Step One

Posted on June 26, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Treatment Centers | Tags: , , , , |

This morning at my ‘home’ Al-Anon meeting, one member expressed his frustration with the First Step:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or anything else, for that matter) – that our lives had become unmanageable. “Kirk” was referencing his struggle to try to control his alcoholic wife’s drinking.  He said that finally, after months of disposing of hidden booze he’d find, checking his wife’s cell phone records, monitoring her where abouts, etc. he was giving up.  “Maybe this is what step one means”, he said, with resignation in his voice.  Subsequently, each one of us in the room voiced our own difficulty with Step One, as well.  And if you can’t get past Step One, well – you’re really quite stuck.

Disclosure Statement: I admit, I really haven’t worked the 12 Steps myself.  I read about them, think about them, but have not studied, explored, ‘worked’ them with a sponsor.  I realize that I need to do this, once I find a sponsor.  In any event, today I looked up some references on Step One in one of my Al-Anon books, Discovering Choices. This page, which I had heavily underlined and starred several months ago, is worth revisiting and quoting here:

We can still find meaning in our lives by helping others, but it would be illogical to make the meaning in our lives dependent upon things that fall outside the boundaries of our personal responsibility.  Detachment with love means letting go of unreasonable expectations for ourselves.  We can continue to love people and care about them.  Hurting ourselves by persisting in negative and stressful speculation, however, is not proof that we’re helping ourselves or anyone else.

It’ s not wrong to hope for a positive outcome, but we also have to accept the limits of what we can possibly know.  We don’t know for sure if the outcome we desperately pray for will prove to be the most beneficial result for ourselves or the alcoholic/addict. We do know from experience that failure and frustration often turn out to be the first steps in a process that ultimately brings more positive results.  While there’s no guarantee that every negative will turn into a positive, there’s also no guarantee that things will turn out to be as bad as we fear.  We just don’t know what the long-term results will be.  They are out of our control.  It doesn’t make sense to focus all of our attention worrying about something that may never happen – or if it happens, to worry about what the consequences will be.  Detaching with love also means detaching from the outcomes that we- from our limited perspective – think will be the best.

The slogan, “One Day at a Time” defines an appropriate boundary.  We know that we can’t predict or control the future.  Why are we so convinced that we know what will be best for everyone?  What basis do we have for being so certain about what the future will bring?  When we focus on a future we can’t know, we prevent ourselves from knowing the satisfactions that the present day could offer.

There is wisdom in admitting that we simply don’t know everything and in accepting that we don’t have to have the answer to everything.  There is wisdom in doing nothing if we don’t know what to do.  We can find serenity by accepting what we can’t change.

Detachment doesn’t mean giving up on love.  It means opening the door to the joy, hope, love, and kindness that are available to us every day.  We can detach from old ways of thinking that make our day’s challenges appear to be unmanageable.

I need to tattoo these words on my brain.  Hayley is doing so well in treatment, yet I find myself jumping ahead to find something to worry about.  I’m in the habit of trying to anticipate and avoid every potential disaster, before it even happens.  As a result, I rob myself of feeling the joy of today that is real, is here, right now.

Hayley’s phone calls and letters continue to sound encouraging.  In her younger brother, Brian’s, words, she seems to ‘get it’.  Here are some recent letter excerpts that underscore my burgeoning sense of hope:

Now that I’m not using, I have such a deeper appreciation for the relationships in my life.  They are everything! You really can’t believe the sisterhood and support here.

I have been loving the AA/Na meetings we go to every day.  They are such an important part of recovery and each group/meeting is so vastly different.  Every single one offers something important.

•This place is so special, and I really believe that I was meant to be here and meant to be here now, with these particular women.

•I meet regularly with Arleen, who is our ‘spiritual’ leader and a fantastic African American woman who just exudes love and joy which really is contagious.

•In the beginning, I was taking an ADD medication, Strattera, as well as Vistiril for anxiety.  The Vistiril can be taken up to 4 times/day, and I was finding myself taking it 4X/day, regardless if I needed it or not.  After a certain moment of clarity a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I was just taking these meds because I am an addict and I was drug seeking.  So – I stopped all of my meds, except for 1 ibuprophen and Trazadone at night.  I plan to stop even the Trazadone in the next couple of weeks as well.  As for smoking, I am still smoking about ½ pack a day.  This is my last vice/addiction and I recognize that I do really need to stop – and soon.  It does help that I have been so active and either go to the gym or yoga every day.  I really haven’t had exercise on a regular basis since college.  It’s amazing how my body still remembers what it’s like to be in shape, and I notice a huge difference from when I first started to now.  People often comment that I am glowing, and my resolve to beat my addiction and ALL my addictive behaviors is strong.

