Thursday, June 25, 2015

Changes and hope

I am thinking about the outpouring of love that has occurred since the shooting of nine people at Emanuel AME church during their Bible study last week.  In a show of unity,  over 15,000 people joined hands to span the long bridge that reaches across the Cooper River to Charleston.  I was there, among a throng of people who came together to support each other and show that the actions of a deranged killer would not tear the community apart.

The 7 year old, who drew the picture above, depicts what I felt--light and love. Don't misunderstand though. There are difficult days ahead for this community and this state.  The Confederate flag which has been flown on the State House grounds and on the dome of the state capitol will come down, as it is coming down in the South and no longer being offered by retail giants.  It is time, past time, for the Civil War and all it stood for to be in the past.

Make no mistake that there is much resentment about this, for there are those who cling to it as a symbol of segregation and hate.  And thus, the voices and whispers of racism and bigotry will continue. I didn't grow up with those voices. In fact, I only began to hear them after we moved to South Carolina. And the voices have been prevalent in recent years, more than ever.  I remain hopeful though that other voices will drown out the ones who huddle in grand homes or walk the aisles of state government convinced of their superiority over anyone who is not white.  I harbor this hope that what we have been seeing is a sort of last gasp of the real hate - that this moment we are in represents the violent, cathartic end of the dark forces of division in the deep South. The outpouring of love needs to continue every day to keep those voices from drowning out the good.

These words resonate with me now more than ever:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’~Bob Dylan

The times indeed are changing.  And for me change can't come soon enough. I am clinging to a glimmer of hope that the changes happening will be without further bloodshed.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The past repeats

It's said that history repeats itself. So now Charleston has revisited its history with the killing of 9 people in one of the city's most historic churches.  The church, Emanuel AME, was burned after one of the church's founders organized a slave uprising in 1822.  Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning "God with us".

I, like so many, don't understand how a person could be among good people for an hour and then shoot them.  I don't understand what is in the mind of someone so filled with hate.  Some have said that the confessed killer should not be called "mentally disturbed".  I see anyone who hates as mentally disturbed. Not as a defense for an action but simply a statement that those who spend so much energy filled with hate are depleted in their humanness. I am tired of the hatred expressed in social media, on TV, and radio shows--the threats and ignorant jokes about the President, gays, liberals, and anyone that doesn't espouse the same ideals.

I was born in the South.  I grew up during the time of early integration.  And I was appalled at the hatred shown towards people of color.  Nothing much has changed.  Racism was still festering and for many years in this country, people were not overt about it.  There was forced politeness.  But in the last decade, especially since President Obama has been in office,  hatred and intolerance of those who believe, look, or act different from someone else has exploded.

I have read so many political comments on social media and in print over the past few years that I have been shocked and appalled at the hatred out there.  I know who they are too. They are people that I went to first grade with, people who live in my community, people who I have known for years.  And yet to them, I am a Libtard, a socialist,  a "nigger" lover.  It hurts my heart.

Very sad that such an appalling tragedy has visited our community. We cannot live in a racially divided country again. No more. Stand up and speak up when you hear or see intolerance.  I refuse to listen to slurs and hateful comments about anyone. I refuse to be passive when faced with overt bigotry and racism.  I want to make my actions clear so that there is no doubt about my boundaries.

I feel numb about what has happened here.  Yet, I am not shocked by the events in this city and state that I now call home.  It was just a matter of time that the picture perfect post card of a city would revisit its violent past.  Charleston is touted as number one in tourism.  It is a beautiful city, and there are good people who live here. But there is another side of this old city that isn't beautiful.  I sadly don't expect much from anyone anymore. All I can do is try to shed a little light and do my best on this journey to show compassion and love.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Intolerant of intolerance

I have read some interesting and troubling stuff this week on news sites.  I made the mistake of watching a few news programs and reading on line.  And it has made me want to retreat once again away others because it seems that there is zero tolerance for those who are different. Sad, isn't it--how little the feelings of others matter. I am appalled at how mean people can be, especially when hiding behind a computer. Sadly, I am getting to the point that I would rather not be around anyone who is intolerant. I guess that makes me intolerant of intolerance! I like to think of it as discernment though.

