Friday, February 12, 2010

The Best Medicine

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."


  1. I love the al-anon slogans...... Live and Let Live helps me so much. So glad that I have found my own life and let others have theirs, too. I can hear the freedom bell ringing. :)


  2. I thank God I found Al-Anon and the beautiful spiritual tools.

    Great post.

  3. You said " daughter had her own God, and it was not me."
    Letting go of the control we think we need in a relationship and letting the other person be their own person is such freedom even if at the time the fear is so strong. I like the way you describe various tools and it doesn't matter what they are called; we use the things available to us for our sanity and our healing. Your post are just the right length and full of personal shares and sound like you are inviting us to think about some of the things you introduce in your writing.

  4. I like when you wrote this, "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."

    It sums it up.. My 14 year old has a phrase when anything bothers him.. he says instead, "Leave it". It is short for Let Go and Let God.

    I've been saying that too now.. "Leave it" for shorthand.

  5. P.S. I thought the slogans were corny at first too. Now my favorites are KISS and the 3As and the 4 Ms.

  6. When I get into a panic..for instance, my son doesn't call when I'm expecting it, and suddenly I'm projecting he is using and laying in the gutter somewhere..I still fall back on the Serenity Prayer. I'll say it over and over till I get centered, then I can move on to the other slogans.

  7. hi kathy, thank you for this post. and for the link to the just for todays. i think i'd seen these before, but it's been awhile.

    i too thought the slogans seemed silly at first, but over the years i see the wisdom in them and in the whole program. i'm glad i've gotten small doses over the years. and am grateful the program exists and offers such healing to so many. i am really glad to be getting more into it too lately. it's been helpful and healing.

    your blog has been part of my inspiration. thank you again for your sharing.