My Wedding Vows vs Alcoholism

When I first started going to recovery meetings my husband, my alcoholic, had no intention of becoming sober. He was insulted that I thought that he had a drinking problem.  He gave me a lot of resistance about me going to meetings. Later when I learned about detachment he thought that recovery meetings, for me, were awesome and I should keep going. Then when I began to understand and learn how I enabled him, and began to allow him be responsible for his own actions, he got angry all over again.

It finally dawned on me that he did not want my help to stop drinking. He only wanted my help if it allowed him to dink in peace and not be responsible for his consequences. Imagine that. Separating our lives and responsibilities was not easy.  My marriage vows made me question if I was doing the right thing.

But with just a tiny winy little bit of recovery, those marriage vows took on a whole new meaning. The first promise is about better or worse. I get that. Sometimes life is hard and life can throw you a curve ball even when you are really trying to do all the right things. But with a little recovery under my belt I got the wisdom to know the difference between the vows we made when we got married and the way that alcohol distorted those vows into something unrealistic.  For better or worse did not mean that I was supposed to sit back with a smile on my face while he irresponsibly ran our marriage and our life into the ground at warp speed.

The second vow was richer or poorer. I totally understand that one too. After all, I did not marry him for money. He could get laid off from a job. Our investments could take a nose dive. There are any number of legitimate reasons why our finances could take a hit. It wasn’t about money. In hard times we have to stick together. But that vow did not apply if his career was in jeopardy because he was hung over and could not make it to work.  It did not apply when the financial resources we needed for day to day living was siphoned off to support his drinking.

The third vow talks about in sickness and in health. My alcoholic would be so hung over he could not keep anything in his stomach. Of course somehow he seemed to never make it to the bathroom in time. Did I tell you we had carpet? Did I tell you about the time that he cut his leg with a hatchet? Yea, he went camping in the deer woods. He could drink all he wanted in the deer woods and no one would know. Well, while under the influence of alcohol he decided to use a hatchet to hammer something and it glanced off what he was hammering straight into his knee. Of course his leg had many stitches then it got infected and he could not walk or work for weeks and weeks……he couldn’t walk because of his injury and he couldn’t walk because he drank himself into a stupor while he was recovering. No! No! No! I don’t believe in sickness and in health meant that I was supposed to wait on him hand and foot while he recovered….but I did.

But do you know the really sad part about the vow of sickness and in health and alcoholism? Alcohol abuse can cause some pretty horrific illnesses. I had this one come home to roost in a way I never dreamed. Alcohol damaged my husband’s heart. He died at 43. He never saw his kids grow up, he didn’t walk them down the aisle, and he never got to hold his grandchildren.

Of course there is the promise to love and to cherish and the promise of faithfulness. How could that have an opportunity to mature and grow when alcohol was his mistress? It couldn’t. No where in our vows did I promise to be miserable if he was miserable. I made no promise to be bitter, angry, resentful and conniving if he was bitter, angry, resentful and conniving, I did not promise to be irresponsible if he was irresponsible. No. I did not promise to throw my life down the toilet if he decided to throw his. We were married but we were separate people. We each had a choice to be happy or miserable.

They say in our recovery program that we can be happy whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.  Of course divorce is an option in any marriage whether alcohol is involved or not.  Call me crazy but I did not want a divorce.  Through recovery I learned that I was not forsaking my marriage vows if I learned how to be happy when he chose to stay miserable.  We each had a choice.

The thing that saved me, the thing that kept me from hating him, the thing that helped me to see him as a child of God as much as I was a child of God, the thing that helped me to have compassion for the man and hate the disease, the thing that helped me to be happy whether he was drinking or not  were my recovery programs. I thank God every day that I found them and I thank God every day that I gave them a chance to transform my life.

Fighting the Attitude Disease

To me, my recovery journey is all about the transformation in me, in my thoughts, and how I live my life. Over the years I have learned and relearned many things about myself. Without a doubt one of the most difficult things for me do is to retrain negative thoughts or feelings into something good. Their has been many situations that I have analyzed, prayed about and believed that I had overcome, and then out of the blue, something will happen, and stinking thinking will broad side me when I least expected it too.

I use to beat myself up when that happened. As far as I am concerned living it the first time was more than enough, and I did not want the hurts of my past sabotaging my life anymore. I have come to realize that when I am ambushed like that that it is a conditioned reflex of what I call temporary insanity. The reason I call it temporary insanity is because it is temporary. I can usually work myself out of it in a short time whereas in the past it consumed and obsessed my whole life.