It seems though that everyone feels "entitled".  People have an opinion and are entitled to express their opinion, even when it is cruel and hurtful.  I  have opinions, but I do my best to have balance in how I express them. I remember that keeping my mouth shut can be a valuable thing to do. Entitlement seems to one of the catch phrases of today-- I am entitled to express an opinion, I am entitled to practice freedom of speech. All true, but sometimes it is best to consider and measure my words so that I don't do damage to others. THINK is a good program acronym--is what I am saying thoughtful, helpful, intelligent, necessary and kind?

I find that social media is all about airing private things in public. No matter what we post, it is open and out there for anyone to see. It can be deeply personal or it can be neutral--yet it is still available to people, many of whom I have not met in person nor do I know that I ever will. I question doing this quite often. But isn't being on social media a little bit like watching a train wreck? We are all voyeurs in some way which is why we are here.  We like to know what is going on with others.  And it seems that sometimes the most comments come when someone is having a hard time.

I am not referencing us bloggers who have been communicating for years, but to those social media outlets like FB and Twitter where people seem to take a delight in hiding behind a computer to cut, bash and argue with others.  My wife shows me comments from "friends" about how gays and lesbians are going to Hell because they are not following the Bible.  And the trans community is most definitely damned because they have changed from God's image. Neither one of us understands this vision of a Higher Power.

I think that unless people are hurt, abused or oppressed, they can live the lives they want.  I am reminded over and over of the mantra in Al-Anon that it is none of my business. I wish that others would learn to mind their own business, live and let live, and view others with compassion.  That seems to be a much better way for me to keep my serenity--in addition to not watching or reading news.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What makes a lasting relationship

I was catching up on some magazines and ran across this article in the Atlantic Monthly. Basically, the article sums up what makes a happy lasting relationship and what causes contribute to other relationships falling apart.
"Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?"

A study done in the 1980's followed young couples, observing their interactions and their physiology.  The investigators did a follow up six years later to see if the couples were still together.  They found that contempt is the main factor that tears couples apart. Those who criticized or ignored their partner and injected negativity into interactions had failed or unhappy relationships.  The partner who was criticized and ignored felt worthless and invisible as if they were not present or valued at all.

Kindness, on the other hand, was what kept couples together. Kindness made each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated--and loved.

I honestly don't know how we have stayed together all these years given the conflict that I used to feel.  I know that there was kindness and love as well. But I also had a lot of distrust for the alcoholic promises where she would say "I love you" but her actions would be the opposite.  And I would do the same--keeping her at arms length because I didn't trust her promises not to drink.  The words said one thing but the actions were the opposite.  Those were confusing and hurtful times for both of us.

I have shared here and at meetings that living with an alcoholic is lonely.  It is very lonely because the other person is emotionally unavailable. And for those of us who love an alcoholic, we keep trying over and over to make the person available.  And I did that for years until I gave up and was ready to walk away.

Some kind of miraculous epiphany happened since those desperate times. I knew that I didn't want my marriage to end, but I also knew that I had to change.  I had to stop spending all my energy on wanting my wife to change.  So I focused on what I wanted with my life.  I looked beyond my work for peace of mind.  I bought a boat, did gardening, became active in Al-Anon, and gradually took care of myself emotionally.

It took a while for the contempt to go away.  I believe that when I did my fourth, fifth and sixth steps, I began to focus on what I was doing--what my part was in how the marriage was going.  I didn't like who I had become.  So as I became aware,  I was able to see that without kindness and compassion,  I was going to remain unhappy.  I would think of my wife as a little girl who had a difficult childhood being sent off to private schools because her parents were fighting and angry.  She grew up with no buffers from the turmoil, just as I did.  From visualizing her as a little sad girl, I was filled with love and compassion for her.

What we have now is respect for each other.  We appreciate each other. We can be genuine with each other.  We support each other emotionally.  We share responsibilities. We trust each other. And we want to spend time together.

We are still working on playing together, instead of being so task oriented.  Our communication is much better.  And we continue to grow in love.

Friday, May 1, 2015

You touch my life

I have once again been busy and have neglected this blog.  I feel as if I am repetitive because I am doing the same things that I have been doing for quite some time: going on the boat, working out, gardening, riding my horse, going to meetings, and generally having a wonderful life with my wife.

