Relationships

How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics

If you love someone struggling with alcoholism and would like to learn about how you may have been effected, this book can be a wonderful resource. It can help provide a deeper understanding into the disease of alcoholism and the impact it has on both the alcoholic and those in relationships with them. It can shed light as to how a loved one’s perceptions, feelings, and behaviors often change as a result of the effects of alcoholism. Further, it will provide helpful information regarding various tools that can be employed to practice new and healthier ways of living and loving the alcoholic.

How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics

Self-Esteem

All too often our self-esteem is hinged on things outside of ourselves and outside of our control. How we feel on any given day may be dependent on receiving praise from our parents, having our friends validate what we think or say, or hearing that our partners are attracted to us. These external validations often makes us feel good and seem to boost our sense of self-esteem.

Now, there is nothing wrong with another person’s kindness making us feel good inside or putting a smile on our face. Where it becomes problematic is when we have moved past appreciating these pleasant exchanges to depending on them. Just as easily as someone’s affirmations can brighten our day, we often let other’s negative comments pull us down. We have no control over what someone will think of us or say to us in any given moment. Therefore, if we are dependent on others to make us feel good we give up control over our own mood and give that power to others.

SELF-esteem is truly something we need to create by our SELF. Often, we can strengthen how we feel about ourself by speaking or behaving in ways that fill us with a sense of integrity. We can challenge ourselves to make choices we feel good about. The beauty about self-esteem is that no matter what is happening around us or within a given relationship, we can choose to nurture it by thinking, speaking, or behaving in estimable ways.

“I have learned that self-esteem is just that—self-esteem. Not wife-esteem or lover-esteem or even sponsor-esteem. It has to come from me, not from other’s opinions of me. And the way to gain self-esteem is by performing estimable acts…” ~Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II)

Courage to Change

Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II) is one of my very favorites pieces of Al-Anon literature provided by the Al-Anon Family Groups. It is a wonderful daily reader that provides insightful and educational ideas that I believe can be useful for anyone, not just those affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. A few days ago, I read a page that I found so powerful that I decided I had to share it:

     “In Al-Anon we talk a lot about the need to let others experience the consequences of their actions. We know that most alcoholics have to hit “bottom” and become uncomfortable with their own behavior before they can effectively do something about it. Those of us who love alcoholics often have to learn to get out of the way of this bottom. We learn to detach with love.

      Another reason for detachment with love may be equally important in building healthy, loving, respectful relationships. Many of us have interfered not only with a loved one’s problems but also with their achievements. I may have the best of intentions, but if I take over other people’s responsibilities, I may rob them of the chance to accomplish something and to feel good about what they’ve done. Although I am trying to help, my actions may be communicating a lack of respect for my loved one’s abilities. When I detach with love, I offer support by freeing those I care about to experience both their own satisfactions and disappointments”.

Often times, detachment is the best way to communicate love and respect for someone. By detaching, you are treating them with dignity and acknowledging that they are their own person who has the right to make their own choices.

Separating the Person from the Behavior

How many times have you caught yourself obsessing about something someone said or did to you? How often do you find that you allow others to influence your mood or day? And how often do you feel the need to explain yourself repeatedly and force the other person to see your point of view?

Although most of us are likely to find ourselves relating to any or all of the above, those behaviors do not often create inner peace or strengthen the connection within a relationship. Instead, it can often perpetuate or intensify the negative emotions we are experiencing or the argument we are having.

Therefore, it can be useful to practice detachment as it helps us to let go of our obsession with another’s words or actions. It allows us to take a step back and separate the person from the behavior. By doing so, we are less likely to personalize something hurtful. For example, if an alcoholic in the midst of drinking (or a loved one in the midst of anger/sadness/etc.) is verbally hurtful, you can allow it to make you feel bad and/or try to obtain an explanation for why they said such things OR you can recognize that their current behavior is not a true reflection of who they are or how they feel. Again, you can challenge yourself to separate the person from the behavior.

It is important to note that by detaching, you are not excusing, enabling, or rationalizing the behavior. You are merely giving yourself the right to not be effected by another’s unhealthy behaviors or engage when they are not in a healthy state of mind. In any given moment, you can choose to let go of your obsessions, disengage from the person or situation, and choose to protect your emotional well-being. And you can always readdress the situation and share your experience when all involved have calmed down and are able to engage respectfully.

