Friday, June 6, 2008


In working the first three Steps, we try to restore ourselves to sanity. I have worked the first three Steps accidentally, by the way. It was in working the first Step that I had to realize there was a power greater than me to handle the stuff I could not handle. So, I drifted to the next two Steps, because I worked Step 1 so hard. Because I had Step 1 worked, I still had unresolved issues, so I had to ask for help - turn it over - as Step 3 states, and give it the God of our understanding. Which meant, I had to accept, a God, in Step 2, and have him restore me to sanity.

This concept was SO foreign to me, that in the beginning I thought this was hogwash (I state it more strongly but you get my drift). It was only when I realized that I needed help and that working Step 1 would "allow" me to give up the things I could not manage. BUT FIRST I HAD TO REALIZE IT. The "IT" I am referring to is; "That I could not manage or do everything on my own."

This was a big realization for me. Let me tell you how I did it, in hopes that it may help you.

First, a very powerful figure in my life told me: "Joe, just read and reread Step 1." I thought he was crazy. It took me a month to just do what he said. So I read Step 1 over and over. I did not get it. I thought it was bull.

Then, one night, before a meeting, I went to a Panera Bread Company, sat there, and read from "Hope for Today" all the Step 1 passages I could. I took notes in a spiral bound notebook. In fact, I rewrote the passages in the first person. This means, I wrote, "I am . . . " or "I have . . . " as I copied each or almost each line from about six or seven passages out the book before the meeting.

Then what I did, I tried to relate each topic that was brought up in every meeting, to Step 1. I asked myself - about the topic - "How does this subject relate to Step 1?" I did not do this scientifically, that is, I did this accidentally.

Then, my sponsor - who is a good soul - pushed me to buy Paths To Recovery. He then sat me down and asked me questions that are in the back of the Chapter on Step 1 and discuss them with him. Man, it was laborious. But he is a good man, and he wants to help, because it helped him. That is, what we were doing - talking about Step 1 - was actually reinforcing the ideas and concepts in his mind and emotion.

Those three things, helped me. It was not a perfect process. But it got me into understanding I needed help. That I was insane because of the qualifier in my life. She was lying to me and covering up her drinking. I could no longer tell when she was completely sober or not. In fact few can. Except for one time - in the morning when she first wakes up. She is a VERY different person. A kind, loving, sweet, gentle person. But - somewhere she takes one swig of wine - her whole body, mind, emotion, facial expression, talk, etc. shifts just slightly. Sometimes, the swig is two or three, the shift is more pronounced. She has learned to "control" her drinking, so as to not let on. I know this now that I am a little closer to sanity.

I also learned, that I could not control her drinking - that is - stop her. My trying to stop her from drinking, drove me crazy, not her. This was and still is - a huge hurdle that I am now over.

So, Sanity. This is what we need - first and foremost. Why? Because YOU owe it to yourself. You cannot make a rational decision or decisions based upon INSANITY that you are living in and are accustomed to. You owe it to your children too.

Sanity. Sanity. Sanity. We get there - I believe - by working Step 1 hard. And then, because you have stuff you cannot manage, you have to have a power to turn it over to and get him to work the stuff you cannot. By the way, it is not just the BIG stuff, it is the stuff that can be too emotional too. This does not mean we escape responsibility - like not needing health insurance - but it does mean we turn it over to our Higher Power to get guidance, provide an answer, give us strength, open a door for us to walk through. Answers do come. And Sanity begins to be restored.

I hope this passage helps you today. But you have to work the program. The program is the Steps in Al-Anon. It means reading, getting a Sponsor (GET ONE - even if it is a temporary sponsor), working the Steps, and going to meetings.

Oh yes, speaking of meetings, this helped me too. I went to about 5 to 10 meetings a week for about four weeks. I go to about 4 to 6 meetings a week now. I am fortunate enough that there are a lot of meetings in my city.

