The big question is – How bad do you really want it?

Admitting that we are powerless, and that our life is unmanageable (the First Step) is not an admission of failure. It is a celebration of the beginning of the end of our struggle over trying to force other people to change so that we can be happy. This admission frees us to make choices that are good for us and not because we are trying to manipulate or force someone else to change. It is simply the right thing for us to do.

Knowing and accepting that we are powerless to change another person does not mean we are surrendering our life to a degrading situation or that we have to be the victim of their destructive behavior. We can’t change them but we can change our situation to protect our safety and well-being and to ensure our right to be treated with dignity.

In the beginning I had so much pent-up frustration, anger and resentment that I could not grasp this program. It sounded like I was being told that I had a problem and my alcoholic was being let off the hook because he had an illness. I cried to my sponsor that it was not fair and to my surprise she agreed with me. She told me that he was not being let off the hook – his alcoholism was destroying everything in his life. But whether it was fair or not was not the issue. Fair or not it was my reality and I had a choice of letting his illness rob me of my life or I could get to work on me.

Recovery programs can have a profound affect on our life if we want it. But not everyone makes it, believe it or not some people come and never come back, some come and stay stuck in their misery, wallowing in their sorrow and grief of allusions and unrealized dreams. How does this happen? Why do some people blossom and grow and others seem to be walking on the treadmill of misery? Why? Because not everyone really wants deliverance from their bondage, healing and restoration bad enough to do whatever it takes to get it. Others are still arm wrestling with God over control They want recovery but on their terms only.

The first step, of taking the first step, is wanting to heal bad enough to do whatever it takes. We don’t have to get it right the first time. We don’t have to do it perfect! But, we do have to want it bad enough to surrender to this process. Recovery programs are not for everyone – only the people who want recovery bad enough to do whatever it takes to get it.

My denial did not change the facts

When I began to wake up, when I finally began to realize that there was more to life than what was going on with my alcoholic, I realized that I had allowed a lot of important things to slip through the cracks in my life. I was so focused on him: how to control him, how to stop him, how to keep him happy, how to keep him from being angry, how to keep him from getting into trouble, how to keep him……… the list goes on and on.

My alcoholic did whatever he darn well pleased whether I liked it or not. He had NO Boundary problems what-so-ever!  I was the one with boundary problems. I was the one left holding the bag. I was the one stressed about finances, taking care of the kids and their needs, the house and the yard and facing our problems.

I was overwhelmed, afraid and prideful. I didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong. I didn’t want anyone else to know how bad things were. So I ignored the truth and lived in denial. Whenever someone else tried to talk to me about what was going on I refused their version of the truth because it was not the truth that I wanted. The problem was my denial did not changed the facts. And things got worse.

The dependent side of the isle, the alcoholic, or the addict has a tangible goal for recovery; Don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t gamble, or whatever their addiction is. But for us, the family and friends caught up in the web of deceit of their addiction, it is a mind thing, a head thing, it is closing wounds and healing scars; it is literally reprograming how we think and feel. It is understanding that feelings aren’t facts. It is letting go of fear. It is learning how to trust and enjoy life. Sounds simple enough but it is not. It is a process that starts with taking the focus off of our alcoholic and putting the focus on us. It takes practice; lots and lots of practice to change how thoughts and our behavior.

I had tried to heal myself and to free myself many times and failed. I tried to white knuckle and grimly endure my life but the truth was I it hurt too much. My 12 step recovery program saved my life and my sanity. From the very beginning they told me that my recovery program was for and about me. They kept me focused in the solution and not the problem. I learned that I had the power to change me, but I did not have the power to change him. I learned that there were no guarantees that if I changed that he would change the way I wanted him too. I learned that each one of us had a choice and that it was okay for me to choose help, life and happiness even if he chose to continue the way that he was. I learned that he would give me a lot of resistance when he realized that I was not obsessed with him and his problems.