Father’s Day

To all of the dads who make the choice each and every day to unconditionally love their children, be their strength, their protector, their place of refuge, and who display kindness and support, know that you are appreciated and oh so loved!

Hoping every wonderful dad had a lovely Fathers Day!!!

And to my dad, I love you with all my heart. I feel so blessed to have a father who has always been and continues to be such a wonderful source of love, support, and encouragement. You have enriched my life in more ways that I can count and I am forever grateful.

Learning to Detach

Whether you suffer from the effects of alcoholism or not, detachment can be a valuable skill. It can increase one’s experience of serenity as well as improve dynamics within relationships. However, many of us find this difficult to do as learning to practice self-care and setting healthy boundaries can be uncomfortable and at times seem mean or selfish. More often that not, we have been taught that if we care about someone we will do whatever it takes to help. However, the kind of help we offer may not always be what fosters growth and forward momentum for our loved ones or ourselves. It may just in fact keep someone stuck and perpetuate our feelings of frustration.

However, it is possible to learn new and more adaptive behaviors by working with a psychologist and/or attending Al-Anon meetings. The following is an except from one of the many offered Al-Anon pamphlets that provides information about what can be learned:

“IN AL-ANON WE LEARN:

• Not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people

• Not to allow ourselves to be used or abused by others in the interest of another’s recovery

• Not to do for others what they can do for themselves

• Not to manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, get up, pay bills, not drink, or behave as we see fit

• Not to cover up for another’s mistakes or misdeeds

• Not to create a crisis

• Not to prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of events”

Detachment

“Detachment is neither kind or unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. Its simply a means that allows us to separate ourselves from the adverse effects that another person’s alcoholism can have on our lives.” (Al-Anon Literature)

Whether you grew up in an alcoholic home or were effected by alcoholism later in life, many find it difficult to separate themselves emotionally from the behaviors of their loved one, especially when they are hurtful.

Despite efforts to improve our relationship or situation, many of us have developed patterns of behavior that do not serve us well and often perpetuate the very dynamic we wish to change. For example, we may not like conflict yet find ourselves engaging in an argument when the alcoholic is not in a rational state of mind. In addition, we may try and force them to see our point of view or validate something we said or did. (Ever hear the phrase “it’s like going to the hardware store for bread”?). Further, we often allow ourselves to personalize alcoholic messages or behavior that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the alcoholics current mindset.

However, with the help of a mental health professional and/or Al-Anon (or another related 12-step program), we can begin learning how to loving detach from those who are actively in their disease while still maintaining a connection. It is important to keep in mind that detachment does not always mean severing a relationship, although in certain cases that may be the appropriate course of action. It also does not imply a lack of caring. In fact, we do so because we care about our personal well-being and we care about cultivating healthier dynamics with our loved one. It is merely a way to keep ourselves from suffering the consequences of alcoholism.

Couples Retreat at the Hacienda Hot Springs: September 26-28, 2014

Interested in strengthening your connection with your partner and creating a deeper, more intimate connection? Then join Dr. Heather Gaedt in her couples retreat at the Hacienda Hot Springs this fall!

You will have the opportunity to bond with one another as well as other couples through a private session with Dr. Gaedt and participation in group therapy.  In addition, you will be able to experience yoga classes, meditation, massages, and replenishment in hot springs.

For more information or to reserve your spot, feel free to contact Dr. Gaedt at 760.251.2885.
photo

World’s Toughest Job: Being a mother

I know this is a few days past Mother’s Day, however, I believe it is never too late to show gratitude! Therefore, I wanted to share the following:

To all the mothers who have and continue to make the conscious choice to love their children unconditionally, be the greatest protector and healer of their hearts, and who exude warmth and compassion, know that you are loved, are a true treasure, and the person that makes life beautiful!

Hoping all of the wonderful women in the world had a VERY Happy Mother’s Day!!!

And to my mother, you are my heart. I love you and am ever grateful for your unwavering love and support. Without you, life would not be the same.

Page 2 of 212