Figuring it Out is Not a Step

One of the best things I’ve ever heard at an Al-Anon meeting came from an old-timer: “Figuring it out is not a step.”

A common trait that Al-Anons share before entering the program (and that we tend to struggle with while we are STILL in program) is our racing brains: obsession. We worry, create possible scenarios, spend lots of time being fearful of said scenarios. We create more difficulties for ourselves based on things that may never happen. Our brains constantly are running a marathon with our emotions at the helm, trying to understand, trying to control, trying to direct fear away from our lives.

If we follow our program, which uses the same steps as Alcoholics Anonymous, we practice letting go of what we have no power over. This means relying on something greater than ourselves to take care of what we cannot. We stop focusing on the actions of others and obsessing about their behavior; instead, we take inventory of our own selves and learn what role we’ve played in our own miseries. We ask for help to focus on bettering ourselves. Our alcoholics and their actions are beyond our scope of control.

“Figuring it out is not a step” is a reminder to stop my useless worrying. I can’t anticipate if one of my children will have the gene. I can’t try to understand why my husband has said numerous times that he needs a sponsor but continues to put off getting one. I can’t keep worrying about my friend’s alcoholism worsening if she has no plan to take action for herself.

These are things I CAN do, and every Al-Anon member’s list is different: I can continue writing 3 things in my Gratitude notebook every night to remember the good in my life before I go to sleep. I can keep an Al-Anon daily reader in my bag for easy access when I feel myself start stressing or worrying. I can make time to work outside in our yard, one of the best healing activities I know works for me. I can contact my sponsor when I feel weak, and enjoy her strength and support. All of these actions ensure that *I* have what I need to find peace in my own head.

As always, One Day at a Time.

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When Alcoholism Destroys Friendship

We were close friends for almost 10 years. Our children grew from toddlers to teens together, our marriages have been tested and we’ve relied on each other for support. I spent consistent time with her daughter after her difficult divorce. We are more family than we are friends, or we used to be.

Over the past few years, her dependence of alcohol worsened, and what she could initially keep to herself in her home started overflowing into outings with friends. When I told her about a year ago that my husband had started going to AA, she responded, “You know I’m an alcoholic too, right?” It didn’t surprise me, nor did it surprise me when she followed up with, “But this is who I am. I’m not changing for anyone.”

At that point in time, she drank a lot at home, after work. She always had consecutive glasses of wine when we’d see each other. Then there was the time I found out from a mutual friend she had driven drunk home from a bar. We’d go out for “a” drink and she couldn’t stop ordering them once they started coming, and she’s always been tight on money. Another time at a group camping trip, she propositioned someone for sex in front of several of us. This wasn’t the friend I’d come to love: this was the alcoholic–the harsher, combative, asshole version courtesy of the disease.

I confronted her on these things I was seeing. She listened, then told me that she had thought she was an alcoholic, but lately, she’d been able to “control” her drinking, so she didn’t think it was a problem anymore.

What she did next at my housewarming party was enough for me to decide to practice complete detachment, a tool we Al-Anons use to preserve our sanity. She had asked if she could bring her two friends whom I’d never met to my housewarming party. No problem. The three of them show up about two hours late with a ton of beer (when she knows my husband is a recovering alcoholic), all three beyond sloppy drunk: slurring, stumbling, and obnoxious.

Slurring, cussing, stumbling, at points shoving her cleavage in her friend’s face, this in front of other guests including children. Before she left, she asked at the last minute if her teenage daughter could sleep over. Apparently, they wanted to party more at home without other responsibilities. I told her no.

She texted me the next day, “Good times last night…”. I didn’t respond. I can’t explain how much her actions disgusted me, how disrespected I felt in my own home. My husband reminds me that she has a disease, but all I can see sometimes is that my friend shit on our friendship, something I’d never do to her. I have been in Al Anon long enough to understand that I didn’t cause alcoholism, I can’t control it, and I sure as hell can’t cure it, but I swear it’s so hard when it is a close, loved friend who is spiraling. It still really hurts and feels as though I’m mourning because I know that letting go of the situation to some extent means letting go of my friend. I love her so much, but this is no longer her. It’s the damn disease.

We still watch each other on social media, but I’ve stopped texting her or planning on outings for us. I am stepping back for me. Who knows if one day she’ll ask for help. I know I’d be there in an instant, but I can’t watch her alcoholic self go untreated anymore. I choose my sanity.