Friday, April 2, 2010

What Am I Responsible For?

Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., New York, NY, 1992, page 85, March 25:

"I came to Al-Anon confused about what was and was not my responsibility.  Today, after lots of Step work, I believe I am responsible for the following:  to be loyal to my values; to please myself first; to keep an open mind; to detach with love; to rid myself of anger and resentment; to express my ideas and feelings instead of stuffing them; to attend Al-Anon meetings and keep in touch with friends in the fellowship; to be realistic in my expectations; to make healthy choices; and to be grateful for my blessings.

. . . . . . . . . .

I am not responsible for my alcoholic loved one's drinking, sobriety, job, cleanliness, diet, dental hygiene, or other choices.  It is my responsibility to treat this person with courtesy, gentleness, and love.  In this way we both can grow.

Today's reminder
Today, if I am tempted to interfere with something that is none of my business, I can turn my attention instead to some way in which I can take care of myself.

'I have a primary responsibility to myself:  to make myself into the best person I can possibly be.  Then, and only then, will I have something worthwhile to share.'
Living With Sobriety"

Last night's Al-Anon meeting was on Guilt and Taking Care of Ourselves.  I was one of the last people given a chance to talk and I passed because everything had already been said and I didn't have anything new to add to the conversation.  I was thumbing through one of my Al-Anon books and found the above reading that I am sharing with you today.  Here are some of my thoughts on my own experiences with blaming, responsibility and taking care of myself.

As an incest survivor and an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I learned blaming at an early age.  Both parents taught it to me.  When I came into Al-Anon back in April 1989, I blamed myself for just about everything that could go wrong in my life and in yours.  I read somewhere that an abused child accepts blame for their own abuse because it makes them feel that there is something in their world that they can control.  That feels right to me.  I felt so helpless in my childhood that I needed to feel in control of something, even if it was just blaming myself for the abuse.  A young child needs their parents to survive.  You don't want to admit that the person who is in control of your very survival is abusing you.  You need that person in order for you to survive.  You need to be able to trust that person so you blame yourself.  You tell yourself that the abuse is your fault.  You must be at fault therefore, you learn to blame yourself for being molested or for being beaten or for being tortured.  You need the parent that you love so much to be faultless, after all, they are God in your small world.  They can't be wrong.  They have all the power.  Your survival depends upon them.

When I came into Al-Anon, I learned that I wasn't to blame for the incest.  He was the adult.  I was just a child doing what my parent said.  I wasn't to blame.  I was not in control.  This was not my responsibility.  I learned to forgive myself for carrying that blame around for so long.  I learned to take care of myself.

In learning to let go of what was not my responsibility, I started to heal.  I learned that I had needs and wants that were okay to have.  I learned to meet my own needs instead of expecting or hoping that others would do it for me.  I learned that I was responsible for my own happiness, not my husband or my children.  I learned to feel rather than stuff my emotions.  I learned that it was okay to be angry, hurt, sad, lonely, disgusted.  I learned that my rage wouldn't hurt anyone else and it wouldn't hurt me once I quit stuffing it.  I learned that some of my headaches were my own resistance to what is.  I learned that I couldn't change my past but I could change my reaction to that past.  I learned that what I am not responsible for isn't my business.  I learned that I wasn't responsible for fixing you or the world.  I learned that what you do or don't do isn't a reflection of me, it is a reflection of you.  I learned that what you think about me is none of my business.  I learned to respect you and your journey as well as to respect myself and my journey.  I learned that my expectations offer set me up for holding resentments against you.  You are not my judge and I am not yours.  I learned that I often judge myself more harshly than anyone else ever could.  I don't have to be perfect and neither do you.

Now, do you see why I still go to Al-Anon meetings.  I continue to learn more about myself in each meeting that I go to.  I realize just how crazy I once was and how far I have come from being that person.  Thank you, God and thank you, Al-Anon.

Related Articles:
Blame Keeps You Stuck---Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Part 7

Blame And Resentment Are Toxic Emotions

Growing Up With Alcoholism In The Family

What Does Forgiveness Mean To Me?


Lance said...

Hi Patricia,
I just want you to know how deeply good it is that you are sharing your experiences here. For those who don't have a group to turn to - what you offer is so, so good.

