Monday, January 9, 2012

Oysters, puppies, and a few other things

I went to an oyster roast yesterday.  It was another glorious day, with temperatures in the mid 60's.  I ate oysters, watched the dogs retrieve in the pond, caught up with some friends and had a nice afternoon.  It felt good to see an old neighbor who was actually the person to whom I made my first amends.  I am no longer worried about his opinion of me.  My side of the street is clean.

One of the highlights was seeing and holding some 8 week old puppies whose mother was the daughter of my old girl who recently died.  These were her grandbabies, and they were precious.  Nothing like nuzzling some babies that have that wonderful puppy breath. Their sturdy little bodies and thick coats were awesome.  It did my heart good to see these descendants that go back several generations from my line of English Labradors.  

I generally read blogs in the morning and evening.  I have found that my meditation time is not complete without opening blogs and checking in on what you are doing.  My blog roll has grown enormously since I started blogging several years ago.  I find that I get so much out of what is posted.  In many ways, what you write has been as much an integral part of my recovery as meetings have.

Many times I will read a blog entry that makes me think about what it was like when I first started going to meetings.  One of the bloggers was writing about her experience with going to an Al-Anon meeting and not feeling comfortable because the meeting was closed.  

Al-Anon meetings are closed because they are limited to members and prospective members who will feel free to share and listen to the experience, strength, and hope of one another on a confidential and anonymous basis. This means that therapists, health professionals and people who don't have a problem with alcoholism won't be attending just to observe.  Having a closed meeting keeps it safe for all who attend.

An Al-Anon meeting may choose to be "open" by the consent of its participants.  An "open" Al-Anon meeting allows attendance by people who are not families and friends of alcoholics but who are interested in learning about Al-Anon.  People who may come to open Al-Anon meetings occasionally include students and professionals who work with alcoholics and their families.  I've been in these open meetings in which students attend. And invariably, one of them will share that there is someone in the family who is affected by the disease.

Tradition 3 states that the only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.  That's pretty broad.  Most of us have relatives or friends who have a problem with alcoholism.  I know many people who come to Al-Anon who have relatives who are drug addicts. And that is largely because there are so few Nar-Anon meetings and Families Anonymous meetings around. But the focus is not on the alcoholic (or addict) but on the crazy behavior of those who live with them.  The anger, resentment, worry, enabling, sadness are common emotions that occur when someone you love is making a mess of their lives.

I do believe in singleness of purpose.  But I have not seen anyone turned away because their loved one was a drug addict rather than solely an alcoholic.  Now days, there are so many that have both problems.  Or perhaps one morphs into the other.  I was told to attend six meetings before making up my mind about whether Al-Anon was for me.  I picked my sponsor at my third meeting.  He showed me compassion and from that I learned to be compassionate.  I learned to shift my focus from talking about the destructive behavior of my loved one to the destructive behavior that I had.  And that is what meetings are about.  We come in hopeless and learn to have hope, learn to have a life that isn't filled with anxiety and obsessing about others, learn to live for ourselves again.  Powerful stuff.


  1. It must be puppy Monday, Lou posted a picture of a puppy too. =) I want lots of puppies but they have to go home at night. Just come to play!

    Love, love this part: "I learned to shift my focus from talking about the destructive behavior of my loved one to the destructive behavior that I had."

    Thank you Syd.

  2. i am slightly jealous of the oyster some oysters...and i know what you are saying on reading blogs and what you get out of them...often i find peace in just reading...insights and there is a feeling of community as you are not the only one...

  3. Yup, it works if you work it.

    Love that picture. Did C take it from the shore?

  4. Life that isn't filled with anxiety and obsessing about others, learn to live for ourselves. That about sums up my reason for coming to Alanon. Taking the old grooves in my mind and learning a new way to be in the world is freedom for me.

    Taming the Mind

    For one who has conquered the mind,
    the mind is the best of friends;
    but for one who has failed to do so,
    the mind will remain the greatest enemy.

  5. I have two massage clients that are black-belt Alanon. It is my goal to get off my ass and phone one or both of them and get to a meeting. The Alanon meetings are help in the same locations as my AA meetings are. I have no excuse.

  6. "Learn to have hope." That's the way it went for me in Al-Anon, and my gratitude is boundless.

  7. Oysters scalded on the grill are my favorite way of eating oysters. Yum. And who doesn't love a puppy. :) Shifting the focus from them to me. It was the pivotal moment in my recovery.

  8. You need a puppy, Syd. Oh yes. You do.
    As to the requirements of Ala-non. Jeez. Every human on the planet would qualify.

  9. I hope you decide to raise one of these puppies. It is great to take a puppy along on a visit to an elderly relative. It creates a new and more enjoyable focus and fills in the gaps.

  10. Very powerful stuff, Syd. I'm so grateful to have found Al-Anon. It has changed my life. The puppies are tooooo cute!

  11. Hi Syd!

    What a wonderful post! My favorite part was the comment from Anna: Syd, get a puppy! Hmmm - bears some thought, huh!

    Love ya,
    Anonymous #1

  12. Hi Syd,

    I think I need to pull up my big girl panties and let you know that you touched a very tender subject re Al-Anon and just 'who' is not supposed to be in these meetings.

