Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The prison meeting seemed to have taken a turn last night.

The inmates have really taken responsibility for the meeting. The chairperson actually read a page out of "Courage to Change" and shared on what was in the book instead of trying to find a page that would fit the drama she wanted to share and, failing that, sharing on that drama anyway. We talked about solutions.

The women seemed to listen more intently to what my Al-Anon partner and I had to share.

The one woman who had attended our meeting faithfully is getting out in a few days. There was one meeting in which she was the only one in attendance, and we wondered what would happen to the meeting when she left.

But there was another woman there tonight who attended her sixth meeting and so "earned" her book. I heard her share for the first time. She stepped up and took over the meeting folder. And when another inmate who had sometimes attended was not available, she went and found a newcomer. So we had a little meeting of five: three inmates, plus my Al-Anon partner and me. And it was a good meeting.

The topic was yesterday's reading in "Courage to Change." It was about attraction rather than promotion, and I could have written it. It told my story.

When I was new in Al-Anon, I went through what I call my evangelistic period. I was so delighted to have found a solution, that I wanted to share it with everyone else. My son-in-law used to call regularly during that time begging me to "do something" about my daughter. He thought I had some special power over her. I must have given him that idea. I thought I did, too.

I remember clearly that I was taking an evening class. I came back to my car one night to find my phone beeping to alert me to a missed call. It was my son-in-law. There had been bigger-than-usual drama.

I told him I had been going to Al-Anon. I explained that my daughter was an addict and what he was seeing was addict behavior. I told him that I could not fix it, and either could he. I told him he needed to go to Al-Anon in the most urgent terms. Then I sent him literature.

The next time he called I told him he needed to go to Al-Anon.

I see now that I did that because I was still thought I knew what was best for everyone. I was still trying to control.

Of course it did as much good as telling my daughter that she needed to go to an NA meeting or call her sponsor. My son-in-law never went to Al-Anon, which distressed me just as much.

My sponsor explained gently, "You've told him, now let it go."

That's when she told me the "say it once" rule. I've found that it's usually best for me to keep my opinions to myself. But if I feel I absolutely must say something, I can only say it once. If I say it twice, it's a yellow flag. Three times and I'm definitely trying to control.

What I still didn't understand was the tradition of attraction rather than promotion. I already knew what that looked like, I just didn't realize it.

I had attended several NA meetings with my daughter and was impressed by what I heard. These people seemed grounded and wise.

I didn't think there was anything wrong with me. My daughter was the one with the problem.

But I could see that these people had something I didn't and I wanted what they had. So when my daughter's sponsor suggested I go to Al-Anon, I could hardly wait to go. I understood that if I did, I could have what they had, too.

My daughter didn't stay in NA, but went to Al-Anon and stuck.

The last time my daughter visited, she went to Al-Anon meetings with me. I didn't suggest it. I simply said I was going to a meeting, as I always did on those nights. She wanted to come.

When she left, she told me I was inspiring.


That was new. She used to tell me in great detail all the ways she didn't want to be like me. I could only hope that one day she'd want what I had.

And eventually, she did. Last I heard, she sober for the first time in a long time, back in NA and AA and "into it." I say last I heard because I don't ask her about it when I talk to her. I leave that between her and God.

That's how it works.


  1. The prison meeting sounds like it is getting some positive results, some inmates coming regularly and telling other inmates about it. I like the idea of having the inmates run the meetings. I had to smile when you described how your son-in-law would turn to you as if you were able to fix his wife. There were times my son-in-law spoke to me like that and all I could say was she is her own person. That was not what he wanted to hear from me.

  2. I always get something good from your posts. Today it is a twofer: I love the "say it once" rule and this "and shared on what was in the book instead of trying to find a page that would fit the drama she wanted to share and, failing that, sharing on that drama anyway".

    Thank you!

  3. I love the "say it once" rule. I am thinking that one is going to help me a bunch! I love that you are going into the prison and having meetings and that the women are starting to see the value and not share the drama. Thank you as always for another wonderfully inspiring post.

  4. You rock. My kids couldn't recover until I did.

  5. I love the "say it once" rule!

  6. Nice to stay out of the way of her recovery and not ask questions. Great post.

  7. I really like the "say it once" philosophy. I might adopt it. You are inspiring! From someone who was incarcerated 13 years ago, you cannot imagine how much those meetings mean. To talk to someone from the "free world". You are awesome.

  8. I can relate to this in so many ways. Did the same things....to be so controlling. I would try to force feed my revelations to others.

    I am always amazed when people say I am inspiring, too. I'm just following after God as hard as I can.