Doing the Prep Work for Your 4th Step

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I’ve found it is so much easier to write about doing a 4th Step than it is to actually write a 4th Step. If you’re having trouble getting started on this vitally important Step, you’re not alone. I talk with people all the time who struggle with this Step. In fact, most comments have been about More

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

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

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.

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