This happens to me when I am most vulnerable; when I am physically exhausted, when I am under a lot of stress and I have not had an opportunity to recharge my physical and emotional batteries. My husband’s disease is alcoholism. My disease is stinking thinking, (attitudism), distorted thinking, (beliefism & perceptionism). But most people called it codependency.

The goal for me is, and has always been, mental sobriety and learning how to have healthy relationships. One baby step at a time I have work to retrain and reprogram how I think and feel. I have learned that there are many things that can sometimes trigger unhealthy thoughts and feelings. I say sometimes because most of the time those triggers are ineffective , but every once they will trigger temporary insanity in my life. When that happens it is up to me what I do with my stinking thinking. I cannot control thoughts that come into my mind, but I can control whether I am going to entertain them and allow them free rein by giving them power or not.

This I do know….Those thoughts and feelings are not going to go away by themselves. I have to face them head on and consciously work to neutralize them until they are no longer hurting me. I have to stand up for my needs and stare down my fears.

Happiness was not an adjective that I thought would never describe my life. I have a good life now and I am happy but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a bad day. It doesn’t mean that I never have stinking or distorted thinking, and it does not mean that I always make the right decision. In other words I don’t become little Miss Merry Sunshine without life challenges. I don’t live in Utopia. I still live in the real world.

Life is never going to be perfect and I am never going to be perfect. I may not get what I want and I may get things that I didn’t bargain for. I do have a choice when negative things happen – I can gravitate back to my old negative habits and slowly slip right back to where I started, or I can call someone, go to a meeting, read and pray for the right attitude adjustment that is needed for my serenity. No matter what curve ball life throws me I always have a choice of how I am going to allow it to impact my life. Recovery has spoiled me, and even though I may get down, I am no longer willing to stay down and wallow in self-pity, anger and resentment anymore. I love the peace, joy and serenity I have gained through recovery too much to get down and stay down.

Learning to mind my own business

Growing up I was raised in a home where I was not allowed to have an opinion unless it was the same opinion as my parents. I could see unfairness and injustice and yet I was powerless to do anything about it. As I grew up this created an insane need in me to have control and prove that I was right when I thought I was right.

You would think after that that I would marry some wimp that I could control, but know I did not do that. I married a trained skilled negotiator who knew how to push all of my buttons. When my husband and I got into “spirited debates” I thought that the reason his opinion always prevailed was because he was an attorney and he more articulate than I was. He could justify, rationalize and explain anything. After all he had been trained to defend, argue and plead his case. You throw alcohol into the mix and I did not have prayers chance of winning a dispute with him. There were times I knew that I was right no matter what he said or how convincing he was, and so we would really get into it over even the smallest of things. And most of the time these debates would happen when he was well saturated with alcohol.

I reached the point where I became obsessed to prove my point and to be right. But, I did not want to do this just with my alcoholic, I wanted to do this with anyone that disagreed with me. I felt this way even over issues that had nothing to do with me and wasn’t really any of my business. I could tell anyone how to run their life and at the same time my life was in shambles. This need to be right and have others accept my opinion became a huge character defect.

When I think a situation through logically it is much easier to “Live and Let Live.” The logic starts with checking out to see if this situation or opinion effects me? Is it any of my business? Just how important is it anyway? Do I have the power to change the situation or is this just something to argue over? Will I lose more than I gain by being right?

Through the growth and maturity of my recovery journey it has become easier for me to mind my own business. If my grown children, or if friends, call me venting about an injustice they perceive in their life I do my best to listen. If they don’t ask for my opinion I try not to give it. I ask a lot of questions to help them look at their situation from every angle and that is as close as I come to offering advice. If they do ask me directly for my opinion I will tell them how I feel and why. If they disagree I let it go. I do not have to live with the consequences and I don’t feel it is necessary to defend, justify or convince them of anything.

But I am not perfect. Every once in a while I will think that I know the right answer for someone else’s problem and become determine to “help” them. Without fail, every single time, I get burned. I become the fall guy for their problems and the bad guy in a situation that has nothing to do with me in the first place.

God is not on vacation. It is not my job to judge or fix anyone else’s life. If I take care of me, if I mind my own business, I will have plenty to do. I have not always made the right decisions in my own life. I had to do it my way in my time to mature, grow and change. No one could want it for me or force me to grow and change until I was ready to do it. It is now important for me to respect the right of other people in my life to do the same.