Hayley remarked that she is STILL on Step One – that her sponsor is very thorough and demanding and requires an entire packet of writing about this step.  Her sponsor said that really working the 12 steps in depth, will lay down a stronger foundation for recovery – that taking the necessary time now will pay off in the future.  It’s good advice for me, as well.  I, too, am trying to recover from my daughter’s heroin addiction.  I’ve got a lot of work to do.


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22 Responses to “Step One”

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The first step is the primary building block on which recovery is built. There are 2 parts to the step. Recognition and Acceptance. For most recognition is the easiest part. Acceptance is the key that will unlock the door to freedom. I believe Hayley is in the right place with the right people. It is good to hear she has a sponsor and is doing the things she is required to do and my hope is that Hayley is doing these things because Hayley wants to do them as well.
I’m sorry I haven’t been as available lately but it is certainly good to hear this update and you are in my thoughts.

Thanks for your words, Bob. I always pass them on to Hayley. Hope you’re doing well and are settled into your new home/community. Peggy

Hi Peggy –

So happy to hear that Hayley is doing so well!! You’re both still in my prayers!


–for Peggy

is who I’m talking with
No ahead or no behind

all beginners

practicing beginnings

both ways count
both the same
only breath takes

Oh the breathtaking!

Those on the way
Those I watch for

and listen to

30 June 10

Jim – these are beautiful words and thoughts to help keep me going. YOU have always led the way for me to slow down, look, listen – and to be reminded of the reverence of the journey. Thank you for all that you give to me – and to your family, friends, community, and – – – the world. It does and has made a very big difference in so many ways. You truly are a shepherd. More on that later. Peggy

Can’t you just picture it: “Hi, my name is Donna and I’m a recovering parent”

I kinda feel like that’s what I’m doing every Saturday morning.

YES!!! A parent re-hab. What a great idea!

Al-Anon, for me, has been parent rehab. I wish I had started going earlier, to help find balance in and tools for managing all my relationships. P.

I’m loving this! She sounds like she’s making wonderful progress. The message is getting to her, loud and clear. She is soaking up wisdom and tools – YAY! And yes, I vote for Parent Rehab. I would LOVE to be somewhere that someone would feed me, house me, encourage me to work on me, lead my thinking in such a way that I would realize many truths and learn much about how to make me better, etc. A little recreational therapy too…. Yep, I could go for that. Oh well, I’m getting much of the important stuff at the meetings! wishing you continued peace and serenity. Hugs and prayers!

I am so happy to hear that Haley continues to do well. It’s wonderful to read such uplifting news and it sounds as though she is gaining true insights into herself and her life.
I have so much work still to do on myself and in my own recovery. I still think we should have a “parent rehab” available. lol
I laugh but I’m serious. What I wouldn’t give to be able to go somewhere and have the time and the support to work through this and regain my life. You are doing so well. Keep up the good work!
Hugs to you

I really appreciate this discussion. As a non-Christian, I’ve had a few uncomfortable moments in Alanon, but mostly I’ve found unconditional acceptance and support. I agree so much with Peg, that the slogan “take what you like and leave the rest” covers most everything in meetings. In fact, it does a great job of covering a lot in life. A few years ago at a meeting, I was kvetching about something my brother said to me and someone quietly said “take what you like and leave the rest”. That was all I needed to hear. It gave me complete freedom to let him be himself and for me to be myself.
My heart is full of gratitude for the 12-step program, for the community and friendships it has opened to me and to the path of recovery that it gives me and so many people I love – including Peg and Hayley. Just for today, here is joy and peace.

Peggy – your posts continue to fill us with hope and joy! GO HAYLEY! I think as loved ones of addicts we definately have our own journeys to take. I went to a couple of Alanon meetings but I found the references to God difficult to relate to. I have found more therapy in the blogosphere than I imagined possible. I have recently had a shift of my own – anger, resentment and upset for Hannah has been replaced with an empathy I didnt think possible. Lets continue on this road – Hayley’s and Hannah’s and our own.

