Sunday, March 27, 2011


Last night I attended my first Saturday night meeting. Thanks to the advice of my sponsor I have begun attending more than one meeting per week. He said that from his experience many people have accelerated their recovery process by attending more two or more meetings in one week. I took his advice to heart because he has been where I am at now. He has felt the same emotions as I have. And I am grateful to him for his sage advice. For last night my progress in my recovery process came into clearer focus last night.

You see last night I was able to discern that my Higher Power, God, has been active in my life far more than I previously thought. At last night’s meeting God provided me with a sign that I am indeed where I need to be. And the amazing thing is that through this revelation it was brought to my attention that I have been blind to the other signs that He has, through His wisdom, provided for me to tell me that I am on the right path.

At my first meeting the sign was that others have been where I have been. That others have experienced the same harsh reality that was our childhood’s. I should have seen this for the sign that it was, but because my thinking process was muddled and confused I could not see this sign.

Then there were the daily readings that specifically related to current ongoing struggles. Take for instance last week’s discussion of anger stemming from the reading from page 83 of Hope for Today. The discussion of anger was particularly timely for me as I was angry at myself for failing to accomplish Step One. Through that discussion I was able to better understand that I did not have a healthy method for expressing my anger and that I did not need to be angry for not coming to terms with Step One. It was not my fault that my emotions were preventing me from succeeding, that it was a defense mechanism that I had learned during my childhood that I used to protect myself from the wrath of my alcoholic.

Then last night the reading from One Day At A Time In Al-Anon initiated a discussion of Step One. While I believe that I accomplished this step Thursday afternoon, the topic was still relevant because I was unsure whether I had actually come to terms with it emotionally. Still I saw this as a sign that I needed to be where I was.

Today I understand that I still have a long way to go before I can say that I have recovered from my past. In fact I doubt that I will ever be able to say that I have completely recovered. However I can honestly say that I have made progress. And as long as God is willing I will be able to continue the process of recovering from the effects of alcoholism. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crashing an Emotional Roadblock

For the better part of the last month I have been in a perpetual state of emotional torment. My emotions seemed to be in a constant state of conflict with my mind. I was wrestling with working my way through my first step in the program.

My mind had intellectually worked through the first step, but my emotions were still stuck in the mud. Despite my constant consumption of the literature and slogans I could not get my emotions to admit that my life was unmanageable.

For weeks I went through the gamut of emotions, from anxiety to fear to denial. I was anxious because I was asking myself to let go of my self-reliance. I was fearful because admitting that my life was unmanageable would indicate that I am weak. I was jealous of those that have come before me and successfully completed this step. I feared the loss of control that accepting that my life was unmanageable would entail. I got angry with myself for not being strong enough to admit my own weakness.  I was angry with the step itself for asking me to acknowledge my weakness. Well you get the idea. My soul seemed to be in some sort of chaotic overdrive.

I knew that I needed to find help. I needed to find someone that I could talk with to help ease me through the roadblocks that my emotional unease seemed to be placing on my road to recovery. For more than a week I would look at my cell phone, then I would look at the list of phone numbers that some of the members of my local Al-Anon group provided when I attended my first meeting. I knew what I needed to do. I knew that I had to call one of the members to ask for advice. I knew that I needed to seek out the assistance of someone that has been in the same position in which I had found myself. And despite this knowledge I could not do it. I literally could not pick up my phone and dial one of the numbers on my list. I was ashamed that I was not strong enough to do something as simple as pick up the phone to make a phone call.

Yesterday afternoon I wrote about roadblocks on my road to recovery. After writing that post I felt so much better. I could almost feel the courage flow into me as I wrote the words out. Immediately after publishing that piece I was able to summon up the courage to make the phone call that I needed to make. I spoke with this member for almost an hour. He helped me put into perspective that even though I felt that I had been struggling with the first step, that I had been making progress. We talked at length about a wide range of issues that may possibly have been holding me back, but he made one comment that floored me. He told me that just picking up that phone and calling him was admitting that my life had become unmanageable. The fact that I was able to overcome the emotions that were acting as a roadblock had caused me to emotionally acknowledge what I have known intellectually. I am grateful for the time that I spent on the phone yesterday afternoon with him. And I can promise that it will not be the last time I do so.

I am powerless over alcohol – my life has become unmanageable. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Personal Roadblocks

Today has been one of those days that I dread. While the weather outside looks beautiful and I should be enjoying the sunshine, my soul is in a dark place. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to drag myself up out of the sludge of emotions and self doubt.

I suppose part of my problem lies in the fact that I have been struggling with the first step in the Al-Anon program for the last several months. This is the step that states:

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

At first this step seems simple, or at least it did for me. I just need to admit that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable. This should be relatively easy considering that I no longer live with an alcoholic. I don’t have to deal with the daily irritants that alcoholism provides.

But it is not as simple as I thought. While intellectually I can admit to the powerlessness over alcohol and I can even intellectually admit that my life has become unmanageable it is emotionally and spiritually where I run into the problem.

Deep within me, my soul rejects that idea that I cannot control my life. Deep down the emotions boil and churn telling me that I can control my life.

This leads me to another problem I am having with step one. I know that the other Al-Anon members are there for me to lean on in my time of need. And while I have found it fairly easy to open up and share my experiences during my weekly meetings, I have found it is hard for me to call them in between. I can’t seem to admit to myself that I need the help.

Maybe it is my ego telling me that I don’t need the help. Throughout my life I have been remarkably self reliant. I have always avoided asking for help because I viewed it as a sign of weakness. And I did not want anyone to see me as weak.