But I am often think of you out there who are writing and sharing. You have touched my life in many ways.  I just learned that fellow blogger, Cheryl H., over at Through an Al-Anon Filter died on April 22.  I started reading Cheryl's blog when she first began blogging.  Her death reminded me of how connected we are to each other.  Although we haven't met in person, we get to know each other through our writings and the special sharing that we have.  I know that those of you who read this blog know more about me than many people that I know in person.  That is an amazing thing to contemplate.  And when one of us dies, I feel a great sense of loss.  And when others stop writing without explanation, I wonder how they are and what they are doing.

I can tell you that life for me is good.  Spring has come to the Lowcountry.  The garden and grounds are beautiful with flowers and shrubs.  We have brought in lettuce and radishes for salads.  The pasture is amazing with buttercups.  So much beauty surrounds me.
And the weather has begun to cooperate for going on the boat.  I just returned from three days of being at the island anchorage.  I come back refreshed and ready to tackle what ever comes my way.  
My horse is a source of much joy.  My wife feeds him carrots and apples.  He has a birthday this week, and we are having a little party in his honor with an actual cake that the horses can eat.  There will be one for humans too.  

I do attribute much of what I feel to having been in Al-Anon.  It has helped me to lighten up, let go of trying to control others, and find joy in life.   My changed attitude is a result of recovery.  It is hard for me to remember how I was before being in Al-Anon.  But this blog documents the journey.  Thank you for being along with me for the ride. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

What makes sense

As I have mentioned before, I live on an island that is rural. No stop lights and only a couple of juke joints/stores.  But I live close enough to the city and suburbia to feel connected to what goes on.  The recent killing of an unarmed man by a police man made national headlines and has created a lot of discussion locally.

I am glad that the actions by the mayor and police chief were swift and averted riots and other civil unrest.  But the basic fact that lethal force was used is chilling.  I am no fan of the police.  I respect that they have a job to do, but I have seen too much of their abuse of power in my life.  I have not been arrested. I have been stopped once for an expired inspection sticker, so I have nothing of a personal nature that generates the fear. But I have images in my head from TV coverage of the Vietnam war protests of the 60's and the brutality of the police during desegregation marches.  Large men with guns and clubs and an attitude don't make me feel comfortable.

I know how tense racial relations are in the deep South and in this state particularly.  The island that I live on is 80% black.  And I feel comfortable with that because I know many of the families, and they are good people.  I wonder at their fear and anxiety. Is it similar to mine? A lot of racial tension is still here. We do our best to cover it up and pretend otherwise. Politeness abounds at the surface.  But racism remains like a scab over a deep rotting wound.  The only thing that makes sense to me is the sound of the waves breaking on the beach; the sound of the frogs in the wetland near the house; the breath of my horse as he nuzzles me; the concert of birdsong that exploded as the sun rose over the ocean; and the love for others bending and drowning out everything else.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Questions about coping with an alcoholic spouse

I received this comment the other day:
"I need help coping with my alcoholic wife. I hardly speak to her anymore, not sure if I love her, getting sick and tired of the antics that surround the drinking, manipulation and embarrassment. Trying to answer questions from my 7 year old daughter, "why is Mommy acting funny again?" or, "Mommy's being rude".

I don't know where to begin. I have an alcoholic wife who we will call Samantha or Sam for short. When Sam's not drinking she is very un-pleasant, doesn't say one positive word to anyone if she speaks at all. She uses her alcoholic behavior to get what she wants or what she believes will solve the problem. We have been married for 14 years. I was a social drinker then so we had a lot of fun, but I started to notice she was more than a social drinker and started making comments about slowing down. God forbid that I asked a question like that! The subject is not up for discussion sober or otherwise. Her parents are both alcoholics so they are no help. We tried to have children for several years depleting our savings account with fertility Drs. to no avail. She was saying things like "if we have a child I will quit drinking because I will have a purpose, or "if you buy the house with a few acres we can have horses then I'll stop drinking" and so on. We successfully adopted a beautiful baby girl at birth 7 years ago. Now I have realized all the enabling I have done and I'm so mad at myself for bringing this little girl into this mess.

Sam isn't very pleasant until she has a few drinks, then becomes somewhat pleasant until she has more than a few and becomes unreasonable and difficult to deal with. She starts arguments with my daughter and I close myself off in another room and try to ignore the situation which eventually spirals out of control at which time I lose my temper at both of them.

