When I first came into the Al-Anon program, I had spent so much time and energy into isolating, stuffing my feelings and trying to fix and control people, places and things, that I had no idea who I was, what I liked or disliked or even what I what felt. When they told me that I needed to keep the focus on myself and not the alcoholic, I didn’t know what that meant. I wasn’t capable of an intimate relationship with anyone else because I didn’t have an intimate relationship with myself.
I believe that my first intimate relationship began when I asked someone to be my sponsor. It was scary but I knew that if I wanted to get better, I needed to work the steps with someone. As we started to work the steps together, I started to reveal bits and pieces of myself. My sponsor gently asked me questions to help me gain some understanding about my motivation and how I was feeling about things. It was through this process that I learned about trust which I believe is one of the essential pieces of intimacy. You have to really trust someone in order to be able to share a 5th Step!
I heard a speaker once talk about intimacy being like a step ladder. We start on the first rung and reveal a little piece of ourselves. If this feels safe, we move up to the next rung and so on. With each rung we reveal more and trust more. That’s how it was with my sponsor. As we moved through the steps, I learned to trust that “what we say here stays here”. In that place of safety, I was able to share openly and trust.
As I started to work through the 3rd Step, I learned about a power greater than myself – God – my second intimate relationship. I spent a lot of time on Step 3. I felt like I needed to really understand God in order to be able to trust which would lead me to be able to make a decision. I finally figured out that for me, I didn’t have to understand God, I just needed to believe and trust that there was a power greater than myself that loved me unconditionally. What I came to believe and what I know about God today is a loving presence that wants only the best for me and has an amazing sense of humor. I talk to God every day. I don’t listen as well as I should but my God is very forgiving. By making a decision and inviting God into my life through all the steps and all my affairs – especially through the 3rd and 11th Steps – I have come to trust that God always comes through for me.
My third intimate relationship surprised me – it was with me. Through the 4th and 5th Steps I made a searching and fearless moral inventory and shared it with God, myself and my sponsor. This inventory helped me to see myself clearly – “good and bad”. It is through the 10th Step – continuing to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it – that I get the opportunity to review my day and my feelings about myself. I’ve learned that feelings are not facts but they are opportunities to learn something about myself – what are the old messages that I’m telling myself. Sometimes I don’t have a balanced view of myself so I need help. I don’t have to do any of this alone – I get to ask God and my sponsor for help and guidance. And I get to ask God to go with me when I need to make amends. As I’ve continued to grow in this program, I’ve learned more about who I am – and I’ve gained self esteem. I’ve learned that I’m going to be ok no matter the outcome of any circumstance.
I’m grateful that my home group and my sponsor focus not only on the Steps but on the Traditions as well. I tell people that the Steps saved my life; but the Traditions saved my marriage. Today I have a better, more intimate relationship with my husband of over 30 years than I’ve ever had before. We talk, we laugh, we share our feelings and we pray for each other. It was through studying and applying the Traditions that I was able to build intimacy in my marriage and other relationships in my life. The Traditions taught me to think about and apply the concepts of Unity, Common Welfare, Personal Progress, Self Supporting, Outside Issues (one of my favorite), Anonymity, Spiritual Foundation, and Principles above Personalities. They help me to remember what is mine to take care of and when to Let Go and Let God.
Intimacy is a process that involves communication, trust, honesty, willingness and patience. It is an emotional connection that I believe must start with me (In-To-Me-See). If I want to have intimate relationships, I have to know myself and then be willing to let others know me by communicating my feelings, being honest, and trusting that I will be ok. I have to be patient with myself and others. I have to be willing to be vulnerable. As my sponsor would say, “This is not easy stuff.” Most importantly, I have to remember to keep God and the principles of this program at the center of all of my relationships.
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