Here is another one of those changes that happens to us in long-term recovery: Many of us start to go to --or go back to –Alanon. Some times a sponsor makes the suggestion, or maybe we start to notice some women who have as many years in recovery as we do but it seems like they struggle less at home, or at work, or with themselves. When we ask them we found out that they were practicing an AA program and Alanon.It’s a funny thing about recovery from addiction. In the early years we had to learn to be less selfish. We learned to consider the impact of our behavior on other people.
We identified with the Big Book story about the man who comes out of the storm cellar, surveys all the damage and declares, “Look Ma, ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowing.” We laughed. Oh yeah, no one—especially those near and dear-- is applauding that we simply stopped drinking.
So we learned to listen more, and to consider the needs of others, to concede, to compromise.
But then, if we keep at our recovery, we reach a point where we actually have to learn to be selfish again. You may hate that word and prefer “self-caring”, but really selfish can be a good thing. It’s almost like we have to go back over the old ground again and say, “So what do I want?” and, “What do I need—even if it makes someone else unhappy?”
And now, with some sober time, we can learn to take care of ourselves and let other people be unhappy—or deal with their own feelings. Yes, it’s another one of those paradoxes in the program.
And when we find that it’s hard to know what we want, or to ask for what we want, someone near us—maybe sponsor or a friend in our home group notices. They see that we don’t take care of our needs and we are invited—or sent—to an Alanon meeting.
This is another reason why we want to keep going to meetings even after years and years of recovery—we want to keep growing in all the ways that—on the surface—have little to do with consuming alcohol, but which have everything to do with living a sober life.
And this too: After many years in AA most of us have friends and probably partners who are, yeah, alcoholics—they may be sober but still it’s our thinking as much as our drinking that keeps all of us coming back.
Rules for beginners in Alanon are the same as in other twelve-step programs: try six meetings, try different meetings, raise your hand, listen to the people with experience, read the literature and even do service. And try not to compare.
It’s hard to be a beginner again, but the big payoff is that there’s a real multiplier effect when we are working both programs. It’s the best of both worlds: To be able to care for yourself and for others with honesty and peace. Detaching with love. Continuing to grow. One Day at a Time.