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Al-Anon Forum Magazine Featured Article

The Greatest Trip of All
Things that have happened in my life since I came to Al-Anon have all been gifts, even the uncomfortable things, because Al-Anon has helped me learn from my experiences. The closest example of the way my life has been since I came to Al-Anon would be the time our family took an overnight trip down a fast river. I had been in Al-Anon quite a while and my husband had been "dry" a few years - without a recovery program - when he decided our family should try river rafting. Our sons were 14 and 11 at the time, and our daughter was 12.
We accompanied a friend who had guided many rafting trips. He put our children on a big safe oar boat while my husband and I rowed a separate craft along with four other people and an oar-master. The arrangement seemed innocuous enough. There were experts along, and they said the children would be very safe. They did, however, caution us that we should not lose our oars, because each oar would cost $100.
The trip began serenely enough. We were several boatloads of people happily floating downstream. The first day was easy as we learned how to use all the skills that the oarmaster taught us. After a night's camp on the shore, we began our second day with the warning that we would be going into class-five rapids - named the "Skull" and the "Funnel." As we progressed, the walls of the canyon squeezed us. Soon we couldn't even talk over the rapids' roar.
The oar-master motioned that we should "row right" of a large rock looming ahead. The boulder was back-lit with spray, making the river look like foaming latte. I could see nothing more, because from there the river dropped. We began rowing for all we were worth, but our boat hit the boulder as if drawn by a magnet - and the boat immediately flipped over. All I knew was freezing water and darkness. Incredibly, I had my oar as I swam up and out from under the raft. I could see that I was hanging briefly on a precipice above a long line of rapids. I just had time to say, "I'm in your hands, God," before I was swept away.
The ride down the canyon in my life jacket was a trip that filled all my senses. Cold water tossed me. Rock walls rushed at me until the very last instant when I missed them. The water tore me along and rocks bumped me all the way. At last I reached relatively calm water at the foot of the Skull.
When I saw my husband, he and our boat mates had been pulled into the big safe boat that our kids were riding. I was the only one that they couldn't reach. I laid back on my life jacket as I shot through the Funnel. When I passed the "Room of Doom," I didn't know it was a whirlpool of such power that people had died there. At the bottom of the Funnel, I saw where our boats had beached, and I staggered out of the river to join my family and friends.
When I fell in the water upstream, I had worn canvas slip-ons, a hat, and my contact lenses. I still had all of them. In addition to that, I had ten oars - because every time I saw an oar, I grabbed it and added it to my bundle. The experts told me it was this added buoyancy that really saved me!
I've been able to draw several recovery analogies from my river adventure. In Al-Anon, I still have life to contend with, but there are no guarantees that anything will be easy. Help is available for me to take, and every little piece that I grab, when added together, can make a big difference.
I am grateful to Al-Anon for everything it has given me. Some of the "oars" I have today are certain realizations that I have about me and my own disease. For example, my obsession is really just a mask for my impatience and ego. It comes from my mistaken belief that if I don't fix it, no one will. Al-Anon teaches me I have to ask if what I've been doing really works. I have to acknowledge the finite quality of my mind and control - which is only over myself - and I have to Let Go and Let God.
My anxiety is a mask for self-pity and despair. It comes from my mistaken belief that affirmation of my existence depends on others agreeing that I have reason for despair. I have to ask myself not what's wrong, but what's right. I have to laugh and celebrate with others, instead of just commiserating.
My anger is a mask for fear. It comes from my mistaken belief that I cannot effect change without a powerful negative emotion to shock others - as with an electric fence. I have to ask myself, "What is the worst thing that can happen here?" No matter how bad it might be, my Higher Power is up for it, so I must trust.
Denial is a mask for my lack of ownership and responsibility. It comes from the mistaken belief that by finding something or someone to blame, my problem will go away. I have to ask myself, "Whose problem is it?" I need to acknowledge reality - which is really the greatest trip of all - when I choose God's world over one of my own creation.
Guilt is a mask for my dishonesty. It comes from my mistaken belief that I must convince others of the good intentions I don't really have, in order to be considered "nice." I must ask myself if I am "shoulding" on myself, and be honest enough to practice good selfcare.
This wonderful adventure called life in Al-Anon is always taking me to new places - and on wild rides. I wonder what "oar" I'll pick up next!
Nancy B. - Colorado
Alcoholism is a family disease. Those of us who live with, or have have lived with, this disease as children or adults sometimes have problems which the Al-Anon program can help us to resolve. If you have answered yes to some of all of the above questions, Al-Anon may be of help to you. You can contact Al-Anon by checking your local telephone directory, or from the Resources page. Phone numbers and Contact Information for the Austin Area are listed on the Contact Page of this website.
These articles were reproduced with permission from 'The Forum', the monthly inspirational newsletter of Al-Anon. Al-Anon World Headquarters, Inc. is located in Virginia Beach, VA. See www.Al-Anon.org for more information.