I have started to threaten Sam that I can't live in this environment any longer and she needs help. She reluctantly went to a counselor for 5 or 6 weeks to discuss her issues but that has stopped. Sam tells me that the counselor says she doesn't have a drinking problem and that the problem is that I am such an asshole. She even went to a few AA meetings only to come home and get drunk.

I'm out of patience and considering divorce. I have worked so hard for everything we have and hate to think about losing it all in a costly divorce but something had to happen. Sam doesn't want to get help so is it time to back up the idle threats by actually leaving?

This is my first time reaching out to anyone or writing on a blog so I'm not sure what I doing here."

First off, thank you for reaching out.  That was one of the hardest things for me to do.  I thought for so many years that I could handle what ever was happening. I had to because I certainly didn't want to let anyone know what was going on at home.  I was filled with shame and wanted to cover up the drinking.

I think that you are hoping to get some answers.  I can tell you what worked for me.  When my wife was actively drinking, she too denied that she had a problem. She refused to get help and lied about how much she was drinking.  But, I could tell her exactly how much she had and frequently did.  My nagging her about drinking only made her angry.  I didn't accomplish anything except to make her more unreasonable and irritable when I asked her not to drink.

So after many years of nagging and worrying, I finally got to the point that I started to not care about her.  She was becoming more of a problem to me because her actions were causing me to also be angry and unreasonable.  She wouldn't do anything I wanted! No matter what I tried, she simply wouldn't stop. After one particularly terrible evening at a party where she got drunk and drove off, leaving me to walk home, I decided I had enough.

I told her that I was going to move out.  I wasn't angry when I told her this, simply resolved.  I knew that I was at the end of my ability to cope with alcoholism.  So I told her that I didn't want to live with active alcoholism and that I was going to get an apartment.  I didn't mention divorce, although that was certainly in my mind.  I simply wanted to get away from her.

She became hysterical and begged me not to leave.  She asked if I loved her.  I said that I wasn't sure.  She asked what she could do to get me to stay. I didn't know, but mentioned that a good friend who had been sober for many years told me to tell her that if she would go to AA and really work the program, she would come to know great happiness.  But the other part of the message was that I needed to go to Al-Anon because I was suffering from the effects of her drinking.

So I told her what I was going to do regarding going to Al-Anon.  I also reiterated what my friend said about AA.  She agreed to go.  I went to Al-Anon. We decided to give our marriage another try.  But I set a boundary that I would not live with active alcoholism.  I believe that she was ready to quit drinking because she has not had a drink since before that first meeting nearly 9 years ago.

Our marriage is much better than it has ever been because we have mutual respect for each other.  It has taken a lot of work in the programs of AA and Al-Anon for us to be where we are now.

I do believe that you have to speak your truth to Sam.  Trying to get her to stop drinking is not going to work, but telling her what you are going to do to take care of yourself may actually get her attention.  There is a saying in Al-Anon that "changed attitudes can aid recovery".  I can attest that is true.  My changed attitude of taking care of me and not focusing on what my wife was doing helped our marriage.

So my suggestion to you is to go to several Al-Anon meetings.  You will find people there who will understand what you are dealing with.  I tell people to try at least six meetings to see if Al-Anon is right for them.  Hopefully, you will hear what you need in order to put the focus on you and your children.

Finally, I want to share one of my favorite readings from Al-Anon literature. This is from the book From Survival to Recovery (pg. 269):
"If we willingly surrender ourselves to the spiritual discipline of the Twelve steps, our lives will be transformed. We will become mature, responsible individuals with a great capacity for joy, fulfillment, and wonder. Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential. We will discover that we are both worthy of love and loving. We will love others without losing ourselves, and will learn to accept love in return. Our sight, once clouded and confused, will clear and we will be able to perceive reality and recognize truth. Courage and fellowship will replace fear. We will be able to risk failure to develop new, hidden talents.

Our lives, no matter how battered and degraded, will yield hope to share with others. We will begin to feel and will come to know the vastness of our emotions, but we will not be a slave to them. Our secrets will no longer bind us in shame. As we gain the ability to forgive ourselves, our families, and the world, our choices will expand. With dignity we will stand for ourselves, but not against our fellows. Serenity and peace will have meaning for us as we allow our lives and the lives of those we love to flow day by day with God's ease, balance and grace. No longer terrified, we will discover we are free to delight in life's paradox, mystery and awe. We will laugh more. Fear will be replaced by faith, and gratitude will come naturally as we realize that our Higher Power is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Can we really grow to such proportions? Only if we accept life as a continuing process of maturation and evolution toward wholeness.

