Who of us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults.
—Peter De Vries
Many of us, in entering recovery, are confronted with guilt about our roles as parents. We can see so clearly with hindsight that we could have been better in our parental role. Others of us recall the unfairness of our own parents and find it hard to forgive them.
This mixture of guilt and resentment is part of the package of recovery. If we remained the same and never learned anything new, we wouldn't have to feel guilty about the past or face our need to let go of resentments. Our spiritual renewal requires that we forgive ourselves and accept the forgiveness of those around us. Even today our children are not helped by our guilt, but they will be helped - at any age - by our amended lives. And all generations are enriched when we are able to repair broken connections with our parents.
I can accept the increased consciousness that recovery brings without punishing myself for what I didn't know.
The Sound of Laughter
When I arrived at the registration desk for our Al-Anon/Alateen state convention, my eyes caught the word, laughter, taped to the back of my name tag. “Wow! I haven’t been to my first meeting yet,” I said to myself, “and already a God-thing has happened.”
The theme for our convention was “Seeking Solutions,” and I could already sense this was going to be an awesome weekend. It wasn’t until the spirituality meeting on Sunday that people shared their special word and what meaning it held for them. Although strangers put together our name tags, it was uncanny how many people received the word that was exactly right for them.
Why was the word, laughter, so fitting for me? The reason is for years, while living with the disease of alcoholism, I viewed life as nothing more than a test of one’s stamina. I had a grin-and-bear-it attitude about everything-only I somehow missed the grin part and focused on the bear part. In other words, my demeanor could have sent an angry grizzly bear running for cover.
My mother was fond of saying, “It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken.” The message she conveyed to my young mind was that life is tough and I’d better be tough as well. I took her message to heart. By the time I reached Al-Anon in 1976, I was three years into the first of two marriages to alcoholics. My heart hadn’t experienced any joy, nor had there been a smile on my face in a long time. Life seemed terribly serious and so was I.
To my surprise, in additions to people sharing sorrows, disappointments, and fears at the meetings, I frequently heard the sound of laughter. Before I knew what was happening, I laughed, too, as I shared some of the ridiculous things I did to try to get the alcoholic in my life to stop drinking. As I giggled at some of my silly antics and identified with the experiences of others, I found that our laughter brought healing along with it.
Before long, I no longer saw Al-Anon meetings as have-to-do tasks, but rather as activities I looked forward to –and I liked this new idea. I also found that my attitude toward life was changing. Little by little, I was beginning to enjoy the journey.
A stranger recently called to my attention some of the happiness that Al-Anon brings into my life. I went grocery shopping and was putting the bags into my car when I noticed an elderly gentleman nearby. He finished loading his purchases and got into his vehicle. Before he drove away, he swung his car into m tow, stopped, and rolled down his window.
“Thank you for your smile,” he said. “It made my day.”
I was unaware that I had smiled. At last, smiling became as natural as my deep frown used to be. As the man drove off, I reflected on the priceless gift of lightheartedness that Al-Anon has given me. Today I can see humor in almost any situation. I laugh and smile a lot because I feel happy.I learned from my sponsors and by working the Twelve Steps that it isn’t what happens to me that matters. It is my attitude toward what happens that counts. I discovered that life isn’t merely to endure. It is to enjoy!
Donna S., Tennessee August 2000
Reprinted with permission of The Forum
Al-Anon Family Groups Incorporated, Virginia Beach, VA