I found Al-Anon in 2001 when a friend suggested I go to a meeting while she went to an AA meeting. She knew my wusband (past tense of husband) as well as I did, so she knew that I qualified. Al-Anon is for families and friends of alcoholics. We follow the 12 step program for our own recovery from codependence and the effects of alcoholism on our lives.
It saved me. It saved my sanity, restored my peace and focus, and even improved my marriage until I knew it was time to go.
These are six things I learned at Al-Anon meetings that may help us in this unique challenge. Some are 12 Step slogans and acronyms. Others just things I heard from members that stuck with me.
- Acceptance Is the Answer to Almost Any Problem
I learned through Al-Anon to practice first accepting reality fully, then act or speak. Each day while in an alcoholic marriage I would let myself see the truth of what was, without arguing with it or denying it. “Ok this is how it is right now.” Then I had any number of choices to make. I could stay in the marriage or not, I could decide to say something that I felt needed to be said with clear intention, I could make my own plans, etc. During this pandemic, acceptance of what is, then working with that reality as the starting point, can save us from undue stress or struggle.
- I Am Responsible for My Own Happiness
When someone said this at a meeting it hit me like a boulder falling on my head. And changed me forever. No one has the power to make me happy nor to make me unhappy. It’s on me. Even now. My attitude, actions and thoughts are my own to choose. I try to choose the ones that promote harmony and happiness in and around me.
- One Day at A Time
An essential precept of the 12 steps is one day at a time. We deal only with today to make the program manageable. If needed you can break it down into smaller chunks and focus on the next hour or the next minute. You can do this. One day at a time.
I like to plan for tomorrow at night. Bright Line Eating, which is based on the 12 step model, has us write our food down for the next day – just one day. My 10-year-old daughter has started during this pandemic to write down her goals for tomorrow in the evening, so that she accomplishes art projects, completes schoolwork and gets exercise. She just naturally started doing this. It keeps things simple and organized, not focusing too far ahead but being intentional with our days.
- Take Care of Yourself
The subtext of this is “You’re worth it.” Many of us find our way to Al-Anon after having been focused on everyone else to a fault. Take exquisite care of your body and mind. Make time to check in with yourself. Do you need a walk? A chat with a friend? Are you eating healthy food? Would it feel good to shower and dress up or cozy up on the couch with a book or sleep since you’ve been working long hours?
If you’re off balance, irritated or antsy, finding that you’re not relating with others or yourself in a helpful manner… first try HALT. It’s a checklist. Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If yes, address it. Eat something. Acknowledge and feel the anger, then see if it has a message or if there is an action that needs to be taken. Reach out if you’re lonely. Rest or sleep if you’re tired.
We often label challenges, even the most challenging of times, in Al-Anon, as an AFGO. Another F@#&in’ Growth Opportunity. We don’t have to say it’s a good thing to be aware that it’s an opportunity to learn, to change for the better, or to awaken Love within us.
May this be so.