Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Just a Hot Mess

I've missed a lot of Al Anon meetings over the last two months.  My brother was in the hospital in Nashville which is a lot closer to me than his family so I spent a lot of time there.  Then I got a terrible head cold and by the time I got better second Polar vortex had arrived and I just didn't like leaving the house.

Last night I went back for the first time and was greeted with big warm hugs from folks that I really had missed seeing.  We started out small and so we gathered around a round top table.  It was still very cold (single digits) and so we didn't expect a big crowd.  But, little by little people began to trickle in, until we had twice as many folks at our table as it would hold so we just scooted out a bit.

There were a lot of newcomers.  After our meeting got underway, a lady in a wheel chair came rolling  in and when we asked, "looking for Al Anon?" (we often get people looking for the AA meeting which is in another part of the building) she said "well yes since AA was not wheel chair accessible."  She went on to mention that her father was an alcoholic so she felt this meeting would be good too.

We began going around the room talking about various slogans and how they were meaningful in our lives.  The newcomers began sharing mainly about their qualifier, which I guess we have all done in the beginning.  But when we got to the handicapped lady, things went out of control. She started fussing about steps one through three.  She let us know in no uncertain terms that she didn't believe in what they said and wanted to make sure that this wasn't a Christian meeting.  Our GR explained the spiritual nature of our meeting, explaining that it isn't religious. 

When the meeting ended she left before we prayed so that she didn't have to be present for a prayer.  Then she returned to get phone numbers.  We offered her a bottle of water and she began to open it with her teeth.  I asked her if she'd like help opening the water and she was furious.  "Isn't it just like you codependent people to want to fix everything for everybody?"  She didn't stop there. She went on and on and on about how she was perfectly independent and was capable of doing anything she wanted anytime.  I told her that I was sorry and that yes it was just like a codependent person to want to fix it. 

But, man she got under my skin.  And I spent the better part of last night and today trying to figure out why.  Now let me just throw the disclaimers out first.  I know very deeply in my heart that she needed that meeting as much or more than I needed my first meeting.  I know that she struggles ten times harder than I do in doing ordinary everyday tasks. 

Why did this bother me so?  I decided that part of the problem is that every time that I need to apply my Al Anon principles to a new situation, I have to rethink it. Secondly I didn't really want to fix her ( honestly I did want to fix so many other things she mentioned) but not her ability to open her water bottle, I just wanted to be polite.  I can certainly see how she would be hypersensitive about her ability to take care of herself but what I don't know is where the boundary is with regard to offering  help or fixing.  I don't know how to be politically correct, at all.  I tend to be more direct. 

I questioned myself over and over....Was I trying to be controlling?  When I listened to her bash the first three steps, I must admit that I was not thinking warm fuzzy thoughts. I would have loved to have said, "why are you here?  If you don't like it, then there is the door."  Was I allowing my negative thoughts influence the way that I treated her?

My usual sanctuary that is my Al Anon group was not there.  I'm sure this is something in me that I need to look at and address....I'm just not sure what.  Any ideas anyone?  I'm gonna pray about it and I'm gonna keep praying for all of us and our addicted loved ones.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Little of This and a LIttle of That

It's been a frigid week here in middle Tennessee.  The dogs and I are over being stuck inside.  My skin is even drier than usual, I'm shocking everybody and everything that I touch and I'm starting to feel claustrophobic!  But, better days are ahead.  I looked up sunrise and sunset times for our area and learned that the last ten days of this month gain us 15-16 additional minutes of sunlight.  Sunlight is so important to my mood, I have learned.  I'm thinking of buying one of those clocks that gets brighter as morning approaches.

I received so many thoughtful comments on my last post regarding shame that I decided to give another bit of what I learned here.  Someone commented that they thought that shame can be a good thing and it can.  There is normal healthy shame.  Shame is good when it serves as a boundary to protect us.  The book describes an infant who gets embarrassed when a stranger approaches them as one of the first signs of healthy shame.  Feeling guilty when something tastes so good is a great reminder to stop eating before we overindulge. 

Shame becomes toxic when it becomes internalized.  Healthy shame says I made a mistake; toxic shame says I am the mistake.  When shame is internalized a person feels so bad about themselves that they create a false self.  The author of the book is an adult child of an alcoholic and a recovering alcoholic himself.  In one section he uses the twelve steps of AA to to explain how each steps works to restore our relationship to God, self, friend and neighbor through the twelve step program.  Once our relationship is restored to self, there is no need for a false self.  It was such a thoughtful book that it helped me to have a better grasp on what the twelve steps are actually doing in my life.

I had a great day Friday visiting with a cousin.  She has three children.  Two of the three have cystic fibrosis.  So she wanted to start blogging about her experience in the midst of that disease.  We sat with our readers on trying to set up a new word press blog, with neither of us very savvy at setting up a web page.  We fumbled and laughed all day long.  It was so much fun.  Maybe this getting older will afford us more childlike fun.  If you know of someone who battles cystic fibrosis please have them head over to Breath of Heaven and check her out.  She has fourteen years under her belt of first coping and now learning to live with this disease.  And, her journey has been one that has increased her faith, giving her some of the best lessons you can learn.  I'll leave the rest for her to share with you, but it's worth a read.

