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What Does It Do for You?
2007-01-19, 11:30 a.m.

Day 880 So Whatís It Do for You?

Posted one late Thursday night too. Might want to go back and catch up. Not that you missed a lot.

Sunpowered recently left these questions in my notes:

What does AA give you? What have been your epiphanies along the way? They are two very good questions. Worthy of some thought and introspection. And a whole journal entry. So I told Ms. Sunpowered Iíd go off and do some navel gazing then come back and answer her questions, both for her and myself.

Well, I done gazed at my navel long enough. Itís no where near as deep as it used to be, and doesnít house quite the volume of lint it did a couple of years ago. Other than that, it just sits there, sorta near the geographic center of the front surface of the old bod, holding down the fort. The skin is still a little thicker there than Iíd like it to be, but thatís being worked on. Slowly but surely, the last vestiges of my subcutaneous energy reserves will be consumed and Iíll have that nice taut belly in which my navel can hang out.

But the questions still need answering. So here goes.

First, one minor correction. I go to Al Anon, which is related to, but distinct from AA. AA is for the (ex)drinker, the person actually challenged with the disease of alcoholism. Al Anon is for those who feel that their own lives have been affected by someone elseís alcoholism Ė generally an immediate family member (parent, spouse, child), but the Ďqualifierí could also be more distantly related, or even a coworker or neighbor.

Thereís a fine line to walk here too. Our meetings are anonymous. Itís kind of like Las Vegas Ė what happens there, stays there. So I canít go into any great detail about what happens at meetings, but Sunpoweredís questions were more to the point of what has going done for me Ė so Iíll try to stick to that and honor my meeting friends anonymity.

What does Al Anon give me? Sooooo much. First, it offers a room full of people that are experiencing, or have experienced everything I am going through right now. Somebody in the room has probably had a day similar to what I went through yesterday (not so rhetorical a point either!). If I ever get over my introversion long enough to share an experience, someone else there will share a similar experience and what they did to get through it. The group I hang with averages 6 Ė 12 people per meeting. Unfortunately, I am quite often the only guy there. Think it adds to my introvertedness a wee bit.

Second, it offers reassurance that we are not the cause of the alcoholics illness.

Third, we try to understand that we canít control the alcoholic

Fourth, we learn that we canít cure the alcoholic.

Those three are important. Itís not my fault and I canít fix it, no matter what I do. In the past, Iíd tried lots of things. Bullying, sarcasm, pleading, screaming, throwing away all the booze, so many other futile attempts Ė hell, I would drink it so thereíd be less for her to drink (that was DUMB). Of course, none of it worked. Finally accepting the 3 Cís (didnít Cause, canít Control, canít Cure) has been a bit of an epiphany in itself. Finally accepting the fact that sheís going to drink until sheís ready to stop, no matter what I do, has been a little liberating.

Fifth, (epiphany here too), the alcoholic has effected changes in us. Made us do things we didnít want to do, made us think things we wouldnít normally have thought. Theyíve affected our lives, all so that they might better get to that next drink. Alcoholics (any addict really) are manipulative little bastards, and will stop at almost nothing in their efforts to subvert you to do their will. Lie, cheat, try to hide their using right in front of your face, come up with excuses to send you out of the house so they can slam down six or eight ounces of whiskey, just to get things cookiní a little. Know that it will happen, accept it when you have to, donít fall prey to it the rest of the time.

Sixth, it is still possible to love the person but detest the disease. Itís possible to detach oneself from the drinking and hold on, waiting for them to finally bottom out and realize they need help. I am struggling mightily with this part. No epiphany there. Because itís not just the drinking I have to detach from. Itís all the after effects too. The sullenness during the hangover, the bitchiness between binges, the constant nitpicking, the Aís always looking for some way to say ďI might be a drunk, but Iím still as good as youĒ. Knowing that this is all part of the disease is one thing (I keep typing thong Ė Freudian much? Sorry, back to my point) but being able to detach from it is a skill Iím still working on. A lot of that stuff hurts, and itís not the kind of hurt that leaves a physical bruise. If I wanted to? I could mop the floor with Cindy. I could kick her ass from here to Timbuktu and back and not break a sweat. (I wonít, Iím just not wired that way. Thatís why I go to the gym. Physical vent. Well, that and I want to get my sorry ass in shape too) I donít fear anything physical she can do to me, because quite frankly, she cant. But those psychological bruises Ė thatís what detachment is meant to help. That will be perhaps the biggest thing Al Anon can teach me.

Seventh Ė the program. Yes, the 12 steps. Above all else, Al Anon is a self improvement process. Making improvements in oneself helps in dealing with life with an alcoholic. So I am told. There are people in my group living with active alcoholics that appear to be some of the most well adjusted people I could ever meet. Years in the program, working the steps, keeping up with the daily readings Ė these are the people I want to be like when (if) I grow up.

Now, Iíve only been going to meetings for 9 months. Still donít have a sponsor. Contemplating buying another text Ė one meant as a study guide for actually working the steps Ė and starting to work through the steps myself. At some point though, I will need a sponsor to keep me honest, and to use as a sounding board and mentor. Soon.

I used to get myself worked up into quite a rage over Cindyís latest stunts. Al Anon has helped me to curb the sarcastic remarks, gotten me to think before I just let fly with some hurtful response, has me believing that itís not Cindy, itís the disease. I donít fly off the handle so quickly any more, but in order to do that, I avoid contact with Cindy as much as possible when sheís been drinking. Itís all a struggle to find a balance, and (epiphany time) I think Al Anon is one of the tools I need to get there.

I have also sketched out a tentative timeline in my head. I have some obligations to Cindyís dad. I have power of attorney for him, I manage his day to day bills & affairs, I am his health care proxy and the executor of his will. I donít know why, these arenít jobs one campaigns for. Anyhow. When my obligations to Bob are fulfilled, I will re-assess the situation and decide then and there. If Cindy is in recovery, great. We would hopefully already be working on repairing the damage done to our relationship. If sheís still drinking uncontrollably, so be it. Whether it happens legally, spiritually, physically Ė by then I will have made my best effort to hang in there and wouldnít feel guilty about starting proceedings to dissolve everything. Maybe weíd find some sort of reconciliation, but my detachment would become complete by then I think. She may all of a sudden realize whatís up and decide to get dry Ė but thereís too much water under all those bridges sheís burned for her to ever

Thatís another thing we learn in Al Anon Ė to forgive, to let go. To not hold grudges. Hmmph. I donít know how to reconcile that with my apparent burning desire to flee and blame it all on Cindy.

Sunpowered Ė thank you for asking those questions. Iím gonna go back and gaze at my lint free navel some more. I hope you find a group that suits your needs. Considering your roots, Al Anon might be a good fit. Try six meetings, then see how it fits.

Peace & strength to all

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