I had been going to Al-Anon for just a short time when someone in a meeting said the program had given him tools that he added to his tool belt. I thought, "I want tools!" I had no idea what he was talking about, though I had already begun using them. They were all around me. I just hadn't recognized them yet.
I loved the Just for Todays, but I didn't see them as tools. To me, they provided a road map for a fulfilling life. Something to aspire to, not something to apply to situations.
I also had Al-Anon literature. At my first meeting, I bought "One Day at a Time in Al-Anon," which I read as prescribed: one day at a time.
While I was waiting for a sponsor, I also read the book "How Al-Anon Works," where I first discovered that I should not be asking my daughter about whether she had attended a meeting or if she called her sponsor. I was astonished. Really? I wasn't supposed to do that? I thought I was being a good mother.
"How Al-Anon Works" also had a whole section on slogans, which I skimmed over. I thought they were corny. I couldn't see how they would help me.
Of course, all of these were tools. Even before I realized that, they began to work in my life. I'd be rushing off somewhere, and the phrase "Just for today, I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision" would pop into my head, and I would take a breath and slow down.
The first tool I was conscious of using was detachment. And it was the slogans that helped me understand what that meant. When I found myself wanting to fix something, I'd remember "Let Go and Let God." I clung to that slogan like a lifeline. I could never "let go" of my daughter to fall into nothingness. But I could release her to a loving God. It reminded me that my daughter had her own God, and it was not me.
Soon, "Live and Let Live" became my daily motto. That happened as I began working the steps (another tool!). I had heard this slogan for what seemed my entire life, but it began to take on new meaning. I had always thought of the heart of the slogan as "letting live." My new emphasis was on the "live" part. By then I had began to really live my own life.
It was in working the steps with a sponsor that I really began to recover. A personal story I read recently in "From Survival to Recovery" put it well, I thought:
"Now I like to think of the slogans as bandages, the steps as the cure, and God as the doctor. When I am hurt, before I can get to the doctor to cure it, I usually need to patch it up temporarily to stop the bleeding. That's what bandages are for. Then I seek out a doctor to prescribe the best remedy. Finally, I take the prescribed cure and heal."