life, thoughts

A Personal Growth Story from the Way-Back Machine

tsca1 (559x800) wmYou cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. ~ Brian Tracy

A while back, Carrie Rubin blogged about being an introvert and the fear of talking to a group of people. I commented to her, that about twenty years ago, I used to attend al-anon. I brought it up, because I related to her fear of talking to a group when I used to attend those meetings. Since my blog theme and most of my writing (memoirs and fiction) is about personal growth, my al-anon experience is something fitting to share.

At al-anon meetings, we sat at a table, almost like a coffee clutch. No one needed to step up to a podium like you see portrayed in fictional stories. Usually, they’d go around the table and ask who needed to talk about something. No one was expected to speak.

I attended those meetings because I had some loved ones in my life who were alcoholics. I didn’t understand why those people’s lives seemed perfectly fine, and mine was screwed up. I was very angry.

As a young newlywed in my early twenties, I was the most responsible person I knew. I took care of my home and my husband. I followed rules. I didn’t smoke or do drugs. I had a job, worked hard and paid my bills on time. I always tried to do the right thing … the virtuous thing. The alcoholics in my life were irresponsible and far from virtuous, so why was I the one with so many troubles?

I didn’t get along with anyone, from my parents, to my husband and even feuding with friends. I had no one I trusted or felt that truly loved me. I was always on the defense, ready to pounce anyone (verbally) who looked at me cock-eyed.

I’m cutting a very long and complicated story to around 500 words. I soul-searched and God-searched, listened to advice, and faced hard truths about myself. I learned that I had been blaming everyone else for the relationship problems, when I was the one with the attitude. I’m not saying that those people in my life didn’t have difficult flaws for me to handle, but I needed to change my attitude about them.

One elderly, wise lady in al-anon used to say, “my husband never changed anything about him in his entire life, except for his underwear.” I got the message that I had to either find a way to deal with naturally flawed people (like myself) or cut them out of my life altogether.

It took lots of time, and honestly, I’m still a work in progress. But, most of my relationships got better. Those few that didn’t, fizzled out of my life.

Relationships aren’t always easy, but if we stop and pay attention, those people in our lives can be a mirror. They either reflect things in us that we aren’t willing to face or an issue that we need to learn from.

Not only that, but human interactions make great writing material for me.

And, there you go, a personal part of my life told in 508 words.

The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day that we truly grow up. ~ John C. Maxwell

Have you ever had to face a hard truth about yourself? Is it something you’d be willing to share?

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26 thoughts on “A Personal Growth Story from the Way-Back Machine”

  1. Reblogged this on purpleborough and commented:
    Lori is a sensitive caring person. She has persevered through many losses with grace and acceptance. She is a dog lover, a wife, a writer, a loyal follower.
    She won the one word a day game I made up for just one movie. Acceptance of all things normal or unusual would also characterize her personality.
    Getting to know her through WP has been a pleasure.
    Enjoy this great post by Lori.

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  2. I think the hardest thing is to be the villain in the story of your life. We all think we’re the heroes. But sometimes, we aren’t. Sometimes we aren’t kind or we stray too far into the gray or we’re motivated by a nasty underlying issue. The hardest thing is recognizing what we’re doing and why we’re do something. Only then can we take steps to change it.

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    1. This is so true, Kourtney. In the novel I’m shopping around now, one of the two main characters is based on me. I actually wrote about my own control issues and show how they get the character into trouble. We don’t always realize that our own behavior can be causing the problems, or part of the problem. Some people never realize it. If we do though, we can definitely find ways to overcome them. Thanks for sharing this.

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  3. I loved reading this, Lori. Sometimes I still find myself blaming the other person. In every new moment it’s possible to take responsibility for ourselves. I love that you did this. It’s amazing how even after learning this same lesson years ago I still sometimes struggle with it. Blessings to you…

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    1. Hi Kathy. Yes, we sometimes still struggle with these things. It’s why I say I’m a work in progress. But, it’s all good either way. Good to see you. Hope all is well.

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  4. I have noticed that there are some common threads of ‘types’ of people running through my life and certain types of situations. This now makes me question why someone annoys / upsets me when they do – I don’t always come up with an answer and if I do, it isn’t necessarily an easy one – but hopefully in the long run it’ll all become clear! Thanks for sharing your story Lori.

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    1. Hi Andrea. Nope, if we get a answer, it’s not always and easy one, but it gives us a chance to grow. Thank you for sharing about the common threads you notice in your life.

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  5. Thank you for writing this. As an alcoholic (dry for over 30 years), the perspective from the other side is always useful. When I first went to AA meetings with my then-husband, someone suggested that he go to Al Anon meetings. He went once and I went with him once. We were both struck by the open hostility toward alcoholics (specifics ones people were dealing with and alcoholics in general). Maybe it was just this particular group. I didn’t identify myself as a recovering alcoholic, but found AA to be a much kinder group! So did my then-husband. We stuck with AA and the friendlier, more compassionate vibe.

    I understand why people who have to deal with alcoholics would be angry with them, but, trust me, they are not without their demons and difficulties.

    Interesting post!

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    1. Hi Lorna. It was difficult to find a good al-anon group. I was fortunate that the first one I ever attended had healthy people there that were working the program. I tried other meetings at other times as well, but they had some strong-willed, codependent personalities and weren’t as willing to work on themselves. I stayed with that one good meeting for five years. I was in my late twenties by then, and most of them were wise, elderly ladies, old enough to be my grandma. I think some force greater than myself guided me to them. So glad you and your spouse at the time were able to find what you needed in AA. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  6. I would call this an illuminating post. It’s so difficult controlling our attitudes sometimes, and your post succinctly expressed that. I’m an extrovert but hurt so easily, I get along with people but I’m also quick to withdraw into my shell if I feel any negative vibes. I guess we all go through that phase one way or another.
    Thanks for sharing, I flew through it.
    Blessings.

