A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

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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

Who’s under your thumb?

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Control isn't pretty.Once upon a time there was an Enormous Thumb belonging to a woman with an Alcoholic Husband and Three Teenaged Children.

The four of them lived under her thumb, so of course they couldn’t do much growing up. Often their spirits writhed under the weight; every time they tried to get out from under, they’d do something wrong and the thumb would clamp down on them again.

Father managed by keeping himself flattened out drunk most of the time; he was so cute about escaping to a bottle that, no matter how much mama watched, she couldn’t catch him at it until he’d drunk himself into unconsciousness. Everyone thought she was a Very Nice Lady, and they were sorry she was having such a hard time with her family.

There was really no reason for her to come to Al-Anon to solve her problems because she always knew just what to do about everything. But she did want to make her husband stop drinking, so she thought she’d try it. She was quite unhappy at first because some of the members were not inclined to Pull any Punches. She was quite indignant when they tried to show her what she was doing to her family, but to everyone’s amazement, the Thumb began to shrink and lose weight, and things looked brighter.

More and more she realized what she was doing and, being a Determined Character, she applied the program every day and her other problems took care of themselves very nicely.

–One Day At A Time, pg 286

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.

Finding a Solution

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I walk into the room and look at the faces of the people sitting around the tables.  No one looks familiar–many are busy in conversation. I casually slip into an empty chair at the end of one table.  The lady across from me says, “Hi”, and I smile and nod.  She looks friendly enough but the lines on her face seem to tell a different story.  I wonder if that’s how I look to others.

The man next to me stops talking to his buddy and turns to me and says, “Hi”, too.  He gets that same smile and nod the first lady got from me. I’ve got plenty to go around.  He asks More

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