Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What about compassion?

For the most part, I hear a lot of compassion in Al-Anon meetings. I know that the program may get a bad reputation from some. There are a lot of Al-Anon jokes. And I can laugh right along with the rest because they are funny.

Most of us aren't hard nosed, although there are a few that label themselves as "black belts" in the rooms. But for the most part, I don't see the program as teaching how to land a good round house kick on the alcoholic but about how to become centered within ourselves and become spiritually and emotionally whole.

But there are occasions when I hear something that makes my hair stand on end. Not long ago I heard a share from a woman who said that she had found some photos and letters from another lady when she was cleaning out her husband's things after a divorce. She realized from the photos and letters that her husband had an affair with the other woman for quite a few years. So she packed up the material, except for a few photos, and mailed it off to the "other" woman's husband.

She was really proud of herself for doing this. Most of us sat dumbfounded. Wow, I thought, this is going to be one heck of an amends to deal with if that time ever comes.

I prefer to deal with my resentments in a more constructive manner. And to do no harm to those who are really innocent. In fact, I don't wish to do harm to anyone. That is a real miracle of this program.

By the way, I can do a decent round house, but I think that kind of thing is better used at the gym than in Al-Anon.


  1. I don't know how I feel about this woman's actions. Sure, she was acting out of vengeance - and that is never a good thing - but if I was this woman's husband, I would want to know that my wife had had an affair. On the other hand, I certainly don't think it was up to the woman in your meeting to give him this information.

    I feel sympathy for all parties involved really. As much as this woman may have been a bitch, it can't be nice to realize that so much of an important relationship was all lies and deceit.

  2. I remember years ago receiving a list of things a co-dependent can and should say no to..a friend at the time called it my "asshole rights"!

    I agree about that being a huge amends for her to deal with if she ever clearly gets to that point.

  3. in NA we are taught to pray for mercy and forgiveness, not justice. i can't imagine how much time i would have to spend behind bars if i was caught for all the bad i have done.
    i remember being "hurt" by someone in service work, i told a confidant what had happened and how resentful i was. she said "Suzie are ya praying for her?" i said "i tried.." and then she said to me "honey, you don't know how many times i have started a prayer with God help that sick B!" i guess her point was to help me have a sense of humor and to learn to not take myself, and my prayers so seriously. either way all i know is that i don't have a resentment, i don't have to make amends for bad behavior and it helps me when i am sickly upset at someone. great post, and thanks for the help with the carrots!!

  4. I tend to like the Wiccan Reed when it comes to my actions, "an ye harm none, do as ye will". Keeps it pretty simple for me even without being a witch!


  5. What you say about AlAnon and compassion has been my experience. Almost everyone in my group is still with their alcoholic, and some have been in the program 10 years and more. In the case of a child, of course you don't stop loving them either. AlAnon is not a bitch fest, that is completely missing the point.

    What the woman did makes me cringe. Self serving and hurtful, IMO

  6. I'd like to harm my soon-to-be ex-husband about right now, but I will use some restraint because it's the wiser thing to do.

  7. Wow, Syd - - - sounds like this was quite a 'busy' meeting. Too bad that the newcomer felt it necessary to glorify her shortcoming. But then, I suspect she is VERY new, has no sponsor, and certainly has not dipped her toe into the waters of Steps 1, 2, and 3. I am reminded that my sponsor told me - early in recovery - put this person's name that I do not like down on a piece of paper, sign it, put it in your (my) God Box, and pray for her for 30 days. My sponsor actually had the nerve to phone and make sure I did not forget to do this exercise for the entire 30-day period! Well, it did what it was intended to do. The sting of bitterness left me, even though I still do not like the individual; I can tolerate and accept her now, not to mention being able to laugh at myself for not wanting to let go of that power of hatred/resentment.

    By the way, I just bet you can pack a mean punch! Hope to keep you on my side!
    Anonymous #1

  8. I was truly shocked by this. It's sad that she would be willing to cause so much pain to an innocent bystander - the husband - in service to her anger.

  9. Boy, that doesn't work on so many levels, what the lady did. I've recently started to re-read the golden book of resentments. AS always there are things written that I never saw last time I read it, and I mean on the first page !!

    It's a thing I am constantly dealing with and FR John Doe has some good stuff to say about it.

  10. Oh Syd, you touch on a topic here. I chose not to read other people's comments so mine would not be either jaded or reserved. ME, i'm sending to the wife. Not out of vengence (though if I could be a fly on the wall.... ) but out of loyalty to those who live their lives honestly. The man had a right to know if his woman was messing around.

    I would not be quick to judge her. This is one area of human emotional that is tough to condem unless your in the moment yourself. Been there, done that, not pleasent. Although I walked away and never looked back at my cheater, some it all but destroys them.

    That's a tough call if you ask me... which you didn't but i'm "sharing" anyway. :)

    Oh, and about the roundhouse kick... used to be able to do it. THen chocolate & age took over!! :)

  11. To be perfectly honest...I might have done the same thing, if I was drinking. But I don't think I would have shared about it. That kind of stuff is just par for the course in our little world of insane thinking.

