Here is one of those changes that will happen when recovery becomes long-term: Many of us go to --or go back to –Alanon.
Some times it’s a sponsor who sends us there or maybe we see men and women who have as many years as we do but they seem to be struggling less at home or at work, or even with themselves. Then when we listen to them, or ask what they are doing, we find out that they are “double-winners”—people who practice both the AA and Alanon programs.
It’s a funny thing about recovery. In the early days we had to learn to be less selfish. We learned to consider the impact of our behavior on other people. We laugh at the Big Book story of 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 laugh. Oh yeah, no one—especially those near and dear to us-- is applauding that we simply stopped drinking.
So we learn to listen, to consider the needs of others, to concede, to compromise. We learn to give.
But then, if we stay with recovery past the five-year mark, 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 time in recovery, we can learn to take care of ourselves and even to let other people be unhappy—we can allow them to deal with their own feelings. Yes, it’s another one of those paradoxes in the program.
Part of the growth in those years may be finding out what we do want and prefer and need. Maybe we find that it’s hard to know what we want, or to ask for what we want, and someone near us—maybe our sponsor or a friend notices and we are invited—or sent—to an Alanon meeting.
It makes sense. This is also why we want to keep going to meetings even after years and years of recovery. We want to keep growing in every way—especially those that have little to do with consuming alcohol or drugs, but which have everything to do with living a recovering life.
And of course you qualify for Alanon—we all do. After this many years in any recovery program most of us have friends and probably partners who are also addicts of some kind. Yes, they may be in recovery as well, but just like us it’s the thinking not the drinking (or drugging or eating) that keeps all of us coming back.
Rules for beginners in Alanon are the same as in AA: 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 payoff is that there’s a multiplier effect when you work both programs.
It really is 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. I promise you this: Alanon will make your recovery program so much better. One day at a time.