I Could Not Do It In My Own Power, God Could & I Decided To Let Him

The first step says that we are powerless over alcohol and our life is unmanageable. My inability to accept that there was not a darn thing I could do to control the way my husband drank pushed me to embarrassing and ridiculous links trying to control his drinking.

But no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I begged or threatened nothing worked. Because of alcohol I never knew what he would say or do and because of alcohol I never knew how I would react until it was too late. So I lived constantly on the edge of insecurity, anxiety and fear and that is what made my life totally unmanageable. And I blamed every thing that I did on his drinking.

At my very first meeting they told me that my program was for and about me. From that first meeting on they helped me to keep the focus on me; on what I could and could not do. At first I was resistant because I was afraid that if I took my eye off of his problem that our life would train wreck. But the truth was that our life already was a train wreck.

Learning to focus on me instead of him was something that came slowly over time. Every time my mind jumped to what he was doing someone in my program helped me to look at me and my reactions. This first step helped me to see my proper place in my little world. Admitting my powerlessness lifted a huge burden off of my heart. I no longer had to feel guilty. His drinking was not my fault. I no longer had to be stressed trying to control the uncontrollable. God was not on vacation and it was not my job to save the world…….

I was only responsible for me and the things that I did. Even then I could not seem to pull myself out of the nose dive I was in in my own power. Thank God there was a second step. Only a power greater than any human being could help me. Believe me if I had had the power to restore peace, security and happiness in my life in my own power I would have done it along time ago. But I couldn’t and whats more is I didn’t have too.

So in the third step I surrendered. I couldn’t do it in my own power, God could and I decided to let him.

If It Was Going To Be It Was Up To Me

My husband was addicted to alcohol and I was addicted to my husband. He drank and his drinking affected me as much as it affected him. He caused chaos and my reaction caused even more chaos and totally made my life unmanageable. Sometimes I was a control freak. I thought that if I could control it everything would work out fine. There was one little problem with that obsession. I could not control my alcoholic.

The first step was a huge wake up call for me. When I admitted I was powerless over alcohol it dawned on me that by desperately trying to control my alcoholic I had lost control over myself and that was why my life was unmanageable. I found that although I truly was powerless over him and his drinking I was not powerless over myself. My reactions implied that I was powerless over myself but the reality was I was completely responsible for me and my emotions, my reactions, and my happiness.

All my life I had depended on, and had expected, someone else to make me happy. Obviously that was not working for me. Now I realized if that was going to happened it was up to me. But understanding it and following through are two different things. First I had to learn to like and believe in myself. The problem was I was not even sure who I was or what I wanted. I had lived for so long trying to be all things to all people that I did not even know the real me.

In order to take back responsibility for my life I had to examine my motive for every action and reaction with other people. Was this my responsibility or was it someone else’s? Was this something I wanted to do or was it something I felt like I had to do? Was this the right thing to do for the right reason?

Every step in my recovery journey has built me up. There was, and is, not one thing that I needed to do that was self-depreciating. It may be painful sometime because I had to learn a new way of thinking and a new way of doing things, but there has never been anything that I needed to do to heal that was self-depreciating.

It was, and still is, important to keep and open mind. So many times I would look at the accomplishments of others and think that I would never be able to do that myself. Now I know my real limitations are the ones that I put on myself. Keeping an open mind has helped me to experience peace and joy in my life in ways that I had never considered before. I found that if it was going to be it was up to me to take responsibility for my life.

When I Was A Child In A Grown UP World

When I was a child in a grown up world, every grown up had authority over me – parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents – everyone that was an adult had the power to make decisions over my life. I could not wait to be grown up and make my own decisions. I vowed to myself that I would do a much better job of it than the adults that had authority over me when I was growing up.

I was wrong. I found it was harder to be a grown up than I ever imagined. I did not want to be responsible for my decisions. Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to make the decision and I wanted the outcome to be as I planned. And when it did not turn out the way that I had planned I wanted it to be someone else’s fault.

I did make some different decisions and I also made some of the same decisions that I promised myself I would never make. Looking back I can see how the hurts from my past colored the way that I made decisions and most of the time that was not necessarily a good thing.

Growing up I jumped through hoops and did what ever I needed to do to keep the peace and stay out of trouble. As an adult I applied that philosophy to how I related to others. I did what I thought you wanted me to do so that you would like me. Then over time I would get angry and have a resentment. After that it was just a matter of time before something would happen and I would lose my cool and blow up over something silly. Then I would feel embarrassed and guilty. And then guess what. I was back to jumping through hoops to make people like and accept me again.

