My very first meeting…

I had mentioned, back in September, in a post called Books Matter, that I would post about my first twelve step meeting. I’ve gotten a lot of requests to tell on myself since then!  My behavior is a source of hilarity to me NOW but at the time…

Well, let’s just say I was a little bit nuclear bomb angry,  fearful and lived in a cloud of constant anxiety and heart palpitations. I was not at this meeting of my own free will. As previously mentioned, one of my dearest friends had finally grabbed me by both shoulders and told me, “If you do not go to that meeting tonight I will come get you, duck tape your fanny to the bumper of my car and DRAG you there!” I could tell by the flashing of her brilliant blue eyes that she meant business. She was done with the never-ending nonsense caused by the chaos in my life. Her knee’s were sore from praying for me and it was time for some action.

So for my friend, and mostly because I was scared of loosing my friend. I went.

I walked into the room at church set aside for family members of addicted people. I was petrified and numb but I do remember feeling shock at the number of people who were there. There were at least thirty people sitting around in a huge circle. As I slowly walked closer I realized, I knew at least half of them!

How could this be? I had had no idea they were dealing with the same thing I was. I thought my misery, anxiety and fear had marked me and was following me around like an invisible cloud of dirt. I felt that everyone who came in contact with me could see the dirt cloud, or maybe smell the shame that rolled off of me. How was it that these people were roaming around with no dirt cloud?

I hesitantly sat down, keeping my purse in my lap so I could make a quick get-a-way. My anxiety level was through the roof and I was sure the person sitting next to me was getting nervous listening to my heart pound. The kids were safe in child care, but what was going on at home? Was he there? Was he drunk? Was he angry because I was not there? Was he thrilled I was not there so he could drink in peace? What mess was I going to come home to when this dang meeting was over?

I did not even hear the opening remarks because I was so consumed with what was going on in my mind. And the anger I used to protect myself started welling up– a nice hot balm to cover my unbearable anxiety.

People said interesting things as the talk went around the circle but I only half listened. Everyone here was so calm! No one could possibly know the unbearable anxiety I lived with on a daily basis! No one here was even angry!

The books got passed to me and I looked at them in amazement. For an avid reader who loves books I could not focus on a single word.

Then everyone was looking at me expectantly. It was my turn to “share”. I still had no concept of what I was supposed to “share” or do and between my now boiling rage and the skin crawling anxiety I could not hold it in anymore.

I jumped up in that circle and yelled, “I don’t need to be here! I am not the one drinking away my marriage! I am not the one drinking up all our money! I am not the one the kids don’t even know! I am not the one with a problem! HE IS!”

It was a very bizarre as it was like I was an observer to my own performance. I had never embarrassed myself in public this way! I was at church for Pete’s sake! Sit down and SHUT UP!

I quickly did sit down and waited for the explosion, the laughter, to be asked to please leave.

Nothing happened.

The conversation simply moved on to the next person who shared about how these meetings had helped her deal with the toxic emotions caused by trying to walk on eggshells around the addict in her home.

My rage abated under my acute embarrassment and I actually managed to listen to her even though my skin was still crawling with anxiety. My heart pounding rendered cardio unnecessary for me in those days. But as I listened to her, and then the rest of the people in the circle my heart did seem to pound a little less.

Finally this embarrassing thing was over and I jumped up quickly to leave, but I was stopped by a kind older man. He thanked me for coming and sharing and asked me to come back.

He was joined by several other’s who also asked me to come back and to my surprise I said I would. They were so kind, so sincere, I felt like I had to after my “show”. I would come back next week and behave myself this time! I wanted these nice people to know I was not a psychotic maniac!

I wandered away slowly, wondering what had just happened? Why were these people being so nice to me? Why was there such an air of calm in this room? Why was I feeling calmer?

For some reason I felt no rush to get home to either clean up a mess or try to prevent one. I wanted to enjoy this calm feeling. I wanted to come back.

So I did.

And I kept coming back. It works if you work it!

 

I dedicate this post to everyone “out there” suffering under the weight of another’s addiction. There are rooms full of experience, strength and HOPE available for you too! Contact me, I’ll help you get hooked up! xxoo-Alana

 

Say YES to LESS

Do you have trouble saying “no”?

I do, and I am not alone in this. I was talking to a friend the other day about this issue and she told me, “saying no to them was like a knife in my gut!”. Why do some people have such an issue with a tiny two letter, one syllable word?

You can call it the “disease to please”, people pleasing personality or full-blown codependency or “interconnected”.  Not being able to say no can come at great personal expense. Have you ever found yourself up at 2 AM writing someone else’s assignment? Making cupcakes for a party you were not even invited to? Packing for someone who needs to be at the airport at 6 AM? Come on! Let’s be honest here!

When you say “yes” to everyone and everything presented to you, your life gets off track. You become like that the little train on the stump. Stuck and going nowhere fast…

Why don’t you ( or I) exercise our right to say “no”? For me it boiled down to fear. I was afraid to say “no” because, 1. I didn’t want to make anyone angry with me 2. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.  3. I love fixing things and if I take on your problem I will be your hero, right?

Well that may be true, but most of the time I felt more like a doormat than a hero. I felt like a train off my tracks and out of control.

Being up at 2 am doing someone’s else’s project did not one thing for my own self esteem, my need to rest. I often felt resentful and angry that I was doing something I did not want to do and in many cases should not have been doing.

As a codependent, saying “yes” immediately was an anxiety reducing behavior. I got a little satisfaction from playing “girl Friday” and fixing other’s problems, but that immediate relief was short-lived. I had no boundaries. What is a boundary? The dictionary defines a boundary as “something that set limits”.

