Before I joined Nar-Anon, I was guided through life by my instincts. Everything that I did was a knee jerk reaction. I was playing the part of a puppet on a string while my past experiences and upbringing were guiding my life. There was never any careful thought or consideration – if it felt right I would do it. While working my Fourth Step Inventory I discovered that power and control were my problems. As long as everything and everyone was under my control I felt normal. In retrospect my days were numbered. How long would a wife and three growing children allow me to dominate and control them? How long could I go on controlling everyone and everything before I collapsed in a heap? When would a situation develop that was so uncontrollable that I would have to admit powerlessness? How long could I go on excluding people whom I could not control and perhaps had not responded to my dominance and controlling manner? As I said, my days were numbered, and the longer it went on the sicker I became. To stay in control I had to develop stronger and more powerful tools. It was obvious that my dominance and control were causing pain and damage to others. When I thought I had power and control, I felt normal.
I managed to stay in control for a very long time. Those nearest and dearest to me either had no choice or were too young to make a choice. I feel that it was my Higher Power working in my life when my children presented issues that left me powerless to control and for the sake of my own sanity I was forced into recovery. Power, dominance, control, and self- will issues brought me to my knees. They were my weaknesses and my so called drug of choice. They caused my life to become unmanageable and eventually unbearable. They forced me to hit rock bottom and to seek relief in recovery.
I am grateful to the Nar-Anon Twelve Step program for changing my life. In time I managed to turn my need for control and dominance over to my Higher Power, and I adopted an attitude of release with love. I learned how to recognize progress and achievements in others and I was able to acknowledge and encourage the efforts of my loved ones. I managed to stop trying to force my will on others. I was able to accept and allow the natural consequences of someone else’s actions.
My ongoing spiritual growth and recovery teaches me NOT TO act in a power dominant, controlling and self-willed way. I am sensitive to my own shortcomings and it makes me feel uncomfortable when I recognize that I am acting out. My own recovery is ideally suited to the Twelve Step program as the practice of a group conscience restricts me from acting on my own self will. The concept of multiple service and revolving service positions also restrict me from absolute power and control over a group. The concept of sharing only my own experience, strength and hope prevents me from dominating at meetings.
I know that my strict adherence to these principles will keep my recovery strong and on track. For myself, I know that the slightest deviation will be a relapse. I know that I must face my fears, do the next right thing and continue to recover.
The first few years of trying to deal with my uncontrollable issues were chaotic, unmanageable and confusing. Then I joined the Nar-Anon fellowship and learned how to live with children who were out of my control. My life improved, not because there was a shift in the uncontrollable, but because there was a shift in me. I have continued attending my Nar-Anon group meetings and moved into areas of self-awareness and personal growth.
Some of the lessons of personal growth and self- awareness have been painful. I have learned the meaning of “no pain – no gain” and I try every day to live “one day at a time” by using the Serenity Prayer and by believing that everything is just the way my Higher Power meant it to be. I have accepted that I am in recovery for myself. I have accepted that I am not perfect and that not everyone loves, appreciates or approves of who or what I am. I have learned the importance of loving and caring for myself and I have stopped allowing myself to be abused. Through this process I have developed a sense of self confidence.
I have stopped complaining and blaming other people for the things they did or did not do to me. I have learned that if I allowed it, then I was the ONLY one to blame. I have learned that expectations are premeditated resentments, and that the only thing I can really expect is the unexpected. I have found that people do not always say what they mean or mean what they say. I realize that not everyone will always be there for me and that it is not always about me. I have learned to stand on my own and take care of myself, and in the process I have discovered the meaning of a sense of self.
I have stopped judging, pointing fingers and gossiping, and I have begun to accept people for who they are. I am learning to overlook what I consider shortcomings and human frailties, and in the process a sense of peace, serenity and contentment has come from forgiveness.
I have realized that much of the way I viewed myself and the world around me was a result of all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained into my psyche. I have begun to sift through all the things I was taught about how I should behave, dress, live, work, and what I should expect from my wife and children. I have learned to open up to new worlds and different points of view. I have begun reassessing and redefining who I am and what I really stand for. Over time, this program has taught me many things among which are:
- There is a difference between wanting and needing and I have begun to discard the doctrines and values I have outgrown. Today, I trust in my Higher Power. It is truly in giving that I receive and I cannot keep what I have unless I give it away.
- Principles such as honesty and integrity are fundamental to the foundation upon which I must build my life.
- I don’t know everything and I can only share from my own experience. It is not my job to save the world and God did not die and leave me in charge. I can distinguish between what is my responsibility and what is not. If it does not have my name on it, then I do not need to go there. It is important for me to set boundaries and say NO when I need to. NO on its own can be a whole sentence, and I can say NO without justification.
- Being alone does not have to mean being lonely. All emotions are important and I have stopped putting my feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring my emotional needs. Negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentments can be understood and redirected, and if I do not redirect my negative feelings they will poison my head and negatively affect all my relationships.
- Anger is not the same as hatred. I can be very angry with someone I love and I can hate something without being angry at it. I have discovered that resentment and holding grudges will tear me apart, and that there cannot be serenity through hatred, anger, resentment, fear or holding a grudge. When I learned the meaning of the acronym HALT, I realized that being hungry, angry, lonely and tired diminished my spirit.
- I get what I need when I need it and not what I want when I want it. Everything is just the way it is meant to be. I can admit to powerlessness and that I cannot do recovery alone. I can ask for help and guidance from my Higher Power, a sponsor or my group. Life is not easy and was never meant to be; therefore, I have learned to live and accept life on life’s terms.
Making amends and admitting my wrongs can build bridges and not walls. I have learned the true meaning of gratitude for the many simple things that I previously took for granted: the use of all my limbs, my health, clean running water, a soft warm bed, food on the table, and the Nar-Anon Twelve Step Program.