History was repeating itself in my life. If I did not break the cycle of neediness, anger and resentment I would teach my children to live that way too. I realized that I was their classroom. I was teaching them how relate to life. Thanks to my recovery program I learned how to interpret my life differently. Other people and hurtful circumstances from the past did not define me. Now it was time for the real grown up decisions – It was time for me to define myself worth and not be desperately looking for someone out there to make me feel whole. There was nothing easy about this process but I had a clear choice to make. Stay miserable and past that legacy on to my kids or I could put the effort in to learning how to love and respect myself – no matter how awkward and uncomfortable the journey was. I did it one day at a time and my staying true to my commitment to find peace and happiness for myself.

We Beat Each Other Up With Words & Never Had True Reconciliation

It is not that my alcoholic never apologized for the bad things that he did, because from time to time he did apologize. The problem was, at that time, he was incapable of taking responsibility for his bad behavior. Which means that every time he apologized he then told me all the reasons why it was my fault that he did what he did. Before it was over I ended up apologizing for causing him to hurt me. It never occurred to me how twisted and distorted that was. It never occurred to me that it was not really an apology.

The funny thing is that I did the same thing to him when I apologized. In other words we beat each other up with words and never had a true reconciliation of a problem. Neither of us took responsibility for the ugly things that we did.

When I began my recovery journey I had no idea how reconciliation would require me to look at my life and how I behaved in a way that I had never done before. In the past I was torn between blaming myself and then blaming everyone else for all of the pain in my life. My 4th step inventory required an honest self-examination. This process helped me to see my life without the rationalizations and justifications. Through this process I learn to separate the blurred lines between my bad behavior and someone else’s.

In my 5th step my sponsor helped me to understand that I was powerless over other people’s bad behavior but I was not powerless over mine. I could no longer conduct business as usual. If I wanted a better life then it was time to start being responsible for the choices I made and the things that I did.

Now I know that without taking responsibility for my own behavior I have no reason to change that behavior. A heart felt apology means that I know that I have done something wrong. It means that regardless of how anyone else behaves that I know that I am the person responsible for how I behaved. I know that two wrongs don’e make a right.

Lessons From A Recovery Journey Junkie

My alcoholic and I both had problems with boundaries. I did not know how to say no and he thought that I had no right to say no. The few times that I did try to established boundaries he accused me of being selfish and self-centered. Sometimes he would get extremely angry, other times I got the cold treatment, sometimes I was punished and things that I wanted or needed were no longer available, and there was always the old guilt trip.

There was no doubt about it, as soon as I said no, I became public enemy number one. The crazy thing is that I had to fight myself as much as the manipulators in my life. Sometimes I would start out strong but then I could not follow through. Sometimes I folded right out of the gate. Every time I caved my self-esteem took another hit.

Why? Why? Why was it so difficult for me to establish healthy boundaries for myself? It was through the 4th and 5th steps that I began to see how a pattern of fear and rejection ruled my life. I could see all the ways I jumped through hoops to be liked, loved and accepted. And you know what else showed up? Not any of the things that I did to buy someone else’s approval worked. Oh don’t get me wrong, they did work sometimes for the moment, but once they got what they wanted I felt cast aside until they needed me again.

My boundaries fell into different categories. There was the fear category. You might be angry or you might punish me category. There was the I want you to like me or need me category and there was the sob story category. And of course there was the old show off category. That one for sure always came back to bite me in the but.

There were a lot of variables I had to consider to even to begin to figure this boundary thing out. The first was my motive. What was in it for me? What did I hope to gain? How would I feel if I did not get what I wanted? Was I going to be resentful, angry, disappointed or hurt? Was this an attempt of manipulation and control on my part? Was I trying to buy a relationship? Acceptance? Approval?

The success of this program depends on self-honesty. Until I could answer the above questions honestly there was very little progress. I have to be honest with you. I am light years better than I use to be, but I am still sucker for a sob story today. In fact, I backed myself into an insane project recently with all kinds of potential for things to go wrong. Part of this project is running smoothy other parts not so smooth.

When I look at myself in the mirror at night I have to laugh at myself for getting myself in this position in the first place. I really did know better – I just decided to do it anyway. Now I have to see it through to the end. I can truthfully say I don’t regret pushing my boundary on this one. But at the same time there is a lot I have learned about myself through this process – for sure I won’t get an A in boundary setting. Oh well maybe next time. Recovery is a process.

Lessons from a recovery journey junkie – We don’t graduate, recovery is a process, always be honest about our motive, remember not every good motive should be acted upon, take ownership for our mistakes and forgive ourselves when we mess up.

