By Whitney McKendree Moore
Who’s The Real Manager Here?
This photograph was posted with the caption, “BRANCH MANAGER AND ASSISTANT BRANCH MANAGER.” I howled (pun intended) because that little dangler is me. My real puny status was not in the least bit funny when I first crawled into Twelve-Step recovery, exhausted from years of trying to manage someone else’s alcoholism.
I had not considered alcoholism a disease, much less a contagious one, but I learned that I had caught it. Not the wet part, or the 10%; no I’d caught the 90% – the isms. In the beginning, my symptoms were mild. Embarrassment became a frustration, which grew into disdain and exasperation. Soon I was angry and anxious and riddled with plenty of good reasons to fear.
The Paradox of Powerlessness
Recovery was new-news to me, especially the notion that I was powerless. Not only was it new-news, but it was also the exact opposite of what I’d ever been taught. One of the main goals in my growing up was “self-sufficiency” (self-fulfillment was a biggie, too). As an adult, making a living was Priority Numero Uno for me, who was bent on making my way in life.
One of my favorite guitar songs was “It’s My Way” by Buffy St-Marie, which I strummed hard and sang stridently. Here are some (but not all) of the lyrics that I sang with gusto and all of my heart:
I’m cutting my own way through my own day,
And all I dare say is it’s my own.
Got my own seeds, got my own weeds,
Got my own harvest that I’ve sown.
I can tell you things I’ve done, and I can sing you songs that I’ve sung.
But there’s one thing I can’t give, for I and I alone can live.
The years I’ve grown, and the life I’ve known
A way of going, all of my own.
My Way or the High Way
You get the idea and can probably surmise that “my way” eventually failed. Someone in a meeting likened it to falling overboard with a backpack full of rocks and realizing that your backpack is hindering, so you release it; you let it float away; you watch it sink. This vivid example helped me appreciate that I, too, am adrift at sea, so to speak. Having a bag full of rocks attached to me is certainly not helpful and, in fact, minimizes my chances of survival.
Step One carried me into realizing that I had been “at sea” trying to control alcoholism. I had ended up carrying the big burden and I thinking I was the big dog. I actually thought I was the Branch Manager. Click To Tweet
Finding the Real Manager
Inadvertently, I had donned a God Suit that people in recovery were telling me I needed to loosen and then altogether lose. I began to learn that I was not ever intended to be the Branch Manager; that I needed to take off my God Suit and let God be God.
This did not mean I was to roll over or play dead, like a rag doll. The Serenity Prayer helped me then and helps me still to discern the difference between what I can change and what I cannot. I was encouraged to “move a muscle” and “do the next best thing” by seeking God’s guidance.
Which changed everything. Self-anything had to go, and has, and does. Today, I joyfully resist all lures into Branch Management, and I laugh out loud at this photograph and the adorable little dangling dog.
The aging mollusk expert, Dr. Geggard, said to her, “Now that shell belonged to a violet sea-snail that lives its whole life on the surface of the sea. As soon as it is released into the ocean, it agitates bubbles, and binds those bubbles with mucus, and builds a raft. Then it blows around, feeding on whatever floating aquatic invertebrates it encounters. But if it ever loses its raft, it will sink and die.” From All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Recovery support meetings helped me build a raft. But there’s no room on my raft for an unskilled manager, so I listen to God, others in meetings, and sing to celebrate recovery.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
The young family lived directly across the street from the Hospital’s main entrance. Whitney remembers sitting in front of a big picture window on the lap of her nanny “Mrs. Marmalade,” eyes riveted on the Hospital’s grand doors. Her debonair parents would emerge together each night, hands joined and arms swinging as if they were dancing across the street. Occasionally, when her father was detained, Whitney knew to watch a different set of doors — the doors of The Psychiatric Institute, which she called “The So-Quacky-Quacky.” This malapropism greatly amused her parents.
1954: The Year of Great Upheaval
By 1954, the top-notch medical team had deteriorated into a constantly argumentative couple. “No, we are not fighting” they would retort when asked, then one of them would hasten to add, “We are having a discussion.” Whitney remembers practically vibrating when she read The Emperor’s New Clothes in which the Emperor never realizes he isn’t wearing a stitch. He listens to the concerns expressed, but he never accepts them. Whitney identified completely. She discovered she was heard if she was singing. Her mother wrote in her baby book “At age three, Whitney memorizes songs exceptionally well and sings constantly.” She also discovered that vocabulary (along the lines of “Mrs. Marmalade” and “The So-Quacky Quacky”) helped catch her parents’ attention.
Voice and pen became Whitney’s personal ways to be heard. After she married in 1971, she published an article every year as she pursued her professional career and she continued to “sing constantly.”
Whitney writes to come alongside other Christians who, like her, have reached the point of saying, “I can’t; God can; I need to let Him.” She has a website called RecoveryintheBible.com and a blog there called The Question Corner.
So much focus is on the struggling addict, and we do need help, but just as importantly, families need guidance as well.
- How do you navigate the turbulent waters of early recovery?
- How can you help your friend or loved one without enabling?
- Where can you find support for your issues?
These are questions that readers at From Addict 2 Advocate want to know. Are you ready to write a helpful Alanon post?
Then consider submitting to firstname.lastname@example.org