Will we arrive? Feel joyful all the time? Have no cruelty, tragedy, or injustice? Probably not, but we will acquire growing acceptance of our human fallibility as well as greater love and tolerance for each other. Self-pity, resentment, martyrdom, rage, and depression will fade into memory. Community rather than loneliness will define our lives. We will know that we belong, we are welcome, we have something to contribute-and that is enough."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pause when agitated

My wife had a good birthday, celebrating with a lunch out the day before and opening her presents on the day. This year, I got her an Italian pizza oven with accessories.  She enjoys cooking, especially out doors where we can sit on the deck or near the outdoor fireplace. And we both enjoy a thin crust pizza now and then.  She is going to try out the cauliflower crust soon.  Anyway, it was a good time, although much too short as I had to be on the road on the morning of her birthday.

I traveled to Raleigh to do some work.  In the meantime, I had a chance to go to the Al-Anon Literature Distribution Center where many of the books and pamphlets are shipped to groups in NC, SC and surrounding states. And I had an opportunity to go to dinner with my Service Sponsor, a person who guides me in the practice of the Traditions and Concepts.  I continue to do a lot of service work, but I also recognize that I can talk to this fellow if I have questions about whether I may be taking on too much.  I do have a tendency to say Yes to things that I really don't want to take on, but do so out of a sense of duty.  It's all about balance.  And it was a great chance to meet face to face with him.

When I got home on Sunday, I was catching up on news when I saw that a lady who was a passenger on a weekend cruise I captained had shot her husband during a domestic dispute.  As more details come out, it appears that she shot him and cut herself with a knife to fake self-defense.  I knew that she was a hunter and carried a gun.  She talked a lot about guns and her belief in being armed. I cannot understand the love of guns or the need to have them around.   I don't know what went on in her head to decide to shoot him, rather than walking out the door and leaving.  I don't think I can know how lives get so messed up.

I have thought about this tragic situation for the last couple of days.  No matter what, it seems that understanding the motives of people is baffling.
"...... when someone commits a violent crime, they always report in the news about his possible motive. As human beings, we need to somehow make sense of things. If someone murders someone, do you think it makes the family of the victim feel better to know the murderer's motive? No. Except for self-defense, there really is no excuse for murder. Motive, if there is any, is irrelevant. 

You want to know why. In many ways, you might feel like you need to know. But, if you could come up with a reason or a motive, it wouldn't help you." — Beth Praed (Domestic Violence: My Freedom from Abuse)

By no coincidence, last night's meeting topic was on motives.  It was a good reminder for me to examine my motives and understand what kept me in destructive relationships and accepting of negative behaviors and humiliation. What came across is that each of us is entitled to live without fear, uncertainty and discomfort.

Before Al-Anon,  I did not think about motives.  I had reasons to stay for many years with an alcoholic,  and those stemmed from beliefs that had been developed from outside influences and from poor self-esteem.  Then when I learned there were layers of truth underneath the reasons, I did not want to examine them because sometimes the truths about me were unacceptable to the mask I had created.  There was shame amidst my shadows.

Looking at the real motives and truths is an ongoing inquiry. My true motives may be unclear in the heat of the moment, but for the most part, I stay clear of people and those tasks that are unhealthy for my emotional well being.  I used to stick around for unacceptable situations simply because I didn't think that I deserved any better.  I stuck around to please another or because I was afraid of a negative reaction.  I let fear dictate my actions--fear of loss, of abandonment, of worthlessness.  Now, I do know that I can sort out my thinking in time, so that I realize what my motives were at the time I opened my mouth or made a bad decision.  It has helped me to not react until I have asked myself what my underlying feelings are at the moment.  "Pause when agitated" is a good mantra.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Taking time to breathe

