Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

There are certain places I’ve felt instantly, viscerally at home. That’s how I felt about New England and the small town where I lived. Other places took a while. The deep South was a culture shock to a girl who had grown up in L.A. And the sprawling metropolitan desert city I now inhabit? Well let’s just say it had to grow on me.

The thing is, it has. It’s where I belong.

Today, I also feel that way about my Al-Anon home group. I feel a part of things. I feel accepted. I feel loved. But I didn’t always. It wasn’t the group I wanted to make my home group. It was too far away and too late. I wanted to make a different group my home group. One that was closer and earlier and that I loved immediately and with all my heart.

But God had other plans. I couldn’t attend that group regularly. Taking service commitments would have been problematic. But Monday night? I’m almost always home on a Monday night. And over time, God firmly planted me there.

Looking around the room last night, I realized that I couldn’t leave the group if I wanted to. Scattered about the room, I saw most of my little Al-Anon family, five of my six sponsees. They are there every week. The only one who doesn’t attend this meeting lives out of town. So now I’m like a potted plant, and the thing is I’m thriving where I’ve been planted.

That was in keeping with the topic of last night’s meeting. It was yesterday’s reading from “Courage to Change.” It begins:

“In the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. Of the two, the last is much the worse.’

Translation: My will gets me into trouble…. Maybe that’s why not one of the steps talks about carrying out my will.”

The rest of the reading was about learning to let go of self-will and instead seeking the guidance of a Higher Power.

I can relate to this on so many levels. I’ve been trying to impose my will for as long as I’ve drawn breath. In the AA Big Book, that’s referred to as “self-will run riot.”

But today, I can also see how it’s only gotten me into trouble.

Here’s something I came across on a website about Al-Anon. I was directed there by a blogger, but I can’t remember which one, it’s been so long ago.

This quote from a psychologist who specializes in addiction got my attention:

“I do not insist that the patient or I make a clear connection between the patient’s complaints and the presence of alcoholism. I suggest the patient use AlAnon as part of the diagnostic process and I use the familiar recommendation that the person may decide after attending six meetings whether the program seems to be useful.

“Frequently the most useful information emerges from the patient’s reactions to the AlAnon meetings. A feeling of not belonging is usually connected to the sense of estrangement that is common among alcoholic families. If the patient felt burdened by listening to others at a meeting, it is a telltale sign that this person assumes overwhelming responsibility for someone else’s behavior.”

In other words, feeling you don’t belong is a good sign that you do. Hence the recommendation to attend six meetings.

It reminded me of something I heard someone say at a meeting recently. She said Al-Anon had taught her that the right thing to do was often exactly the opposite of what she wanted to do, or did instinctively.

For me, this means that my will and God’s plans are seldom the same. So I don’t use my feelings as a guide as much as I used to. I didn’t “want” to make my Monday night my home group. But God seemed to have other ideas. The circumstances in my life kept pointing me in that direction. So I stayed.

Today I know that God’s surprises always work out better than my plans. I also know that God always wins. Acceptance just makes it easier for me.

Sometimes that just means doing what’s in front of me, asking for the next right action, until God puts something else there. Then I work on that. I don’t see these unplanned interruptions as unwelcome intrusions anymore. I see then as welcome guidance, and I embrace them.


  1. Wonderful post, Kathy, Thank you.
    I can't hear this enough.
    I love when you say, "non of the steps are about my will."
    isn't that the truth!

  2. Surrender - such a hard one, such a blessing in disguise. Thank you for your thoughts. I have always felt accepted in Al Anon - and no matter what meeting group I've attended the common thread binding the groups create a wonderful place of rest! God Bless Al Anon!

  3. There is no unplanned interruption that can't be channeled into a blessed change in script and venue. We can adapt and roll with it. Nice writing.

  4. Fantastic writing! And, definitely something that I needed to read.

  5. There are things in my life that, had I choice, I would not have chosen. Single motherhood, loving an addict, living in poverty. But, in each of these circumstances I have received blessings beyond my wildest dreams, and I wouldn't change any of it.

    Those three instances alone show me that God's will, no matter how much it isn't what I want, is what I need and what is right for me.

    So funny, He seems to know us better than we know ourselves ;)

  6. Powerful post Kathy. So funny how I felt the SAME EXACT WAY about the family group meeting I now attend faithfully on Wednesdays. It is too far away, is too long and too late, but boy is it powerful! I so belong there and I now know it and accept it fully. Yes, our will and God's will are often very different and I am also finding that my will just get's me all confused and on the derailed for a bit.

  7. kathy, i'm excited to read your post about choosing a home group. after my first week of being in aa, it felt like someone was asking me about whether i'd chosen a home group almost every day. i mulled it over for weeks before i chose one close to my home. i'm excited b/c my first meeting as a member is this friday.

    how right you are about our will and God's will. not always, but sometimes it's exciting to see where God's will can take us. thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  8. Generally when my will is pulling me away from the program by either too tired, feeling down, or some other thing that isn't going "right", then that is the time that I need to be at a meeting the most. I can be tricked by my will into thinking that all is going well. God has different plans for me and more will be revealed.

  9. Kathy, this is so on the spot. Thank you for sharing and the reminder. Hard work. The "will" can play in so many things. Blessings.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. For financial reasons, my husband and I have been considering moving away from the town in which we have found so much recovery (he in AA and I in Al-Anon). A big consideration has been that we would be leaving behind our home meetings and the day to day contact we have with people who have been instrumental in our recovery. Not to mention our sponsees. Your post gives me courage to be more open to the new possibilities that may be out there for me. Acceptance is the key, and I needed to be reminded that am not the director of this movie. Thanks.