It was a good thing that I was warned, because all of that happened to me. He was not willing to accept help. He continued to drink. He definitely did not like me going to my meetings and put up a lot of resistance to keep me from going. I used to give him ultimatums about his drinking and he started giving me ultimatums about my program. Things got worse before they got better and they did not turn out the way that I had wanted them too. But through this program I trusted God with my will and my life and I knew that no matter what happened I was going to be all right and I was.

Just for Today

Today is a national holiday in the United States. It is Thanksgiving. From now until the end of the year we will have several gatherings with family and friends to celebrate the holidays. On the surface it sounds like six weeks of fun, but for many people it will be anything but. Just because they are family doesn’t mean they are nice and it does not mean that we even like each other.

Many of the gatherings will be celebrated with holiday spirits of “adult beverages.” The only problem, is that with some people, they will not be very adult once they start celebrating. Most of the time we try to avoid being together with some of these people because they are not that much fun to begin with. But hey it’s the holidays so we are all together so we try to keep the peace and get through day without as few problems as possible.

The following are helpful One Day At A time quotes that have helped me through many of these gatherings:

Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress nicely, act courteously, critic not one bit, not find fault with others, and not try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.

Just for today I will try to live through this day only and not tackle my whole life problem 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.

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my luck as it comes and fit myself to it.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways. I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. I will do something I don’t want to do – just for exercise. I will be honest about my feelings (with myself) and take ownership of my needs. I will work to fond ways to take care of myself.

Just for today I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

The above Just for Today quotes are from and unknown author. There are 9 of them all total. I am sharing the ones that I have used to get me through many holidays and social gatherings.

Many happy holiday blessings to all; May the peace of God that transcends all understanding be with you this day.

I was taught early on that you can’t be grateful and hateful at the same time

I was so focused on what I wanted and did not have, that I totally missed many blessings in my life. If my husband gave me a card for a special occasion then I was sad because he did not give me a gift. If he didn’t give me a gift or a card, I thought that he could have at least given me a card. There was no way that man could win. I had made up my mind that he was going to disappointment me and therefore he never had a chance. To be honest with you, there were many times I had no one else but my self to blame for my misery. I was miserable and miserable to be around, and as long as I wanted to be miserable I got to stay miserable.

I don’t know how others change their attitude, but for me personally, I really have to force myself and make a conscious effort to change the way I think when I am negative. Changing my attitude is not easy. My sponsor told me that I had a choice on how I wanted to see my world. Was my glass half full or half empty? What was I doing to make my life better? How did I contribute to my misery? She challenged me to find something to be grateful for in every situation?

For example when my youngest daughter was 5 she was hit by a car. She spent almost 2 months in traction in the hospital. Initially I was devastated and heart broken as any mother would be. Then, being a card carrying tragedy queen, I started feeling sorry for myself and asking why? Of course my sponsor did not allow me to get away with that. She made me make a list everything I had to be grateful for. 1 – my daughter was going to make a full recovery, it was going to take a while, but she was going to make a full recovery. 2 – Friends in my recovery program made a calendar for volunteers to help me. I did not want my little daughter alone in the hospital but I had two other kids that also need a mother. I need time to go home and be a mom to my other kids and to shower, rest and change clothes. My recovery friends, male and female, recovering codependents and recovering alcoholics, volunteered to sit with my daughter in the afternoons so that I could go home and cook, do homework and hug on my other kids, shower and rest for a little while. That is just one example.

I was taught early on that you can’t be grateful and hateful at the same time and I have learned through personal experience that is true. I have also learned that being grateful did not mean that I had to be happy about everything happening in my life but there was always something happening in my life to be grateful for. Every negative thought had to be challenged and replaced with some gratitude.

The Blame Game

The blame game has been around since the beginning of time. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the sneaky snake for turning their perfect world upside down. But the bottom line is that we are responsible for the choices we make and for our own actions.

There are somethings we are powerless over but we do have the power over how we choose to respond. That choice will determine the final outcome one way or the other – we could have an immediate result or it could happen over time but there is always an outcome for the choices we make. There is no “get out of jail free” card by not making a choice. Not making a choice is choosing to accept things the way they are – choosing to be a victim – or it is choosing not to be swept up in someone else’s chaos – or it is choosing which battles we want to fight and this one isn’t it, etc. But not making a choice is always making a choice of some kind.

