when they do offer help, you "cannot" accept it because it makes you feel uncomfortable?

7. Is the role of helping others a more comfortable and natural role for you to play in your relationships?

8. Do you "worry" too much about what other people think? Are you looking for"signs" in the other person, to determine how you should feel that day (i.e. your mood cannot be better than their mood). Do you wonder what the other person is doing right now? (did they go to work? are they drinking? are they going to drink?)

9. Do you make excuses in your mind about why you should help others, even when helping others, means putting someone close to you (i.e. your children) on a back burner?

10. Is the person or people you constantly help, what seems to be chaotic lives? Or they have a series crises one after another? Do the people you help have addiction problems?

11. Bonus Question: Did you grow up in a family where things were not spoken about, secrets were kept, and mother kept the family functioning? Did you or someone else have to become a "substitute dependable adult" as a child?

Al-Anon - For You? or Not? A Great Article I Found

I hope you have had a good weekend. I had a sort of bad day yesterday. I was sucked into an a lively discussion on how screwed up I am. Great. Tell me something new. Except this came from my qualifier. Of course I walked away! Yeah, right. I fired my shot or two back. Then I walked away.

Anyway, here is a great link that will help many of you reading About Alcoholism

Alcoholic Spouse; Disengage - What Happened?

OK. I kind of left last week with my spouse blowing 2times the legal amount into a breathalyzer. (See this Post For More Details).

It was an eye opening for her, and me too. I finally felt relieved that it was "official" that I was not making up the fact that she has a drinking problem.

So, where are we?

I have a strange sense of peace - KNOWING and being sure of what I knew. But some where along the line, I felt a "doubt" - probably for the fact that I want to believe that my spouse and my mate would never deceive me, never lie to me. The fact that I WANT to trust and believe and rely on someone to help ME sometimes and be there for me when times are tough.

This may not make sense for some. I am not a weak man. I am pretty independent. But maybe in my "independence" and "self-reliance" - I have used these as tools to cover-up and remove the potential of being hurt.

So, what I have done is to accept the PEACE I have in finally KNOWING and remove all doubt. I say "all doubt," because I have allowed this doubt to spread it's little fingers into my work life. I have suddenly found myself proving things, like when I was late to an appointment in meeting my colleagues. While I did not "over explain" (at least I don't think I did) I did feel a compulsion to come back a show people why I was late. I think I will explain this later in a post. Because I actually carried the item in my car for a week to show people why I late. This is specifically due to co-dependence and affects of being married to an addict.

Well, back to the farm. I am learning to disengage. I am not doing this so well all the time. I do well 5 days and then "Bam!" I engage.

Sometimes I leap - and I do mean leap - at the chance to engage. As I write this, I ask myself why do I "leap?"

  • It's not because I want to be ugly.

I now know:

  • I think I am smart and I am clever. Except, damn it, she smarter and even more clever. And, . . .

  • She knows what buttons to push. I must have a lot of buttons.

In the end, after engaging and saying my "piece" to try to "fix" her, nothing is accomplished and I am hurt even further. Not so clever - am I?

I think what I am looking for is this; I want a reaction from my wife. But I want a reaction of; "I am sorry" or "I understand the pain you are going through - and I appreciate your being there for me."

I may as well ask my dog to recite the Gettysburg Address as to get an "I appreciate you."

Any way, I am going with loving detachment. I am going with a scene from Blazing Saddles and with the same impression; "Appreciation? I don't need no stinking appreciation!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

10 Signs of Co-Dependency - How Are We Doing?

I have been studying co-dependency for a little while, and here is my list of ten (10).

Please comment back to add to this list.

1. You find yourself dropping things YOU have to do or want to do, only to do for others. This is a biggie. We do things for others at the expense of the things we want or have to.

2. We find ourselves in the role of a helper, too much, too often. We do things for others, when they should be doing it themselves.