Thanks for the cheerleading, Nora. Yes – I often have trouble with heavy god references in Al-Anon meetings, also. However, either I substitute my own higher power concept, and/or, I just “take what I like and leave the rest.” Sometimes, I also get a bit of my own agenda going and announce that I don’t necessarily adhere to the majority opinion regarding god’s role/presence. Usually at that point, I recognize that I don’t really need to do that in order to participate in the discussion. I do, however, think it’s important to NOT assume that everyone in the room is of the same faith/belief system, so that this program of experience, hope, and strength can truly welcome and be of comfort and support to ANYONE. Try a few different Al-Anon meetings – they each have their own personality – until you find one where you’re comfortable. Or, maybe, just pick up some of the AA literature. A lot of it is very good – and helpful.
I’d say that your recent shift in feelings towards Hannah is major. Those feelings of anger and resentment, however, take a long time to dissipate – if ever. However, the empathy helps neutralize them a bit, I think. AND, feeling empathy for Hannah is much healthier for YOU! It all probably leads to forgiveness – which I’m slowly chipping away at – for Hayley, as well as for myself. Peggy

Peg, I am thrilled to hear that Hayley is doing well in her recovery process. I pray with all my heart that this continues. What a long road you’ve walked. Just wanted to say hello, and that I’m thinking of you, and you are always in my prayers!

What a great post! Full of reflection, insight, and great news! I especially liked the last bullet point of “Hayley excerpts” 🙂 My gosh – how amazing! God is good 🙂
Thanks so much for the updates – and for including the book info – I need to tell myself that daily!
God bless.

Hi Peg,
Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I am so happy for both of you… it’s like you can breath a sigh of relieve Haley is safe and work on your recovery.
Last Monday and Tuesday we got to spend time with Emily. I got a very nice note on my Facebook for a woman in Emily’s house.. she said it’s wonderful to see Emily talking the step so seriously to better her life.
I thought.. I am very thankful that she has been given this chance. Then I thought.. while they get to heal and recovery 24/7.. we are left behind to do the work ourselves.. It’s like the tables are turned… she is making much more progress than I am. Does that make sense?
Thanks for you update and I will continue to keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers

Peggy, Hayley’s recovery is what I would have loved to see for my own daughter. It sounds like Hayley is continuing to learn about herself and explore the joys of sobriety, while taking the steps of recovery seriously. While my daughter remains clean (with the help of suboxone) almost 6 months now, she has never taken to AA/NA. She has no religious faith and very little belief in herself, other than thinking she is smarter than the rest of the world. So, while her sobriety is a Godsend, it feels tenuous at times. And she is constantly fighting the clinical depression that has marked her life since her early teens. I was in the hospital last week for back surgery, and my children were visiting after the surgery. My husband was laughing about my attempt to text my children shortly after I got out of recovery. Pain meds caused me to keep falling asleep as I tried to text. Comical to the rest of us, it was a trigger to my daughter. She left the room angry at no one in particular, but took a suboxone to get through it. I’m grateful that she was able to take a suboxone and then later discuss with me what happened. I think the fact that she was triggered was a shock to her. She said it was because heroin used to make her unable to write a text, and she’d sit for 30 minutes or more just trying to form a sentence. At any rate, my daughter remains committed to staying clean, so I have to have faith that, despite her demons, she will stay strong. I think AA/NA can help the addict do a great deal of growing up, and that’s what my daughter needs. I am watching Hayley’s recovery as closely as possible and trying to learn what I can from it. And I am so very thankful that she is on her way. While I know it is early in the game, I have a really good feeling about her future. Many hugs-

Hayley really sounds like she is made it to the end of herself and is truly accepting who she is and what she does. I wonder if Stevie will ever get there? You are correct. We as parents need to work the steps in dealing with their addiction. I am fashioning my own recovery of sorts, and through trial and error, learning to let go and let God. I am praying for you! Congrats on the seemingly successful rehabilitation so far~ KUDOS to Hayley.

Thanks for your encouragement, Jan. I’ve needed to find balance in my life and to “let go” of a lot of things for a very long time. This will be a life long journey for me. I’ll be interested to hear what your recovery program looks like – – – I always can use help and ideas. Can’t remember where Stevie is. Couldn’t quite tell from your blog. I’ll check back to see how things are going. Best, Peggy

It is good to hear from you Peg. I think we learn to be hypervigilant while dealing with a loved ones addiction. We need to let that go one way or another because it is not healthy for the addict or thier loved ones. I am glad to hear that Haley is doing well. How long has she been there now? Is she still under supervision 24/7?

Hi, Anna. Good to hear from you, as well. Hayley just “graduated” from Phase ! to Phase 2. She can now leave the premises and walk unaccompanied to places close by: the gym, etc. She has been at the treatment center now for 37 days, and was at a medical detox facility for 12 days before that. I know that it’s early yet – but, I am feeling hopeful for the first time in years. Thanks for your continued interest and support. It means a lot. Peggy

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