Endigar 777

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 14;

Confusion can be a gift from God. Looking back on instances when I felt desperately in need of an immediate solution, I can see that often I wasn’t ready to act. When I became fully ready, the information I needed was there for the taking.

When I know too much about my options before the time is right to exercise those options, I tend to use the information only to drive myself crazy. That’s why today, when I am feeling confused, I try to consider it grace. It may not yet be time for me to act.

I think that dealing with confusion can be like cooking. If the bread isn’t done, I don’t take it out of the oven and insist that it’s time to eat. I let it finish baking. If a clear solution to a problem hasn’t shown itself yet, I can trust that it will appear when the time is right.

Today’s Reminder

I will thank my Higher Power for whatever I experience today, even if I feel troubled or confused. I know that every experience can offer me a gift. All I have to do is be willing to look at my situation in the light of gratitude.

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. ” ~ Helen Keller

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The wonder of darkness and silence, the gift of confusion, all meant to help me practice surrender to a Power greater than myself. The curses from my past become the blessings of my present because I am transformed through a very intentional surrender. What sent panic through me in my life experience is received in trusting serenity as guidance away from my domain of fear.

There is a point in the day where effort fades. I have taken my shovel to the mountain that stands as a humbling obstacle, and I have spent my faith in solid work. In the stillness, I calm myself committed to recovery. Darkness falls and I stumble forward, finding the pass my efforts have kept me from seeing. Confusion is a gift when it leads to a higher level of clarity; a seeing beyond the ocular orbs of my flesh.

Endigar 776

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 13;

Every snowflake is different. Every thumbprint is different. Every person in Al-Anon is different despite the common problem that brings us together.

Comparing myself to others was a defect of character that plagued me all my life and continued during my early years in Al-Anon. I focused on how others seemed to be grasping the program more quickly than I, had the “right” things to say when they shared, seemed more popular. I didn’t like myself because I wasn’t living up to what I believed to be true about others.

Today, just like the snowflake and the thumbprint, I realize that I too have special qualities. I know that my growth in Al-Anon can’t be compared with anyone else’s. I have learned that I can’t judge my insides by others people’s outsides. We’re all doing the best we can. Like every other member of the fellowship, I offer an important contribution to the Al-Anon family groups simply by participating and being myself.

Today’s Reminder 

A Sponsor or trusted Al-Anon friend can help me see that I have value just as I am.

“It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.” ~ Desiderius Erasmus

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I think it is important to separate our shortcomings from deeper issues that might need to be addressed. What if a “defect of character” turns out to be a buried, suppressed trauma response. The 12 Steps have helped unearth issues I have lived with that have reinforced a great deal of  social anxiety. It is important for me to approach all my transgressions and resentments with confession and a willingness to make amends. When short-comings irrationally persist in the sanity of the program, I must have the humility and compassion for those who love me to seek professional support. The counseling I sought would not have been as effective for me if I had not first worked the 12 Step program.

Social anxiety can take many different forms and resist the helpful intimate connections one needs to find progress toward spiritual freedom. That has been my own experience.

Endigar 775

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 12;

For me, detachment is relatively easy with casual friends, where I’m not very emotionally involved. I’ve noticed that when I am detached, I can listen to other people being critical or grumpy without being affected. But if members of my family act the same way, I often take on tier negative frame of mind. My own behavior shows me that I have a choice about my response to other people’s moods and attitudes.

What I have learned by comparing these two situations is that detachment involves paying attention to my own mood before I have a chance to take on someone else’s. Then I can simply see and hear negativity or anger, without becoming negative or angry. I don’t have to have a bad day just because someone I love is struggling. This knowledge allows me to let everyone, including myself, feel whatever they feel without interference.

Today’s Reminder

If I pause for a moment before focusing on someone else’s mood, I may find out that I have feelings of my own that deserve attention. I will look for those moments to check in with myself today.

“Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with another’s behavior and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives, lives with dignity and rights, lives guided by a Power greater than ourselves.” ~Detachment

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I have only had to practice this detachment on a small scale. My “qualifiers” for the Al-Anon program have either passed away or they are working their own recovery program. I think what I have a problem with is the implied attachment that detachment is supposed to facilitate. I am supposed to find me and keep me from disappearing into various forms of personal neglect for the sake of others. My integrity, emotions, or aspirations should not fade away in a bid to control what cannot be controlled – someone else’s diseased thinking and actions. So even though I may not need to practice the difficult detachment from a loved one who is still in active addiction, I continue to find myself lapsing into personal neglect and withdrawal. Healthy detachment is only possible for me when I care about my own spiritual, emotional and physical well-being and I am willing to put out the effort in day to day living to demonstrate that positive self interest.

