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

 

Books matter

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Books matter. They are vessels of knowledge but also friends. A good book is much more than company or entertainment. In times of hardship, I have pulled a beloved book off the shelf to read it again for the comfort it provided. I decided to share a few of my favorites with you today.

The Listener by Taylor Caldwell. I first discovered Taylor Caldwell when I was in the seventh grade. I was already an avid reader and The Captains and The Kings was a big fat paperback I found in the library. I figured it would occupy me and give me a good excuse to procrastinate in math class. I was swept away into the story and seven times I had to set the book down and have a good cry over the tragedy’s happening to these characters I came to dearly love. That is a good story and even better writing. Mrs. Caldwell was a master of her craft. She knocked out almost one novel a year from 1938 to 1980! You can’t go wrong reading any of them.  The Listener was published in 1960 and what is  amazing to me is even today we experience the same dark night of the soul that the characters in this book went through. Will you find yourself in this book? Will your soul resonate with the Betrayed or the Betrayer, the Doctor, Teacher or the Magdalene? And will you be changed when you meet The Man who Listens?

I hope you will read it and find out for yourself!

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, this is a 365 day devotional and a dear friend gave me the  leather-bound as a gift. What a gift it has been. These devotionals are short, sweet, simple, yet very deep and thoughtful. They remind me to “be still and know” and in our current harried and hurried world the thing I need most is to “be still”. This book is a gift in many ways.

How Al-Anon works for Friends and Families. This book may have actually saved my life. I did not go to my first meeting willingly, I was entrenched in denial, anger and fear. I knew if I could just figure out the magic formula I could FIX IT. The same friend who gave me the copy of Jesus Calling had cheerfully informed me that “if you don’t go to that meeting tonight I will come get you and duck tape your fanny to the bumper of my car and take you myself” One look in her eyes flashing blue lightning and I knew I better go. I did. I made a horse’s butt of myself ( a subject for a different post!) but I did decide to get some literature. And I went back. And I read this book.  My first trip through this book I cried so hard reading was slow and painful. But it was the first step on a healing journey that continues today. My second trip through this book was done with highlighters, note taking and willingness to learn. I remember setting the book down and taking a deep breath thinking, “whoever wrote this has been bugging my house for the past five years!”  I learned I was not alone,  and neither are you. No matter how bad your situation there is someone who has already lived it and if you want help– it’s out there. There are millions of people just waiting to share their experience, strength and hope with you. I am one of them. Get in touch!

Addictive Thinking  Understanding Self-Deception by Abraham J. Twerski M.D. Once I was on the road to recovery I took to heart the advice to learn all you can about addiction and this book curled my hair. But not in the way you may think. This book exposed the truth to me about my own addictive thinking and the compulsive destructive behavior coming out of my mind as I played my part on the merry-go-round . This book is not an “easy read” but if you want illumination this is it.

Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.  Have you ever though about what you are thinking about? Thoughts are powerful and if you are not thinking the right thoughts your actions will not be that great either. In AA and Al-Anon we call it “stinkin thinkin!” and it can be fixed. This is an amazing book, and after you read it you can get the workbook and work it! Like anything good– “it works if you work it!”  You CAN fix your thoughts on things that are good and true and lovely and THINK ON THESE THINGS! This book has been a life changer for millions of readers. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Dying for a Drink, what you and your family should know about alcoholism By Anderson Spickard Jr. M.D. and Barbara Thompson.   This book is a fascinating journey through Dr. Spickard’s medical career and his personal perceptions of the medical establishment’s treatment of addiction and the improvements that have been made. He co-wrote the updated edition with Barbara Thompson “to equip readers with the information, tools and confidence they need to participate in the recovery process.” (page 16 of Dying for a Drink) This book address’ all aspects of addiction, the scientific, spiritual and cultural. It address’ the family aspect of the disease in several chapters devoted to family recovery down to an appendix that is a “Letter to Grandchildren”.  Even though I was working a program and getting my co dependent issues under control I was not at a place of forgiveness or understanding until I read this book. Dr. Spickard quotes a female alcoholic who describes with eloquence what she goes through physically and mentally when she is craving alcohol. It is shocking and will move you from anger to a place of compassion. That is when you start to heal, when you can feel compassion for someone who is suffering.

These are all great books, fixtures on my shelf and my life. BUT– if I were marooned on a desert island and along with my hunting knife and lip gloss, ( I go no where without lip gloss. Period. The end!) and I could only have ONE book– I would have to have my bible. It is THE BOOK. Everything I need is in there, poetry, drama, history, instructions, love story’s, wars, recipes,  prophecy, tragedy and hope. Mostly hope. Lot’s of hope. It’s always the best read!

I would love to hear from you. What books have made a difference in your life? What’s on your bookshelf now? Feel free to leave me a comment or drop an email and join the discussion. Till next time– Alana

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