Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rainy Easter Weekend

I have been off the grid for about four days on the boat.  My wife and I decided that it was a good time to spend a few days away.  The weather wasn't good with small craft advisories.  We decided to go anyway and enjoyed relaxing anchored at one of our favorite secluded spots.  The magic of being on the water never ceases to amaze me.

I went to see my first sponsor on Thursday. He was doing well that day and was waiting for me to arrive.  We sat outside for about an hour before going into the elegant dining room for dinner. He seemed to enjoy the visit. I have to say that I am dreading the day when he is gone from my life.  I can accept that his decision is to not continue with chemotherapy.

I re-read some of Dr. Sherwin Nuland's book on How We Die.  I need to read the words: “The greatest dignity to be found in death is the dignity of the life that preceded it. This is a form of hope we call all achieve, and it is the most abiding of all. Hope resides in the meaning of what our lives have been.” And then this: “But the fact is, death is not a confrontation. It is simply an event in the sequence of nature's ongoing rhythms. Not death but disease is the real enemy, disease the malign force that requires confrontation. Death is the surcease that comes when the exhausting battle has been lost. Even the confrontation with disease should be approached with the realization that many of the sicknesses of our species are simply conveyances for the inexorable journey by which each of us is returned to the same state of physical, and perhaps spiritual, nonexistence from which we emerged at conception. Every triumph over some major pathology, no matter how ringing the victory, is only a reprieve from the inevitable end.” I needed the reminder that treating a metastasized disease like stage 4 lung cancer is not an option for some people whose quality of life isn't good on chemo.

I missed a week of meetings. I've noticed that some of the meetings which were filled up last year have fewer people in attendance.  Some meetings lose their flavor over time and attendance drops.  I received an email recently from a person who was concerned about one of her meetings dwindling in attendance. She wrote: "We are sometimes too small a group, and although we talked about this at a group conscience, the only change was that someone new agreed to do some service, but we just have so few people attending regularly. And I'm starting to feel overly responsible. I think the group is not being self-supporting, in a way. Those who do go regularly have told their own stories a lot, and it's starting to feel stale, to me. If you have any experiences with working through this in a group or suggestions about changing the format to make it work better for a small group, I'd really like to hear about them."

My home group is small, with about 6-8 people on average each week. We use a format of a step of the month study, a tradition of the month study, a literature topic, and an open discussion meeting each month.  It doesn't seem to get stale because we use a variety of conference approved literature.

In meetings that need rejuvenation, it's a good idea to have a group representative who attends the district meetings and can report on the health of the group.  If a meeting needs some help, other member groups in the district could attend and perhaps add an influx of new topics.  I am an advocate of being the change that you want to see in a meeting. Chairing meetings, bringing in guest speakers, and having the district representative attend are ways to add new life to meetings.

When I think about how many people are affected by someone else's drinking, it would seem that meetings would be overflowing.  That isn't often the case. For the past few days, I've been taking calls on the Al-Anon information service phone line.  A lot of people are calling in to find out about meetings and wanting to know how to get help for their loved ones.  The idea that Al-Anon is going to provide help in curing the alcoholic is a pretty common one. Explaining that Al-Anon is for those affected by another's drinking seems to be something that is hard for some to grasp.  But one of the great things about Al-Anon is that our changed attitudes towards the alcoholic can aid recovery.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday.  We have been invited to brunch by a sailing friend. The rain continues to come down.  It has made the trees and bushes burst out in full leaf flush.  The catkins have been washed to the ground along with the oak pollen.  Spring has arrived here.


  1. I feel you on all counts, Syd. Allowing your friend and sponsor the gift of non-judgment on his decision is grace. My sponsor is going through a crisis now and I'm just loving him the best I can. I've also gone through shrinking groups and fear of Al-Anon death. The one and only thing that has ever served to prevent that is God and the group conscience. My first home group went through a tough time last year. Today we are strong in all ways. We had to suffer then surrender. The circle of life, it seems. Keep trudging....

  2. hope you enjoyed that brunch...and happy easter too you...i agree on being the change you want to can be hard when no one else joins in....the persistence in spite of....and thank goodness for spring...

  3. So beautiful, Syd. Such serenity.

  4. Your sponsor is in my thoughts. I liked that passage on death and feel many of us need to do work on understanding more about dying and how we feel about loss or our own death.

    The garden looks beautiful.

  5. Thanks for your post. I never tire of hearing about your life. I remember when you were working and I'm so glad you have more time to enjoy your beautiful home and yard. Thanks for the lovely photos. I am changing my online work to Recovery Forums this month. I wanted a way to preserve the wonderful ideas from others.

  6. Gosh, so much here. First, in the second picture from the top, are those pine needles and are you using them for mulch? Because we have a ton and I am not exaggerating, of pine needles.
    Have you read anything by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross? Are you studying death and the process? I read about it often....I know morbidly crazy, but it teaches me new ways to minister when I am at work. I think it can really be a beautiful transition and yes, most certainly, an "event in the sequence of natural rhythms."
    I have no service position right now. I am having a hard time committing to on weekly meeting as my days and hours change so often. I really am missing the connection that it brings. Reading what you had to say here, shows your administrative gifts.....because I could care less what goes on at the assembly meetings etc. (Gasp!) I know, terrible! And I know its important for our fellowship to continue to function in a healthy manner. I would love to do phone service though! lol I am currently going through a situation within our group where I am having to face that everyone doesn't always do everything "right" or well or kindly. That we are all just imperfect people who are here to learn new ways to live. Its been very eye opening and shocking to me because I always think everyone else is always doing so much better than I am. Anyway, Happy Easter my friend. It was good to hear from you today. :o)

  7. Well the Croci and Tiger Lillis have sprouted her so i guess better weather is ahead...I am good with that. I am also good that your life is full and you sound at peace within yourself Syd and your marriage. That is the footprint one leaves behind and the deeper the contentment the longer it takes the winds f time to erase that print. Be well old man and sail on.

  8. Your garden is gorgeous!

    When I used to answer the phone at the AA Central Office in Denver, so many of the calls were from relatives of alcoholics who wanted to "refer" them to AA. I would refer them down the hall to the Alanon office. Some of them really hated to hear that. It broke my heart.

  9. Hi Syd. I have no idea if this should have/be written in an email but here goes. While googling al anon support I came across your blog and I am hooked. I am attending my first meeting on Friday and to say I'm nervous would be a drastic understatement. I'm definitely ready to not feel like I'm alone, and have people understand me and my life at least a little. So thank you, for putting your life out there for people like me! I appreciate it!

  10. Hello Syd,
    Watching meetings ebb and flow is healing in some ways...although they may pass other meetings arise. For me it helps to realize life changes but new possibilities emerge. Despite the changes the Alanon program still continues.....

  11. Your pictures are lovely, Syd, and are very "Southern".
    I think it's a good idea to have a format that varies over the month rather than just leaving it open for discussion. The way you described your meetings is the way my son's Alanon mtg. is too.


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