Here's an example we can all relate to:
We are over a friend's house, and she is doing something, and we say, "Here let me help you with that." and soon we begin to take over, the other person "leaves" (they let go of the chore) emotionally or literally. All of a sudden, we find ourselves as "hired help" - except without the money. Worse, someone else gets the compliments for all the work we've done! Ever notice this one?

Or how about this one:
Have you ever been to an event, where the other person is supposed to be doing something and you jump into help? And the person literally "leaves" to do something they want to do - personally - for themselves and you are left "holding the bag?" You see them talking and laughing with others, and you? Where are you? Working your tail off.

3. We find ourselves busy, too busy, doing, doing, doing. We need to examine our "doing" list. What is a "doing" list? It's an inventory of what we have done today. Are there more things on the list we are doing that others should be doing for themselves?

4. We feel guilty - a lot of guilt or a twinge of guilt - if we take time out for ourselves at the expense of supporting others. Or even some guilt for taking time out for our well-being.

A lot of women feel this. It's one of the reasons they don't join support groups, (like Al-Anon) because they can't leave the kids with Grandma or Dad to go do something - because - we feel guilty or we think, we can't ask for help (men have the "Can't ask for help" problem).

5. We been to feel unsatisfied if we are not - busy, busy, busy. We find ourselves cooking, cleaning, picking kids up, volunteering, - to the point of chaos. We hold it "together" - but barely. But if things slow done, we feel guilty (there's that word again) or worse "used less" or . . . "useless."

6. We begin to feel resentful about doing for others, and them not doing the same.

We feel "unappreciated." This is a biggie for me! And it leads to resentment. Look at my resentment!

We feel, bad that we are not "accepted" or "complimented" or someone doesn't say "thank you" or you are "wonderful." We begin to measure ourselves by how people measure us. And this is how we begin to get "hooked" to wanting to be accepted by others through their compliments.

When we expect others and need others to say these things, we are getting some of our self-esteem from them.
What I mean here is; We only feel good about ourselves, when we are thought well of by others. Our value starts coming from others. And we set ourselves up for failure by doing this, because we will never always be perfect in someone else's eye.

Don't get me wrong, we all need to feel good about ourselves. It just needs to be inner directed, not outer dependent. That's why it's called "self-esteem" and not "other-esteem."

7. We feel a sense of worthlessness and anxiety. We feel a little more unsure of ourselves.

We feel anxious if the other person does not need us.

We feel anxious if the other person is doing something, and they are not doing it "right" (which is another way of saying; they are not doing it your way).

Here is a SHIFT in Thinking: The greatest gift we can give to others, especially our children and our qualifier, may be ...... -----> (here it comes ) ...... ----> letting them do it for themselves.

By allowing them to do it for themselves, they learn and start to feel their own self-esteem increase, where they begin to see they are not inept. May be, just may be, we are creating a cycle here. Let people fall every once in a while. (I'm not talking about going out naked in the front yard or jumping off the Grand Canyon.)

Yes, perhaps through our desire to help others, we begin to control, and we may make the other person feel inept. We do this by accident of course. But what if this is true?

What if, in our desire to help, we actually hinder their growth?

8. Do people expect you to do things? To the point, that when you don't, they are "Shocked"?

9. Do we wait to see the other person's mood, and our mood is dependent on their mood? Is our mood going to be adjusted based upon our qualifier's mood? If we are in a good mood, does our mood change when the addict's mood is bad? YIKERS!!!! This is BAD!! It doesn't even have to be our qualifier's mood. We have a friend, he's bummed. We adjust our feelings, so we don't make him feel worse. But, do we feel guilty for finally being happy?

10. Do we find ourselves, hunting for alcohol, looking to see where they hid it? Do we find ourselves, addicted to the other person's addiction?

  • In otherwords, do we find our thoughts filled with the words; "What are they doing right now?" when they are gone.
  • Do we find the words going through our brain; "Are they out there drinking?" (or doing whatever the addiction is)

Read the above list over again. We may have a co-dependent personality because we worked ourselves into the behavior and over time it has become our "normal." Or we may have seen this cycle of co-dependency in the house and family environment we grew up in.