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    1. Boy, can I ever understand, Seyi. In years gone by, I’ve had many people say to me, “you’re too sensitive.” If you’ve heard those words before, you may be empathic, like me. In case you aren’t aware, an empathic can sense and even feel other people’s emotions along with their own.

      It took some time for me to be able to separate my emotions from other people around me. Once I did that, it helped me to make the transition with my attitude. I can totally relate to being an extrovert, but wanting to hide away from negativity. Over the years, I’ve learned that much behavior comes from a person’s own issues, and it has nothing to do with me. Even if it feels like it does.

      Thank you for sharing your own experiences and feelings on this.

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  7. I’ve only recently begun to understand that so much of what we perceive about life and people in our lives has a LOT to do with our own attitudes. I had so many people in my life pegged. And honestly, I would often tell myself that there will come a point where I will just cut those people out of my life. But now I’m learning to stop assuming that I know what is going on in other people’s heads. I’m no longer assuming that difficult behavior is simply due to pure selfishness and arrogance. And it’s still hard sometimes. But the world looks like such a better place when I give other people some leeway.

    I just wish I’d had a better understanding of this earlier in life, as you did. But … better late than never, right?

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    1. Hi Terri. My attitude didn’t change overnight. It took time for me to accept each person, one by one, as I grew and tried to change. Most times, people’s rude behavior has nothing to do with us, but has to do with their own unresolved issues. This is not to say that we should put up with endless disrespectful behavior. There may come a time when we need to distance ourselves from someone, but for the most part, there are ways to change our own attitudes.

      It doesn’t matter when you came to the realization, it matters that you have found a sense of peace inside about things.Now, if only I could find that sense of peace and stop worrying so much about events that I can’t control. 😛

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Terri.

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  8. I’m a big fan of the Way-Back Machine, it dials up some interesting stuff.
    Early twenties are an interesting age… we emerge from childhood, teens and take our steps in the grownup world, interacting as an adult with many people who we initially encountered at a younger age. All of a sudden the playing field is equal, they are in many ways our contemporaries.
    At that age I expected perfection from myself and everyone else. After all we were adults and in control! I had a few uncomfortable years of this, and looking back I have to say most people were very kind… I recognise similar now in my youngest sister and am kind too 🙂
    Fortunately, in my late twenties I happened upon a counselling training course. The 3 years it took me to gain the qualification (which I never pursued further) I spent with a great bunch of people who were initially strangers, and learned a lot about myself and from them. It was enough. It changed my life, I stepped away from the young judgemental, perfectionist who wanted life’s checks and balances to tot up exactly and all the answers.
    I’m grateful because it gave me the ability to make friends with myself and all the other imperfect people in my world 🙂

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    1. So true, EllaDee. The part about just becoming adults and encountering the same people we did when we were children. At that point, we have to figure out how to interact in different ways to be on the same level. I really enjoyed reading how you dealt with it and what happened to change your life. That’s really cool how those people from the training course influenced you in such a positive way. Thank you for sharing this.

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  9. There will always people in our life who are difficult to get along with, whether it’s a coworker, supervisor or a friend. Personally, I don’t have room in my life for toxic or needy people, I have ended friendships in the past because they sucked all of my energy. Obviously, a toxic supervisor or coworker, you’re just going to have to continue to work with, but you can distance yourself as much as the situation allows.

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    1. I agree, and I did have to get a couple of those toxic people out of my life. One in particular blamed me for being a terrible friend. She said I wasn’t there for her (when I backed off from her toxicity). I realized, we had been just alike, except she was still blaming others (including me). I wanted to stop doing that and move on.

      However, I was having trouble with every single relationship, not just one or two. There came a time when I had to ask myself, could it be ALL of them, or is it me? I always look at myself to see if there is something I might be contributing to the drama. If there is, I try to change it. Someone I love (a family member), was very difficult to get along with because of that person’s constant criticism. The two of us argued all the time, because I refused to take it and criticized right back. Finally, I tried a different response to that person by using humor instead of anger, and guess what? The criticizing eventually dwindled to a bare minimum. Our relationship improved. Good thing I have a sense of humor. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Jill. I’m glad that you are aware of those toxic people so as not to let them affect your life.

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  10. If I used to say something like, “Oh, he makes me so mad,” my mother would say, “He (or she) can’t MAKE you feel anything. Only you can make yourself feel something.” That goes along these lines, and although very true, it’s not always easy to remember. But if we have toxic people in our life, we need to repeat these words to ourselves. Looks like you found a way to do that. Great topic for a post. (And thank you for the mention!)

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    1. Hi Carrie. Your mom sounds like a wise woman. That’s not to say that people won’t be nasty or rude. We’re human and sometimes can’t help when an emotion surfaces, but I certainly needed to learn that I could handle them differently, without blame. Thank you for sharing your mom’s wise words.

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    1. Hi Angela. Boy, do I ever understand what you mean. Every time I’d let go of trying to control one person, I’d find myself trying to control someone else. I do better with that nowadays, but still have to step back on occasion and try to see the bigger picture to check myself in place. These types of situations make for great drama in fiction though, don’tcha think? Thank you for sharing your experience.

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    1. Hi Linda. This is so true. It’s much easier to blame others than to face one’s own part in a drama and try to change. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and sharing that you too, had anger issues. Blessings to you as well.

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