One more thing about meetings, before I sign off. I am going to say this, because I need to. I go to a lot of "different" Al-Anon meetings. There are meetings in certain parts of my city that cater to special interest groups - but they are open to all. They may be gay, African-American, Hispanic, etc. I have found these meetings are much stronger than many of the other "regular" meetings I go to. Why? Because, in these other meetings, these people have been through a lot of intense pain, perhaps ridicule, and perhaps non-acceptance. Here in these meetings, are people who have been where you may be or worse - have been in places you cannot imagine the pain. But because of their pain, and there ability to feel and empathize, they are very open, honest and very accepting. Here in these meetings, if you can find people who have been through intense pain and are very serious about Al-Anon, will you find, some great strength and courage and wisdom.


Syd said...

Good post Joe. I think that Step One needs to be worked hard. It is a concept in which the ego has to be crushed and we have to fully understand how powerless we are.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this site. I haven't been able to attend a Alanon meeting due to work, kids, and trying to better myself by going back for some college classes for the last year. My husband is an alcoholic who lost his job six months ago because of it. He has only contributed 540 dollars in that time. To stay afloat I have used credit cards to pay bills. I am at my wits end. And now he is trying to demand sex and gets crazy mad and drives drunk all the time. This is not the man I married 20 years ago. His drinking was gradual or I guess I always explained it away until recently and didn't want to accept he has a problem that just gets worse. I can still tell when he isn't drinking and is and that makes him mad too. The situation is unhealthy and he has been going back and forth for the last month from living in his mom's basement and living with us. I know soon he will tell me he is not going to leave because I want him too. But at least the days he stays away the kids and I can have some sanity in the house. He doesn't get physical, but tries to manipulate or lie (which that is new, he never did that before the last month). I am having a hard time dealing and the kids are just mad at the situation. My daughter is vocal about it to me, which is good. My son tried to keep it bottled in, even though I tell him its okay to talk to me. We do feel totally powerless and will probably be homeless on top of that. My kids should not have this worry. How could their dad do this to us and it not affect him. He is the only one it seems that doesn't have a worry in the world.

Anonymous said...


Lean on God and talk openly to God about your struggles. Ignore your spouse when he's been drinking. Tough love is hard, but very effective. Your husband will begin to see over time how when he chooses alcohol he's not choosing his family. He will be alone with his demon with no distractions. Maybe he'll tire of his helplessness and seek help. Be patient, he has to really suffer the isolation as a consequence consistently before he makes the connections between his behavior and the absence of his family. He is the only one who can choose to change and it has to come from a place of pain and great suffering. Without major pain he'll continue living in denial. Hang in there, you're not alone. Keep reading and learning from others who've experienced the heartache of alcoholism. There is hope and possiblity for a greater good to come out of all you're experiencing.

FrannyGlass said...

Thanks for the great post, Joe. I also like Paths to Recovery. The questions at the end of each chapter are so rich for self discovery. I've had an ah-ha moment with each one.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous. I guess the part about his isolation is going to start a little sooner than we all thought. I came home and answered the mail yesterday and it says he got a dui earlier in the week, it's from a lawyer's office. I didn't know anything about it. His parents bonded him out. This is his third one in I think nine years. I called him when I got the letter (He has been staying at his parents) and told him I never thought I'd say it, but I want a divorce...I'm done. Now comes the worry of how to stop him from putting more on the credit cards. We are already buried in debt. I don't know how to tell the kids about this.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this post, it makes me realize I need to go back to step 1, even though I thought i was on step 4. I hate how emotional I get responding to the alcholics b.s. I wish I could not react. Also the loneliness that comes with being in a relationship with a sick person.

Julia said...

In response to Anonymous who is afraid of more credit card debt but the alcoholic, I would suggest canceling your credit cards and having them reissue new ones in your name only.
I know whats is like. My mom has put my fiance and I in HUGE debt because she is unable to work like a normal person so of course I take the burden. We are praying that when she gets out of rehab, she gets a job and starts paying her own way or she will lose her house. Why is it that alcholics think its ok to let others take the burden...and don't even seem to understand the implications? Its infuriating!