PS - Helping is not bad. This is not what I am saying. Going to the other extreme of not helping and worrying only about one's self is selfish. But there is a heathly balance. This is why Al-Anon is available and it is for us.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

10 + Things That Have Helped Me ... Maybe They Will Help You

Here are some things that have helped me. I want to share these with you - all of you. They may sound simple, too simple. But what I have learned is this; all great things in life are simple. It's our failure to practice them that makes it hard.

1. Here is something I USED to do and have started to do it again. It restored some of my better thinking to what it used to be. It is this; Get sleep. You need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. I have read numerous studies how a lack of sleep will make you sick. It makes you gain weight. It makes you irritable. I try to have the house buttoned down and locked up by 9PM. My child is in bed by 8:30PM. Then, I spend time reading something "inspirational" - today I am reading "Total Self-Confidence" (I am re-reading it - it is about HOW YOU THINK. It is NOT about power and manipulation.) I turn off the telephone. Sometimes I unplug it!!! I cannot stand when people break the, "Don't call past 9PM rule" (albeit - it is an unwritten rule - Has any one besides me heard of this rule???)

2. Get up - at 5AM. Shower up, go downstairs, get the coffee going. And read again. Same thing. Read something inspirational. I also studied business books to turn my professional career around. Now I am back to inspirational. They make me feel good and they make me a better person and leader at home and at work. The books I read are written by experts, by the way and I model myself after the ideas and people in the books. The art of sitting and reading takes tons of discipline - (which is exactly what we need to practice right now) -

Harry Ward Beecher said, "The first hour of the morning is the rudder of your day." And he was right. Start it off by reading something that will set your mind right and the course for your day heading in the direction.

This little tool, reading early in the morning, for at least one-hour, sent me from rags to riches. It didn't keep me from marrying an alcoholic however! But today, it will SAVE your sanity.

3. Go to the Public Library. Get books on "How To Think" - they are usually labeled as "Self Help" by people who try to make people feel bad about reading them. You will find very inspirational stories that will make you feel better. Going to the library is something we should all do more often. The books are free!!!

4. Fire the paperboy. Do not read the the paper in the morning. It's full of bad news. YOU do not need bad news.

5. Turn off the TV at night before you go to bed. If the first hour in the morning is the rudder of your day, and sometimes called the "Golden Hour", then the last hour, the hour before you fall off to sleep is the "Magic Hour" since it is what you are feeding your mind to dream about. Think of the first morning hour and the last evening hour as bookends - Positive bookends to your day. You don't need to hear about the rape or killing before you go to sleep at night ! (and you know it! don't you?) Admit it. There is nothing good on TV that you cannot live with out!

6. Make lists of things to do. (Your "To Do's"). After you read in the morning for an hour, (by the way, I found myself starting this at 6AM first, then I got up at 5:30AM and then 5AM, and then I was up at 4:30AM - so I could get more reading in!! It's exhilarating!!) make a list of the thing you want to get done today. Work from a list and force yourself to write everything down. When you complete an item on the list, take a pen and strike through the item. There is a great sense of relief and excitement to seeing things knocked off the list. Even if it is small - like calling the paper to cancel delivery!!

7. Eat right. Exercise too. With stress - and let's face it - we are STRESSED out to the MAX!!!! We need relief. Food may become our addiction. Don't let it. Many women become binded up inside - if you know what I mean. You feel bloated - which puts you in a bad mood. Well, men have this problem too. But it is more prevalent with women. So watch out what you eat. Watch out for cheeses, pastas and fatty foods at this time.And exercise. Even if you just do sit-ups, squats, or push ups, do something. Exercise is important now.

8. When reading in the morning, try to get close to a window with the sunrising. You will absolutely see the prettiest sunrises ever AND there is something magic in the morning about the sun coming up and in through the window, first thing in the morning. I am beating this reading and morning thing to death because when I have given this advice to others, and they followed it, they have become BRAND new people. But you have to MAKE THIS A HABIT and NEVER LEAVE IT. I left it. I became lazy. It was because I started staying up past 9;45PM at night. I was too busy and it affected my life - in a bad way.