I have been praying and reading literature for the better part of the day. I have been trying to find some piece of knowledge that will help me make the call that I know that I need to make. I thought that writing about it would help me breach the roadblock that has been standing in my way of making progress. I already feel a little bit better after getting this down into writing. I am going to place that call now..  

Anger: My Emotional Monster

Today I want to begin what I am hoping will be a weekly feature on ToA. Last night was my weekly Al-Anon meeting. It is a group in which I feel entirely safe exposing my open wounds in order to facilitate the healing process. Sort of like what I hope to accomplish with this blog. Anyhow, last night we discussed the concept of anger in relation to our dealings with the disease of alcoholism; as well as how we deal with it during recovery.

The emotion of anger is often and inescapable part of life. We all feel anger at some point in time. Where we as human beings differ is how we deal with that anger. Some of us repress our feelings of anger. Shoving them down and refusing to acknowledge that they exist. It is my belief that when someone claims that they never feel anger that they are lying to themselves. Then there are those that explode with rage when anger wells up inside of them.

For many of us, how we deal with anger is dependent upon the environment we were raised in. If our parents refused to acknowledge their anger it highly likely that we, their children, will practice the same method of dealing with our anger. And likewise, if our parents allowed their anger to become and uncontrollable rage we too will express our anger in a similar fashion.

Growing up in my childhood home I witnessed two completely different expressions of anger. In the few occurrences of sobriety in my father he would swallow his anger. He refused to acknowledge that something was bothering him. His anger would boil beneath his apparently calm surface until he began to drink. Then like a volcano erupting his rage would burst forth in an episode of violence and abuse. He would take his rage out on anyone nearby. My mother on the other hand simply repressed her anger, never letting anyone know that she was displeased. Perhaps it was fear of making my father angry that caused this.

Growing up in this environment I failed to learn healthy ways of managing anger. As I grew up I applied the methods of dealing with anger that I had learned from my parents. At times I would swallow my anger. I would repress it. I would hold it back. I refused to acknowledge that anything was upsetting me. The stress of the pent up anger continued to build and build until I could hold it back no longer. At this point I would explode, sometimes violently, most often with torrent of pent up rage that was hurtful and degrading to those around me.

To say the least these habits that I learned from my parents did nothing to help me succeed in life. Instead they helped to hold me back. They helped to squelch the potential that lay dormant inside me. I quickly realized that I had a problem. I realized that it was not normal to go into an incoherent anger fueled tirade. However at that point in my life I did not know how I was going to change it. I did not know what the cause was. I surely did not know that growing up in an alcoholic household was the cause of my problems. I thought that it was how I was born. I thought that it was a part of me. And these thoughts reinforced the mental abuse that I suffered during my teen years. I thought that I would surely amount to nothing, just like my father had always told me.

These thoughts really persisted until I met my wife about seven years ago. I continued to think that I would barely survive life. That I would never have a successful career. That I would never have a normal life. Whenever I expressed these thoughts to my wife she would immediately combat them. She would tell me that I was smart. She would tell me that I was the kindest person she had ever met. Her words of encouragement were what helped me begin the climb out of the hole that my life was at the time.

In the seven years that I have known my wife I have learned how to better control and express my anger. That is not to say that I still don't have slips and let the rage out, but those instances are few and far between. Despite being better able to control my bouts with anger, I did not really now the true source of my problems. I still labored under the mistaken belief that I was born this way.

Now I understand that the way that I deal with my emotions is not something that I was born with. It is something that I have learned from the flawed examples that I was presented with as I was growing up. It is not something that is set in stone, but something that can be changed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Am Made Of Scars

When I created this blog back in December I expected to be updating the content on a daily basis. As you can see, that hasn't happened yet. As it turns out, even though this a completely anonymous blog, summoning up the courage to expose my weaknesses for all the world to see is not as easy as I thought it would be. I have made a promise to myself that I will work hard to purge myself of all the detrimental habits and traits that have accumulated over my years of living with someone else's alcoholism. Now for the back story, how I came to be in the position that I am in. 

My early childhood was what most would consider normal. Both of my parents were very involved in my life. My father would coach my little league team. My mother would attend each and every game or event that I took part in. However this was not to last. In the late 80's my idyllic world was due to be shattered. It was then that my parents packed the family up and moved us to my father's rural hometown. 

We hadn't even completely unpacked when my father's alcoholism reared it's ugly head completely dismantling the perfect life that I thought we had. We hadn't been in our new home a few weeks when I saw my father intoxicated for the first time in my life. At first I thought it was funny watching my father stumble around running into almost everything. I had never seen him in this shape. 

The novelty of my father's alcoholism didn't last long. The bumbling, happy go lucky drunk was quickly replaced with a harshly violent and abusive drunk. We had only been in our new home a few months before he got violent. It started with my mother. If she made something for supper that he didn't want he would start throwing dishes, or anything else that he could get his hands on. For the most part in these early years he would leave myself and my siblings alone. He didn't get violent with us, instead he used something much more cruel, mental abuse. 

It seemed like nothing we could do would satisfy him. If we did well in school, he would tell us that we could do better. No matter what we did, it was not good enough for him. So I gave up. In my adolescent thinking, why should I care about how I did if he didn't either. We would be told that we were worthless. As bad as the violence was, the mental abuse was worse. 

It is only recently that I have come to realize that my experiences growing up have deprived me of my peace of mind. As I contemplated these experiences I came to the realization that my life was made by mental scars inflicted by living with an alcoholic. And I have now begun the process of healing those scars through the steps and concepts of Al-Anon.