We don't think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Childofmine, Aug 24, 2015.

  1. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    I ran across this statement today. It struck me because I have come to understand that doing even just one thing differently is what led to another change and another change...in me.

    For years and years, I thought. And felt. And then acted. I thought I could think my way into a solution for my marriage of 29 years to my husband, who was an alcoholic. Thinking always did it for me before...when I ran across a problem, I would research the possible solutions, choose one, and act. Most of the time it worked. Not this time.

    I kept on and on doing what had always worked for me before...and failing. The more I failed, the more frustrated and upset and exhausted and scared I became. Was I always going to live this way? I tried to, but I was desperately unhappy in the marriage. We had three in our marriage: me, him and alcohol.

    The day I nearly literally crawled into Al-Anon was a very good day because I was at a rock bottom. I say "a rock bottom" because it turned out not to be "the rock bottom" for me. You see, I am a very slow learner when it comes to letting go of something. I first had to let go of the idea that I could do something about this situation---and that was some tough letting go to do.

    Then I had to listen with an open mind. So I did...kind of. I took what I liked and I left the rest. I wasn't ready for the full measure of Al-Anon, but I kept going for the next 18 months until he and I divorced, a very acrimonious divorce. I was still trying to control things and I wanted him to hurt like I had been hurt. It was ugly and bitter and something I am not proud of, looking back today, of how I behaved. I have made amends for that.

    Then some time went by, and my precious youngest child was in the grip of drug addiction. I knew right where to go, and I went straight to Al-Anon. This time, I was ready. I was ready to admit that I am powerless and that my best ideas were a failure. My own thinking got me into the doors of Al-Anon, admitting powerlessness. Again, another very good day in the life of me. It didn't feel that way at the time, it felt awful, but looking back, I had just opened the door to a full, happy life...which was to come for me with a lot of hard work.

    The past five years have been the very worst and the very best. It's a paradox.

    It started with my "spiritual awakening", realizing I can't control things and I am powerless over people, places and things. This is a realization, and it is fundamental. It is also very painful and scary. It had always been this way, but I lived in an illusion that I was strong and powerful and could make just about anything happen.

    The next step was learning what this meant in my everyday life and in my relationships. I read so much...many books...to fill my mind with new thinking. I was ready and I eagerly soaked all of it up.

    As I changed my thinking...my body worked to catch up. I was exhausted. I grieved. I cried. I couldn't function well. I had to lie down every single day for a 2 hour nap. Then I would get up and try again. I was alone, divorced, needing to make a living (thank Goodness, or I would likely have never gotten out of bed), and trying to figure out this new way of living. My youngest son was homeless or in jail and addicted to drugs. He wouldn't stop and things just kept getting worse.

    As the transformation of me continued, he only got worse. I stumbled and I felt, and I got back up to keep on because i had already been convinced that my best ideas would not work with him. I knew that through my own experience. I don't think I would have believed it otherwise.

    I kept going to Al-Anon meetings. Sometimes I would go every single day. There was such power in the powerlessness. For the first time in my life, I started feeling good inside. The anxiety I used to feel about being right and not being enough and wondering if people liked me or not and needing to accomplish...it all started to fade. Not immediately disappear, but fade. And in its place was a new feeling of peace and contentment and certainty.

    But my son's life was still in the toilet. I was changing a lot, but his situation was still the same.

    I began to be able to separate myself more from him. I wasn't angry, and I still loved him desperately, as a mother loves her son. I prayed for him and I hoped for him and I worried for him. I so wanted him to change. But I started to realize that perhaps I was a deterrent to the change I so wanted for him.

    In fact, I started to believe that, in fact, I was the worst possible person "for him." And he was the worst possible person "for me." In terms of spending time together and me being the one who was going to lead him to a better life.

    My little precious boy, who loved his momma so much, and me him...we were too joined. We had to let each other go, to be the person we were meant to be.

    I kept working the Al-Anon program. I got a sponsor and I did what she told me to do. Even if I didn't understand it, I did it anyway. (Now I'm not much of a person who does something unless I want to do it...so this was new behavior for me...I was being obedient.).

    The point is this: we have to do something different. We can't keep on doing the same things and expecting a different result. We can't change them, but we can change us.

    And change in ourselves is a process. It's a journey, and it's not about flipping a switch and doing everything differently starting one particular day. We are messy, we human beings. We go back and forth.

    Our thinking...and then our behavior...have to get in sync. We can't expect our feelings to be where our thinking and our behavior are...and we have to learn to live with feelings that are very, very uncomfortable.

    For people like me, who have lived their whole entire life largely guided by feelings---this is a huge, tremendous task. I don't like feeling bad, and I still don't like feeling bad. My old M.O. was to DO SOMETHING to make the bad feelings go away. Today, I work hard to feel my feelings instead...and not act on them...to let them flow through me and sit with them and get to know them...and let time go by...and do nothing about them....until much later, if ever.