9. Get out of the house if you are working from home. Even if it is to go to have coffee outside the home. Get out and see people, if you don't work or work from home.

10. Write out affirmations. And say them out loud. Do this in the morning. Affirmations are positive, present tense, and personal (3 P's). There is magic in writing them and saying them out loud 0 with a touch of enthusiasm. Do these 10 every day AND Watch your life TURN AROUND. You will feel good. You will attract positive things and people to you. Live each day as ONE BIG POSITIVE affirmation.

11. Turn off your car radio if going to work or just driving around. Listen to Anthony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy or someone who will teach you how to think better. Listen to someone positive and optimistic or educational. The average person drives over 7 hours a week. That's 364 hours a week. That's 9 forty hour work weeks in your car or 2 to 4 university semesters you could be using to learn something new just by driving around!!

12. Go To Al-Anon. Only they will know what you are going through. However, watch the negative talk you find yourself doing after the first 10 meetings. While you want to vent, you want to shift the spot light off the alcoholic and on to yourself!!!

13. Stop hanging around people who pull you down. Really really stop. No matter who they are. Do not get sucked into a negative conversation. Stop if it happens by saying, "Let talk about this person's positive traits today." or say, "Let's talk about what we are going to do to become better people." Or - just say, "I have got to go - I forgot I had to do something." Avoid negative people like the plague.

14. Cultivate an "Attitude of Gratitude." Stop talking about negative things and look for the good in all things ad people. This is an attitude of gratitude. Say, "I am grateful because of _____ ." If you write this out - and think about what you are grateful for, you will focus your energies on the positive. Even if you have to say, "Thank you God, that I did not become the alcoholic." As horrible as that might sound, think about it. What if this was you? What if you became the person with the addiction? "Oh my God!" is what I said, when I asked myself this question. And I said to myself, "This thing "- that happened to my wife - "was perhaps my wake up call." (I stopped drinking completely - just in case it was a wake up call from God) I am grateful that I did not get such a terrible disease. So now I am thinking about little things I take for granted: I am thankful that I have a house with a good roof. I am thankful I have a computer and I can type with my fingers. I am thankful I can see! I am grateful for ____. Dr. Martin Seligman (that Positive guy who studied optimism) found an attitude of gratitude is singularly responsible for authentic happiness, and living a long life.

15. Make your mind up that this IS the only life you are going to have on this earth. No matter how bad you feel - you are going to FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT. Pretend if you have to. You are going to act like you are happy, and you are going to act like you are positive, and you are going to act like you are the nicest and best person in the world. You are going to act saintly. When you "act" - you find yourself truly acting and feeling better. It's a psychology tool you can use. When you are feeling down, pretend you are an actor and have to act a part or role. It changes you in about 5 minutes of acting and pretending. Further, let's you and I stop thinking about and conjuring up all the crap we have lived with and gone through. Let's you and I take all the crap we have gone through and bury it - let's really bury it!! You and I are going to visualize it all being stuff into a large sack - one item at a time - getting stuffed into that sack. And you are going to bury it in the backyard - deep in a hole - never to be unearthed ever again. Visualize this - try it and see it happening. You may have to bury this crap (visualize this) 10 or 20 times before it take affect.

16. Last - never be too proud to say "I am sorry." If you have a hard time with these words - try these "I apologize." Say it with strength and say it with conviction. There is power in these two words "I apologize." No more. No explaining. Just those words. For men - who think apologizing is weak - it is the opposite. Only the strong can apologize. And take this too; Say, "I appreciate you."

I write this post for me today and I hope for you too got something out of it.

PS - Remember this is all for you. This is a get-well program for you. The addict is never mentioned here. When your loved one sees changes in you, he or she will be - let's say - fascinated.

