Sunday, January 6, 2008

Al-Anon - A Place to Unburden

Yesterday was my "Al-Anon Day." I went to my meeting, my normal, regular Saturday meeting. It's amazing how much warmth I receive from this group - but yesterday was special for me. I hung around a couple of minutes after the meeting. I spoke to another man in a similar predicament as mine (his wife drinks too).

As I was leaving I was stopped several times. "Hello Joe." and "Hello Joe." Followed by hugs. I am a big guy. Never really thought of myself as huggable. I am always a little distant - "aloof" - is what my psychological/leadership assessments would say. "Aloof." Sounds like and reads like, an Albanian dog woofing. At least to me.

"Aloof." Interesting now that I am typing this. We could probably have a field day analyzing why I am distant or "aloof." The one word that pops into my head is "protection."

Protection of what? Probably my feelings. Now you know more than you care to know. TMI is what my daughter and her friends would say. "TMI dad!" Meaning, for those of us no longer with the in crowd "Too much information."

As I went through my daily morning reading ritual, I came across a section in a book I want to share that relates directly to Al-Anon. The words were magic to me this morning. I hope they make sense to you as you read them.

The book is An Adult Child's Guide To What's "Normal" (click here to link to review it). I bought a copy two weeks ago. First of all, it is a book you can skim. It is broken into readable sections short enough to digest (each chapter is 2 to 4 pages long). Or you can take out a notebook and pen and copy words and passages into the notebook.

I started to skim it. Then, I saw some things in the book that put things into perspective that I have not been dealing with. So, I took out my trusty pen and notebook and began copying sections. [This, if you have not read my earlier posts, helps me focus and helps be identify better with what the authors are saying. I have found that the message sinks into my head better when I write. I never get the depth of the message if I just read it. But when I rewrite or copy, it is amzing what happens!]

I will tell you, honestly, I held off buying this book. Why? Here's why; I was worried that I would find more things wrong with me and things I could not fix or address. And therefore, these things would become more of a burden, than they would actually help me. The truth is, I am tired of "blaming" my dad [my father was an alcoholic]. I am tired of the "you can from a screwed up family and therefore you are what you are - screwed up too. Who isn't from a screwed up family? All those who aren't, . . . raise your hand. And those who are, raise your middle finger. [Anyone finding that offensive, I apologize. It was meant to be a little humorous. Another problem I have. I'll save that one for later and we can all discuss it.]

But the book gave me an insight in one of the shortest sections. It was an insight that I want to use in closing out "How Al-Anon might help you" theme over the past week.

While the book didn't say anything about Al-Anon, it did talk about 12-Steps meetings.

Here is what it said, Chapter 23 "I Can Work This Out Myself":
The chapter is 2 pages. It talks to "isolation" and "overdependence". Isolation is not talking to anyone about what is bothering you. And the opposite, overdependence, dumping on someone so much, you rely on the person all the time. It talks of a balance between the two. Here is what it said about the benefits of a "A 12-Step Meeting (i.e. Al-Anon)."

"What does balance look like? We see it all the time, all around us. We see it in healthy 12-Step Meetings where you can go, share your pain and your crisis, unburden yourself of some of your shame and then leave, knowing that no one is going to take repsonsibility for your own life or hover over you but also knowing that you can come back next week to share some more pain." (Friel & Friel page 111)

It is a place where we can share our pain. A place where we can unburden our shame. [A place to unburden the guilt, the fears and doubts.]

And, be able to come back next week, without being embarrassed about what you said.


Wow! This was powerful to read this morning. Unburden. It was a safe place to unburden the shame. Al-Anon is a place where you can share your fears, doubt, stupid things you did, safely, without ridicule or judgment from others.

I hope this message makes sense to you and it has the same affect on you as it did to me this morning.

Next Saturday I am the speaker/facilitator or whatever it is called, for Saturday's Al-Anon Meeting. This will be my first time as speaker. I am reading and preparing from the Al-Anon book "Courage to Change." I will cover with you what I am thinking about saying. (As long as you don't tell anyone!)


nanceelee said...

Ummm, yeah...I think I should buy that book. I'm so ready to give up the shame, and blame.

Good luck with speaking, you will do great, if it's at all like your blog :-)

Joe said...

Thank you - you are very kind! I will keep you posted ;-)

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