I have an Al-Anon friend who wants to leave her husband. When she was new in the program, I told her that I’d always been taught not to make any decisions for at least six months to give the program time to work.
The other day, she told me that it had been six months and her husband still hadn’t changed.
I wondered if we’d been sitting in the same rooms.
The six months wasn’t to see if your husband would change, I told her. The six months was to see if you would.
She was as genuinely surprised at my answer as I was at her statement.
She had been sitting in the rooms of Al-Anon for six months and what she heard were all the stories about how loved ones had changed as the Al-Anons changed their attitudes and behaviors.
I agreed that sometimes that happened. Sometimes it didn’t. It didn’t matter.
The whole point of Al-Anon was to learn to be happy whether the alcoholic is drinking or not. Really the whole point is to learn to be happy no matter what anyone in your life is doing, or not.
I said I’d heard the same stories she had. I’d also heard people share that their husbands hadn’t changed one bit.
“But what are their marriages like?” my friend wanted to know.
“I don’t know,” I said. I imagine their marriages are all sorts of ways. Only they have learned to accept what they had.
The three As (awareness, acceptance, action) had just been the topic of the most recent meeting we attended together. The reading had to do with the tendency to move directly from awareness to action without reaching acceptance. It felt custom tailored to my friend’s situation.
The way I understand the concept is that once I become aware of something, I must learn to accept it before I take action. Acceptance then frees me to make choices. I don’t spend time trying to change things I’m powerless over. Instead, I can work on the only things I can change: my own thoughts and actions.
I repeated a share I thought put it well.
I have a red coffee cup. I wish it were black, but nothing I can do will ever make it black. So I have to accept that it is what it is. My coffee cup is red.
Accepting that knowledge gives me freedom, because I don’t spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make my cup black. Instead, I can focus on the choices that I do have. I can change the way I feel about red. I can use a different cup.
“Not all marriages can be saved or should be,” I told my friend. “That’s a personal decision. Only you can decide that. But if you’re in Al-Anon with the expectation of changing your husband, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Remember, expectations are only premeditated resentments.”
I asked my friend if she had ever seen the acceptance prayer. She hadn’t, so I gave it to her. Here it is:
God, acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place or thing or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in your world by mistake. Until I can accept my Al-Anonism, I can not stay sane; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitude. Amen
2 days ago