Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning To Take It In

It doesn’t matter how many times I read the Al-Anon Promises, my heart skips a beat when I read over one in particular:  “We will love others without losing ourselves, and will learn to accept love in return.”  Something in my body knows that this is one of my sticking points.

I grew up believing that if I loved someone, I had to do whatever it took to make them happy, and if I didn’t, I risked being left behind.  Being secure in a relationship meant I had to earn my place in it and prove my value.  One doesn’t start off worthy, value has to be earned.  I learned about conditional love, with lots of strings attached, and I bought into it lock stock and barrel.  I even became quite good at it.  Maybe I completely misread the message as a young girl, but that message has been the foundation of my approach to relationships for my entire life, until Alanon.

If I care about someone, I give and give and give until I feel taken advantage of, then I slip into resentment and poison the relationship until it’s no longer functional.  It’s been a predictable pattern throughout my life, one that’s left me isolated for efficiency’s sake.  I over-do, and then I expect my giving to result in some kind of return, something I can stockpile for later.  But I know now that it’s a false expectation and the source of tremendous unmanageability in my life.

I have also struggled to accept the honest love that has been shown to me.  I simply don’t know how to take it in gracefully.  Maybe it’s because I am afraid that if I do let someone in, they’ll see that I’m really not all I’m cracked up to be and they’ll drop me like a hot potato.  Maybe I’m suspicious of the strings that affection may come with.  I fear my own limitations for giving, which leaves me reluctant to receive, and as I write this now, I can hear what a tenuous and fragile place that is to live from.

Al-Anon promised that I would learn to see love differently, and it’s taken me a long time just to get here, but I’m starting to see the shift.  I’m learning that love doesn’t have to be traded like currency, with someone always keeping score.   I’m learning to set healthy boundaries so that I don’t lose myself in pursuit of something I was never supposed to pay for in the first place.  Boundaries are not to keep others from taking advantage of me, they are to keep me from playing the twisted game I used to (and sometimes still) engage in, the game where I try to manipulate others into loving me and thinking I’m important.  I thought the boundaries were to keep others out, but they were really there to keep me focused on myself.

It is also this program that teaches me how to take love in.  When I practice the Steps, my busy hands are tied behind my back, rendering me unable to manipulate and “do” for others.  And when I sit in that completely uncomfortable place, unable to produce the result I need, I begin to see what love should look like, the kind of love I don’t have to pay for.  Love that is simply there to soak up like the sun.  It’s not currency, it is a precious gift from one human to another, and I am finally learning how to let it creep into my bones and warm me.  I am learning it in Al-Anon, and it's giving me the ability to see it elsewhere as well:  in the hugs we share at the end of a meeting, in the wet slobber of my dog’s kiss, and in the wink my husband gave me as we left for work this morning.

© Copyright 2013 al-anon journal
Photo credit:  www.iStockphoto.com/01-23-08 © rehmno


  1. I found this really helpful. Thank you. And I love that your husband gave you a wink as you were heading out to work.

  2. Love your post. Think I'll send it to my daughters.

  3. This post really hits home for me. The uncomfortableness of accepting help and pure love is something I deal with daily

  4. Thx,, just what I needed today.