“Fill your world with Love and Laughter. Never mind what anguish lies behind you. Forget, forgive, love and laugh. Treat all as you would treat Me, with Love and consideration. Let nothing that others do to you alter your treatment of them.”
God Calling, Page 26.
A very tall order for me, or so I thought. Especially when it involved my family of origin. Yes, I drank, and I completely own that, but how does one forget and forgive cruel, nasty, destructive, heartless behavior by those who have said ‘I love you’ for as long as you have been alive. Father, Mother, Brother, Sister…
Years ago, after I got sober, I visited my sister in her home for the first time in a very, very long time. We’d been in touch for a while, had spent a day or two together when she and her husband passed through Raleigh while traveling. It was she that extended the opportunity for me to get sober. But, spending a week together, back in New York, with husbands, nephews, grandchildren and old friends…wasn’t sure.
For many years the nine most frequently used words in my vocabulary were “I hate my family” and “I will never forgive them.” I hated my parents for abandoning me—no communication ever again—I hated my brother for what I believe his part was, instigating and enforcing this declaration and I hated my sister for abiding by this decision.
I’ve since discovered that my brother suffers a terrible soul-sickness, which I understand. His choices were made on what he perceived to be true at the time and from personal experiences I never knew he endured.
I still cannot fathom or understand the extent of what he has encountered for I have not walked in his shoes, I’ve come to believe that he is a very sick man. My alcoholism provided the perfect opportunity for me to learn forgiveness and compassion for others who, in my own mind I demonized as alcohol once demonized me.
For my sister and I, it was lack of communication and the realization of the devastation we allowed ourselves to wreak on each other and on our family. The pain caused to all of us—husbands, children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren… My drinking, by its very nature caused damage and suffering to all of those I loved.
I was a bitter, resentful person—not only poisoned by alcohol—but by regrets of the past and fear of the future. I vehemently refused to forgive any of them—it fueled my alcoholism. Hatred ruled my life. When I got into recovery, the challenge of trying to rebuild or salvage any kind of relationship seemed overwhelming.
How could they forgive me…better yet, I turned it around and became the victim! How could I forgive what I perceived as abandonment of the loving daughter and sister!
As a consequence of this line of thought I prolonged the estrangement. Through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous I was able to own my part, I made my amends…and thought I truly meant them…but, hiding deep down inside I harbored some lingering resentments. I then became the judge and jury, the long-suffering, the magnanimous martyr!
Through the steps, I learned that forgiveness has no degrees, I either do or I don’t. For me to say I can’t forget or better, not give another thought to, means I’m still holding a grudge—one huge resentment! I have since realized that when I live in a spirit of forgiveness, I recognize myself in others who may have harmed me. I can acknowledge I’m capable of committing some of the same wrongs. I understand that everyone can at times be spiritually and emotionally off balance. By living the principles behind this program I am more aware of destructive behaviors and can alter those behaviors before I act.
Forgiveness is not a concession or a compromise, but a positive character trait involving understanding, compassion and kindness.
“Love and tolerance of others is our code.” Big Book, Page 84.
Today, the thread that runs through all of my relationships is one of love rather than hate. I strive to be a forgiving person, I no longer ‘collect and store’ wrongs! I no longer chew on resentments. I no longer sit in judgment. Hard though it was, I have forgiven my brother, I have compassion for the things he is missing in his life by the choices he has made. He has opted not to communicate and that is his right. I feel sad for him because I see a very lonely future for him and his family and I miss him very much.
However, through the process and time, other family ties grew closer. My mom and I communicated through letters and pictures and then I was able to see her and spend time with her. It was a gift I treasure…she died at the age of 102. And my sister…
Two sisters, two husbands, nephews, grandchildren and old friends. We had a marvelous, wondrous, delightful visit and so much more. We talked and shared and grieved…but mostly, we forgot, and forgave, and loved, and laughed. I am very blessed.
“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.”