When we are wronged we can choose to ignore it and let it go, retaliate, or correct it when possible. In all of these options we are a player. If we sit on the side lines of our life and watch life happen or if we are in the game we are still the one calling the plays. We are either in the game choosing to direct our life or we are choosing to stay on the sidelines and assign someone to direct our life.

My grandma always said it was better to try and fail than fail to try. But I was not listening because for a long time I choose option B. Option B was waiting for someone else to make things right for me – Option B was choosing to stand on the sidelines and let someone else to be the play caller in my life. I thought that option B left me with a built in escape goat. If my life failed it was someone else’s fault. But I was wrong. It was my choice to hand my life over to someone else.

Change for me started with one little step. Sometimes I took two steps forward and one step back. When that happened I was faced with another choice. Do I try again or give up. Heck yea I wanted to try again! For me there was no hope without taking ownership of my life.

Never judge a book by its cover

It is so easy to look at someone else’s life and say I would never tolerate this or I would never tolerate that . It is so easy to look at someone else’s life and say why don’t they do this or why don’t they do that. But I am here to tell you that it is a whole lot easier to judge from the outside looking in. Most of the times we don’t even see the problems coming. Even though some things are glaringly obvious, most of the time they are not. Most of the time we were not even aware that we were lowering the bar of acceptability in our life.

At first I was in denial. I tried to keep the peace and smooth things over. When things first started to go wrong I tried to understand and be patient and I made excuses to myself and to everyone else about what was happening. He had had a bad day at work, he was under a lot of stress, he was only celebrating with a friend after work, he did mean for it to happen he just got busy and did not have a chance to eat, it was an accident. He told me he did not mean it and I believed him when he said it would not happen again.

When those little drinking mishaps started to happen more frequently I thought I needed to help him. So I tried to remove any circumstance that I thought would upset him enough that would cause him to get drunk. I tried to anticipate problems before they happen and I became obsessed with trying to manage and hide his drinking. Somehow I took on the full responsibility of trying to control his drinking. And, I kept lowering the bar of what was acceptable in my life without even realizing what I was doing.

Admitting I was powerless over alcohol was not easy for me. I was afraid that if I quite trying he would not try at all. Hahaaa!!!!! He wasn’t trying anyway. Who was I kidding? Oh I admitted I was powerless over alcohol all right. I just did not accept that I was powerless. I submitted to this process because I did not have a choice at the moment. But, lurking away in part of my heart was a grand escape. I was just doing what I felt forced to do at the time and when I got the chance I would make sure things worked out the way I thought they should.

I could not understand why I kept hitting every pothole in the road of my recovery journey. My sponsor told me to connect the dots between my repeat catastrophes and the first step. That is when I realized I had been giving lip-service, to the first step. That is when I realized that I had not come to terms with the fact that I could not fix or save him from himself, because somewhere deep in my heart I still felt like I was our only hope.

When I finally did surrender to my powerlessness a whole new way of life was opened up to me. I become teachable and I became willing to change. My circumstances did not change or improve but my attitude and my focus over my circumstances did. My sponsor helped me to stay in the moment, to mind my own business and to be good to myself.

My sponsor also stressed to me the importance of taking baby steps and to not place unrealistic expectations on myself. It was very important not to set myself up for failure. She stressed to me how setting small goals that graduated to larger goals would build my confidence. I know now that, “I am powerless” means that I am not God in anyone else’s life. Worrying and sacrificing my life for someone else will not save them and it will rob me of my own life. My alcoholic was only given one life, his life. He was not allowed to highjack and suck the life out of my life with his disease unless I let him. Retraining both of us that my life belonged to me was not an easy road but it was the beginning of learning how to live at peace in myself.

Voice And A Choice

I remember being at a party one evening when my husband’s drinking had reached the embarrassing stage. It was past time to leave. I had desperately tried to get him to leave before things got out of hand. No could do. So I stood there and tried to act like nothing was wrong. Then I tried to defend him. He had had a bad day, didn’t have a chance to eat all day. But no one there was buying it. They had seen it before. And the crazy thing was that when we did leave I got into a car with him and let him drive us home.

