Family Warfare vs Common Welfare

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When I first hit the doors of AA, it was not a stretch to admit that my life had become unmanageable. I was a divorced 30-year-old part-time mother who had just moved back home and was living in the basement. I say “part-time mother” because my two children lived with their father 9 months of the year. I worked the 12-steps like they told me and found a certain peace within myself and a renewed love of God. But I continued to settle for less than good relationships.

FAMILY WARFARE

My own childhood was a picture-perfect family–of the alcoholic kind, that is. My memories were that of More

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The Role of Shame in the Alcoholic Family

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SHAME

It’s common for persons involved in 12-step programs to seek professional help on occasion. The 12-step programs never claim to be, nor should they be, the end-all of recovery.

ShameAlthough an active member of my 12-step group, I decided to seek help in the form of therapy during a particularly trying time in my life. I was facing decisions I had never had to consider before and instinctively knew I would need help. During the course of that help, I came to realize the role Shame has had in my life. I never knew just how much of the shame I felt wasn’t even mine!

I was very fortunate to have a therapist who was fully versed in the family disease of alcoholism and knew exactly how to help me. Part of that help included More

Cleaning Out the Old Toolbox: Step 6

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“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

With June being the sixth month of the year, I’ve already attended two Step meetings on Step Six.

A couple of years ago, my Al-Anon home group’s Group Conscience dedicated the 1st Friday night meeting of each month to the study of the Steps. We also study the current Tradition on the 2nd Friday and the current Concept on the 4th Friday. Generally, we study the Paths to Recovery and supplement it with other Al-Anon literature. The transformation of our group has been nothing short of amazing–an increase in service to others and public outreach being the most obvious change. I am fortunate to be a part of this great group of recovering souls.

Back to Step 6.  The Al-Anon “big” book, “Paths to Recovery”, states that “the key principle of Step Six is readiness.” I’ve always liked to think that my willingness to continue in recovery is proof of my readiness. But yet another admission has been brought into focus for me.  And it’s that I’m not always ready for change.  After all, if I’m entirely ready for God to do something in my life, I must be finished with old habits and behaviors, some of which have been faithful companions that protected me.

Like many who grew up in a family with the “problem of alcohol”, I surrounded myself with an arsenal of survival tools. These tools have names like Fear, Control, Anger and Denial, to name a few. I was a master craftsman and could wield these tools with the best of them.

  • Unhappy with my irresponsibility? Bam! I’d use the Anger tool and the red-hot Insult poker.
  • Having problems of your own? Swoosh! The Denial tool will work just fine.
  • You think you’re leaving me? Where’d I put that Control tool? There it is, next to the Fear tool that I’ll be needing, even if you change your mind.

Having a bit of recovery under my belt, it’s clear that this step isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because this is one of those steps that is “between the ears”. And being a person who has always relied on order and preparation and striving to know what’s coming next to feel secure, I’m uneasy with a step that I can’t put my hands on.

In one of the stories in the book, the author shares about the “Six P’s” — Perspective, Pain, Prayer, Patience, Process and Payoff. I thought it was a great way for people like me (and maybe you, too?) to think through this Step of becoming ready so I wanted to share it with you.

Perspective: think of defects of character as “survival skills that no longer serve me”. Since my Higher Power wants more for me than mere survival, I can let them go and trust that I will develop healthy behaviors and thinking.
Pain: Whenever the pain of staying the same hurts more than the pain of change, that’s the time when I will be ready.
Prayer: My part is to pray for openness & willingness; God’s part is to do the removing.
Patience: God gets to choose when and how fast He will remove my defects of character.
Process: Quite possibly, this is a grief process of denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
Payoff: The bottom line–what am I getting out of holding on to some of these defects of character? What is still good about it?

I know God can, and will, do this for me. Does that help me be entirely ready? Sure. But to have him remove them ALL?  Sigh.

I’m glad it’s progress, not perfection.

7 More Ways to Write a Fourth Step

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DoubleWinnersWe’ve looked at the AA Big Book version in another post.
Click here if you’d like to read it.

If you didn’t know it, Al-Anon’s book “Paths to Recovery”
is an excellent resource for at least 7 other ways to do a 4th Step.
Let’s take a look.

1. LIST OUR FEARS
Begin by asking for willingness from God and then plunge in head first. Don’t wait; just do it. Write about the events and people we resent or distrust.

2. WRITE OUR THOUGHTS
By writing our thoughts, we are able to remove ourselves from some of the specific situations and see ourselves more clearly. It breaks through the intellectual analysis many of us battle and helps us to recognize our feelings.

3. THE 4 M’s
The 4 M’s are coping skills we learned as a family member of an alcoholic. They stand for Martyrdom, Managing, Manipulating and Mothering. By using each M as the backbone of our inventory, we write a short sentence or paragraph of who, what, when, then what we want to do differently and how to apply the AA/Al-Anon principles.

4. “BLUEPRINT FOR PROGRESS” WORKBOOK
A character defect/asset diary, this Al-Anon CAL (Conference Approved Literature) workbook can jog our memories and thoughts through a narrative. Easy to store, this workbook can be a valuable measuring tool for growth as we look back at them year after year.

