The Heart of the Matter

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been attending Alanon.  I don’t have a regular pattern yet, and I haven’t started the steps, but I go to meetings once or twice a week now, and I’m learning some things. 

Recently, someone on the circle spoke up: “I am a newcomer to these rooms.  And I’m confused.  I thought coming here would make me feel better, but I’m actually feeling worse.  I’m angry.  I can’t sleep.  I cry … and moreso than before I stepped in this door.  Is that normal?”

Here is a true story that addresses this absolutely normal response to early work in friends and family of addicts and alcoholics:

I have a dear friend I’ll call Tim.  Tim spent 20 years as an officer in the United States Army — a number of them in the jungles of South America fighting the War on Drugs.  During this time, Tim sustained injuries, particularly to his feet, shoulders and back.  These injuries weren’t from being shot or attacked by the enemy … they were sustained just from living in his day-to-day circumstances — carrying a heavy backpack on rough terrain in boots that didn’t support his feet properly.  This isn’t at all against Army conditions, just a description to show that slowly, over time, his living situation caused him deep pain.  But as a soldier determined to complete his assignment successfully, he ignored that pain and just kept on with the battle.

Today, Tim is retired from the Army.  Finally, he is admitting to doctors that his body hurts.  Their xrays and exams showed that Tim, in the long run, had compounded his own injuries by learning to compensate in order to avoid the pain – especially in his shoulders.  If normal motion hurt, he learned to move in a different way, which built up deposits and distorted the use of his muscles.  The doctors performed corrective surgery, which they said was successful.  But the initial weeks – even months – of physical therapy proved to be more painful than the hurt Tim had grown used to.

The medical experts and those who had been through this assured Tim that, by allowing that pain and slowly…gently…doing his exercises every day, he would get through that pain and be healed and fully functional again.  Patience.

It’s the same for those of us whose lives have been changed and whose hearts have been hurt by living with an addict.  We learned to adjust ourselves to work around the condition.  We manipulated our own lives to avoid the deepest pain.  We learned to ignore the signs of harm.  So when we first walk into those rooms of Naranon or Alanon for healing, at first we might feel more hurt than we did before we opened that door.  But in the long run, we’ll experience a deep and lasting healing.

Trust those who have gone before you.  Allow the truths of the program to slowly replace the pain and the misunderstandings you might have embraced in the downward spiral.  You too can find and receive Serenity if you get the heart of the matter.

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4 responses to “The Heart of the Matter

  1. Wow! this is the reason I have not gone back to Naranon. I went to three meetings and came out so depressed I felt it was doing me more harm than good. There was nothing positive in these meetings, all negativity. Are you saying it would get better or should I find a new meeting to go to? No other Naranon’s around my area, would Alanon serve me just as well. You have been such a guide in this journey so far, hope you can assist me here. I have used exercise as my release. Go to about 7 classes a week almost daily. At least 5-6 days a week anyway. Would love to know your thoughts.

  2. Oh – well, find a different meeting! I go to Alanon because there are no Naranon meetings near me. It’s fine. Even though the language in their literature refers to “alcoholics” – there are people who go there who have addicts in their lives as well. I just replace “alcoholic” with “addict” in my head – same concepts though. The meetings I attend are very positive in their outlook. So I would suggest you do not return to the group you mention. But I do suggest you try another. Please note: The same approach is not necessarily right for everyone, so if it’s not right for you, it’s not right for you. But finding a group that’s a good fit is important to the success of your efforts. BIG HUGS and thanks for being here!

  3. Thank you so much for your words. I feel like the you and the other blog mothers are my group and I use your words for support more than you probably know. I feel like we are kindred spirits. When you hurt in your blog I hurt for you and I hope we all share positives that we find in this journey too. I will look for another meeting and see how it goes. You are right, it may not be for me. Thanks for your support and always. Big hug to you way down south and hopefully we will meet someday!

  4. This was great, perfect story to illustrate the point. I felt the same way when I started going.

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