After a while in recovery I learned that I had a voice and a choice. And I learned that I was the only one that could exercise those options for me. Fast forward a few years and to another party. I realized “it was time to leave” and told him I was ready to go. He said no. I ask him if he had any money on him and he said sure and ask why. I told him to get a cab home because I was leaving now. (I had made sure that I had a set of car keys before I had left home.) He laughed. He didn’t believe me. I left. I offered no explanations to anyone.

I went home went to bed and went to sleep. I had learned that I didn’t have to stay and watch him self-destruct. I had learned that it was irresponsible of me to allow him to drive drunk if I could do something about it. And, I had learned that it was insane for me to get in a car with him knee walking drunk and let him drove me home. Duh!

The reason I could go home and go to sleep was because I had accepted that alcoholism was a disease that I did not cause, could not control and could not fix. It was not my fault. I also learned that I did not have to participate in it either. I enjoyed the good part of the evening and then when things started turning bad I removed myself from that situation.

This was a step in taking control of my own life. The more steps that I took the stronger I felt and my confidence grew. I knew then that no matter what happened I was going to be all right.

 

Repost from January 2014

Isn’t it amazing how awareness messes up things!

It never occurred to me to question the way that I thought about life. It wasn’t until I was in recovery that I began to realize how negative I was about almost everything most of the time. That critical voice in my head had a pretty strong anchor – after all it had been bullying me for as long as I could remember. This character defect gave me a lot of problems. Retraining how I thought about myself was awkward and uncomfortable. I new that I was negative but at the same time when I tried to tell myself anything different it was uncomfortable and it felt like a lie.

My sponsor had me take notes of all of the negative thoughts I had in a single day. Until I put the spotlight on it, I never realized how often my thoughts were critical, mean spirited, fearful, judgmental, and negative towards myself. And, my thoughts really got carried away by taking other people’s personal inventory. Lets just put it like this – there were a lot of character assassinations going on in my head. But the person I was hardest on was myself. It seems that my thinking negatively came effortlessly.

Isn’t it amazing how awareness messes up things. Once I became aware of how negative I was, it also became uncomfortable to think that way. How we think comes under that category “of changing the things I can.” I did not have the power to change how anyone else thought, but I did have the power to change how I thought. Old habits die hard and it was not easy. Every once in a while my stinking thinking will rear its ugly head and mess with me for a little bit. The difference now and when I started is that when I started I was clueless. Now I know what I am doing.

When these steps were written there had to have been divine intervention. The solution is always in the Steps. I can’t count the times I have tried and failed to change one of my character defects on my own before I learned about Step 7. The 7th Step is when I am “Humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. At first glance it seemed like a simple solution until I realized that God was not going to just wave a magic wand, speak a few positive words and make them all disappear. Through the years God has given me many opportunities to learn and grow through the process of changing my character defects. Now I can see that every time I have one of these Godly opportunities I know that I am walking toward something better in my life.

The more we do to protect them from the consequences of their own actions and behaviors the more we have to do

After listening in meetings for a while I was finally able to accept that his drinking problem had nothing whatsoever to do with me. I finally accepted that it was not my fault. Nothing I did, or did not do, made him an alcoholic. There was not one thing that I could do, or not do, that would make him take a drink if he did not want one and there was not one thing I could do or not do that would make him stop drinking if he did not want to.  He had proven to me over and over again that I could not control his drinking. What was difficult for me to understand and absorb was how I enabled him to continue to drink. I thought I was helping and protecting our family but in reality I was feeding his disease by standing between him and his consequences.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease and if I were a betting woman, I would bet that enabling is a progressive disease as well. The more we do to protect them from the consequences of their own actions and behaviors the more we have to do, and the more we have to sacrifice our needs to pander to their wants. And, if I am honest with myself, much of what I did was to protect myself as much as it was to protect him.