Endigar 774

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 11;

Tradition Five helps me to set three goals: to work the Steps for myself; to have compassion for the alcoholics; and to have compassion for those who come to Al-Anon. What strikes me is the amount of love to be found in these three goals. First, I love myself enough to try to heal and grow by working the Twelve Steps. Next, I call upon this strength to love those people I once thought were my enemies, recognizing that they too were struggling to cope with this terrible disease. Finally, I draw upon these experiences and extend love on those who are following a similar journey — the families and friends of alcoholics.

I know that I was pulled from despair by the love of strangers who quickly became friends. Now I have enough love and wholeness within myself to share it with others who suffer from the effects of alcoholism.

Today’s Reminder

I need love before I even know what it was. Now that I understand something about it, I need it even more. By loving myself, I not only take care of my own needs, but I lay a foundation for loving others. By loving others, I learn to treat myself well.

“Each Al-Anon Family Group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of AA ourselves, by encouraging and understanding our alcoholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort of families of alcoholics.” ~ Tradition Five

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I have heard many things about love over the course of my years. I will quote the random assertions in my brain without citing to facilitate exploration. “God is love.” “Love is not a feeling, it is an act of your will.” “What’s love got to do with it? What’s love but a second-hand emotion?” “I want to know what love is; I want you to show me.” “Love suffers all things – the greatest of these is love.” “Love is connection to yourself and others.” “Love is a chemical reaction.” “Love is a battlefield.” “Love toward God is the greatest commandment, the second greatest is to love your neighbor – if you do not love your brother but say you love God, you are a liar.” “Love conquers all.” “Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars any heart not tough nor strong enough to take a lot of pain .” “I feel like making love.”

For me, love always involves some assertion of my personal will for the benefit of myself and others. Love is also a realization that care for myself and others is so intimately intertwined that it is, pragmatically speaking, the same thing. Yet there is a mysterious element to love the transcends human speech and yet demands the attempt. Love is a risky journey but the greatest blessings in my life have come from the boldness to go where no Me has gone before in pursuit of love’s fulfillment. Tradition Five is one way to fuel that journey in my life. I am rewarded for overcoming my fears and investing in myself and others.

 

Endigar 773

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 15, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 10;

One of the effects of alcoholism is that many of us have denied or devalued our talents, feelings, achievements, and desires. In Al-Anon we learn to know, appreciate, and express our true selves. Creativity is a powerful way to celebrate who we are. It is spiritual energy that nourishes our vitality. It is a way to replace negative thinking with positive action.

Every one of us is brimming with imagination, but it often takes practice to find it and put it to use. Yet anything we do in a new way can be creative — building a bookcase, trying a new seasoning on a vegetable, taking a new approach to handling finances, finger painting, problem-solving, tapping out a rhythm on a tabletop. Creative energy is within us and all around us, whether we are writing a masterpiece or folding the laundry.

Every original act asserts our commitment to living. Our program encourages us to acknowledge our achievements and to live each day fully. When we create, we plant ourselves firmly in the moment and teach ourselves that what we do matters.

Today’s Reminder

Today I will make use of the precious gift of imagination. Thus I will turn away from negativity, self-doubt, and fear, and celebrate life instead.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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I agree that there is release to be gained in creative expression. That is one of the major reasons I started writing this blog. Yet, I do not think it is because it helps me turn away from the more negative emotions. I believe it to be another tool I use to process these emotions without getting lost in morbid self-reflection. My life in recovery is not about positive thinking but healthy processing of the entire spectrum of my emotions.

I painted this during a time when I was having great difficulty processing the pain of my post-marital apocalypse. It captures both the destructive and surprising force of the dismantling of our home, as well as my own unjustified exile. I felt that I was betrayed and experienced a family man’s form of rape; to become a disposable, visiting father. Although the wound is still there, I process it differently in recovery. The event hurt every member of my family and we all processed it uniquely. Although my former wife and I are not as close, I count here as a friend. My children are young adults now and I am proud of them. I would much rather live in a world of love and forgiveness than to be chained in an eternal state of fearful vigilance.  My life in recovery is about processing difficult emotions and to chose to celebrate life one day at a time. I do not shut the door on my past but hopefully turn it into something useful and ultimately beautiful.

Endigar 772

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 14, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 09;

There was nothing simple about my life before I came to Al-Anon. My work was highly stressful, my time was always short, and my attention was intensely focused on the alcoholic, but I didn’t realize I was under a strain. During the early days in Al-Anon, I shifted my intense focus to the program. As my denial broke, I became aware that I was exhausted all the time. The topic at an Al-Anon meeting, “Keep it Simple,” was just what I needed to hear!