And Patricia, I am also happy that you do have this group you can meet with, and that it provides much guidance and strength on your journey.

Peace and love,

Patricia Singleton said...

Lance, thank you. Your enthusiasm for life always inspires me. My Al-Anon group is filled with a remarkable group of men and women who also keep me inspired by their struggles and their victories. I love them and you for the laughter and joy that you bring to my life.

Patricia Singleton said...

Lance, the reply to my comment on your blog a few days ago touched me deeply. I appreciate you and your "Jungle of Life".

Colleen said...

I needed to be reminded of some of these things. Great post. Wishing you a happy Easter!

Patricia Singleton said...

Colleen, thanks. I am going to visit my mother-in-law for Easter. Sending you Easter blessings and joy.

Patricia Singleton said...

Have a glorious Easter weekend to each of my readers whether you are Christian, some other world religion, or no religion at all. We are all spiritual beings living through an Earth lifetime together. You are all very important to me.

speck of dust said...

Thanks for this post. I've had a major slip down into depression triggered by mother-in-law visit. It has been easier to deal with my own family than it has been to deal with mu husband's because he is in the middle and has been inclined to shut off when I've tried to voice my feelings about them or get angry. Sometimes life is just such hard work and I feel I've got mountains to climb. Your post is really helpful to me today, thanks so much.

Patricia Singleton said...

Dear Speck, you are very welcome. I am blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law. I am going to see her for Easter. Will be away from the computer for a few days. She lives 3 hours away. She turned 87 years old on her birthday in March.

Anonymous said...

Just a friendly tip: You say that you want to rid yourself of anger and then you also say that you don't want to stuff your feelings. It raises red flags for me when I hear someone say they need to 'get rid of' their feelings. Be careful not to fall for the old 'it is bad to feel anger and I must ger rid of it' baloney. When I fell for it (in order to 'rid myself' of anger), I suffered terrible headaches, infections and even arthritis. I even yelled at my kids. I just wanted to stop in and say this so you are aware of how tricky it can get to want to rid yourself of an emotion while also not wanting to stuff feelings. Tread carefully and remember that whatever anyone thinks of your anger is THEIR problem, not yours. If you feel anger and someone else thinks that's wrong - too bad for them. However, if YOU think it is wrong, that might be a clue that you need to go in and find the source of the message that it is not okay to feel anger. Also, it IS okay to 'blame' the perp for the incest. Sometimes when there is a lot of talk about how 'blame' is so useless, I can't help but remember how anger leaks out onto those who do not deserve it when we are not allowed to 'blame' the perp. I understand that you find the 12 step stuff helpful, and that's good, but please be aware of the double-binds that are built in.

Colleen said...

Glad you had a Happy Easter!! Thanks for your greetings on my blog! I like your new blog look here!

Patricia Singleton said...

Colleen, Thank you. I did have a wonderful day with my mother-in-law. I am blessed that we like each other as friends as well as being family. I like the new look to my blog as well.

Patricia Singleton said...

Anonymous, thank you for sharing. I don't think of anger, sadness, or any of my many feelings as necessarily good or bad. They are my feelings. What I do with them or don't do with them can sometimes harm me or other people.

Stuffing my feelings means that I am not dealing with them. I am in denial if I don't feel them. By getting rid of my anger, I mean releasing it from my body where I carry it if I don't feel it. If I am stuffing the anger, it is being stored somewhere in my body where it can cause health problems if I ignore it long enough---headaches, ulcers, cancer, arthritis, etc.

I do believe it is okay to feel anger, hate, sadness, joy, happy, etc. We are supposed to feel those things. As an incest survivor, as a child, I was taught that it was not okay to feel angry so instead of feeling it, I stuffed it. As an adult in 12-Step programs, I learned that whatever I feel is okay. Feeling is healthy.

All I am saying about blaming is that it can keep you stuck in the victim mode. It can keep you from moving on and enjoying your life. When you are blaming, the abuser is still controlling your behavior rather than you being in control of your life.

Anonymous said...

Hey Patricia,
While I was reading youur post I told my mother to smile and be happy but now I realize I can't make her anything she isn't. Thank you for freeing me :)

Patricia Singleton said...

Nisha, you are very welcome. I am glad that I could help. I cannot make another person happy. The only person that I can change is me. That is true for all of us.