PPS - And there are some friends who are reading this - who have addictions - You too can practice these 12 tools and have tremendous results I believe. There is nothing "super ordinate" about these practices.
I can tell you these do take time. But the pay off is feeling better and you will see your life turn around.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Treatment Center - A Problem Occurred

In an earlier Blog Post I mentioned my qualifier was going to start a treatment program. Also, she was on track for her 30 day chip.

Unfortunately, my wife went to the treatment center after drinking 4 bottles of wine - the smaller 4 pack - now conveniently packaged for all.

Apparently drinking before going to the program was not a good move as I received a call from my wife - from the center. (note: I am being facetious, not serious, tongue in cheek)

She blew twice the legal limit (1.6?) into a breathalyzer.

Note: It took her 6 hours to become sober enough to be allowed to drive home. She sat in the center until she was sober.

You may think yesterday was a bad day. On the contrary, I think it was a good day. Here's why:

  1. I learned that I could stop having to prove to others that there was a drinking problem. Suddenly, I felt at peace. It's weird what we go through. We are filled with self-doubt, as in; is there a problem; do others think I am exaggerating?; Am I going crazy? This by the way, spills over into other areas of life, like work, friends, etc.
  2. She learned how "drunk" she was. She learned she was 2 times the legal limit. She never, ever, could have guessed how drunk she had gotten.
  3. She never knew it took 6 - yes - 6 hours - to get below what was considered drunk, in order to drive home.

Maybe this is a wake-up call for my wife. The center was very professional. I won't go through the whole story, but they pulled her out of the "class" and had her sit. They didn't chastise, they didn't judge. They said, they will use this as a learning experience with her and the rest of her class. It will be used as I was told by the councilor said, "To explain and show others, how conniving and deceitful alcohol can be.

I found out - later - when my 10 year-old came home, that my wife went to the school drunk and worked with the class for 30 minutes before she went on to the treatment center. The fact that she drove to the treatment center and to school is something I have been worried about for a long time. The fact that she went to the school is a bad thing, as now it involves, my daughter and her school, which is something I do not feel good about.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday With Mom (continued)

Mom's departing advice. (See previous BLOG POST for more information and advice. You may recall, I came to visit mom while on a business trip. I am still here. Returning home today.)

Before I tell you the advice she gave me, you should know she spent over 30 years living with an alcoholic. We all grew up okay (whatever okay is today). My brother is a doctor (renown in his field), my brother is an entrepreneur (very successful), other brothers have good jobs, sister is writer and has full time job. All are "normal." I guess this is mom's resume and qualifications.

Here is the advice:
"Your main job is getting your daughter raised. Teach her what you know about things. Teach her how to run, read, study, get along with people and so on. Teach, teach, teach. And sometimes when she "doesn't want to" - you have to "force" her to do something." (I use the word "force" as I would "encourage" and "give no option". For example, get the tennis racket and go hit tennis balls, or teach her to stand correctly when hitting the balls. Or take her to the museum and "force" her to see things and experience things the TV or couch cannot provide. This is what I mean by "force." Just want to make sure you don't visualize me grabbing her and throwing her into a car!).

"Your wife ..." she went on to say ".....can only get better with her own doing. You cannot make her get better. So don't allow the family to be focused on the alcoholic by you becoming focused on the alcoholic. You can be supportive, but you must try to live your life as normally as possible so this can be a role model and example for her to live by."

Wow. This struck me hard this morning. I hope this helps you.

Best wishes

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday - Mom's Diagnosis & Prescription

I am at mom's house. It is good to see mom. She knows what is happening in my life. She gives me advice. She cools my jets. She doesn't make me feel guilty. She puts things in perspective. She takes no sides. She is a doctor in many ways, like all mothers can be.

But I must be clear - she listens - she listens more than she prescribes. She does not condemn my wife. She does not take sides. I am also careful not to blame my wife and I do not pummel her reputation. She remembers my father and his drinking. She remembers what it did to her.

So, my mother and I sit at the kitchen table talking, remembering . . . , it's too hard too remember. Not because the memory is a distant past, it is hard to remember because - it was a painful childhood, that is buried. It is covered with dirt. I had buried the past. But now I am forced to remember.

