Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why I Am Here

I belong to a new Al-Alon meeting group. In this meeting we decided as it was being formed to do something slightly different. It is to read this book "How Al-Anon Works . . . "

What we do (and I know - it may sound ridiculously moronic) is start at Chapter 1 and read a paragraph. The next person reads a paragraph and so on. It's a men's group - a pretty diverse group of guys who are pretty, I don't know how to say it exactly, smart and successful. They are; stockbrokers, lawyers, sales and marketing, HR types, and others - not a dumb one in the bunch. I tell you this about us, because reading a paragraph and then having someone else do it sounds - well - bizarre. You might think we are on the fringes of society or just plain weird. (I am weird - but not these guys. I have seen miracles that some might call coincidences a lot through my life. I am only now believing in a Higher Power and trusting more than ever my intuitive side which has been very strong). And I was very skeptical - then . . . I did it. It was - very enlightening. I think it is because of all us in a room focused on the reading must send out strong vibrational forces into the universe. It's unity and harmony perhaps [I am not even sure what I am saying - except something powerful took place yesterday].

I thought this was a bizarre way to conduct a meeting anyway, until we did it. After each paragraph you can comment.

What was really strange was in the first meeting, the person - almost to a person - who read the passage said, "Oh my God, this is me. This is my life. I could have written this."

Or they said, "I have read this book four or five (or a hundred times), and I never heard these words spoken like this before and had them resonate with me before like this."

To hear them and me say these things - it was very strange and yet uplifting.

I want to read a part of the book that means a lot to me. This is from page 5 Chapter 1. Perhaps it means something to you this week;
None of us came to Al-Anon because our lives resemble the "happily-ever-after" of fairy tales. We come to Al-Anon because we are grappling with an assortment of problems. We hope to find answers . . .

. . . Many of us believe that we know the real problem with our friend or relative - and that it has nothing to do with alcoholism. We identify the problem as a bad temper, immaturity, too much or too little religion, lack of willpower, bad luck,, the wrong boss or wrong friends or wrong city, the children, the in-laws, physical illness or disability, financial irresponsibility, or any number of other things. When it is suggested that the underlying problem may be alcoholism we balk. After all, alcoholics are dirty, smelly, deranged bums who live on the street and have lost everything they once cherished. Or at least this may be what we've always believed.

In reality, many alcoholic have jobs, homes, families, and untarnished images or respectability. Their drinking many not be readily apparent, or it may seem barely noticeable compared to the problems that result from or go hand-in-hand with the drinking-the violence, financial and legal problems, insults and excuses, unreliable and irresponsible behavior. Besides, if everyone in our lives drinks to excess, alcoholic drinking may seem perfectly normal.

For those of us who never even knew the drinker, recognizing the true nature of the problem can be even more difficult . . . [it goes on to say we may be affected by a grandparent or distant relative - for as they say, alcoholism is a "family disease" and it is "cunning and baffling."]

I always thought - before I came to Al-Anon, that alcoholism was only the people who could not function; lost jobs, wives, fought, etc.

I am now surprised to find out how little I knew. And I am not alone. The average person says they understand alcoholism, but they don't know the affects on the family members and how it may affect the family members more than the alcoholic. In fact - a psychologist - (I have to find the pamphlet) actually states it affects the spouse or close family member more than the alcoholic.

I have a couple of reasons as to why I posted this passage. I hope that this reading and the passage helps you today.

Know this;
1. You are not alone. You are only alone if you cannot find people to talk to who have been affected by this disease. The average Joe-Blow does not understand and cannot empathize with you. They will tell you in effect to "Try harder to change him or cope or . . ." or something like that which may actually harm you. Staying or doing it by yourself is "isolating." Isolating is one of the affects of the disease. The disease does not want to be called out on the carpet.
2. You are not to blame. You did not "cause it, can't cure it and can't change it." This is a fact and is one of our slogans. The disease will make you think you did it and caused it. My spouse says I am actually a "trigger." Do not accept such bull.
3. Do not engage (fight or argue or persuade). You make the illness stronger. You weaken yourself.
4. Focus on yourself. You actually strengthen you and weaken the alcoholism in the alcoholic. I can't explain why, except it works.
5. Read, go to meetings, and talk to other in Al-Anon. I love meetings. They are spiritual in nature. It is another place and opportunity for me to become "centered." It is my place to hear God and feel his presence. I do more praying here than anywhere. For those of you reading this - and feel somewhat appalled about God in Al-Anon meetings - I saw this bumper sticker at one of the facilities where AA and Al-Anon meetings take place and I like it; "God is too big for just one religion." I think this sums it up "too big." I believe he is also too big to fit into any one church alone. He is a presence that is far bigger than we have any way to comprehend.

I hope you are well. Thanks for the encouragement!


Butterfly said...

Thank you for posting this! It is what I need to hear today.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound ridiculous or weird. Often we learn or hear differently when words are read aloud by others, or ourselves, than when we read silently.

I appreciate your words about alcoholism's effect on those who are closest to the alcoholic. It is difficult not to feel I am somehow imagining or exaggerating things. The alcoholic, of course, sees no problem, which means that if I see one then I must be crazy.

I was talking to a friend (who has experience w/these issues) about how hard it is to consider leaving, because of the cycle of good and bad, (Good = sober, bad = drinking) especially when the ratio is more good than bad. She said, "It's seductive." That summed it up well. For the alcoholic, the drink is seductive. But for those nearest the alcoholic, the idea that the problem doesn't exist, or isn't as big as we imagine, or might someday change, or can be coped with... all of these are seductive. That we can continue to live together--me, him, alcohol--that too is seductive.

Kimberly said...

It is very seductive. The whole idea that what I think isn't really happening as bad as I think it is. That maybe I have it wrong and am reading too much into things. This is what keeps me from leaving. Sometimes I wish I were stronger.

Syd said...

The meeting format you describe is what we do in my step study group and what was done in the very first meeting I attended. It is quite a common format. It gives everyone a chance to think about what they have read and how it relates to their situation. I use the same format with my sponsees.

Anonymous said...

I've heard from a long time Alanon that the alcoholic is obessed with the booze and we (the Alanons) are obsessed with the boozer. Whether he drinks, how much he drinks, if he has a sober period, etc. etc. That pretty much sums it up for me!

Anonymous said...

Interesting passage. I have been going to CoDA groups, some AA speaker meetings and most recently Al Anon. The Al Anon meetings I have been to are run exactly as described but this is very different from the other meetings I have been going to. I have to attend more of them before I can say whether the methodology is odd.

I was seduced by the hopes of normalcy and the now-and-then normalcy that peeked through. Not anymore. I have stepped away and will not be stepping back. I don't want to live that codependent life any longer. I am stepping away from the abuse and I am intent on protecting my children from it. They do not deserve to be Adult Children of Alcoholics and I will not sit idly by while that developes.