The ‘good wife and mother’—finding a new perspective

One of the first bits of wisdom my Sponsor passed on to me was “Quit taking it personally.” I started to realize that neither my husband nor my daughter were trying to hurt me. They were compelled by their disease to do what they did. It wasn’t about me being a good (or not so good) wife or mother. This new way of looking at how I reacted to their behaviors helped me see how I was the cause of my own suffering. I felt so sorry for myself, and I blamed them. Although I thought I loved them so much, I did not have a compassionate heart for their suffering.

One of the new things I learned in Al‑Anon was that I am not responsible for what others do. A behavior I first attempted to change was to stop trying to be responsible for the choices of others. This meant biting my tongue. I had to stop asking all those questions of my daughter, “Where were you last night? Who were you with? What were you doing? Why can’t you pay that bill? What happened to your last paycheck?” And (after she went through her treatment program), “Did you get to a meeting this week? Have you gotten a Sponsor yet? When did you last talk to your Sponsor?” And on and on….

This was not an easy habit for me to break. I had practiced it for years. I was good at it. Asking questions that were not really questions, but statements on what I thought she should be doing—my judgments on how she should be living her life. I already had it in my mind where she should have been last night; who she should be with; what she should be doing; how she should be handling her money; and how she should be working her program. I had to learn to let go, to put my trust in my Higher Power, and allow her to do the same.

Changing how I behave and how I think has been a quite a process. One of my favorite slogans is “Progress Not Perfection.” This is inspirational for me. I want to be sane, to be at peace, and to be of some good in the world.

The Al‑Anon program gives me specific tools to do just that: the meetings where I am greeted with smiles, hugs, kind words, and understanding; the literature where I find so much wisdom. There are pages that I have dog-eared because I think, “Wow, this is so good! I want to read it again and not forget it.” Then I read a new page and I think “wow” again. There seems to be no end to the “wow” factor.

This program told me to find a Sponsor, someone who would help guide me through the Steps, a kindhearted person who is willing to listen to my struggles in moving forward in my life. She doesn’t feel sorry for me. She doesn’t see it as the “poor Constance” story. My Sponsor gives me words of encouragement, and she is patient. I am where I am on this path, and I can’t be anywhere else. The important thing is I am making progress.

This program gives me the Steps and says I should work those Steps. This is not easy work. I had to take the terrific focus I had on everything going on outside myself and turn it inward. It was somewhat scary at times, dealing with my strong self-will, my harsh judgment, and the hardness in my heart. It was by working these Steps that I found my connection to my Higher Power.

This program says it is a spiritual program, and that it would be helpful to believe in something greater than myself. That was not a hard thought for me to accept. I have grown up believing in something greater than myself. What I had never done before was surrender to that Higher Power. I had such arrogance to hold onto the idea of “my will be done.” I looked inside and found I was not alone. My Higher Power was there, and always had been. I was the one who didn’t know about the connection. It was up to me to maintain that connection. This program tells me exactly how to do it—with prayer and meditation. In prayer, I ask for insight to meet whatever life challenges are in each day. I do not know what is coming my way, but I pray that I will act with an open mind and a compassionate heart. In meditation, I maintain the connection with my Higher Power. It is in the quiet inward-looking that I can find the guidance I need.

Also this program asks me to give back. When I first came to Al‑Anon, I was in bad shape, depleted from the tears and self-pity. But there has been progress for me. The suffering of others dwarfs whatever suffering I may feel for myself. I had to get over myself. Every day there are new people coming to meetings. They look like me. Is my recovery only about me? I think if it were, then this Al‑Anon program couldn’t even exist.

I am so grateful for so much now. I will never be a perfect person, and I am grateful for the forgiveness I am extended, when I still ask a question that isn’t really a question but a judgment. I am grateful for each day my daughter embraces recovery. She has her Higher Power too. It is up to her to maintain the connection. I can’t do it for her, nor can anyone do it for me. It is within my will to surrender—to “Let Go and Let God.”

By Constance H., Montana
The Forum, August 2014