Thursday, April 9, 2009

Giving Freely

"We make a living from what we get. We make a life from what we give." - Sir Winston Churchill

At my home group, we have a woman who brings a homemade lunch for the entire group almost every Tuesday. No one has asked her to do this, but everyone heartily digs in and lavishes her with thanks.

She is also a raging Al-Anon. Her husband still drinks heartily, and most weeks her catering is attached to sharing about how much people love what she does for them.

She has taken a job that requires her to be out-of-town for two weeks at a time. Yesterday she was back from her first tour of duty, and since she had been working, did not bring food. No one expressed any dismay.

The chairperson of the meeting called on folks to share, instead of having people just jump in. He did not call on her until the end of the meeting. She said this (loudly):

"I haven't been at a meeting for two weeks! I didn't come to have the chairperson call on people! I wanted to pick the topic of the meeting, something that's upsetting me! This wouldn't have happened if I'd brought food!"

And with that, she stormed out.

My immediate reaction to this mini-rant was that this meeting is not about her, but about a disease everyone in this room shares. As I thought about it though, I realized she might suffer from something a little deeper: giving of herself, but not freely. I suspect she feels entitled to select the topic of the meeting because she feeds people.

My old thinking told me that if I did something for you, bought you something or provided any other service, you owed me. I gave, and so should I get. You can bet that if you did not reciprocate in the manner I felt was appropriate, I got a resentment. I quit doing things for you, and more that likely you appeared somewhere on my list.

Sobriety doesn't hold up to scorekeeping or the anger, self-pity and resentment that follows it. Now, I give things without expecting anything in return. If I bring donuts to a meeting and you eat one, you don't owe me anything.

Nor do I owe you anything if I eat the donuts you bring, either. I assume that your motives for providing something to us are pure.

I will find out soon enough if they aren't.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keep Calm and Carry On

I spent a good deal of my childhood in London, the capital of a country that bore much of the violence of World War II. Unlike American, many Brits remember their homeland being bombed, and experiencing the fear that Hitler's regime would invade. Americans lost loved ones, certainly, but the UK lost civilians, its mothers and children and grandparents.

During this time, the poster to the left appeared in the country's undergrounds and street corners, giving it's citizens wise advice that I use today.

Booze helped fuel my imminent sense of doom, usually over things that never actually came to pass. This anxiety spurred me to drink even more, and then I did things that really did cause me problems! It was a horrible way to live.

The first fruits of sobriety include knowing where I've been and who I've spoken to. I don't secretly wish I had an interlock device on my cell phone anymore (though I wish others did!).

Later, working the steps with a sponsor taught me discernment in my actions. If I feel stressed about something, I ask myself if it is real or imagined. I pray, turning the situation over to my Higher Power. Then I keep calm and carry on with the day set before me.