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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Step 1/Powerlessness Day 2 /Ability to Control Other Person's Opinions and Actions

"Knowing I am powerless, and accepting powerlessness are two different matters.  I knew I was powerless when I walked into my first meeting.  I was so angry about not being able to change someone else's behavior.  Trying to change him made my life unmanageable, because I had no time for the house, my work, a spiritual life, or myself.  I was obsessed with trying to fix the situation.  However, once I learned about alcoholism and truly realized I was powerless, I set about making my life better.  Acceptance has been my pathway to peace.

How do I determine I am powerless over someone else's behavior?
This is rough for me.  Partially because my past field of study was "Applied Behavior Analysis."  I mean there are whole academic journals about how to effectively control someone else's behavior.  That being siad, I was a neutral analyst coming in and working with toddlers/young kids and I had a lot of control over surrounding situations.  COMPLETELY different scenario.

What I say will affect what someone thinks of me.  Whether, they respect me or like me or don't.  The problem is that trying to read their mind and predict exactly what will "do the trick" is not possible.  And trying to do that ensures that I am not being true to myself.  Now, when it comes to revealing too much too quickly, reading people's reactions, making sure you are respectful, those all come into healthy and skilled communication.  There is such a thing as skilled communication.  At my life group, I was trying to totally be free of what people thought of me (haha) and it didn't make me feel great about myself.  An experiment not to be repeated.  There is def. social decorum.  But, trying to wield yourself around in an effort to impress is a sure way not to feel confident.  You need to stay true to you, at the same time.  The good thing is that when I actually calm my nerves down and stop trying to control people's reactions, I'm pretty gifted in conversation (luckily).


"Before I ever entered the rooms of Al Anon, I knew I was powerless over alcohol and the alcoholic's drinking.  What I continue to struggle with is my powerless over people, places, and things.  For me, the best tool in this struggle is the Serenity Prayer.  Whenever I find myself trying to change someone or something, I am reminded to walk myself through the prayer. 

To accept things I cannot change, I look at what I am trying to do and accept the impossibility of it.  To have the courage to change the things I can, I determine what I can do differently and pray for the willingness and ability to change.  To know the difference, I pray for wisdom to recognize what I can and cannot change.  These struggles and the discord created are really of my own making.  With the help of Al-Anon, the Twelve Steps, The Serenity Prayer, and my Higher Power, I get better, "One Day at a Time." 

In what ways do I continue to struggle with powerlessness?
In said life group, we did prayer requests.  One of my requests was to, "help my husband communicate with me better about his recovery."  I crossed that out, laughing to myself.  It changed to, "Help my accept that I am not in control of my husband's recovery!"

Everyone laughed when I told them because this struggle of powerlessness is so common.  I mentioned a few so far.  I want to control what other people think of me.  This obsession takes away from ways that I can be focusing on myself in a positive way.  I want to control my imperfections, instead of just accepting them.  I want to control my husband's communication about his recovery.  I don't do this because I think him telling me will make him become sober or because I think even him attending regularly will make him sober.  I want him to tell me so that I can know what I am going to do.  I think a boundary is a way to handle this, not obsession and nagging or just being obsessive in my mind.   

"Before I came to Al-Anon, I was desperate.  I felt isolated, alone, helpless, fearful and desolate.  I thought I was the problem.  I had tried everything possible and failed.  I was under the illusion if I did just the right thing, he would change.  The last straw was when he pulled out his winter jacket, and a button was missing.  He said, "If you were a good wife, you would take care of these things."  Then he became angry and left.  As I felt the weight of the guilt and the shame he dumped on me, I had a moment of clarity.  This outburst was another excuse to drink and to diminish me.

Al-Anon showed me I didn't cause it, I can't control it, and I can't cure it.  I was more than willing to surrender this burden of misplaced responsibility, but I was afraid.  My sponsor told me I could find a simple prayer to help me.  I began to pray, "God, teach me to trust you."

Slowly, I began to trust my Sponsor, the program, and then God.  When I surrendered the belief that I could change a disease, then my old beliefs began falling like dominoes in a row.  I began to replace my illusions with the realities of alcoholism.  My mind was opened, and I began a new way of life."
How does Step One help me let go of misplaced blame and undeserved shame?
I think I felt extremely confident before this.  I thought things were wrong with him, not me.  One of his friends even intonated that this was my fault and why I couldn't help him get on top of things.  The rebuke just slid off of me, because I knew said friend was just struggling with what was going on.  

I think step one can help rid of us misplaced shame as it releases us of responsibility.  I also felt some shame in choosing someone like this.  But, I think the three C's help. 

**And about controlling people's reactions.  It releases me from responsibilities about how people respond to me.  It lets things, in general, "slide" off more because I know what they think is not my business.  

What benefits have I experienced in applying Step One?
Step 1 is huge!!!  Because..... it gets me to stop (or try to stop) obsessing about him and to focus on me.  It puts me in power.  It is the beginning of understanding boundaries.  

What can't I change - that's not for me to TRY to change, that's God's territory
What can I change - that is a place that I can take power in.  I can exert control over!  

**And the wisdom to know the difference - boundaries.

It also gets you out of the victim mindset.  If you can apply this to most problems, you can get actionable steps to take.  

 **about controlling people's reactions..... 

What can't I change - the fact that I can't predict how people will respond to me, 
What can I change - the power that holds over me

How can I do this? Remember, "How important is it?" that this person thinks ______ about me.  Don't I care most about what God, in heaven, thinks about me.  And aren't I practicing the belief that I am exactly where I need to be right now?  

After 20 years in Al-Anon, I was back to Step One.  My husband had open-heart surgery, and I had to face my powerlessness over my husband's drugs of choice: ice cream, Chicken Alfredo, and Half and Half.  My friends in the fellowship looked at me in shock as they saw the effects of my struggle to recapture my serenity after his debilitating illness.

What did I do?  I went back to the basic tools of the program: reading my literature every day, talking to my Sponsor, getting on my knees attending meetings, taking a walk or bath, doing the dishes, and repeating the Serenity Prayer or the slogans.  All the tools came flooding back to me, and I grabbed them like a lifeline.  I had been asked to be a keynote speaker at a group's anniversary in a neighboring town two weeks after my husband's surgery.  Despite his weakened condition, I kept that commitment because it was what I needed to get myself back on track. 

What situations in my life have returned me to Step One? 
Financial matters, long term affects of my business going under
What tools of the Al Anon program do I use to find serenity when my life becomes unmanageable?
listening to al anon speakers on youtube, while cleaning, etc.  Lots of self care - regular walks in nature, talking to people (we are as sick as our secrets), sticking with a mantra for the whole day and getting in touch with my higher power. 


  1. Wow, step 1 is deeper than I thought. I can relate to a lot of this, especially, "I want him to tell me so that I can know what I am going to do." Yep. I hate uncertainty and walking in the dark. This is the biggest test in trusting God that I've ever been through.

  2. I finished the section now, yay. My sponsor encouraged me to fill it out for multiple things I am powerless over. Initially being powerless over Hubby's addictions and flaws was big. But that was so long ago. Still.... powerlessness is HUGE for me! I feel like it relates so much to Boundaries. I appreciate revisiting it with other areas. I mean finances maybe should be next for me. Any area I start to feel overwhelmed with, serenity prayer usually helps me figure out what to let go of and what to take control of. And yes, trusting on God. I do in my head, but not always in my heart. I used to. Looking forward to feeling that consistently again.