Ripples in the Stream

What Are You Truly Missing?

My 15-year-old niece, who lives in Kentucky, and I had planned a trip to New York in April 2019. It was to be her first time in the Big Apple! We jointly planned the trip for months, including a splurge for first-class plane tickets (which I didn’t tell her) and two Broadway shows.

Even though I’d been to New York City before, I knew I’d be seeing and experiencing it differently, through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, who was going on 21.

Unfortunately, COVID derailed our trip and clipped our travel wings, until recently. Not quite ready to brave the New York scene, but both ready for an adventure; we agreed she’d come visit me … to the other Coast … in Palm Springs, California.

I will admit I am an over-protective aunt who still isn’t comfortable having her fly unaccompanied, so I headed to Kentucky to pick her up. At the last minute, the person who was supposed to take me to the airport had a conflict. I remembered my car dealership saying something about a shuttle service to the airport, so I checked it out.

Alex, my driver was right on time, professional, courteous, and just what the doctor ordered for someone who had been on a travel hiatus.

Alex initiated a conversation and I readily engaged.  We started out with the normal exchange of what do you do for a living. I had no way of knowing how insightful our conversation would be or that it would be validation of what I do and why I do it.

Alex shared that he had been sober for nine years. He told me of his journey which included losing jobs, spouses, his family and basically walking away from the life he had known. As I listened and felt his pain, Alex shared that drinking was always number one in his life and that he had told those closest to him that the one thing in his life that he would never give up was drinking. He went on to say that he was the best liar in the world and was able to fool even the most experienced medical professionals.

As the conversation continued, Alex told of his recovery, of re-gaining his self-respect and confidence, of finding purpose, that of helping others.

He gave me example after example of helping others. He shared a story of one 15-year-old girl who had addictions to alcohol, meth and cutting (non-suicidal, self-inflicted destruction). His voice quivered when he spoke of his connection to her, of her journey to sobriety, and how appreciative her father was… Yes, only divine guidance would have ensured that this conversation was happening as I was heading home to pick up my 15-year-old niece.

Before I realized it, I began to share my own painful experiences with alcoholic family members. And that one of the most difficult things for me was not being able to help my own family.  This was in spite of the fact that I had made it my life’s mission to help others identify, create and live the life they desire and deserve.

It’s amazing how asking, listening, and getting another perspective can shift your thinking in a split second… what Alex said next did that for me.

He said “Joan, “no one can change someone else, it’s an inside-out job, not an outside-in job.” He went on to say that the way he saw it was that those I have, and am helping came to me because they were ready; I didn’t go to them.

He continued: if we only help one person in our life, that that one person can and will change future generations.

In that moment, I visualized each of us connecting with one another, like throwing a rock into a stream and watching it ripple, never knowing how far our actions will reach. I also felt a glimmer of hope that my family member would one day be ready to get help, not because he had to, but because he wants to.

Alex attributes his sobriety, the smile on his face and the spring in his step to Alcoholics Anonymous, (AA). This is an international fellowship requiring no dues or fees. AA is dedicated to helping alcoholics, peer-to-peer in sobriety, based on its spiritually-inclined Twelve Steps program.

I often tell my coaching clients that they don’t have to have it all figured out, they just have to figure out the next step. That’s what I took away from Alex’s description of AA, a one-day-at-a-time approach to getting and staying sober.

Maybe you’re not the alcoholic, but you are or have experienced the pain of having one in your life? In addition to AA, which is for the alcoholic and their loved ones, there are two support programs for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.  These are Al-Anon Family Groups and Alateen. These are not religious programs and there are no fees.

Although unaware of these two programs at the time, I first sought to understand more about the effects of alcohol at age 30, by attending a weekend retreat for Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), which was centered on the work of author, Claudia Black.  That weekend was painful, eye opening and the beginning of my recovery from co-dependency.

Coming back to my trip with Alex to the airport… the cost of that shuttle to the airport would have been cheap at twice the price! I realized what I had been missing during these many months, due to Covid. I was missing connection with others, not on Zoom, not by phone… but heart-to-heart connection.

What are you missing?

Is it connection with yourself, with others, or spending time in nature?
Is it getting out of your own head, and doing something for someone else?  

If you or someone you know is being negatively affected by alcohol addiction, I encourage you to check out AA, Al-Anon or Alateen.  You are not alone.  Like Alex, by being willing to seek help, and help others, we can – and are – making the world a better place.


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