I stop the conversation and get try to keep the past buried and apply what we - mother/wife, and son/oldest son, have learned.

  • First of all, you, son are in control of how you respond. Remember son, you are responsible. Not in the sense of alcoholism. But in the sense of response-able. You have the ability to respond. And it is your ability to respond that can add or lessen the moment. Remember, you are response-able. I remember this from Stephen Covey's books. It's in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or in Principled Centered Leadership. She also states, "Yes this is easy for me to say, now that I am not in it. I know it is hard. No one will ever know what it is like to be in the house of an alcoholic and understand the impact on the people (family specifically) around it."
  • Second, I remember, what she told me growing up. It was simple, it was these words; "You can become anything you want to become." I did not understand what they meant at the time. But she was prodding me, pushing me, to have a better life than the kids I hung around with.
  • Third, "Who cares what other people think." I remember this one because of the peer pressure of children and growing up. We all were concerned what other people thought of us and whether we were going to be liked. I think as children and still as adults, we care sometimes way too much about what others are thinking about - and how they perceive us. I think this may even more true for children of alcoholics. "Who cares what other people think" is followed by, "You will probably never see these other kids again - so don't worry about what they think or what they do now." We are so concerned about what others think. I remember this saying, "Don't be concerned about what other people are thinking about you, because in reality, you actually may be more hurt when you learn how little they think about you."

I recall, the biggest saying, the most powerful verse, I have ever read. This is a summary law, that encapsulates all mom has told me. It is in the Bible. It is in the Koran. It is stated in all religions in one form or another. It is a universal truth. It is this:

.............................. "We become, what we think about most of the time."

This saying - this universal law - had a big effect on my life. It is this, you can control only one thing; your thoughts. And whatever you are thinking, most of the time, you become. Whatever you fill your head with, whatever the predominant thought is, you act and behave in a manner consistent with that thought or belief. So, if this is true, and it is, then the statement below is also true:

.................................. "Change your thinking and you change your life."

I hope this has helped you as it has helped me.

PS - My wife starts a treatment program today. It is outpatient.

PPS - I am not changing the moon out.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It Was Smooth Sailing Until Last Night

I went to a meeting yesterday morning. It was a good one. The person who ran the meeting was married to an addict for a long time. She is very articulate. She has a good job. I love listening to her speak. She is so smart.

I sat in Al-Anon today - silent. I could not add to the conversation and discussion. I tried to think what to add but I could not - it was perfect (or as near to perfect in my mind - I remember my previous Blog about progress not perfection).

I left in Peace - hence my little moon in the right hand corner. I love that little moon. It reminds me of my daughter when she was a toddler. There was a book called - was it - Mr Moon? She loved for me or my wife to read that to her. It had a great moon of the front of the book.

I think I need to change out "Mr. Moon."

It was time to decorate the Christmas Tree - or so I found out at 4:47PM yesterday. I found a movie I wanted to watch. I got "pressured" into turning it off. It irritated me that I had asked Friday, twice, and Saturday morning twice, "When are we planning to decorate the tree? I have to leave tomorrow morning don't forget ...." I said, said I. (I had to leave on business Sunday, this morning, until Tuesday. I am thinking about coming home Monday night so my wife won't be tempted to drink Tuesday. Co-dependent? Not I.)

The answer to my questions - both Friday and Saturday - were vague. I should have pressed. Didn't. I am not a "presser." I should have closed with a specific time. It was my fault as well. It is one of those boundary things we should do - I have learned. "We are to do this at this time. OK? Okey Dokey."

I turned off my movie - it was a cool movie - I am not sure what the title was. It was a little weird. Sandra Bullock had a small part. So did some other stars. It was about kindness and wrongs. It was a "surreal" movie in that the parts were mini-stories and the mini-stories made up a larger story where everything - I believe - comes together - because I didn't see the end. It was in LA - about the police and crime ...

