Tuesday, April 1, 2008
All kinds of losses
I had the meeting topic last night. I had thought about a topic but decided to change it after I received a call from a fellow Al-Anoner. He was dealing with some painful feelings around changes in a relationship. So I went with a reading from the new Al-Anon book Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses about loss of a relationship.
I know that alcoholism has affected my life in lots of ways. And there have been feelings of grief and loss. Maybe I only felt the anger though and didn't recognize my feelings as being those of grief.
I don't think that many of us know that we are grieving what has happened in our relationships with an alcoholic. I masked my grief in many ways but I ultimately felt the pain and gave in to it.
After my father died, I read the book on Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler Ross. She indicates that the grief process includes five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and, finally, acceptance.
Maybe it's because I'm a scientist, but it gave me some comfort to read that grief was a process. And that eventually I would be able to accept my loss and move beyond the grieving.
With the alcoholics in my life, I don't think that I really got to the acceptance part until I went through the steps. I came to realize that alcoholism is a disease and that the alcoholics didn't purposely want to hurt anyone. I had been stuck in the anger, bargaining and sadness phases of grief for a long time.
And there are still moments where I experience feelings of loss in recovery. I've changed in many ways from the way that I used to be. That can generate uncertainty, especially in the dynamics of a relationship with another person. It may be that I'm changing and the other person isn't. Or perhaps that giving up the character defects that I had lived with for so long can bring on self-doubt and a feeling of loss.
But I can see that the Twelve Steps provides a program for dealing with grief and losses. As I'm learning to accept and forgive, then I can feel happiness and love.
"There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."--Carl Jung