    Like you, I felt a bit 'under a microscope' with students observing the operations of a meeting; but in time, I was able to relax. After all, I speak only of myself (took a while to learn this now) - - - and as long as I do this, no one else can take offense at what I say!

    Now, there's one point that I am still sensitive about, after many years of service and attendance at various meetings. This is listening to a chairperson question the reason an individual has come to a meeting. This is NONE of my business. I did not share with anyone my affiliation the first few weeks, and then I heard someone 'tell my story.' That was when I began to listen with the cotton stuck in my mouth.

    Of course, if someone comes into a meeting in an inebriated state, they can be invited to go to the nearest AA meeting, since many Al-Anons have genuine fear of an actively drinking or using individual. On the other hand, when someone from the other fellowship drops into our meeting, the only requirement for membership is . . . I refer also to Step 1, which states, I am powerless over alcoholism, . . . This statement is frequently altered when a sponsor/sponsee meet to help the newbie understand that powerlessness exists over people, places, and things. This was my experience at first. My therapist recommended Al-Anon for me, and she said I should be still and listen, since I would hear my story, which indeed - did provide me with help.

    Didn't mean to be so windy here, but it's good to dust off the principles above personalities once in a while.

    If you don't delete this missive, thank you for listening. If you do, oh well.

    Hugs to you and all who read you.

    Anonymous #1

  13. Very succinctly put Syd, I found this post so helpful.

    Those pups look irresistible, your dog family!

  14. I totally feel like reading recovery blogs is like some of the best al-anon meetings I have been to (not that they can replace meetings, but the emotionally feel a lot the same to me!).

    I laughed aloud when i read what your wrote: "But the focus is not on the alcoholic (or addict) but on the crazy behavior of those who live with them." - hahaha! Ain't that the sorry truth??? I have often said I am WAY crazier than Mr. M... and at least he has the excuse that he is crazy because he is under the influence... I am bat-shit crazy and I am stone cold sober! :)

  15. You're sort of a Grandpa.
    Puppy awesome.

  16. Imagine my horror one day at a noon meeting near my workplace - when I saw a nurse from work, who is also a teacher, walk into a closed meeting with a passel of student nurses behind her. She said she was there to "observe." I was so grateful to the chair for firmly telling her that it was a closed meeting.

  17. Only those in denial can't find someone in their lives affected by drugs or alcohol but I think the label does help people feel safe.

    If you end up in an Al-Anon meeting there is probably a reason the universe sent you there.

    Hey, I see a new puppy in your future.

  18. Dear Syd,
    Thank you for this post. Your blog is one of many that I read daily. Like you, I find the comfort, strength and hope shared to be an important aspect of my recovery. You see, I have a daughter who is in active recovery from opiate addiction. She is 3rd generation addict/alcoholic from my family. Al-anon has been a tremendous help to me in learning to manage the insanity of loving and living sigh someone who has this disease. I can now call it a disease because of what I've learned from Al-anon. It is a daily struggle to learn how to think and act in a more healthy
    way, and I want you to know that I'm grateful to you for having the courage to share so freely.
    BTW..those puppies are so sweet. Is it time for a new one for you??

  19. Get a puppy....No better training (for us) than that unconditional love of a dog. I say this as I sit on my sofa typing away with a lab, chihuahua and a doxie. I think our loved ones in recovery heal with unconditional love more than any other thing.

  20. Cute picture! I have never seen anyone turned away from a meeting other than someone that was obviously intoxicated.

  21. grand-puppies, wonderful!

    Open vs closed... we face some of the same debate in AA. There needs to be a "sanctuary" for alcoholics who really depend upon anonymity and frankness at a meeting. Open meetings can occasionally be problematic on those two fronts for folks relying upon a clear AA message.

    I like that we have both options, and people are free to choose the meeting that suits them best.

    I've never been to an oyster roast, and I think I am missing out lol.

  22. "I learned to shift my focus from talking about the destructive behavior of my loved one to the destructive behavior that I had. And that is what meetings are about. We come in hopeless and learn to have hope, learn to have a life that isn't filled with anxiety and obsessing about others, learn to live for ourselves again." Awesome. I am in the early stages of this but slowly making progress. Thanks for this.

  23. I am new to blogging (2 days old) and the first thing I looked up to read about was Al-Anon. Interesting. A few short years ago I ran in the opposite direction when someone mentioned that I could benefit from Al-Anon. Now, I am so grateful for the fellowship.

  24. Thank you for sharing the photo, puppies make my heart melt.

    I must agree with you that reading others blogs has been a wonderful extension to my recovery.

    Our group just did a Group Inventory & I had a deja vu moment reading this, because we had a discussion just about word for word about tradition 3. Some were concerned and uncomfortable that the volume of individuals coming into Al-Anon were coming because of an addict. The question asked in turn, how do we know they are not affected by alcoholism in some way? The addict might just be the immediate qualifier in their life right now. We don’t know & really is none of our business. Our group welcomes any newcomer. Encouraging all to keep the focus on ourselves.

    It's wonderful to have a group conscious to have these discussions and to vote on how the group would like to move forward. Tradition 2.


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