    Compassion is to try to walk in her shoes, without judgement. In an AA meeting, that would be a funny story! Most of us have done much worse things!

  12. Maybe she should have checked with her sponsor first.

  13. I can see why you were dumbfounded.

  14. So, she finds out her husband is cheating, she finds out who this woman is who has been sneaking around with her husband lying like a dog (if dogs lie), she imagines all the times that these two people have been in cahoots with no thought to her life or her feelings, possibly exposing her to who knows what and all she does is mail photos to the woman's husband? Then, everyone begins to judge HER? This has never happened to me or anyone I know, but I feel sorry for her. Good for her for showing up to an Alanon meeting and feeling so safe that she could share what was hopefully one of the top ten worst days of her life. You must have a good group.

  15. I guss she just acted before she really thought it through..a rash decision.

  16. I am dumbfounded by this story and many of the comments on this post.

    Oh well.

  17. An amazing story. I've learned the hard way that people can only be as well as they can be at any moment and that all my judgments of myself and others are not a contribution to my healing or theirs.

    Compassion is a good word, a good principle.

    Blessings and aloha...

  18. There, but for the Grace of God....

    Who is going to throw the first stone?

  19. Very heedless.
    Heedlessness is the path to death' as the Buddhists say. Oh well.
    We are all guilty of heedlessness. its just a matter of degree.

    The question is, can be be openhearted to the reality that we will continue to encounter those who 'trample on the toes of our fellows' and are generally heedless. Not to have aversion toward them? Tricky!

    I like the quote 'its easy to love the loveable ones' and 'hurt people hurt people'.

    Step 8 is where alcoholics learn the nature of harm. untill then they can be very kack-handed a to how they think step 9 out to be done. ive seen some very mad people in aa so nothing surprises me. poor woman. she is generating some bad karma for herself.

  20. Maybe she should have mailed the box to the other woman with a note saying "he spoke so fondly of you and the others. I hope I'm sending the correct boxes to the correct women."

    To hurt an innocent bystander is wrong on every level.

  21. Beautifully said! I think that is what it is about too...becoming whole and centered in ourselves and our higher power. I for so many years was my own "rescue squad...911" which of course backfired and exhausted me. I have so much to learn and work on. I don't want to harm anyone either. Thanks for this post!

  22. Before I went into recovery, I attended an alanon meeting or two. My ex was a ragin drunk -- of course, I didn't see the disease in me, just him.

    When I went,I was in horrible pain, emotionally and physically. The people were warm, understanding. Not perfect, but who is, right.

    My daughter, the child of 2 recovering alcoholic/addicts -- well, let's just say I encourage her to go. With college, and the constant temptation of binge drinking, I worry.

    Perhaps, that is why I find such comfort in those who blog about alanon.


  23. I'd sure think about sending the photos and letters...but that's all I'd do, I'd never really send them.

  24. Wow, this reminds me of my past actions, I was not a nice person, I was not a thoughtful person, and I was not a person who had any power to do anything other than what I did at the time. Thank GOD I do now, and I have had the opportunity and the willingness to walk back through the chaos and pick up my trash and clean up the chaos of the past.

    God continue to give me the strength to walk through it and to tell the truth about myself and my actions in meetings to demonstrate his will and his miracles in my life today. I hope she received some truth that day instead of a lot of awkward and dis-honest quiet.

  25. The thing that really bugs me about some people in recovery is that they have such a "holier-than-thou" attitude as is evident by some of the comments made on this post.

    Yes, OF COURSE, it was vengeful and self-serving for this woman to do what she did, but where is all this compassion you spoke of for this woman?

    She was clearly in a lot of pain when she did what she did, so give her a fucking break for fuck's sake, and get off your moral high horse.

  26. Syd, that's a tough one. I'm reminded of a chapter by Thich Naht Hahn on anger ( . I am attaching it cause it's lovely. It talks about how, when you are angry, when you are suffering, you try to punish the person who made you suffer- in the hope that you will suffer less. This never works. Hahn equates this to someone who runs after an arsonist that set his house on fire- instead of trying to put out the flames to save his house.

    Still, it's hard because that "punishment" may be her only way of coping right now- it is unskillled, yes, but it could be all she has (or is alllowing) right now. Also, other than punishment, she may have done this, in part, to warn the other "innocent" partner (herself being the first "innocent"). She may not realize that some people don't want to know as it would be too painful. Anger is usually made up of unmet needs. She hasn't yet learned to meet her own needs of peace and balance- so she is in a state of pure reaction. She is probably going through so much- and the idea that, after so many years of loyalty to her husband, another woman was in the picture may have pushed her over the edge. I think people often choose satisfaction over peace when they are really pushed to their limit. It is something almost primal or carnal that takes over. This is not to excuse it- but, I think the most important thing is, to look at it with the eyes of compassion and nonjudgement. She was in a great deal of pain when she did what she did, and probably would have chosen another way if she was not in so much pain, and not perceiving any resources to deal with it.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.