Of Course Normal Healthy People Avoided Me Like the Plague

I have spent hours and hours over analyzing my relationships trying to understand what made me gravitate toward broken people. I have come up with a whole laundry list of reasons and all of them have merrit. All of them have some uncomfortable truth in them.

For one – broken people gave me a built-in excuse for not living up to my own potential. They gave me an excuse for not doing anything to help myself to make my own dreams come true. In other words I always had someone else to blame for why I failed myself.

Another reason is because I was broken too and I was looking for someone else to fix me and my world and make me complete. They say that it takes one to know one and therefore broken people were easy to find. We were like magnets drawn to each other. Each of us felt incomplete and we were looking for someone else to make us feel whole.

In some of my broken relationships I even felt superior. I may be messed up but not near as messed up as they were. Those one-sided relationships had me grinding my teeth and feeling emotionally drained and exhausted. I thought I was controlling them when in reality they controlled me through my arrogance.

Of course normal healthy people avoided me like the plague. At the time it hurt my feelings but now I understand. It was not because I was broken that they avoided me, they avoided me because I was broken and was not willing to do anything to help myself. I find that same characteristic in myself now. I will do anything to help some one that wants to be helped and is willing to do anything to help themselves. At the same time I avoid the professional whiner and victim.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was in a victim, martyr, and feel sorry for my self rut. I really did want to be happy and live happy ever after but I wanted someone else to make it happen for me. I was stuck in my misery for a long time. My life sucked and I did not believe it could get any worse – but it did, and that is when my circumstances and my pain became intolerable. That was when I became willing to give this program a chance. Now I understand what they mean when they say that this program is not very everyone – only for the ones who want it because it works if you work it.

Going Back Was The Best Decision That I Ever Made In My Life

Most of the time I was filled with anger and resentment; but there were other times I was confused and overwhelmed with depression. Wounded and hurting and I did not know how to change my circumstances or the constant pain in my heart. Sometimes I believed his drinking was my fault other times I thought it was because he did not love me enough.

I went to my first recovery meeting because I thought they would teach me how to teach my alcoholic how to control his drinking. I was completely obsessed with learning how to control his drinking, because I thought that was the solution to all of our problems, all of the heartache and all of the disappointments.

I was devastated when they told me that I was powerless over him and his drinking. I was his wife for heavens sake. Didn’t that mean anything at all? He said he loved me and I wanted him to prove it by controlling his drinking. Every time he failed to control his drinking I took it personal. I believed it was my fault. I believed he didn’t care enough.

They told me his drinking was not about me. They told me I did not cause him to drink; That I certainly did not have the power to control his drinking and that I could not cure it. But I could not wrap my mind around what they were saying. Thank goodness the meeting was an hour long because later in the meeting I heard someone say that Alcoholism was a disease and not a moral choice. Maybe that is what they meant when they said it was not my fault? Did that also mean that he wasn’t doing it on purpose to hurt me?

It was a lot to take in and I did not have enough information to know what to do. I was more confused than ever. Someone recommended that I go to at lease 6 meetings and learn a little more before I decided whether or not I was going to give this program a chance. Then with a twinkle in her eye she said that at the end of 6 meetings if I did not want to go any more they would return all my misery. I was hooked.

She was right – I was miserable. She was right – I could not learn enough in one hour to determine if this was the place for me or not. I wasn’t even sure I could learn it in 6 meetings much less in one. But what I did learn in one hour was that my problems were not unique and I was not alone. There were people in that room that had a sense of peace I could not even begin to understand. Even though it made no sense to me, I knew one thing for sure and certain I wanted what they had so I went back.

Going back was the best decision I had ever made in my life. Even though I never did learn how to change him or control his drinking, I started the most amazing journey of self discovery by leaning how to change my life from misery and self loathing to happiness and a sense of peace with myself.

I Don’t Know About You But Living Through My Mistakes Once Is More Than Enough For Me

Living “One Day At A Time” sounds easy enough except when you try to do it when you are overwhelmed with responsibility and see no light at the end of the tunnel. It sounds easy enough except when fear of the unknown has you by the throat. It sounds easy enough except when your heart and mind keeps straying back down memory lane to the would have’s, should have’s and could have’s.

Yesterday is gone. Finished. Over. We can not rewrite history. In fact the only redeeming value from the past is what we learn from it, because as sure as shooting, if we don’t learn from it the chances are we will repeat it. I don’t know about you but living through my mistakes once is more than enough for me.

