al-anon fest

I chaired the Saturday morning meeting then spoke at the combined speakers (AA + Al-Anon) meeting Saturday night. It was quite the day. I think I had a bit of letdown yesterday.

The topic I chose for the 1st meeting was relaxation:

One of the wonderful, but unexpected, benefits of working the Al-Anon program is learning how to relax. Until now, most of my life sped by in a frenzy of activity. School, work, projects, obligations, all helped me focus outward…. There is nothing wrong with working hard and producing results, but I was abusing these activities. They were socially acceptable ways to deny my feelings. Both family and society supported my hiding behind them until, beaten down and exhausted, I reached the doors of Al-Anon. By that time I couldn’t have relaxed if I had wanted to–I didn’t know how it was done. (CTC 198)

Obviously I haven’t mastered this concept–I still create massive lists of tasks that must be accomplished during my time off (see all of my posts since school ended)–but I’m at least aware of my compulsion and have begun to allow myself some time to relax every day. We had a good discussion and interesting contributions from a couple of newcomers, one of whom is a colleague. This disease knows no boundaries. It effects everybody.

For the 2nd meeting, I wrote the following speech:

At a recent meeting, someone chose the topic, “Why Al-Anon?” As I answered the question, I remarked that Al-Anon had saved my marriage.

Three years ago, everything imploded: I discovered the extent of my qualifier’s disease and realized that I was helpless; I tried everything: counseling, taking long trips by myself or with one of my children, volunteering, joining a church, working extra hours, practicing yoga, and finally, attending an Al-Anon meeting [the only tricks that worked, that have really helped me, are yoga and Al-Anon–if there’s a speaker’s meeting for yoga addicts perhaps I could speak there one day ;)].

At the time, I assumed that AA and sobriety would fix my problem; now I know that the problem is much bigger than my most recent qualifier. Although my parents aren’t alcoholics, my maternal grandmother was an addict and my paternal grandfather probably was an alcoholic (he died when I was 10); I have aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and in-laws who battle the disease of alcoholism and addiction–most without knowing what they’re battling.

As a child, I learned to strive for perfection, to be responsible and help others, to work hard, to stay busy, to do do do; I also learned to feel guilty for all those undone tasks and unsaved people; life was exhausting. I had many relationships with addicts and alcoholics who never seemed to love me enough and certainly couldn’t live up to my expectations.

I married, began a career, and had two children. These roles started me on my path toward Al-Anon; that is, they taught me, painfully at times, that I couldn’t control everyone and everything (you’d think I’d have learned that fact after 40 + years on the planet!). Some of my lessons: yes, there is sexism in the workplace and there’s nothing you can do about it; a child won’t use the toilet until he’s ready; a spouse won’t quit using even if you ask –> beg –> threaten. This last lesson was the hardest because I took it personally–if I was a better wife he wouldn’t need to use. Clearly I was a failure at marriage, and if I was a failure at this, perhaps I also was–or soon would be–a failure at my career and parenthood as well.

So the self-determined spiral into dread began: I was diagnosed with depression, I suffered debilitating back pain, I developed migraine headaches, and I blamed my condition on everyone else. By the time I reached Al-Anon I was ready to scrap the marriage and everything else.

It didn’t happen overnight…I went through 3 months of craziness before I found enough patience to live one day at a time and not destroy my family’s lives…but it did happen.

Three years later, I’m finally moving through the steps. (It took me 2 years to find the courage to contact someone about sponsorship.) And now I’m reaping the rewards of the program.

  • I know how to say “no.”
  • I’ve stopped running away from my family.
  • I try not to say “I’m sorry” for things I’m not sorry or responsible for.
  • I’m learning to love myself for all of my imperfections–though I still wish I could be perfect.
  • I try to relax and take time for myself.
  • I celebrate 15 years of marriage.

I never could have reached these goals without Al-Anon. Thank you everyone for saving my life.

About BJ

living the dream in northern Utah
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2 Responses to al-anon fest

  1. Katy says:

    I’m proud of you Becky. You are a fantastic sister and I love you. Katy


  2. bjmcshane says:

    Thanks Katy! I love you too 🙂


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