Promises that you make to yourself are often like the Japanese plum tree - they bear no fruit. --Frances Marion
The resolve to fulfill commitments we make to ourselves and others may be lacking until we learn to rely on the wisdom and strength offered by our higher power--strength that will make us confident in any situation; wisdom that will insure our right actions. What is difficult alone is always eased in partnership.
We promise ourselves changed behavior, new habits, perhaps, or a positive attitude. But then we proceed to focus on our liabilities, giving them even more power, a greater hold over us. We can practice our assets, and they'll foster the promises we want to keep.
No longer need we shame ourselves about unfulfilled promises. Whatever our desires, whatever our commitments, if for the good of others and ourselves, they will come to fruition. We can ask for direction. We can ask for resolve, and each worthy hope and unrealized promise will become reality.
My assets, when strengthened through use, pave the way for God's help. Any promise can bear fruit when I make it in partnership with God.
Facing My Fear
I attended my first Al‑Anon meeting during a time of separation from my spouse. I was anxious and fearful, wanting out of the marriage, yet desperately afraid my husband would find a new woman and abandon me. I knew I was ruining the lives of three wonderful children, and I hated myself for this. My life felt like a repetition of what had happened to me as a child growing up in an alcoholic home.
Prior to attending my first Al‑Anon meeting, I was desperately “running” between as many as four counselors in any given week, not taking care of my children’s emotional needs, and spending money I didn’t have. I couldn’t focus on my children’s needs, of course, because I was too busy focusing on what my husband was doing.
Very quickly, I began to realize that when I attended a meeting, even if I was too shy to share, an “osmosis” effect occurred. A power was present. I could feel it in the way people listened and nodded their heads when others spoke, and offered their phone numbers.
Members talked about praying for “the willingness to be willing.” As I repeated this prayer, I could actually feel the tension releasing from my shoulders, as I took baby steps to believe that the universe would support me, if I could just give up control, even if only for moments at a time.
Members talked about praying only for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry that out. As I did this, I realized that, although I still felt fear, I wasn’t acting on my fear as often as I had in the past. Being fearful began to lose its power over me. Fear was just fear, it wasn’t some big scary monster—and, no, I didn’t have to run from it. In fact, I found much power in “standing still and feeling the fear.” I began to say this prayer: “God, heal my fear and help me be what you would have me be.” I realized that before Al‑Anon, I had been running so fast that nothing, not even something good, could catch up with me.
The one tool I consciously took away from my first meeting was the Serenity Prayer. On days when I was tempted to “react” in old ways toward my spouse, if I remembered to say the prayer, I found I was less tempted to take the old action (criticizing or blaming). I began to see that just saying the prayer created a space (grace) where my Higher Power could reach me with new thoughts.
When I began to choose more loving actions or no action at all, if I didn’t know what to do, I began to feel better about myself. Each time I chose a more loving response to a difficult situation, I had more self-respect. As Al‑Anon’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (B-8) says, “Each time we detached, we moved forward.” Although it took a long time for my children to begin to trust my new behavior, I began to reap the benefits immediately because I was no longer heaping guilt upon guilt because of how my crazy behaviors were affecting them.
Of course, I had many slips, but I developed a “toolbox” that consisted of: getting a Sponsor, meeting regularly with that Sponsor, and working the Steps. I held office in the group, answered the phone line, talked to families of recovering alcoholics in a local treatment center, and began to sponsor other women. Most of all, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and coming back to meetings. That’s where it all begins.
This is my story about how it all began, twenty-eight years ago, on a cold spring day, when I entered an Al‑Anon meeting room for the first time. I can now say that I am the beneficiary of the wonderful life that results when a troubled, lonely person, affected by alcoholism, makes a commitment to work the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
By Sue G., Montana May 2013
Reprinted with permission of The Forum
Al-Anon Family Groups Incorporated, Virginia Beach, VA