One last thought, I grew up in a teeny tiny town in western Kentucky on close to seventy-five acres.  My Dad didn't farm by the time I came around but we had the land and it was cherished. But, next door was an older couple named Mamie and Dempsey Dunning.  Dempsey used to wear green Dickies pants and shirt every day.  He sat on his front porch and played his fiddle and sang.  I don't recall if he was any good or not but, what I do remember is how he sang and played with wild abandon.  I also remember how he showed his feelings through that music without regard to what others thought and now I am seeing that that in and of itself was a beautiful thing.  What do you think?

I'm thankful for what God made me to be.  I'm gonna work a little harder to figure out what that is.  I'm proud of my family and thankful for the good and the bad because every bit of those experiences are a tool given for learning.  I'm praying for you guys too.....everyday!


Monday, January 20, 2014


I've been training at the Dad's office for a month or so and then two weeks ago my brother went into the hospital near me for a surgery so I have been with him at least once a day.  Today is a gorgeous sunny day in the mid fifties and I am home and able to work on my own projects.  But, this newfound freedom leaves me a little lost as to what to do first....

I've been doing a lot of reading on shame.  I started teaching a class on making moral decisions at the jail.  I had no training so I went to the internet to look for some teaching ideas.  The only thing I found was a class which was very expensive to take.  Instead, I looked at some of the references that were used in writing that book/class and read them.

One of the books I am reading is John Bradshaw's Healing the Shame that Binds You.  It is a fascinating book that left me feeling.....ashamed.  No kidding, I started feeling dark and depressed realizing all of the ways that I had shamed my children without even realizing it.  Especially when he mentions not once or twice but many many many times that toxic shame is the root cause of all addictions. 

There is good news though.  There are things that can turn the boat around so to speak.  And, twelve step programs are one of the best tools used in healing the shame that binds us.  Awareness of the shame that we've carried from one generation to the next is another.  It is a fascinating book that I have to take in small pieces.  I was wondering if any of you had any thoughts on shame or had done any reading on the subject.

I'm going to turn 50 in May.  It is a big milestone.  One that I am going to try and greet a bit healthier than I am right now.  This afternoon I will go to Weight Watchers for the first time since my kids were little.  I need accountability. 

My oldest daughter graduated from college in December with two degrees.  She is applying for graduate school in the fall but in the time being she is a veterinary assistant at a small animal clinic near her apartment.  My youngest daughter is in nursing school.  She is going into the hospitals this semester for the first time.  She is very excited.  And the is he?  I only know that he has maintained a job for a year.  He bought a $500.00 car that actually runs.  He seems clear.  But, he is in God's hands and I try not to know too much or I get in the way. 

Oh my, this life seems to be running by so fast.  I'm learning some pretty important lessons and much of the time it feels as if it's a day late and a dollar short.  Hopefully I will use these lessons in a way that will be of service to others.  In the mean time I'm praying for all of you facing life in the midst of addiction.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pray For Me

The first thing that our new Pope said after being elected was a request for the people to pray for him.  Prayer is so important.  In the beginning of this madness, I wanted to fix the world for my son, then I wanted to fix him.  I met a priest that told me about how he lived in bars prior to going into the priesthood.  One day his brother asked their mother why she didn't go into the bars and drag him out and let him have it.  She told her son that she had a much better chance of fighting for his brother on her knees than she ever would going after him in the bars.

It was a bigger lesson than I could ever imagine back then.  I began praying by telling God what to do.  Later I learned a lot about myself by paying attention to what and how I prayed.  I began to change my prayer from little requests like help him to do this or that to simply heal him.  I began to understand that all these things that I deemed normal were not necessarily things that would mean healing for my boy.  I started to see and accept that I didn't know what it would take to heal my son. 

Now I am realizing that I need to pray for myself.  I need to be healed.  I need to know how to be a mother who loves unconditionally in the midst of addiction.  I need to love without judgment.  I need to pray for continued awareness.  I need to pray without ceasing. 

Things are different now.  I don't really know if they are good or bad.  I don't know if my son is using or not.  I don't know if he's better or found a new way to manipulate.  And, I just don't know how to stop trying to manage him.  So, I ask for your prayers.  I realize that I am still not minding my own business.  Boy am I a slow learner. 

It's really strange weather here tonight.  It is supposed to drop 50 degrees overnight.  The wind is blowing up to 30 mph.  I've missed reading all of your blogs.  I've been tied up at work but should hopefully get back to a normal schedule.  I also cut my pinkie on a can of pumpkin and had to get six stitches on Christmas eve!  Luckily my best friend is married to an orthopod and so he stitched me up.  It is unbelievable how much you need your pinkie.  Typing has been a nightmare.

Well, our tree is down.  We put it out by the curb for the city to pick up and it has blown all over the place since the wind has picked up.  Hopefully we will get back to some version of normal.  The days get favorite time of the year is on it's way.  Praying for us all.