    That is what they mean in Al-Anon when they say: Feelings aren't facts.

    This was a whole new thought for me, and at first I dismissed it completely out of hand...immediately.

    I offer this story up to you as one example of a person who finally changed, and is still changing.

    I am now almost 60 years old, and for the past several years, I have been a much happier, more contented person, more mature person...than ever before in my whole life. This just happened to occur at the same time my own precious son was in the grip of the 40-foot-tall monster I call addiction. And I couldn't save him.

    I had to lose to win. I had to lose who I was to find out who I can be.

    Please know...I mess up a lot. I am far from "getting it all the time." I can go right back to my old behaviors. I make lots of mistakes with all of my relationships.

    But today, I can say this with certainty: I am on a path for a great way to live, for myself. No matter what any other person in my life does or does not do. I have a new level of acceptance and peace and forgiveness for myself and for other people.

    And I am so grateful for this, this awful/wonderful experience. In the end, I had to turn the bright light of change onto MYSELF. That is where the true answers were all the time.
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  2. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Beautiful post COM!!

    This is so vital in order for us to move forward in our lives. Taking that first step can be so scary but once we do it's so much easier to take the next step, then the next.

    This is so true!!

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey and offering so much hope!!
  3. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I love this.

    It is hard to see beyond the justifications with which we rationalized our responses COM, but you are right. We cannot go further until we address the places we have let ourselves down. We have to face then that we were not perfect. Not even not perfect either, but not perfect, at all.

    It's humbling, to do that.

    And a big part of perfect has nothing whatsoever to do with humility.

    For me, that place was, first, a real crisis of faith. And the answer was to accept and believe and believe it was okay to reply honestly: "I don't know. I love you so much, but I don't know."

    There is such honesty in saying so, when we have built a persona around: I know. I will find out and then, I will know and then I will tell you. I will tell you and you will listen.

    That is where I would trip myself up.

    That is where I would clean myself up.

    Right there.


    I know! What a freaking eye opener that was.


    Me, too.

    Me, too.

    Nicely spoken, COM.

    Very nice.

    I like this description very much, for me.

    Thank you.

    "...and me being the one who was going to lead him to a better life."

    It takes courage to reach that point. We are their mothers (or fathers). We are supposed to know; we are supposed somehow, to love them enough to love them through it. That is how the ugliness of the moral corruption that happens when we routinely enable begins.


    That's why it's so hard to see it.

    We see the ties, the conditions, our love carries. We have to look that one right square in the eyes and see ourselves, there.

    And see what our love has become.

    How did that ever happen to us?

    But it did.

    And when we can see this, then we have let go of perfect. And embraced humility.

    That must be what I am working toward, now.

    It's a really, really hard thing.

    I think I have the time piece. I remind myself I have time; just a little space of time, to do nothing. Maybe, the time it takes to draw a breath.

    And then, to draw another, fuller breath.

    I just had to go back and put this quote in my response, too.

    I have such trouble with obedience.

    I'm serious.

    Me, too.

    And I have never been to an Al-Anon meeting in my life.


    "You don't have to believe everything you think."

    I think it was Eckhart Tolle who said that.


    We learn they are meant to be their own safe harbor; their own best, internalized mother within.

    Our time for that kind of mothering we did when they were little is over. We respond to their pain, and mother from those times. Maybe, that is why, when our kids are so troubled and in such danger, we see their faces when they were little. Our job now, if we intend to function as the mothers they need now, is to trust that we have done our jobs well; that we have been good enough moms, and that they have everything they need already, to meet whatever challenge life presents them.

    We are their witnesses; their people who believe they can.

    That is what enabling destroys.

    The adult child's trust in himself.

    Well, and it destroys our trust in him (or her), too.

    We rush to the rescue, confirming our belief and instilling in them the belief, that they need us.

    What they need is themselves. Is to trust in themselves.

    If we had behaved that way when they were toddlers learning to walk, they would still be crawling, today.

    But you know? Those little stinkers used to get just far enough away from me, when they were toddlers, and fall down, anyway.

    In a sense? That is what our adult kids are doing, now. Getting far enough away from us that finally, they can stumble and fall and learn to walk.

    When you see it that way, the kids are doing that. Getting into more and more dangerous, prone to fall down situations to see whether they can walk...or whether we are right, and that they cannot do it without us.


    I know. I hardly recognize myself.

    But I like the way I see, now.

    I might even like myself.


    That is true.

    I think before, I liked the picture of myself. The one where, if I didn't know, I knew I would find out.

    Now, I am like, "Oh, yay. Morning."

    Before, I was like, "Morning. Today I will...."

    And then? Come H*** or highwater, that is exactly what I would do. But I was never, ever, done.

    That's true.

    I was chased by guilt, before. Now, I am just here.

    Thank you, Child of Mine.



    The difference now is I see them. Before, I would fix them.