How things got messed up

I used to think that living with an alcoholic was like living in the middle of a tornado. My life was a tumultuous emotional whirlwind of constant pandemonium. Chaos was my normal. I was constantly trying to salvage the pieces of our lives that were scatter everywhere. I pretended that everything was fine while secretly behind closed doors I was trying to force the reality that I wanted.

I had this vision of what I believed had to happen for me to live happy ever after. It never occurred to me that my way was not the right way or the best way. I manipulated every way possible way to coerce my alcoholic to do what I thought was the right thing. And what did he do instead? He did what he always did. He did what alcoholics do best. He kept right on drinking.

A year past, and then another and then another; I kept right on doing the same thing I always did trying to change him so that we could be happy. I blamed him for everything, but I could not see the part I played in our live unhappy ever after marriage. I saw myself as a victim of circumstances. Poor poor me! Life was so unfair. Why was this happening to me? How did things get so messed up?

I will tell you exactly how things got so messed up. They got that way because I refused to see the hand writing on the wall. I ignored all of the red flags. Self-will and good luck were not enough to make my dreams come true. I lived that way because of the choices I made. I chose that path because I did not want to be divorced. I chose that path because I did not want to be a single mom with three kids trying to survive on my own. I chose that path because I looked at the financial ramifications of leaving and thought no way I could leave. I chose that path because I did not want to be a failure, because I was afraid that somehow his drinking problem was my fault and it was up to me to fix it. And I hated myself for staying; I felt like a failure and a loser.

Until I got into recovery I was living in the fog of war. The uncertainty of my day to day life was almost paralyzing. I was too fragmented to make sound decisions for my life. My sponsor ask me if I was in physical danger. I told her no. She reminded me that I did not get this way over night and things weren’t going to change over night either. She cautioned me against making any major decisions in my life until I had some healing and recovery under my belt.

The reason I made myself give this program a chance is that I simply could not stand being miserable anymore. My insecurities fought me at every turn. They whispered negative things in my ear and dared me to be brave.

The only way I could do this was through the 12 Steps. The Steps helped me to see how I had been hurt in the past. They helped me to see how those hurts had changed me. They helped me to understand how I had lashed out in my pain and hurt others and how that behavior only reenforced my feelings of self loathing. They helped me to understand how forgiveness would free me form the past. They helped me see how important it was to forgive myself, how to love and respect myself, and how to grow into the person I really wanted to be. Most important of all, with God’s help, these Steps helped me find the strength and determination to do the right thing.

A little healing and a little recovery helped me see that I could not just sit there and wait for my world to right itself. Baby step by baby step I started taking responsibility for my own life so that when the time came, if it ever came, that I could live with or without my alcoholic.

Amends and Apologies

The 9th Step says, “that we make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” For the longest time I thought that this step was saying that I was supposed to apologize for wrongs that I had done. Now I have a different interpretation about this step.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there are times when this step requires me to apologize for wrongs that I have done. But after studying this step and breaking it down further, for me anyway, I believe this step lays out a process for me to make restitution for my own bad conduct and at the same time it allows me to learn and grow from that experience.

There are some very key words in this step that cautions and directs my actions.

First thing Step 9 tells me is that I am to make direct amends. No pussy-footing around here so that I could make it easy and comfortable for me. It says I am to make direct amends. No little notes of apology, no emails etc. It says direct amends. There is an exception of course and that exception is not about making this step easier for me. The exception tells me that there is no way I can make an amend if that amend does more harm than good. I am not allow to get the monkey off my back and clear my conscious if it hurts someone else in the process.

But the real key word in this step is the word Amend. This step does not say I am to make an apology, it says I am to make an amend. For the longest time I did not realize there was a difference. I wasn’t even sure it was possible to make an amend without making apology. My sponsor helped me to realize that an amend was all about change and restoration. An apology is an expression of remorse and regret.

These steps are brilliantly laid out to cleanse my soul of past hurts and mistakes so that I can truly enjoy my life. The word amend implies to me that a “change” in me is required. This is just another part of the cleansing process that frees me to be at peace with myself and have happiness in my life. What good is an amend or an apology, for that matter, if I continue in that same bad behavior? If an amend or an apology is necessary then changed behavior is also necessary.

This step holds me accountable for my behavior. Therefore their has been times when it has been necessary for me to make an amend to someone I did not even like. That is when I remind myself that this step is part of my healing process. It is not meant to change or fix anyone but me. I remind myself that they are a child of God just as much as I am, and that God is just as in charge of their life as he is in mine. I reminded myself that I too, at one time, was steeped in self-will. This step is not about their bad behavior, it is about mine.

