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Addiction Alcoholism Recovery Self-Care

Love and Boundaries

The teen life...

What happens when someone you love relapses and decides not to get sober again?
Regardless of whether that person is a parent or a close friend, it’s a challenge, to say the least. In AA, we are told  “we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on a higher power¹” This statement alone verifies the need to allay one’s reliance upon the static nature of the sick, and instead turn the focus on paving a new path toward healing.

In 1951, Al-Anon began using the steps, giving those married to and reared by the alcoholic, tools with which they could live by. One thing is key: Al-Anon and Alateen don’t focus or talk about the alcoholic; they instead focus on themselves and learn how they can lead a happier, freer life. Here, the lesson is not to fix the person we love, but rather how to live life fully and independent of their disease. That’s tough, especially when  our expectations have taken hold: “If only they get sober, then everything will be okay.” or  “I’m not the one with the problem, they are.” But when we place our focus on fixing someone else’s problems, obsess over their emotional health, and base our lives around their well-being, that IS a problem.

Alateen is a wonderful support for kids struggling with alcoholic/addict parents or siblings. When chaos is the norm, then Alateen provides tools for weathering the storm. As kids living with alcoholics and addicts know, reaffirming reality in their day-to-day lives is the norm; the steps and fellowship: however, help provide a healthy, non-threatening way to do that. At some point, we find that part of supporting someone else’s sobriety means allowing them to walk their own path, no matter how rocky that path may be. We can’t walk it for them. If that means that their sobriety is tenuous at best, then we have to learn how to step aside. I call it loving someone with boundaries. In other words, we can love you when you’re in your disease, but we won’t hold you up.

¹ BB Page 98 (Note: “God” was replaced with “higher power” in the post.)

 

Categories
Addiction Alcohol Alcoholism Holidays Mental Health Recovery

New Beginnings

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It’s Passover, and you know what that means? It’s that time of year where it’s customary to drink four glasses of wine through dinner as part of the Passover story! It means giant family gatherings, with the myriad of wacky personalities. It also may mean some anxiety for the newcomer (or even someone with time, you never know!) For some, it’s this Passover week, for others, it might be the upcoming Easter Sunday. Either way, self-care is key. Ask for help if you need it, and have an exit plan–better to have one and not need it than to need it and not have it!

This particular holiday reminds me of my early introduction to alcohol. My family didn’t drink that often; holidays were the exception. Still, I have distinct memories of sitting at the family Passover table, with my thimble full of Manischewitz wine, thinking I was the coolest kid in the world. I remember the warmth in my belly, and the slight fuzz in my head (I would get sneaky and steal sips from other folk’s glasses). I remember thinking I was a part of the adult world, and a real part of my family. It was a childhood delusion, of course, but the memory stuck.

Wine has deep roots in some religions, for example, in Christianity it represents the blood of Christ, and in Judaism, the fruit of the vine. It’s an accepted, expected, ritualistic piece of the religious meal. But as we get sober and learn to participate in the rituals of our varying cultures, we must learn to make adjustments. No one wants to see you drunkenly opening the door for Elijah! We drink grape juice instead of wine, and we learn to adapt the rituals and meals to our sober, clean lives.

Passover is about freedom from slavery and tyranny; and like Easter, it’s reflective of Spring and new beginnings. What apropos likeness to our recovery! Here, we are offered an opportunity to begin to view our sobriety as freedom from the tyranny of drugs and alcohol. Our recovery is our new beginning and our new life. Remember what Chuck C. said: “You cannot think your way into a new way of acting, but you can act your way into a new way of thinking.” Have a safe, sober, and joyous holiday week.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

Acts of Kindness

I came across a beautiful article written by Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of “Be the Change” in which they call for a “Revolution in Kindness.” Their article expressed the need for compassion and kindness and asks us to change our actions. It really made me think about recovery and how we so often come into the rooms bereft of problem-solving skills, angry, and hurting, and lashing out.

Most of us come in as the antithesis of kind. The change we experience in recovery is profound as we learn to transform our programmed responses to people, places, and things. Truly, these new actions do require a sort of metamorphosis. As we begin the recovery process, we are choosing to cease fighting. We admit we’re wrong, we admit powerlessness, and slowly, we begin to learn how to function gently and with clarity.

It’s tough to admit we’re wrong, especially when we are attached to the context of the situation itself, and even more so when we’ve invested so much energy in our anger and its corresponding story. But wouldn’t it be liberating NOT to fight–to admit that you are (gasp) wrong?! Sounds crazy, I’m sure, but think about it: so much of our conflict is created because our egos command us to prove we’re right (even when we’re not!). We often fight to the point of ending friendships, both personal and professional, but in the end, our fight means nothing at all.

The 12 steps ask us to give up our ego and self-centered behaviors. By demanding honesty in our inventories and actions, we are propelled to adopt a more altruistic approach to the world. We make amends for our actions, righting the wrongs we’ve caused, and we learn to stop the harming behaviors that got us here. This also means approaching our difficulties with kindness instead of closed fists. When we change our actions, we ultimately have a chance to end the incessant violence permeating our lives: the bullying, school shootings, hateful speech, drug and alcohol abuse.  Ed and Deb Shapiro said, “Kindness is completely revolutionary: it will change each one of us, it will change others, and it will definitely change the world.” What a wonderful reminder, then, to take responsibility for our actions and point less fingers at those around us. The world can be a sticky place, so why not begin to unstick it with small acts of kindness and compassion? Try it: One kind act, one day at a time.