I came to the room, where the tree was and there was no one. I asked - are "Doing the tree?" The answer, "Oh, ok." My daughter took off for next door. She wanted to invite the little girl next door. Of course I am a little hacked, because this is supposed to fun and a family thing. I say, "No." to my daughter's request to inviting the girl next door over (Why?). My daughter is now hungry, (pobably hurt too). And when was the last time she had a snack? I am not sure. "I gave to a fruit roll-up." was the response. This is pure sugar. Don't let the "Fruit" part of the name, "Fruit Roll-up" fool you. (I explain to you reader - who may not have seen this or partaken in such a candy.) I also explained to my wife who should - I believe know these things too.

This is where "Hell broke loose." My wife said "You do this all the time. You make Christmas miserable." Of course - I am not a happy camper. I hate blame. I really hate it when it aimed at me. I of course blew up and said, "You??? Are you kidding me??? If it wasn't for your drinking we would not be in this place. I wouldn't have had to go to an Al-Anon meeting this morning - a meeting which takes up all my Saturday morning ...." Yadda, yadda, yadda. And so the story goes. The negative forces and criticism and self-destruction were lurking just barely under the surface. These little fires were stoked by Resentment - the Prince of Hate and Anger.

A bad evening. We all sat at dinner and ate the frozen lasagna my wife and daughter picked up from Target. In silence.

I leave this morning in a few hours - feeling guilty and remorseful. The roller coaster of emotion will have to change too.

My apologies to all. I did not perform well last last night. I allowed myself to get sucked in to the dysfunction. Last night I was not a leader, a beacon of hope. I screwed up.

I hate taking down the moon and putting the roller coaster up.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Just For Today

Practice these guidelines daily. Learn them by reading them first thing in the morning and last things before going to bed at night. "Just For Today" is a great tool for all of us to live by. They cultivate character, the goodness within all of us. They are beautifully written and will fill you with hope and faith through inspiring us all to act with gentleness and kindness, no matter how we are being treated. Here they are in their original form.

Just for today I will try to live through this day only & not tackle my whole life problem 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 & not try to adjust everything else to my desires. I will take my 'luck' as it comes & fit myself into 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 & concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn & 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 good as I can, dress becomingly, talk low, act courteously, criticize not one bit, not find fault with anything & not try to improve or regulate anybody except 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 & indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself & relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective on my life.Just for today I will be unafraid. I will enjoy that which is beautiful & will believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Note to Myself

It's hard. You come home. Expect the house to be in order - some semblance of neatness. Her eyes are puffy, the lips have a sort of sneer. I try not to stare. Try not to look to see if she has been drinking. It's hard.

I go to another room. I have tried talking to her and asking her "Have you had a drink today?" It's a stupid question. It's like asking a house burglar in your house, "Have you been out stealing?"

"Why, no. Of course not."

It's a stupid question. All I want is the truth. I have stopped seeking the truth. I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for her. She didn't ask for this. She didn't say, "Hey, let me become an alcoholic, because alcoholics have more fun." It's a bummer all the way around. Who I really feel sorry for is my daughter.

Her mommy will not really see her when she comes home today. There will be no, "How was school today, little girl?" There will be no, "Let's sit down and talk about what you learned today." And no "How the other girls were mean/nice to you?"

I have to fill that role of mom and dad. Last night we watched (my daughter and I) Felicity. A cute movie about a girl during the Revolutionary War period who loved horses, and who always helped people. In the movie, Felicity is 10. My daughter is 10. My daughter sat next to me on the couch, and grabbed my hand during three parts. That was great. She has seen the movie now five times. My daughter can now repeat certain parts. Pretty cute. She's excited that I am sitting there watching the movie. She is more excited about telling me to, "wait until you see what happens next" which is even more cute. Here she is the boss. I am on her turf.

We are watching it together - alone - without mom. We watch it to learn more about the Revolutionary War, which she is studying in school. The movie now makes more sense to her. She did not know what a Loyalist was or a Patriot was. Now it all is coming together. Especially since she has studied for a test she has to take today.