Time has slipped away from me once again in a string of days.  I am having the time of my life.  Not being in a demanding job has freed me up in a lot of ways. I'm no longer scheduled in my life.  Blogging used to be on a schedule of a daily write.  I don't feel the need to do that anymore.  And I don't feel guilty. Well....maybe a little because I wonder what each of you is doing and if you are okay. 
My hobbies of sailing and riding and working out at the gym keep me physically fit and sane.  My service in Al-Anon keeps me spiritually fit in a compassionate and humble way.  And I have the usual life stuff to do like car maintenance, yard work, gardening, house chores--I hate calling them honey do's because I live here and share the house with an amazing person so I am glad to do my part in our partnership.  
I love everything I do, but I also need time to not do anything and just be. The boat is my best escape for that.  No people around--just me, the waves and the wind. If I don't get that time to myself, then I can feel the gypsy soul take over. I need the recharge time to be the free spirit that I now embrace.  
Having been a driven scientist for decades, I hardly know that person now.  Who was that guy? He thought that what he was working on was the most important thing.  He had to publish a certain number of papers every year and get multiple grants.  He had to do a lot of administrative BS that felt like sheer drudgery. He sat in an office overlooking a beautiful harbor and hardly ever looked out the window.  Most every day, he was tied to the computer, analyzing data and writing.  It was hard to shake off the harness and simply be free. Add to that the stress of living with an alcoholic, and life was not a lot of fun.  
I now take time to breathe.  I have space in my life now.  I make the space and the time to do what I feel is good for my mental and spiritual health.  I don't know how long I will have the stamina to keep sailing, riding, and cross train. I am hoping that I have at least 20 good years left.  But I don't know about any of that.  I just have this day that's ahead of me.  And it seems good and filled with promise.  
I hope that you have some breathing room in your life.  Some time to just be and refuel your purpose and your spirit. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Peace and love on a dreary day

It's another rainy day--one among many this month.  The ground and fields are so saturated that large chasms have been cut on the dirt lane from sheet flow of water that gushes over the cross drains and ditches.

All of the pastures have standing water.  It's colic season for horses because the temperatures are fluctuating between the low 40's to nearly 70 F tomorrow.  My horse's hoof abscess is long healed, and he is healthy and apparently happy. Sadly, his stablemate had to be put down due to severe cellulitis.  The loss of this beautiful animal has had all of us out of sorts, sad and concerned.  His owner has taken this very hard.  I doubt if she will get over this any time soon, if ever.  I am reminded that these large animals who have such power are really such fragile creatures.

When I ventured out in the yard this morning, I saw a few signs of Spring.  Some brave daffodils are blooming, as are the forsythia and camellias.

But most of the beautifully landscaped yard is brown and the plants look forlorn. I know that soon enough budding and regrowth will occur.  But today I am staying close to the fire and warmth of the house.  I had wanted to get to the garden to put in some more seeds.  With the rain pouring down, it seems unlikely that will happen today.

Tomorrow C. and I are going to a concert.  This is the first one in a long time.  I am sure that there will be a lot of middle aged folks like us there.  The band is Pink Floyd Experience.  We both wish that we had seen the original Floyd back in the day but since that didn't happen, we are going to see this tribute band that is supposed to be quite good.

I have some particularly interesting memories of rock concerts.  Some were fairly tame while others such as a particularly raucous one at American University in DC, were drug and drunk fests.  I was too young for Woodstock but this had to be a microcosm of what happened there.  Aside from smoking some weed on occasion, I wasn't into drugs or alcohol.  A young woman standing next to me, freaked out on acid, had to be carried out.

I wonder what happened to all those hippies.  Are they still going to rock concerts? Are they old addicts/alcoholics or working on Wall Street?  Do they still care about peace and love? A lot of idealism was part of our culture then.  I prefer that to the blatant hatred that seems to be the overriding sentiment among so many today.

Anyway,  time for me to get back to reading and maybe taking a nap.  I think watching the fire is going to be a good way to spend this dreary afternoon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pain and desperation

My little home group that has been struggling with attendance lately suddenly had three newcomers show up the other night.  A mother and two daughters came through the door looking for help for a husband/father and son/sibling who are active alcoholics.

The first night they didn't say much, but all of them indicated they were in a crisis.  Last night, the wife shared about the husband's DUI and fears that he is going to kill himself or others driving drunk.  The daughter shared about her brother who has severe health issues resulting from alcoholic drinking.

