Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Fear Factor, Part 2

In Al-Anon, we’re taught to get out of God’s way.

What I have come to take as an article of faith is that my alcoholic has her own God and that God is not me. That my daughter’s God has her just where he needs her. That whatever God has arranged in her life is ultimately for her benefit. When I got involved, trying to “help,” I was just getting in God’s way.

When I first came to Al-Anon, I grabbed onto the slogan “Let Go and Let God” like a lifeline. I couldn’t imagine letting go of my daughter to fall into a pit. But I could release her to a loving God. I imagined wrapping her up in a warm, soft blanket and handing her over.

And for the most part, with time and practice, I found peace.

But sometimes fear creeps in. Even now.

When I came into Al-Anon, I thought my daughter surely had reached bottom. Then I watched her situation degrade until it seemed quite dire.

I started to wonder if I shouldn’t be doing something. I began to question whether it was right to do nothing. This is, after all, the worst economy since the Great Depression. Maybe it wasn’t entirely her fault. Maybe she just needed a little help.

Then I remembered all that had come before. All the help she had. All the choices she made. I couldn’t deny that she was where she was as a result of her choices. I also couldn’t deny that every time I “fixed” a crisis, she created another. This wasn’t something I could fix.

In the past month or so, I’ve been aware of a growing anxiety, which is just another name for fear. I believe, absolutely, that fear is simply a lack of faith. So I didn’t work on fear. I worked on faith.

I spent more and more time on my knees. I prayed every prayer I knew: the Lord’s Prayer, the long version of the Serenity Prayer, the prayers for step 3 and 7. The Prayer of St. Frances. The Acceptance Prayer.

I prayed prayers of my own composition. Not for anything specific. I prayed for God’s guidance. I prayed to know his will for me. I prayed the courage to carry that out, whatever it was. I prayed his will be done for my daughter. That he wrap her in His Grace and Mercy.

I got serious about meditation. I took more and longer meditation breaks. I intensified my gratitude practice by moving in from prayers to paper and sharing it with others. I took a daily fear inventory. I wrote my letters to God, per the daily inventory handed down through my line of sponsorship.

Then one day, a woman I hadn’t seen in a while rolled into my Wednesday Al-Anon meeting late. She was pushing a double stroller with two sleeping toddlers. Her hair was tied back carelessly and she wore no makeup. She looked tired. She was a little distracted, making sure the kids were tucked in and comfortable.

This woman is my age, and as far as I knew didn’t have any kids that age, so I imagined that these were her grandkids. When we broke up into groups, she was in mine. She shared that her daughter had overdosed and died just before Thanksgiving. So now she was raising these kids.

She said she was grateful for the Al-Anon program because without it, she never would have had the courage to face this situation.

“I knew people died from this disease,” she said. “I used to say that to other people: People die. But I never thought it would be my daughter."

As she spoke, there was a peacefulness about her. There was acceptance.

As I mentioned, this woman is my age. She also has my name. Her qualifier is her daughter. None of this was lost on me.

I went home and prayed for acceptance.

Then I got a call today from my daughter. She’s in a long-term residential program that provides housing, support in looking for work, and drug and alcohol treatment. She’s been sober for 50 days. Completely sober. No drugs, no alcohol, no psychiatric meds.

"It's been a long time since I've been sober," she admitted.

She has completed parenting classes and is attending the facility's drug and alcohol classes every day in addition to AA and NA meetings. She told me she’s “into it.”

I wanted to cry right there on the phone. Of course, I got down on my knees to send up a prayer of thanks.

I always tell my sponsees that this program is to teach us to be happy whether the alcoholic is drinking or not. Often when we get out of the way, our loves ones find recovery. Sometimes they don’t. We are powerless either way. That's between our loved ones and God.

I accepted the fact that my daughter might always be in the category of “sometimes they don’t.” She still might not. I can’t have any expectations. I only know that this felt like an answer to my prayers.

My fear inventory will be blissfully empty today.

But I know that I only get a daily reprieve based on my spiritual condition. So I will continue to flex those faith and gratitude muscles. I will work on acceptance. No matter what happens.

Hubby and I are off to the land today. I’ll check in with everyone on our return. Meanwhile, take care.


  1. Wow, Kathy, what a moving share. I really picked up on the message that I need to work on my faith, and other things will fall into place as God sees fit. Thanks so much :)

  2. The woman now raising her grandchildren has her hands full yet you mention that she sounded peaceful. The call from your daughter was a blessing that's for sure. She picked up the phone and called not to ask for something. Enjoy your time away. You certainly have lots to contemplate while you are there.

  3. Moved to tears..... a wake up call for sure. Nice to hear your daughter called without an agenda! I would love a call like that! Enjoy your trip and remember to live, love and laugh, just for today!

  4. You are so special and your posts always reach me with such wonderfully powerful messages. I am so happy that your fear list is empty for today. Wonderful news about your daughter working her own program. Hope you have a peaceful time at the Land.

  5. Wow, what a powerful post! Made me cry. I can relate to that relief and YES!! When we finally muster up the courage to step aside and stop spinning, miracles can happen.

  6. I think I need to read this post on a regular basis to help me remember to let go and let God.

  7. Wow! What a great reminder about the power of prayer and the destructiveness of fear.
    Praise God!
    Have a great time at "the land" :)

  8. Thanks for this post about letting go. I think that steps 2 and 3 of Al-Anon are where I need to be every day. They remind me that I can truly let go of someone, knowing that they have their own HP and I'm not it.

  9. It is all about letting go -- have a good break.
    Mary LA

  10. Kathy, a very powerful post. Appreciate you sharing, as always. Thank you. You touch many lives here.

  11. This is exactly how any 12 step program works and this is an amazing and powerful post to let all of us who work it know it works and keep at it, and allows those who are new to know that it takes your work,the work of prayer, letting go and letting god...thank you for this share...amazing!

  12. great post as always Kathy...Stay safe and have fun.

  13. The post gave me goose pimples! High impact. Not believing in the God of your understanding, I changed this slogan to " Let go and let it happen" still works ;-)
    I remember an Al Anon member who shared this note with me:
    "Dear Paula,
    I do not need your help today. Thanks, GOD"
    says it all, right. My prtner is sober for 2 years now and whilst he isnt feeling well at AA, he is now seekign trauma therapy to dig straight to the bottom of his problem drinking. I am proud of him.
    Have a wonderful time.

  14. wow. this is such a powerful and inspirational post, kathy. what that woman with the babies said about al-anon, is so true. thank goodness for the existence of aa and al-anon. it is our bedrock. i am so pleased to read that your daughter is in residence and 50 days clean and sober. God bless.