Now in 2017, let’s get very real and very honest There are limits to what you can do.

Your time and your health are your two most valuable possessions. Spend them wisely. Survival is not selfish.

You must make good decisions with your time to make it to your own finish line. So you must know and respect your own personal limits and have a boundary line around your time.  Take a deep breath and think of the last time you flew on an airplane. The safety speech from the flight crew, even if you have never paid attention to what they are saying you could not miss the little oxygen mask part. If that thing pops out you put yours on FIRST, before you help anyone else. Even a child…

So as a codependent, people pleaser, whatever your label is, how do you say “no” without the crippling fear, anxiety and guilt?

It just takes practice and knowledge about what is really going on. Do you say “yes” out of fear? Are you afraid of the anger of someone being told “no”? Why are you afraid of their anger? Why are they angry at hearing a tiny two letter word, really? Give yourself some time to think this through. Do you always say “yes” out of guilt? Why does saying “no” make you feel guilty? Sit down with a journal and write out answers to these questions and give this some serious thought.

There is a Chinese proverb: “Give a hungry man a fish you feed him today. Teach a hungry man to fish you feed him for life.” Think about what you are doing. Do you have teenagers who can’t work a washing machine? Who is going to wash clothes for them when they go to college? Do they have a clue that this is a lifelong chore that needs to get done so school and work clothes are ready for the week ahead? This is a reality of life, so while it may make YOU feel good to take such wonderful care of your little darlings are you really helping them?

My first successful boundary was in the laundry room. When I went from being a stay at home mom to working two jobs post divorce I did not have the time or the energy to do all that extra laundry. I showed my kids how to use both machines, got them each a basket and that was that. Everyone was responsible for their own laundry. My kids resisted this, they had  never thought about clean clothes, how clothes get clean or folded and returned to their closet.  I held my ground, and had to hold my nose a couple of times, but everyone takes care of their own laundry now. It’s a wonderful thing!

Back to our little nemesis, NO. If just reading that word, saying it, is causing your heart rate to rise and your stomach to tie up in knots, let’s say in 2017 we are going to say YES to LESS! There! We can DO THIS!

I have noticed that back in my no boundaries days I would get attacked. I’m serious, I had one friend who would drop her kids off on my doorstep and be in her car pulling out yelling out the window what time she was going to pick them up when I opened the door! Or you are in the carpool line and “We need 6 dozen cookies for home room tomorrow, I appreciate it.” You’re in the parking lot at work and someone runs up to you and breathlessly says, “Hey! I need you to cover my shift at___”.

I call this the ambush ask.

But you can still say no. You are never backed into a corner until you agree to do something.

Take a deep breath and say, “Hang on, I need to check my schedule before I agree to that and I will get back to you with an answer.” Then do check and get back to them with an answer. If someone gets angry with you for making them wait until you can check your schedule is that someone you want to give your valuable time to? Think about that…

So when ambushed like this, take a breath and give yourself time. Put your hand up if you have to.  Once you do this a few time the ambushers will likely stop this approach.

If you are asked to do something you already know you cannot do but you feel guilty for saying “no”, and you are about to cave in, shift the focus. State, “I would like to help but I already have a commitment at that time to kids activity, work, spouse…” whatever, take the focus off of you saying “no”.

Or you can say no with a compliment, “I am so pleased you thought of me for this project. I am flattered but I already have plans for that weekend.”

If a person is insistent that they need you for this project, and you will run into this from people who are accustomed to you always saying “yes”– offer an alternative. State, “I cannot help on that date but if you still need help on ___ I could pitch in then.”  OR “Is there something I could do that does not include___?”

Please in 2017 let’s resolve to respect ourselves. Respect our limits and set boundaries that ensure our emotional integrity. Don’t allow yourself to be backed into a corner. Do not be afraid of a two letter word or the person who needs to hear it. You can say “no”! Start small and practice. In time saying no will be as easy as saying yes, then you can say yes without guilt or resentment. In time you can say yes to things you truly want to do and can give 100% of your best to.

Let’s get our train off the stump and back on track!

Remember the oxygen mask? Put yours on first because if you pass out NO ONE is left! One more time: Survival is NOT Selfish!

2017 has a motto: Say YES to LESS!

 

 

 

God Grant me the Serenity…

waterfall

Photo courtesy of Zan Phillips Photography, Jackson, Mississippi. Please visit Zan on Facebook to see more of her wonderful work.

God Grant me the serenity…

Such richness in this sentence, five simple words.

First as we address God, we acknowledge our Higher Power. The only power who has power to restore us.

Second, we ask for a grant. To grant means to bestow or confer, especially by a formal act or to agree or accede to a request.

Third, we are asking for ourselves. We are not focusing on anyone or anything but our own need, our own circumstance, our own heart.

And fourth we are requesting serenity. God’s own peace to be granted to us. But does God just give us serenity? Is it gift wrapped and handed out Christmas morning? Can God’s peace be poured over a restless heart and instantly soothe or is there some part we must play? Does water poured into a cracked pot stay or run out?

I think the key to being able to hold God’s peace in our heart lies in the next sentence of our prayer: to accept.

The key to being able to receive God’s grant of serenity is to accept it. No gift can be bestowed on an unwilling heart.

To accept that His peace surpasses our circumstances, our emotions and our powerlessness. To accept that our Higher Power is in control of each and every situation.

And once we do that, we are able to accept the priceless gift of serenity.

 

Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come to thee.         Job 22:21

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.      Philippians 4:7  NKJV

 

This post is an excerpt from Alana’s book, The Little Engine who Could Not… available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.

Photo courtesy of Zan Phillips, please see Zan’s FB page for more examples of her amazing photography.