This sad story is repeated over and over again in countless rooms every day.  The sad part is that the people who come to Al-Anon as newcomers think their story is unique.  They are so demoralized and beaten down by their situation that they can't understand why any of the other people in the room could be smiling and actually enjoying life.  All the newcomer feels is pain and desperation.

I know that when I first went to a meeting, I didn't want to hear the laughter or see the smiles. How could anyone possibly be happy when I was so miserable? Long before going to Al-Anon, I called the AA hotline hoping to get help for my wife.  We had a particularly bad evening that night.  Most evenings were bad when she drank, but this one was particularly volatile.

We had gone to a party and that meant there was no way to control her drinking. My whispers of "Don't you think you've had enough?" were ignored.  She drank more, and my anxiety increased.  When I was able to eventually get her to leave, she was angry, and so was I.  The anger boiled over after we got home. Arguing with a drunk is pointless.  I know that now. But back then, I didn't know anything except how to provoke the situation.

So I proceeded to tell her that she needed help; that she had a problem; that I was embarrassed with her drinking.  She began to talk about wishing she was dead. She cried and ripped her silk blouse open, mumbling that she could see that I didn't love her.  It was a terrible night.

After getting her to bed,  I sat for a while in the dark.  And then I decided to call the AA hotline.  I explained what had happened and that my wife needed help.  I remember the person on the line told me that my wife had to make a decision about going to AA--she couldn't be forced by me.  And I was told that I was the one who needed to get help in Al-Anon.  I could hear laughter in the background. That was the last thing that I wanted to hear.  How could anyone be laughing when I was in such pain?  And why would anyone suggest that I needed help?  I just needed my wife to get sober, and I would be fine.  I was more despondent when I hung up the phone.  Feeling utterly alone,  I remember sitting up until well after 4 AM, feeling as if my heart was being ripped from my body.

Today, so much is different.  My wife has been sober for over 8 years, and I have been in Al-Anon for that long as well.   I can laugh now.  The lonely days and nights aren't filled with the anxiety of alcoholism.  My situation wasn't unique. The common denominator was the fear and self-loathing that alcoholism creates.

I know that these newcomers will come to find happiness and will laugh again if they keep coming to meetings.  It is a safe place where we are all equals and are on the same journey.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I was floating on a pink cloud being at the barn where I ride my horse.  That is until I found myself surrounded by a whole gaggle of 20'ish females and some 40'ish females who love to gossip.  They gossip about each other, about the barn owner, and about the trainer who says that she knows everything that happens there.  And I am sure that they gossip about me since I am the only male that rides on a regular basis there.

I've never liked gossip.  I can recall my mother and her friends talking on the phone, going on and on about other women.  I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.  I don't find people so fascinating that I want to think or talk about them for hours.  I suppose that if one would examine motives, it's all about tearing down others.  And that has to have something to do with ego.

I understand why gossip is considered one of the obstacles to success in recovery in Al-Anon.  Here is what we read at meetings about it: We meet to help ourselves and others learn and use the Al‑Anon philosophy. In such groups, gossip can have no part. We do not discuss members or others, and particularly not the alcoholic. Our dedication to anonymity gives people confidence in Al‑Anon. Careless repeating of matters heard at meetings can defeat the very purposes for which we are joined together.

Not gossiping means to me that there is a safe place in the rooms of recovery where I can share without fear of having it repeated.  I have become more cautious though at meetings because I realize that not everyone recognizes how destructive gossip can be.  Breaking a person's anonymity through gossip can have severe consequences for their business, family, and general well being. And it can damage the harmony of a group.

As far as being at the barn, I know that the less I say, the better off I am.  I go about my business of riding; however, it is a little more difficult now when I realize that the shortcomings of a few people have tarnished the experience a bit. I keep in mind the words of a fellow I know in recovery: "Never miss an opportunity to keep my mouth shut" seems particularly apropos in so many situations.

My horse has had an abscess in his hoof.  I have been treating it with soaks in Epsom salts and slathering some nasty drawing salve called Ichthymol ointment on the bottom of his hoof.  Fortunately, it is getting much better and should be healed up in time for his showing debut at the end of the month.  The abscess seems to have come from bacteria entering the hoof as a result of so much rain and the pastures draining poorly.

Here is the boy keeping an eye on me.  We keep an eye on each other, but he is constantly looking for an apple or carrots!