The Problem of the Alcoholic…Family.

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We’re told that for every alcoholic, there are five people who are directly affected by the disease. Logic would then follow that Al-Anon meetings would be five times larger than AA meetings, right? Sadly, if you’ve spent any time around AA or Al-Anon, you’ll agree that this is not the case. Which says a lot about the state of recovery from the FAMILY disease of alcoholism.

My interpretation is that “family recovery” is way behind in the attention and help that alcoholics and drug addicts receive. If we take a quick glance at the family situation, it’s easy to think that if the alcoholic/addict can get sober/clean, then The Problem in the family will go away. The family’s hopes are pinned to this idea. And, quite frankly, so are the hopes of the alcoholic/addict. Just ask any recovering alcoholic who has been to treatment more than once. If they work an honest program, they will tell you that (with some exceptions) going to treatment was a quick and effective way to get the family (employer, judge, etc) off their back.

So just how DOES a family hear that they, too, need recovery? More

A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

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IS ALCOHOL REALLY THE GREAT EQUALIZER?

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Alcohol is the Great EqualizerAs a practicing drunk, I had put my friends into two different categories: the People I Drink With and the People I Didn’t Drink With. To avoid conflict, I kept them away from each other as much as possible. I felt only anxiety around the People Who Didn’t Drink; I laughed–a lot–with the People Who Drink.

The non-drinkers didn’t know me at all.

  • They didn’t know that I would lie to my husband about where I’d been or who I was with.
  • They didn’t know that every morning before getting out of bed, I’d be thinking back on the night before, trying to remember if I did anything embarrassing (again) and who I needed to avoid for a while.
  • They didn’t know that when I made them a promise and then broke it, it was because More

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

Reflections on 26 Years of Alcoholic Sobriety

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Reflecting Pool

About Sobriety

  • I have as much sobriety today as someone who quit drinking yesterday.
  • The number of years of sobriety will not help anyone stay sober.
  • God took away my compulsion to drink from the beginning but most people struggle with the obsession.
  • The “passing parade” is very long.
  • Sometimes people die before they get recovery.
  • Not Drinking is way different from Being Sober.
  • Going to treatment more than one time is a waste of money and hope.
  • It is “God as we understood Him”– it is not “god of our understanding”; there is a huge difference.
  • At 8-10 years of continuous sobriety, the ego kicks into high gear and the ears shut down.
  • Recovery only happens one day at a time.
  • The same determination to drink (thinking, planning and carrying out no matter the cost) is exactly what is needed for the recovery process. Alcoholics already have what is necessary to succeed.
  • God had everything in place for me to stop and stay stopped–I had to want it.
  • The more difficult it is, the closer the miracle.
  • There are a lot of talented, gifted, intelligent, lovely, funny, caring alcoholics.
  • There are no shortcuts to recovery.

About The Family

  • Alcoholism is a Family Disease: it’s not just about the alcoholic.
  • A person can feel so much pain it is hard to breathe.
  • Alcoholism Kills: the Love of the Family, the Hope of the Future, the Joy of Life.
  • Consequences: the alcoholic family’s greatest tool.
  • We do not need to be ashamed about who we love.
  • People quit drinking when THEY are ready and not one split second before that.
  • Detachment with love is vital to physical health, not just mental health.
  • Much of what we call Help is really an attempt to quell our own emotions.
  • A person CAN be mentally and emotionally addicted to another person.
  • Al-Anons also hit bottom and have slips.
  • Recovering alcoholics begin to drift into Al-Anon at about 18 years of sobriety.
  • There is much joy in the Al-Anon rooms.
  • There are no shortcuts to recovery.

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

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.

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