As for as worrying about the future, my recovery program teaches me to divide and conquer my fears by breaking things down into manageable peaces. What needs to be done right now today and it also teaches me to keep things simple. I know now that I can not afford to get ahead of myself by trying to do to much at one time. Today, this moment, is where I am. What can I do right now.

Don’t get me wrong it is not that I don’t need to make plans for the future because I do. But I leave the results up to God. I now have a format for making future plans. I pray for God’s guidance and wisdom and for his will in my life first. I have found it works much better for me to ask for God’s guidance on the front end of my plans than it is to ask for His help for damage control after the fact. I try to ask myself what would I do, or how I will feel, if things don’t work out like I plan for them too. If I can live with the alternative the risk is tolerable. If is not at least tolerable then I need to think hard and long before I take that risk.

There are times when it is difficult to shut my mind down and that is when I turn to the many tools of my recovery program – reading materials, meetings, calling someone on the phone and talking it out, etc.

One of my favorite One Day At A Time Quotes that helps me put things into perspective is from the Al-anon Recovery Program’s One Day At A Time Book – page 19

“Just for today I will live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime. I will slow my pace. If I am under pressure and setting myself deadlines and worrying about tomorrow, I will stop for a few minutes and think of just this one day and what I can do with it.”

Minding My Own Business Was Not Easy

Minding my own business was not easy. In the beginning I had to make a conscious effort to keep my mouth shut. Little ole codependent me wanted desperately to jump in and save the day or fix everything and make it better. It was almost like an out of body experience for me to stand by and allow my alcoholic handle and take responsibility for his own problems; problems of his own making.

It was not easy watching his self destruction. But then a gain it was not easy living in the chaos he created either. Part of me wanted to try to fix everything and clean up the mess he had made. But he had out foxed me at every turn, every time I tried, and while I was cleaning up one mess he was making another. To our family, who had no recovery experience under their belt, I looked like a hard hearted Hannah. I did not even try to defend myself or explain to them any more why I could not control his drinking.

You see when you have done all you can do, over and over again, and it does not work, then it is time to do something different. And in my case it was past time. That was when I knew that my help was not helping. Intellectually I got it. I finally understood how enabling was like pouring gas on a fire. But even then I was pulled to do something, anything, to stop the pain and make it go away. Unfortunately it was one of those situations where I just had to hurt through a situation to get through to the other side whole.

I wasn’t use to standing on the sidelines and he wasn’t use to me standing on the sidelines either. His escapades really ramped up because I wan’t there running interference. I was almost as surprised as he was when I stayed true to my decision to live and let live. The difference in me came with my belief that Alcoholism was a progressive disease that I was powerless over. He was the only person that could stop this downward spiral. Just believing that one thing helped me see that I had to let go or I was going to go down with him.

Eventually he did stop the downward spiral. But by the time he did it was to late. Alcohol had damaged his heart and he died at the age of 43. He was two years, almost to the day, sober when he died. Without this program I would have blamed myself for his death. Thanks to this program I understood that I was not in charge of his destiny. Thanks to this program I could love the man and hate the disease.

I Became The Buffer Between Him And His Reality

I ran interference between my alcoholic and his consequences for a long long time. In the beginning I really did not know any better. I thought that I was helping. I thought I was protecting him and our family. What I did not realize, is that as long as I stood between him and his consequences I was feeding his disease and making it stronger.

In protecting him I hurt myself over and over again because I became the buffer between him and his reality. It cost me physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually every time I stood between him and his reality. I was so terrified over what could or would happen if I did not ride in on my white horse and save the day.

He was the one that drank but both of us had been ensnared by his disease. I became obsessed with trying to control his alcoholism and it’s symptoms and the effect it had on our lives. I did not see myself as a risk taker or a gambler but I had a real bad gambling problem when it came to his disease. Every time I enabled his drinking I was more or less underwriting his outrageous, inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. I was gambling that, this time when I rushed in to save the day, that my actions were going to make him see the error of his ways and he would never do it again. I lost every single time and I still went back and did it over and over again.

There was no light bulb moment for me that helped me see that my enabling was not helping it was contributing to the problem. It was a series of small steps that helped me to look at my motive and make decisions based on what was good for me and our children. It was learning more about the disease of alcoholism that helped me to understand how I was selectively participating in the chaos. It was letting go of my pride and talking things out with my sponsor or some other person in the program that helped me to think before I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

You might say that through the steps, Serenity prayer, the slogans and the support of people who had walked this walk before me I experienced an extreme makeover to my mind, heart and soul.