I had to leave the house at 5:30AM this morning - for a client meeting. I was gone long enough for my wife to buy alcohol and drink it. Now she lays in bed stating she is headed to lay down, because she is not feeling well. I still look through her pocket book for a receipt. All I find is a huge bottle of gum. It a bottle of gum I never knew they made. It holds 60 chicklet size pieces of gum. I'd say there are twenty left. I was tempted to dump them out and count them. I didn't.

She does not like going to AA meetings. She thinks they are too negative and want to make her drink more. She is saying in the same breath hwoever, that she is going for her 30 day chip next week - next Thursday to be exact. There have been several days where I have "sensed" she had a drink or two. Of course she denies it. I don't fuss about it. Except I tell her, that it's more important to tell the truth, and don't make a bigger lie out of something by collecting a 30 day chip if you have had something to drink. It was the wrong thing to say. Damn it.

I wish she had a stronger sponsor. Her sponsor probably wishes she had a stronger sponsoree.

I left the house strong and full of vigor (what ever the hell that is). I came back to a house of cards and my shoulders are hunched down. I had a great meeting with my client and my staff. I was very pleased. Now I am home. Not so pleased. I am starting to spiral. It's like a whirlpool. Or a plane circling downward toward earth. It's the best way I can describe it. Even though I have never been in a plane circling toward earth or caught in a whirlpool.

I heard someone say that you can act yourself back into a positive state by controlling your posture - and how you are sitting and acting. I read; Act like you were proud and confident and happy. Think, "How would a strong, confident and happy person sit? How would he breath?"

Now sit this way. So, my shoulders go back. Now they are back. I am sitting upright. My stomach is in. My breath is deeper. I am breathing with more force through my nose. (I wonder if my nostrils will become enlarged.) It's a stray thought - but a thought. I am breathing down into my diaphragm -stomach. My chest and stomach are working to suck in air. My chin - it should be up. Hard to type with chin up. Try chin up and down while typing interesting - this is working. My head is going up and down. I look like a nut case. This reminds me of something . . .

My brother is a doctor. He is pretty well renown in certain circles (not my spiraling circles). For the mothers' of children reading this - I came from a large family. "Large" - what is that? More than four children let's say - in order to keep the anonymity. All of us made it through the cycle of having an alcoholic father. He had it tough. Very, very smart man, my father. Articulate. Beat us verbally when drinking. We learned big words, very quickly. We can denigrate people in the flick of a second. Cut 'em and mow'em down. We did that too. But we learned better - from the stinging words of a drunken father, but the kindness of a strong mother. We had a mother who taught us right from wrong. She would not be afraid of hitting us with a belt either. Good lady -still alive. Seeing her this weekend. Never knew how tough she had it. I tell her now - in deeper meaning - how grateful I am for kicking our asses and making us make something of ourselves. And holding us to higher standards than the people around us (our peers).

Anyway - back to doctor brother.

I am in a hotel room. I am having chest pains. (this is about seven years ago - so I did not die). I am concerned. I call dear doctor brother. I tell him what is happening. He listens.

He says: "Hmmm. Having chest pains. Try this. Brother, stick your right arm out straight."

THOSE OF YOU reading this may want to try this. It is a lesson in human anatomy and science. Something I had not known until now.

So I stick out my arm. Straight out.

Now he says; "Make a fist. Have you made a fist brother?" (you too reader).

"Yes" is my reply.

"Turn the fist so the knuckles are facing up, and make your fist tight. Is it tight? Now take the hand of your other arm and place it on the inside of the elbow - where it bends. Now hold out your arm straight, but bend the top portion of the arm - up and down twice. Fast." I do it.

Are you doing this? (I am in a hotel room, phone cradled between my shoulder and chin doing this, mind you.)

He says, "Now do it again. This time take the fist and rap it into your forehead three times."

I do it. I rap my head three times. I say, "Now what?"

"Do it again. And while you are doing it this time, ask yourself, "Knock, knock is anyone home? Go see a doctor you idiot."

Some brother.

I am breathing better.