I decided that the top priority for my unmanageable life was to recover from the effects of alcoholism. I had responsibilities and couldn’t eliminate all the stress from my life, but I tried to simplify it wherever possible. In my case, this meant letting go of some social activities temporarily switching to a lower paying but less stressful job, and leaving some household chores undone. It wasn’t a permanent change, just a way to give myself the time I needed for my emotional and spiritual health.

It was such a relief! By the time I returned to my normal schedule, I had a better grasp on keeping I simple, so I was able to handle it more serenely.

Today’s Reminder

If I am overwhelmed, I may be trying to do too much. Today I will try to keep it simple.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hofmann

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“The Gate” by Hans Hofmann

Hofmann believed that abstract art was a way to get at the “important reality.” I remember reading about the important versus urgent demands of life in Steve Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is known as the Eisenhower Decision Principal in time management. Tasks are prioritized into quadrants based on important/not important and urgent/not urgent. I have in my memory the phrase “do not let the urgent eat up the important.” I would attribute it to Covey, but I cannot confirm its origin. The urgent will override the important when we live responsively rather than proactively. Identifying the truly important tasks in my life can only be accomplished when I know myself and, as William Shakespeare said through his character Polonius in the play Hamlet, “To thy own self be true.” Either my connection with my Higher Power is the artistic genius of my life or I become a wall covered in the graffiti of anxious futility.

Endigar 771

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2017 by endigar

From Courage to Change of February 08;

I like people, and at one time I wanted everyone to be my friend. With the best of intentions, I tried to encourage friendships with certain individuals, although my attempts were repeatedly, discreetly rebuffed.

I was comforted by the words I heard at the close of each Al-Anon meeting: “. . . though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a very special way — the same way we already love you.” It was an important lesson that, while I can’t have everyone’s friendship, I can offer and receive respect, support, and understanding. Patience and humility soothed my wounded pride.

Today’s Reminder

It is unrealistic to expect everyone to like me. With such an expectation, I set myself up to fail and give myself an excuse to blame that failure on others. I can’t change other people, but I can change my own attitudes. I can let go of my rules about how others should feel about me. When I am disappointed in another’s response, I can make an extra effort to be kind, warm, and loving to myself. I am lovable just the way I am.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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I remember when I was quite the small one sitting in a church. I sat painfully still and heard a preacher say that human beings are naturally selfish at the expense of others. That was part of our fallen nature. He mocked the self-help movements of the time that sought to restore hearts by teaching them to love themselves. For the religion locked in my memory this was heading in the wrong direction. Selfless service and piety forged from self-castigation was the tried, proven path of the holy ones. Religion was always good to point out the primary three enemies of the soul: the Flesh, the World, and Satan. My friends in the fight of faith were identified as the opposing trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was a simple time of learned irrelevance.

I find a lot of useful truth in the fissures between the warring factions of humanity.

  1. Communication is a fragile thing. English has bundle words (single words stuffed full of potential meaning, sometimes conflicting ideas) that make it difficult to discuss the abstractions of spiritual ideas in my native tongue.
  2. Paradox, analogy and specific examples help dismantle the misleading simplicity of bundle words.
  3. Self and selfish are bundle words.

There is a beneficial, necessary Selfishness and there is a destructive, isolating selfishness and it is this latter form that is spoken of on page 62 of the Big Book when it says, “…we must be rid of this selfishness. We must or it kills us!” It does not say we must be rid of selfishness. It says we must be rid of THIS selfishness. What kind of selfishness? The kind that was dismantled from the English bundle with specific analogies on the previous pages. The isolating, manipulative, controlling selfishness that is the manifestation of a lifetime of fear. This will kill me.

In Al-Anon, there is a shifted focus to the good kind of Selfishness. It was present in my AA program as well, causing me to seek and accept help because I wanted to live. It kept me coming back in spite of my wounded pride. I wanted to be free to love again. For me. For the higher version of Me. My counselor says this is better termed as self-care, but in these rooms of recovery it is an aggressive form of self-care. Self-care dances through the tulips. My form of self-care wears leather and armor and tramples pretty for powerful. It has the bite of selfishness but in the direction of raging life and aggressive love. It is the Selfishness of the program that I need to walk through the door and stay until I see the transformative magic of the rooms. For me, this is indeed a Selfish program and it is not a selfish program.

If I do not love Me until I get the validation of others, my attempts at friendship will become manipulative and boomerang against Me. I will not only expect but need everyone to like me. I want everyone’s permission to love my life. It then becomes inevitable that I will fall into the trap of unrealistic expectations. My relationship with GOMU (God of my understanding) and my relationship with myself are intimately intertwined. The development in one requires the development in the other.

This is the way it is for me. I hope something shared here is useful for those who read.