I have learned that some people appreciate my amend and others refused it. Again the focus is still on me. Am I sincere? This is one of those steps when I step out in faith to do the right thing and I leave the results up to God.

The lessons I have learned through this process are immeasurable. I have learned that I cannot rewrite the past. I have learned that my actions always, always, always have consequences; Some good some not. I have learned that all of my life is an opportunity, but I am the only one that has the power to exercise those options before me. I can stay mired in misery or with God’s guidance and help, I can take charge of my life. Recovery is not for wimps. It is not for everyone. Only the people who want it.

It is all about Change

When first I came to this program I had a dump truck load of negative emotions and feelings. I felt despair and defeated. I felt angry and fearful. I felt used, manipulated and betrayed. I felt like a failure and I had very mixed feelings about God. And, I came looking for a way to make someone else fix things so that I could be happy.

Never ever did I dream that I would experience a complete metamorphosis through my 12 Step journey. When I started out I did not realize that every single step was designed to change me in some way. It was designed to change my attitude, my perspective, my thoughts and my feelings, my thinking, and my behavior and my approach to life.

Change. That is the operative word in recovery. I came to realize that every single step is designed to change me, and only me, so that I can be healthy and whole. If by chance other people in my life change, in a positive way, as I go through this process that is wonderful. But changing other people is not the motive for me as I work these steps.

I hope that I can write this in such a way that it makes sense. My thinking was so squirrely. On the one hand, I thought that everything was my fault. I believed that I must be some kind of bad person and therefore I did not deserve any better. I believed that I was a victim and the people who had hurt me needed to make things right so that I could be happy. At the same time I had moments when I thought that I deserved the best. I was angry and bitter and blamed everyone else for my problems and my unhappiness. I guess what I am trying to say is that I blamed the whole blooming world, including myself, for my unhappiness. There were no winners in my world.

The interesting thing about those 12 Steps is that they left me no wiggle room. They put the focus on me and never wavered on whose shoulders the responsibility for my happiness rested on. My shoulders that’s who. My level of serenity and happiness would be directly proportional to how much I invested into working these steps.

The following is a paraphrase of the 12 steps that I made up to help me keep it simple in my mind.

Step 1 – I can’t fix anyone but myself. Don’t drive myself crazy trying.

Step 2 – I can’t do this in my own power – but not to worry there is a power that can help me. Oh! By the way His name is God.

Step 3 – I need to stop playing tug-of-war over my life with God and just trust him.

Step 4 – Denial or ignoring the problem does not make the pain go away. It is time to take an inventory of what’s happen so I can know what I need to do to be happy.

Step 5 – I Admit, acknowledge, and reveal all past hurts with someone I trust to help me to be objective, and to gain a proper perspective on the events in my life, so that I can understand how they molded me into the person I am today.

Steps 6 & 7 – With the insight that I gained through Steps 4 and 5 it is now time to make a decision to let God remove anything in me that stands in the way of my serenity and happiness.

Steps 8 & 9 – Recognize that I have I harmed other people too and now it is time to do what do I need to do to restore the harm I have done to others.

Step 10 – is a daily surveillance of how I live my life. And when I mess up then I need to confess up right a way.

Step 11- keep myself grounded through prayer and meditation.

Step 12 – Walk the talk and to share with others who are interested in helping themselves find peace and serenity in their lives.

Powerlessness

Someone asked my why I still went to meetings? I cannot imagine not going or not wanting to go. In fact I attend several different types of recovery programs. It is true, being married to an alcoholic was how I found this program in the first place, but in reality this program helps me in every aspect of my day to day life. I mean every single second of every single thing that happens to me is processed through this program.

There is one recovery program that I go to, that uses the phrase, hurts habits and hang-ups. To me that phrase is the umbrella that covers all the brokenness out there. I truly believe that these 12 Steps are wonderful tools for living life whether you have an alcoholic or someone with addiction issues in your life or not.

For example, one of my parents had an alcoholic parent, my other parent was raised by a physically abusive parent. Neither one of my parents had any type of healing and recovery. Therefore, I was raised by untreated codependents, which means that there hurts and dysfunction passed through them straight into me. Brokenness was the only life I knew. From my first breath it was imprinted into every cell of my being.

It was not surprising that I would marry and alcoholic at all. To be honest with you I thank God every day for my alcoholic, because without him I would never have found this program and had the opportunity for healing that I have had. In fact I have two siblings who were not as fortunate as I, and they have struggled all of their lives.

