Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arrogant, Smug & Self-Righteous... (raises hand)

"We, who have turned to Al-Anon, have often done so in despair, unable to believe in the possibility for change, unable to go on as we have before. We feel cheated out of a loving companion, over burdened with responsibilities, unwanted, unloved, and alone.

There are even those of us who are arrogant, smug, self-righteous, and dominating; but we come because we want, we need -- help.

While we may have been driven to Al-Anon by the behavior of an alcoholic friend, spouse or child, a brother, sister, or parent, we soon come to know that our own thinking has to change before we can make a new and successful approach to the problem of living. It is in Al-Anon that we learn to deal with our obsession, our anxiety, our anger, our denial, and our feelings of guilt. It is through the fellowship that we ease our emotional burdens by sharing our experience, strength, and hope with others. Little by little, we come to realize at our meetings that mush of our discomfort comes from our attitudes. We try to change these attitudes, learn about our responsibilities to ourselves, discover feelings of self-worth, love, and grow spiritually.

The emphasis begins to be lifted from the alcoholic and placed where we do have some power -- over our OWN lives


It's been a long ass time since I went to an Alanon meeting. Certainly more than 2 years, b/c I remember exactly which meeting it was and how old Dex was at the time. I also remember how happy I was to be back in a room filled w/ alcoholics. I remember thinking, "Ah, I'm home again."

But before you say, "So what? That AA crap is for sissies!" let me just say that for a long time the 12-step community was a huge part of my life. And though I know it's not for everyone, it absolutely saved my life. I can only tell you what it was like for me to hear those folks sharing their experience, strength and hope in the meetings I attended every week. It was my "church" in many ways, I found a whole new G-d in those rooms, and that alone will endear me to Bill W. and Dr. Bob forever.

What qualified me for Alanon in the first place was my dad, an alcoholic by his own admission. He had long periods of "sobriety" throughout my childhood, but the behaviors of a mean drunk were always present, even when he was dry.

When I was about 10, esophogeal cancer & cerrhosis of the liver took my grandfather out in a very painful & dramatic fashion; strapped down to a bed & screaming at my dad to "please kill him"...

I have often wondered what it must have been like for my dad, growing up w/ an alcoholic & emotionally distant dad - which is exactly the kind of dad he ended up being. Somehow, picturing my dad as a little boy (who was loved & cherished once) makes it much easier for me to forgive his adult mistakes.

What must it have been like for my grandmother, trying to raise her son & manage some semblance of normalcy? What was it she saw in my grandfather that we couldn't? Was there a sweet little boy buried somewhere in him too (actually, I know there was b/c my grandfather was my hero when I was really little).

How was it for my mom when she married my dad? Why did she choose to jump on board the alcoholism band wagon? She had a favorite uncle who had a serious drinking problem (hence her attraction to my dad, I'm sure), but to go out and marry one? On purpose?!

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to stand in judgment. I know exactly what it's like to love an alcoholic. My dad was just the first of many. Given our family history (note that my biological family history is eerily similar), it's no wonder I'm uniquely qualified to love alcoholics &/or addicts.

Honestly, I stopped going to meetings not b/c I don't believe in the miracle of the 12-steps, or in the power that program gives us when we work it, I stopped going b/c I started to get better. And once I got better, I didn't want to be surrounded by "sick" people anymore. I didn't want to replace one addiction (alcoholics) for another (program). I wanted program to be part of my life, not all of my life. I don't regret cutting meetings from my busy schedule. I still make sure I'm in conscious contact w/ G-d on a regular basis. That works for me. I also know right where to go if I start feeling a little shaky (like tonight) or if an active alcoholic starts wreaking havoc in my life again. I'll get my ass to a meeting, or pull out my tattered copy of the Big Book, toute de suite!

When my dad died last summer, I went so far as to smugly declare I didn't need program anymore b/c my qualifier was dead & therefore I was "cured"...


