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

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 New Normal

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The ending of one year and the beginning of the next seems to be the time everyone evaluates where they are in this world. It’s just a fortunate and natural (I believe) thought process. And for many years, my goal was always to inch closer to that elusive “N” word: N-O-R-M-A-L. More

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