Take that first step for example. It says that we are powerless over alcohol and that our is unmanageable. If you are a child with and untreated codependent parent you are just as powerless. If you have an abusive parent or an abusive spouse you are just as powerless to change them as you are powerless to change and alcoholic. If you have a loved one with a debilitating or life threatening illness you are just as powerless to cure them, if you live with someone that has mental illness, you are just as powerless, if you live with someone that is narcissistic you are just as powerless. See what I mean?

To me, what that first step is saying is that life is not always perfect and it is not always fair. We have people come and go in our lives; people we have an intimate relationship with, people that we may have to be with only a daily basis like a boss, coworker, client or friend, that that is struggling with their own issues and they make our life challenging on a daily basis. We cannot change or fix them, or their problem, but we still have to co-exist with them.

One time I had a boss that had been raised by two abusive alcoholic parents. He was a nightmare to work for. He had a lot of power over my life. At that time I was a single mom with 3 kids and I desperately needed my job and the financial ability it provided. I managed my relationship with him with my program. I did not allow myself to take personal the mean things he said sometimes. If I was powerless over a situation that he was upset about, most of the time, I did not allow myself to get sucked into his frustration and anger. Was his behavior acceptable? Of course it was not, but I still had to deal with him.

My powerlessness over my bosses unacceptable behavior was not some negative reflection on me. Accepting that I was powerless did not mean that I was weak, incompetent or incapable. It meant that I was choosing not to be responsible for his unacceptable behavior. I did not get sucked into trying to show him that he was wrong and I did not try to fix or save him. I did my job, and got paid for doing a good job, and I left him to deal with his own baggage. I could never have done that without my 12 Step program, my sponsor and my meetings.

At this risk of being redundant – My 12 Step programs are the blue prints that I live my life by.

Separating feelings and the truth

My emotions and feelings were all over the place. Most of them ended in stinking thinking in the form of anger, resentment, fear, regret, guilt and judgement and sorrow. Different situations provoked different feelings at different times. The strange thing is, at one time or the other, I have felt all of those things over one incident or circumstance in my life. How is this so?

Such a mess it was trying to untangle and straighten out what was fact and what was emotions and feelings. You see, through this program, I came to realize that there had been so many times I had an immediate emotional reaction to something but the emotion was not congruent with the reality. The reason it was not is because I was carrying around a lot of emotional baggage. Hurts from my past were haunting and sabotaging my life.

Past hurts and disappoints had destroyed my ability to trust and my self-confidence. They had distorted my expectations and they had placed a huge burden on everyone in my life, and anyone that I met, to prove themselves to me and they did not even know it.

I cannot even count the number of times I have assumed the wrong thing. I cannot count the times that I have embarrassed myself jumping to the wrong conclusion. And, every time I did that I was always left with more guilt and more emotional baggage. It was a vicious cycle of disappointment that I could not stop because my emotions seemed to be an automatic response that I could not control.

I know you probably are tired of me writing about the 4th, 5th and 10th Steps, but hey, this is how it worked for me. My 4th Step was my first go at untangling truth from fiction in my emotions. I had this amazing sponsor that question and challenged me to look at my past objectively, and she helped me to see how I had used a lot of those emotions to protect myself at one time or the other. She also helped me to see that they were no longer a coping tool and that they had transitioned into a character defect that was interfering with my ability to enjoy my life.

My past was my past. I could not rewrite history. Therefore it was up to me to use my past to help me write the future that I wanted. I used my past to help me understand how I got this way and what I needed to do to change. Instead of painting everything in my everyday life with the hurts from my past, I learned a lot of wisdom to know the difference of what I could and could not change. My past taught me that if I did not set the boundaries in my life that someone else would.

By taking a daily inventory (10th Step) and promptly making amends when I was wrong, it helped me to not be so quick on the trigger judging everything and everyone in my life. This step helped me to prevent a build up of unhealthy emotions. By facing my reality each day I eliminated a lot of wrong assumptions. This step helped me to stay on target and not get myself out in the weeds. It helped me to focus on me and my responsibilities and helped me to mind my own business. This step helped me live One Day At A Time.

How I got trapped in the chaos

Let’s face it. I was wishy-washy. I would get mad and put my foot down and then later back down and give in. I sent a lot of mixed signals. This resulted in a lack of self-respect from others toward me and a lack of self-respect for myself. And yet, I still could not see my part in the chaos and turmoil in my life.