5. “ALATEEN 4TH STEP INVENTORY” WORKBOOK
Another CAL workbook, this can be used by adults, also. This format encourages us to DRAW our feelings about attitudes, self-esteem, love, responsibility, feelings and relationships.

6. KEEP IT SIMPLE
This dual-column format involves folding a sheet of paper in half. On one half, we list our character assets as we see them; on the other half, we list our character defects as we see them. Ideally, each list should be equal in length. Writing about each item on our list can promote self-awareness.

7. THE 4 C’s
This adds an additional category to the usual “3 C’s” about alcoholism commonly heard in Al-Anon: We didn’t Cause it, we can’t Control it, and we can’t Cure it. Adding the 4th “C”, Contribute, is how this becomes a 4th Step inventory.

We begin by writing out a specific incident, situation or relationship. Applying the 3 C’s, we dissect it for places where we contributed to the disease through our own actions. Write this out as the 4th “C”: “Contribute” by asking ourselves these questions:

  • Did I Cause the problem or incident?
  • How have I tried to Control it?
  • Is it in my power to Cure it?
  • Did this action Contribute to the problem?

As with any 4th Step project, stay in communication with a sponsor or trusted friend. Feelings can be revealed that may cause anxiety and it’s helpful to be able to share with another person (not the alcoholic or co-dependent person in your life).

Well, that’s what I’ve discovered about 4th Step formats. I know there are as many ways of doing this as there are people doing it. Let me know how you’ve done a 4th Step (or why you have been putting it off) by leaving a comment below.

The Standard: AA Big Book 4th Step

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Step Four

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

The first time I did a 4th step (in AA) I hated everything about it. Just the mere act of writing down the names of the people in my life was painful. I didn’t even have to write anything else to feel bad.

 

I didn’t feel like I was doing it “right”. Using the example in the Big Book seemed awkward. I decided it was out-of-date and, therefore, wasn’t relevant. That meant I needed to find a better, more modern (i.e., easier, softer) way of doing it. More

The AA Big Book Promises: How Can They Say That?

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The AA Promises are found in the chapter titled “Into Action” of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is no formal “The Promises” that the writers of the book have laid out for us; they come from the sentence that reads “Are these extravagant promises?.”

The AA Big Book PromisesAcknowledging that, the “promises” are a type of “gauge” recovering alcoholics often use to take the pulse of our progress. Alcoholics (and even the people we surround ourselves with) live much of our lives watching others to see how we’re supposed to act. Not that we decided to actually “do it right”, we just often compare ourselves to others and judge ourselves, often very severely, by what “they” are doing or not doing. Ah, the elusive “they”.

I’d like to take a look at those Promises here.

  1. “We will be amazed before we are halfway through.” — Now, some don’t put this in the “promises”, but I do.  Why? Hope. Plain and simple. We can give ourselves permission to hope again. And not after years and years but “before we are halfway through”. I needed that.
  2. “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” — Talk about paradox. Many an alcoholic chased what we thought would bring us happiness but ended up imprisoned by our desires. Recovery brought us the discovery that we were doing it backwards. And just in case you’re one of them that says they’ve “tried it and it doesn’t work”, just trust me: you won’t recognize it at first. It’s new. And this one comes after only just a little bit of recovery.
  3. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” — Ok. This one takes a little more time and a LOT more work. Yes, I won’t sugar-coat recovery. There are things we must do in order to get what we’ve never had. Our past is what fueled much of our continued drinking. And the more we drank, the more “past” we had to forget. The 12 steps are designed to get us through this.
  4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.” — Serenity? Peace? Alcoholics and their families only know one word: CHAOS. You may be familiar with the old story about the frog swimming in a pot of water. As the water slowly comes to a boil, the frog doesn’t jump out because he adapts to the small changes in temperature. And he cooks to death. The tragedy lies in the familiar. We’ve lived in chaos so long that it seems normal to us. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  5. “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.” — The last thing an active alcoholic is interested in is anybody else. Not that we have no feelings for others. After all, we have relationships, we marry, care about our children. But the drink is our lover. We think about it, plan around it, nurture it, won’t go anywhere it won’t be but if we have to, we’ll drink before we go. We “go to any lengths” to keep it in our lives. When taken altogether, that’s a lot to turn around. When taken a day at a time, it can be and has been done no matter how much we’ve messed up. You might even want to start a blog so others can benefit!
  6. “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” — Ever been afraid of the mailbox? The telephone? No? So as an active drinker, you look forward to getting your bills? How about legal notices or calls from their lawyer? What about facing your family, friends, co-workers? It’s easy to outrun bill collectors, but not quite as easy to outrun the hurt/angry/disappointed/tired looks from your family. This can all change. I repeat. This can all change. It is possible. It happened to me.
  7. “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.” — Now this is funny! ME? EVERYTHING baffles me! And I only knew of one way to handle it…run the other way! That was MY intuition! The people I’d surrounded myself with LIKED to take care of things for me. They must because they’d let me know I couldn’t possibly be able to take care of myself by always getting me out of scrapes. And when that last person finally walked away, I found this promise and held on tight. Today it’s a reality.
  8. “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” — I’d always felt God was too busy for me. He knew what I was doing but since I was pretty much useless, I never felt He had time for me. But when I finally got to the end of myself, God was there to bring me along. I heard in meetings not to give up before the miracle happens. I think this is what they were talking about.

“Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Don’t quit. Hang in there. Place one foot in front of the other. Put your energy into today and don’t borrow tomorrow’s trouble.  Pray because God is listening.  Surround yourself with healthy-thinking people.  Get involved in helping others even when you don’t feel like it.  Call someone who knows what you’re going through. And then do it again and again.

Turns out, they can say it because they’re right.

www.bonanza.com/booths/doublewinners

Click here to buy this framed laser print

Part One: IS IT OK TO BELIEVE AA’s 12-STEP PROMISES?I’ve been reflecting lately about the AA Promises. They are found in the chapter titled “Into Action” of theBig Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is no formal “The Promises” that the writers of the book have laid outfor us; they come from the sentence that reads “Are these extravagent promises? We think not.”  The “promises”are a type of “gauge” recovering alcoholics often use to take the pulse of our progress. Alcoholics (and eventhe people we surround themselves with) live much of our lives watching others to see how we’re supposed to 

act. Not that we decided to actually “do it right”, we just often compare ourselves to others and judge

ourselves, often very severely, by what “they” are doing or not doing. Ah, the elusive “they”.

Now, let’s take a look at them.

1.  “We will be amazed before we are halfway through.”
Now, some don’t put this in the “promises”, but I do.  Why? Hope. Plain and simple. We can give ourselves

permission to hope again. And not after years and years but “before we are halfway through”. I needed that.

2.  “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.”
Talk about paradox. Many an alcoholic chased what we thought would bring us happiness but ended up imprisoned

by our desires. Recovery brought us the discovery that we were doing it backwards. And just in case you’re one

of them that says they’ve “tried it and it doesn’t work”, just trust me: you won’t recognize it at first. It’s

new. And this one comes after only just a little bit of recovery.

3.  “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
Ok. This one takes a little more time and a LOT more work. Yes, I won’t sugar-coat recovery. There are things

we must do in order to get what we’ve never had. Our past is what fueled much of our continued drinking. And

the more we drank, the more “past” we had to forget. The 12 steps are designed to get us through this. Trust

me.

4. “We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”
Serenity? Peace? Alcoholics and their families only know one word: CHAOS. You may be familiar with the old

story about the frog swimming in a pot of water. As the water slowly comes to a boil, the frog doesn’t jump out

because he adapts to the small changes in temperature. And he cooks to death. The tragedy lies in the familiar.

We’ve lived in chaos so long that it seems normal to us. It doesn’t have to be that way.

5. “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in

our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.”
The last thing an active alcoholic is interested in is anybody else. Not that we have no feelings for others.

After all, we have relationships, we marry, care about our children. But the drink is our lover. We think about

it, plan around it, nurture it, won’t go anywhere it won’t be but if we have to, we’ll drink before we go. We

“go to any lengths” to keep it in our lives. When taken altogether, that’s a lot to turn around. When taken a

day at a time, it can be and has been done no matter how much we’ve messed up. You might even want to start a

blog so others can benefit!

6. “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave

us.”
Ever been afraid of the mailbox? The telephone? No? So as an active drinker, you look forward to getting your

bills? How about legal notices or calls from their lawyer? What about facing your family, friends, co-workers?

It’s easy to outrun bill collectors, but not quite as easy to outrun the hurt/angry/disappointed/tired looks

from your family. This can all change. I repeat. This can all change. It is possible. It happened to me.

7. “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”
Now this is funny! ME? EVERYTHING baffles me! And I only knew of one way to handle it…run the other way! That

was MY intuition! The people I’d surrounded myself with LIKED to take care of things for me. They must because

they’d let me know I couldn’t possibly be able to take care of myself by always getting me out of scrapes. And

when that last person finally walked away, I found this promise and held on tight. Today it’s a reality.

8. “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”
I’d always felt God was too busy for me. He knew what I was doing but since I was pretty much useless, I never

felt He had time for me. But when I finally got to the end of myself, God was there to bring me along. I heard

in meetings not to give up before the miracle happens. I think this is what they were talking about.

“Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes

slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Don’t quit. Hang in there. Place one foot in front of the other. Put your energy into today and don’t borrow

tomorrow’s trouble.  Pray because God is listening.  Surround yourself with healthy-thinking people.  Get

involved in helping others even when you don’t feel like it.  Call someone who knows what you’re going through.

And then do it again and again.

Step 3: Something for Everyone

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“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Step Three

I was recently at a small and intimate meeting on Step Three.  As I looked around at the people seated at the tables, I noted that the least amount of time anyone has been in ‘the program’ was probably 8 months; the longest was 24 years. I mention this because I found it very interesting that no matter where our individual journeys have taken us, we’ve all had an experience with “God as we understood Him” that we could share.

A few people mentioned their childhood experiences with religion and how they were “brought up”. One woman said she learned that God was More

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