Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More on all that

I'm happy to say my husband, my daughter and I got back to town yesterday with a minimum of bloodshed.

Actually, despite the initial shaky moment of my last post, I had a great visit with my daughter. We got to spend some good mother and daughter time. We hiked together, saw a chick flick, talked. She told me yesterday that she found me "inspiring" and that it was "therapeutic" to be around me.


I had a request to clarify something in my last post. Madison wondered how talking with my sponsor caused me to behave differently. I’m grateful for the question, because it made me think about what had actually happened.

First, I have to say that one of the principles of Al-Anon is to keep the focus on me and not on the alcoholic. So in this blog, I’ve resolved not to talk about things any one else has done, only things I have done and thought. So forgive me if I sometimes sound kind of vague on the particulars.

Still, I think I can convey the gist of what happened without getting into specifics.

When I picked up my daughter from the airport, she told me there was something urgent she needed to take care of. It couldn’t wait.

“The committee” in my head reacted in the old way. Here are some of the things that started swirling around in my head:

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’ve got company arriving in two hours and I’ve got things I need to do to prepare for company.
She knew that.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Everything is closed. And we’re supposed to be going out of town to a place where these is no prospect of dealing with this problem.
She knew that, too.
Why didn’t she take care of this before she got here?
She expects me to pay for this, and it’s going to be expensive. Is that why she waited?
She's 26. Why does she still expect me to take care of things for her?
She did this the last time she came, too.
Why does she back me into a corner like this? Why do I always end up feeling like I have to do things I don’t want to do?
I had such hopes for a nice visit. Why does there always have to be crisis?

I didn’t say all of these things, but with every new thought, I got myself more and more worked up.

I asked her why she didn’t get this taken care of before she came. It was past 7 on New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow was a holiday. What did she expect me to do about it?

This only prompted a list of reasons she couldn't deal with it before (committee says: "Really? You're serious?") and more adamant insistence that this was a dire problem and had to be handled immediately.

Eventually, we came to an impasse and spent the rest of the ride home in stony silence.

This was old behavior. Mine and hers.

When I called my sponsor, she asked some questions to assess the situation. She also asked me if I wanted to pay for this. I said no.

She told me that it was reasonable to give my daughter a ride to take care of this problem, since she was staying with me and didn’t have a car.

I reminded her of my company. Did she think this was an emergency?

No. She didn’t. But if my daughter did, I could offer to give her a ride, then pick her up when she was finished.

I shouldn’t feel responsible to pay, because the nature of the crisis was the result of a choice my daughter had made. It was the consequence of her actions.

As far as the timing and my daughter’s particular circumstances, there was only one option before Monday, and it would cost my daughter not inconsiderable money. They could send her a bill. She could choose to do that, or to wait until Monday when there was a less expensive option. It was an option I hadn’t thought of, and it sounded like a good one, one that would address some of the reasons my daughter told me she couldn't take care of this before.

My sponsor reminded me to breathe. She told me she loved me. She said to call again if I needed to.

Just talking it over, I felt better. I felt clear about what was reasonable for me to do or not to do.

I came out and found my daughter.

I told her I had talked to my sponsor and she had offered some good ideas. I told her if she felt this needed to be taken care of now, there was only one option. I’d be glad to drive her there and she could call me to pick her up when she was ready. I said that there was another option, which would cost her less money, if she thought she could wait until Monday. I told her to give it some thought and tell me what she wanted to do.

She responded very well. She said she only brought it up so I would understand why she was irritable. She came downstairs and helped me set up for our company, and behaved delightfully for the rest of the night.

My own irritation and anxiety evaporated and I was able to enjoy her company.

The next morning, she told me she wanted to get the problem taken care of. So I gave her a ride. There was no tension. She thanked me, gave me a hug. I gave her change for the pay phone so she could call when she was ready.

I went home and spent a lovely morning catching up on blogs, reading the paper, exercising. When I picked up my daughter, she had a whole new set of concerns. I was able to listen with love and not offer any solutions.

What would have happened if my sponsor didn’t pick up the phone? Today, I would have called someone else. I could have called another Al-Anon sister. I could have called my sponsor's sponsor. I could have called anyone on the phone list at any of the meetings I attend.

Had I not called anyone, I can’t say for sure what I would have done, of course, but I can tell you what has happened in the past. I would have grudgingly taken her on her errand. I would have waited with her for the hours that it took, martyr like. I would have paid for it, and resented it. Probably, I would have nursed the grudge for a while, making it difficult to enjoy my daughter during the short time we had together.

In the past, my daughter has not responded lovingly to this behavior from me. Things got tense. We’d be short with each other and/or chillingly polite. I would be glad to see her go. We’d give each other stiff hugs at the airport curb.

As it was, we were able to spend an enjoyable visit. I was glad I could be there to offer support and encouragement. I was glad I could give her a hug.

At the time, it felt like magic. Now that I break it down I can see that my reaction just didn't make sense. It was based on a whole senario I concocted in my head, rather than the reality of the situation. It wasn't rational. It wasn't sane. (After all, I was listening to "voices.")

Feelings are not facts.

My sponsor just pulled me back to reality.

As Tammy said in her comment, it reminded me that I can't do this alone.

I heard a speaker say once "My mind is like a bad neighborhood. It's nowhere I want to be for very long."

I knew exactly what she was talking about.


  1. You and your sponsor have a good rapport. I used to do what you wrote here--be angry and resentful, but still do it. Never voice my concerns, just expect the alcoholic to read my mind and know how hurt I was.

    That was martyr behavior, and did absolutely nothing to lesson the demands my son put on me. Much to my surprise, when I started saying no, it worked. How could I know, as I had never said no!

    Good post, Kathy!

  2. Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for breaking down all the craziness that goes on inside my head sometimes.
    I love that we have choices now and so do they. :)

  3. Amazing how much a sponsor can help. It sounds like you have a good one. What freedom to get rid of that committee in the brain...

  4. Very nice update Bug! *hugs* Love you.

  5. Hey there, you are a brave soul indeed, accepting and allowing help with this. I can see amazing recovery and new life ahead for you, as well as healing.
    Until I read your Intro just now where you explained about what Al-Alnon calls Dropping the rope, I had no idea that that was exactly what I had done when I made my alcoholic husband move out in may last year.
    We still live separate but want to be together. I see a counsellor but have not taken the step to go to Al-Alnon, yet...
    I just txt him about the dropping the rope and he replied that he thought it was just called 'kicking the bastard out cause you are sick of him'. I said that works, as well.
    Glad I found your site. Take care