Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Daily Reprieve

When programs friends or sponsees who have been doing well call at unscheduled hours to say that they are depressed or that obsessive thoughts have returned, I generally start by asking one question:

How’s your prayer life?

The longer I’m in the program the more important this question seems to me. This isn’t a disease we cure. We only get a daily reprieve based on our spiritual condition. And that means exercising our spirit every day.

When I agree to take on new sponsees, here’s what I recommend:

Pray on your knees, at least once a day
Go to two Al-Anon meetings and one open AA meeting every week
Buy one of Al-Anon’s books of daily meditations and read it every day
Practice gratitude, actively, by writing a daily gratitude list

Those are the basics. And when people who have been doing well, suddenly aren’t, I have found they’ve stopped doing one (or several) of these things as regularly as they once did.

There are often good reasons for that. But the result is the same.

It happened to me several months ago during a bout of what may have been the swine flu. I was unable to get out of bed for two weeks. My only prayers were a fevered “God, just take me now.”

I didn’t attend a meeting, read any literature, talk to my sponsor. Then I got a phone call from my daughter with a request that threw me for a loop. She wanted money. It seemed like for a good reason. I didn’t know what to do.

I couldn’t reach my sponsor. My mind started its familiar spin cycle, its obsessive feedback loop. By the time my sponsor called, I had sent money and was agonizing over whether I should send more.

It took her about two seconds for my sponsor to set me straight. She reminded me that the reason my daughter needed money was because she had taken certain actions. What she was experiencing were the consequences of those actions.

Oh, yeah. I thought. Duh.

But without the tools of the program, I couldn’t think about it clearly.

I’ve seen much more dramatic examples from people who have been in the program for much longer. People who work a good program.

A very dear friend fell dramatically off the beam after she stopped praying. She experienced a storm of difficulties and after one particular incident, she just couldn’t pray. Then she started skipping meetings here and there. I visited her after an elective surgery and was surprised to find her completely undone.

Through it all, she could still give good program advice. She had been in the program a long time. She knew Al-Anon chapter and verse. But this is a program of action. Knowing everything about recovery doesn’t do a bit of good without taking the actions we’re taught in this program.

Or as I read in another blog recently, God will put wind in your sails, but he won’t raise the sail.

Another friend admitted that after 16 years in the program, he had to call his sponsor and “turn himself in.” He had lost his faith.

She had him rework step 2. At the same time, he was working with a sponsee on the same step. God makes no mistakes.

He asked himself: What did I do when I was new?

The answer:
I prayed on my knees
I went to meetings
I read Al-Anon literature
I practiced gratitude

He did those things and climbed back on the beam.


  1. The thing I keep remembering is there is no cure and I have to work on my recovery every day. I used to wonder why the heck other people didn't have all this junk to work on like I do. Then I got to the place that I don't compare myself to anyone else. I just work on my own stuff. And keep working it.

  2. Thank you, Kathy. It works if I work it.

  3. I tried to make a list of basic daily needs to look to when I feel off. Reading recovery or wisdom material and meditating or reflecting in some way are things on my list as well as reaching out to connect with others on a healing path. But I also added things like eat and drink water and just breathe. Sometimes in the moments when stability feels far away, returning to the basics is so grounding. Thanks for writing about this. :)

  4. Not sure why I said "tried" :) because I made the list. And it has been helpful ever since. If I feel off center or down, I just start doing things from the list. Oh and it also includes things like: laugh, move, listen to music, clean something, and leave the house. Connecting to wisdom is part of what helps me, but I find I also need help to get back into the moment and snap out of my own head and ego sometimes :) hugs Kathy!

  5. I really appreciate you coming to my blog and welcoming me to yours :) This post is perfect for me today because I just picked up my very first sponsee and I'm working on getting some step 1 and 2 stuff together for her. She's been in the program a while but has relapsed more than once which is why she and her previous sponsor have split. She is in AA, but I thought about suggesting to her that she check out an Al-Anon meeting as well because the man in her life is actively addicted and it makes life difficult for her. thanks for sharing, I look forward to keeping in touch :)

  6. Every day is a struggle to remain on the beam. When I stay strong for Stevie, I fall off with N or my other son, unable to juggle and keep all emotions in check. You are a strong and wise person, and I love the inspiration you carry with you, and onto us. Blessings and Hugs!

  7. I *needed* to hear this today. No sugar coating, no excuses, just the experience of a fellow Alanoner. I like your e,s, and h today. Yep, I don't believe in coincidences either. ::hugs and thanks::

    ♥namaste♥ (meeting tomorrow night, reading ODAT today, gratitude list made and prayer on the list)

  8. This post contains such wisdom....I find, too, when I am sick I start falling off the beam. Back on now, Halelujah!


  9. Thank you for reaching out with this message, it never gets old and is so true. You are a loving soul that I find so much comfort from. HUGS

  10. Oh I am really now a firm believer of prayer these days. Thank you for such a inspiring message here Kathy.

  11. a wonderful post, kathy. i'm reminded about getting on my knees more often.

    but the BEST reminder you gave me today is about trying to do too much for my kids. it so easy to fall back into mothering as if they were only twelve. thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Thanks I forget I have solutions to get out of the insanity.

  13. I like your blog,... nice post keep blogging...

  14. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd

  15. Thanks for your post, Kathy. I couldn't agree with you more. I start every day with morning meditation, a reading out of Courage to Change, and a bit of writing. When I start my day with that regular routine, I set it up to head in the right direction. Absent good orderly direction, who knows where I might wind up!

  16. ahhhhhh I know AND APPRECIATE the flavor of this Kool Aid!!!! Thanks for the post!

  17. I know that I am not practicing steps two and three when I am in despair. Sadly enough a friend recently killed herself during a debilitating depression. She had lost her Higher Power and no longer believed. For some of us, we can regain our Higher Power by working with others, meetings, literature. But there are those who are truly wired differently physiologically who can't seem to fight their way back to God. But God does find them in the end.

  18. Wow, I wish you had written this during my earlier depression!! LOL This is right on information. This would be my vote to send to your e-zine too! This post should be CAL imo. :o)