It was interesting to me how critical outsiders were of me and our problems. This made me either feel responsible for fixing the problem or stupid for staying, and my self-respect and self-esteem took another hit. For the life of me, I could not see or understand how I got trapped in the duplicity of his drinking. I was so caught up in the details that I never got a good look at the big picture. I was running from one fire to the other trying to put them out. Over time I had become so accustom to living in pandemonium and turmoil that it became the new norm for me.

Before I could ever begin to learn how to let my yes mean yes and my no mean no, I had to understand how I contributed to the insanity of my life. This insight came through a self examination in my 4th step inventory. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was a people pleaser. (Bahahaha) Oh Yea! I sacrificed my needs for other people’s wants many times out of fear, out of obligation and out of a way to try and control others or to manipulate a result that I wanted.

Looking back at the time, I can see that I had been on automatic pilot trying to survive in a chaotic situation. My sponsor told me before I started my 4th Step inventory that my inventory was not a witch hunt, it was not about blame and condemnation. She said that it was about understanding why we do the things we do so that we can understanding how to do things differently. She also reminded me that understanding was only one part of the equation. Not anything in my life was going to improve and get better until I took the right steps needed to change. I was only responsible for my part and my part only.

My husband, my alcoholic, and my untreated codependent family, did not like me changing one bit. I was accused of being selfish, stubborn and mean. And to be honest with you I felt that way myself some times. My sponsor gave me a couple of questions to help me discern if what I was doing was the right thing to do for the right reason. First, was I doing something for someone else that they could and should be doing for themselves? Second, what was my motive? Was I trying to punish or control someone else? Was this my responsibility in the first place? Was this the right thing to do for me and was it for the right reason? Was this decision based on feelings and emotions or was it based on facts? Then she reminded me that feelings and emotions were not facts.

I also learned that it is important how I said and did things. Say it with love and conviction. Another big lesson for me was to never to issue an ultimatum that I was not willing to follow through on if I did not get the results that I wanted. In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say. Say it once and shut up. Saying it twenty more time in twenty different ways will not convince any one of anything. Besides Alcoholics don’t understand words – they understand action.

These changes did not feel natural to me but I found that the more I did them the more natural they felt. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. But at least now I know what to do. I have learned that, in my life anyway, that life is never going to be perfect. I don’t always get what I want and I get things I don’t want and haven’t planned for. But now more than ever, I am prepared and equipped to face my life head on.

Standing up for me

I had a dream, a want, that became a need, that was so compelling that it influenced how I looked at everything in my life. I desperately wanted to like and feel good about myself. I wanted self-confidence and self-respect. I wanted other people to do what ever they needed to do so that I would know that I was okay.

The problem was that the key people in my life were other broken people. Some were angry and miserable to be around and others were self-centered and manipulative.  They were not capable of helping me do or feel anything. If anything they were parasites that had no problem taking things from me that I needed just to satisfy some silly want of their’s. In other words I had unrealistic expectations from broken, selfish and incompetent people.

Our lives were so entwined that many times I did not know where my rights ended and theirs began. My whole life had been dysfunctional and I had nothing healthy to compare it too. As they say in our program you don’t go to the hardware store to buy bread. Every time I looked to my family for emotional support I was going to the hardware store to buy bread.

My sponsor reminded me repeatedly that other people did not define my self-worth. She told me that just because the key people in my life were too selfish, narcissistic, and broken too treat me with respect, that it did not mean that I was’t worthy of it. She told me that there was only one person on this planet that defined my self-respect and that was me.

I heard what she said. I even believed what she said. But to undo years of emotional abuse and put-downs was not quick and easy. I had been trained and conditioned in negativity and it was as automatic to me as breathing.

We have a slogan that says, “Let it begin with me.” I realize now that everything in my recovery journey begins with me taking the initiative. I was not powerless to change me. Baby step by baby step I began taking responsibility for my own life and my own happiness. Believe me it was not easy because every step seemed selfish. My sponsor would remind me to look at my motive. Was my decision the right thing to do for me?

In order to reclaim my life I had to learn how to detach with love. I did not stop loving my alcoholic but I did stop taking personal the hurtful things he said and did. He was no longer the yardstick that I used to measure my self-worth. Every time I refused to accept unacceptable in my life I became stronger. Every time I did not sacrifice my wants and my needs to his disease I became stronger. Every time I gave myself time to pause before I reacted, so that I could decide how I wanted to react, I became stronger. It was all in the baby steps.

Every once in a while I will get broadsided by stinking thinking. As soon as that happens I call someone in my program and talk out my feelings or I get to a meeting. I just can’t stand to feel miserable any more.