Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How Do I Let Go And Let God?

Though it is no doubt part of the human condition, perhaps it is even more difficult for the partner, relative or friend of an alcoholic to "Let Go and Let God". Prior to attending Al-Anon, I had thought the statement was such a cliche and would roll my eyes in response - considered it a "pat answer" to a no-doubt complicated issue. But I have come to learn that these slogans are there to help us - to remind us and guide us.

My husband and I have reached the point of an agreement. If he gets help, then we will have a trial period of living together for two weeks around the time the baby is due to be born (that's about 4 months away). During those two weeks, if there is any arguing (not simply disagreeing but the kind of arguing where there is shouting or swearing or criticising etc.), he would have to leave again. He has assured me - perhaps for the millionth time - that he is very motivated to get help. And perhaps for the millionth time, I believe him. He is so genuine, and I know that he is trying so hard at other areas in his life to be responsible and a good father to his son and provide for him and so on. It's commendable. I wish he would make that much effort on the issues that prevent us from being a family. My husband's time is in a world of its own, however. Forget Island time - this is a whole new league of its own! In the meantime, I must be on New York time where everything couldn't be done fast enough for me.

I like to have plans, lists and to know the future in advance. To see evidence of it unfolding in front of me. And I like to make it happen - do everything in my power to ensure that it does - make every effort that is open to me.. and to force it open if it's not. I am a determined, driven personality when my will is involved, and there is a lot at stake. Where my husband sits back and perhaps ponders things month after month with no action to speak of - I would have taken action 20 times over. It seems obvious that this equation might lead to my becoming over-responsible in so many areas of our lives. Or becoming a frustrated, nagging and critical wife - demanding change or action in my time - bending him to my will and way of things.

So I made a plan with my husband - something we could work towards. It is reminiscent of our courtship where, after two years of dating and him saying "yes I do want to marry you..." I gave him a deadline to make a decision one way or the other - because I was tired of putting my life on hold while he figured it out - I was 33 years of age at that time and I felt I had given him all the time I had left to give. He finally proposed shortly after the "deadline" had come and gone.

In this case, leaving it to the last minute may be too late. With a little baby involved, there is so much at stake.

My relief of having made some semblance of a plan was short-lived. Sometimes making plans gives us a sense of security even though we really don' t know how things are going to pan out. The following day, my relief had transformed into anxiety. My husband was busy today. Would he contact CADS as he said he would or would he say he didn't have time? Would he just talk about getting help, or would he get it? And if he got help, would he really make the effort required to make any progress?

I think what is most difficult for partners (friends/family) of alcoholics is the absolute powerlessness we experience. Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1 in their program states the need for the alcoholic to "admit powerlessness" over their addiction, and to admit their lives had "become unmanageable." In Al-Anon, we too practise Step 1 by admitting our powerlessness. Others may disagree, but the difference to me is that an alcoholic still has the ability to get help, and therefore, has the ability to change his/her circumstance. In contrast, a partner (or friend/family member) of an alcoholic cannot force their alcoholic to change or get help - they can only get help for themselves. This may mean that their circumstance does not change at all. The partner has only the power to choose whether to live with it or whether to leave.

At this time, at this early stage of my own "recovery", I am struggling with how it can be possible to find serenity when experiencing powerlessness. I understand that the key is learning to let it go into God's hands and trust Him with it. But even God will not intervene in a way that takes away the alcoholic's steps towards recovery - the alcoholic must learn to make an effort in his recovery - to be proactive and to reach out for help. He won't take away our free will and our choices - someone once said to me that God wants us to grow up, not remain as babies forever dependent on Him in a way that stunts our own growth.

And I have to actually question my motives for "desperately wanting him to change". Certainly, there is an element of concern for my alcoholic and the consequences of his life choices and how that may hurt him. There is also the fact that I have a baby on the way, and all the hopes I have for him and how much I want the best for him, and therefore - the best father he can have. And there is the effect this has on my life as (currently) a pregnant, married woman living alone and perhaps facing solo-motherhood. Ultimately I want a peaceful and happy home that benefits all of us. But perhaps there is something else there as well. Perhaps some of my high standards and expectations and desire for things to be perfect, controlled, neat and tidy, all boxes checked - are not being satisfied. When will he be enough? When will he be good enough for me to accept him as he is? Or will he never be good enough - never feel accepted in my sight, never measuring up to my standards that I set for him? I recognize that this driving need and expectation that I am perfect and that others are perfect too, makes life miserable for all concerned. Because I can never measure up - it's a losing battle. I can never be perfect. And neither can those around me.

A fellow Al-Anon member recently referred to her focus on Detachment from the alcoholic. There were three things she mentioned, and I wish I could recall all three. But the two that I remember, she said she focused on Detachment from Worry and Detachment from Judgment.

Over the next little while - especially these coming months, I too feel that I need to focus on Detachment, and how to "Let Go and Let God" and find Serenity.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships
as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did,
this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make
all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.

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