I'll never really be cured. Not of my crappy thinking anyway. All the stuff I learned growing up in an alcoholic household, that stuff is still with me. Granted, I don't have to DEFINE myself by it anymore. Having an alcoholic dad wasn't all that my childhood experience was, and certainly, being the child of an alcoholic isn't all that I am as an adult woman. I can choose to live a different life.

So yeah, I'm often arrogant, smug & self-righteous. We all are. It's not a character trait that I covet however. I'd much rather be thought of as respectful, funny and/or kind. The past month since I moved to Seattle (& all that led up to it) has been an emotional roller coaster ride, to say the least. I am struck by just how quickly I can revert to old behaviors & thinking.

So, what's my point?

My point is, change is hard. I don't like myself whatsoever when I focus on what OTHERS are saying or doing. It's none of my business. My only focus should be on me (& my daughter of course). It's the only place I do have any power, over my own life.

Yes, there are parts of my life that are rather out of my control right now, especially my house not being ready yet. I've been flailing around a bit, flipping & flopping like a good little Pisces. It's to be expected though right? Moving me (and my kid) to another state was a big damn deal. It wasn't some easy breezy la-dee-da thing I pulled out thin air!

I know that this is where I'm supposed to be, at least for right now. I know better than to assume MY plans are better than G-d's. Moving away from a strong support network within easy reach is a little unnerving. When you're 20-something, or don't have kids, eh. Not so much. But at 42, with a toddler in tow? Yikes! Much harder than I thought.

Mostly, I wasn't prepared for how lonely I'd actually feel. Thank G-d, it's not the same loneliness I felt back in CA. This is far more manageable by comparison & I also know this too shall pass. I just have to ride it out, learn from it, savor the discomfort of it even.

Anyway, I'm rambling. It's late. I don't even know where I wanted to go w/ this stupid post. I'm just glad I had a moments peace to actually write something down w/o interruption or exhaustion getting in my way. I'm also glad I have a little 12-Step wisdom to take w/ me into my dreams tonight. Here's hoping it knocks me out cold.


Anonymous said...

Bravely written... proud of you.

(in the LBC)

Martini Mom said...

Nice post. My dad was an alcoholic too, as was his dad, and on up the line. He was a pain in my ass, but also my best friend and hero. A very conflicted man, he was, who taught me most of what I know about life - the good and bad. I was going to say he died recently, but - holy crap! - it'll be 8 years this weekend.

It would be presumptuous to suggest that I know how you feel, so let's just say I can totally relate.

Smiling, Beguiling said...

Thanks ladies. I'm pretty open about the alcoholism in my family, and at least how it affected me (can't presume how it affected everyone else). Then again, I'm pretty open about MOST stuff. Haha.

MartiniMom, I can't believe it's been nearly a year since my dad died, and almost 2 since my mom has been gone. I totally understand looking up and saying, "WOW! 8 years?!"... gee, my daughter is going to be three in June, that's just cuckoo crazy.

Losing a parent sucks. If you've lost one, then you DO know how I feel b/c I'm sure you were felt it too once, twice, twenty times. Ain't grief fun?

Anonymous said...

I love this Cher,
I'm so thankful for the 12 step fellowship in my life too. Someone asked me recently why we keep going to a program based on disfunction. After I was done being irritated I realized I keep going because it's a program based on solutions and honesty, and a connection to God (of my understanding, not what someone else tells me to understand) I keep going because the only parenting I saw is what I want to do differently, and one day at a time I love this program and the parent I get to be today. I love this loving program based on positives and uplifting fellowship. Maybe it would be a good place to start getting your roots started in your beautiful new area. You sound like this was just the right move for you and I couldn't be happier for you.
(I also wouldn't have ever survived the loss of both of my parents and a son without these tools, spiritual connection and fellowship)

Huge hugs

Martini Mom said...

Nice post. My dad was an alcoholic too, as was his dad, and on up the line. He was a pain in my ass, but also my best friend and hero. A very conflicted man, he was, who taught me most of what I know about life - the good and bad. I was going to say he died recently, but - holy crap! - it'll be 8 years this weekend.

It would be presumptuous to suggest that I know how you feel, so let's just say I can totally relate.