He developed an attitude of entitlement and I developed and attitude of desperation, fear, anger and disappointment. I was afraid that he did not love me enough, I was afraid of loss of income, afraid of public humiliation, afraid that other people thought it was my fault, afraid that he would leave me and I would be alone, afraid that I could not survive on my own and afraid that I did not deserve any better.

It was in my 4th and 5th steps where I could see a pattern emerge. Until I had things down in black and white on paper, I had no idea how often I made the same mistakes over and over again expecting a different result. What an eye opener! I learned a lot about myself in these inventory steps. Sometimes it was extremely difficult to see where his rights ended and mine began. I had no idea what were healthy boundaries and what were not. Until I owned my own behavior I had no sense of power or control over my life, because I was always at the mercy of his whims.

Jon and I were both broken and wounded people that found each other. 12 Step Recovery programs gave each one of us an opportunity to grow and change and become whole. Neither one of our success depended on the other. He was my husband and the father of my children, I wanted him to make it. Initially there was a lot of guilt when I finally decided to save myself whether he did or not. As I learned about detaching with love it became easier and easier for me to let go of trying to control his destiny.

There is no quick fix. I learned to live one day at a time. It was the little decisions, day in and day out, that prepared me to make bigger decisions over time.

It was in recovery that I learned how to love myself enough to not to allow his disease to destroy me.

At first I was in denial. I made all sorts of excuses for the problems in my marriage, for my alcoholics drinking and for my own behavior. But it was pride that held me a prisoner to the insanity of my day to day life. I thought if I could just control my alcoholic then no one would know. My alcoholic and I played these cat and mouse games trying to outwit each other. Thus began the insidious spiral of self-destruction for both my alcoholic and myself.

Even though we were divorced, I loved my first husband until the day he died. But the evil of his disease changed me, it changed him, and it changed the love we shared. I have no doubt in my mind that without this program I would have hated him. It was only through recovery that I learned how to have compassion for his struggle; it was through recovery that I learned how to separate the disease from the man – which helped me to hate the disease but not hate the man. It was in recovery that I learned how to love myself enough to not to allow his disease to destroy me. Which in my case meant that I had to walk away.

I don’t want to imply that I found peace and happiness in my life because I divorced my alcoholic. That is not how it happened for me. I found peace and great measures of happiness while I was living in the throws of an alcoholic marriage. Sure there was hurt and pain. It is extremely painful to watch someone else self-destruct knowing that there is not a darn thing you can do about it. Peace for me came because I accepted that alcoholism was an illness that I did not cause it. Nope! It had nothing whatsoever to do with me and I had no control over his drinking. Just knowing and believing those two things took a huge burden of guilt off of me. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to had the power to save him from self-destruction but I just did not have that power.  Realizing those two things stopped me from doing a lot of crazy stuff trying to out maneuver him.

The reason I said I had great measures of happiness, and not simply saying I found happiness, is because I live in the real world. Life has ups and downs whether we have an alcoholic in our life or not. There is good and bad in the world and we don’t always have control over the things that happen to us. There are times when I have had to hurt through some of the things that happened to me. I don’t like it, I can’t stop or change it but I do have to live through it jus the same. Such is life.

After my divorce I remarried. I married a man that had 3 sons and had custody of them. I had 3 daughters – we called them the bratty bunch. All six of our kids had issues and that doesn’t even include what we went through getting them through their teenage years. Believe me it was hard. Many times they tried to divide and conquer us.

I have no doubt in my mind that if I had not learned to love and respect myself while I was married to my alcoholic there is no way that my second marriage could have survived the chaos that blending 6 kids created. My husband says that I was the glue that held us all together – in a way he’s right. But the real truth is that it was the tools of my program that taught me how to live One Day At A Time, taught me to look at my motive, taught me to do the right thing for the right reason and not because I was afraid of not be liked and accepted or some other “wrong” reason. It taught me how to detach with love over things I have no control over.

I was broken before I met my alcoholic. In many ways I will always be grateful for marrying and alcoholic because it brought me to my recovery program. It was through my program that I developed the tools to live my life, regardless of the problems I might am facing, in a healthy way.