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  Monday, April 21, 2014
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Forty Days and Nights.
By Brianne Fitzgerald RN, MPH

     Lent always reminds me of giving up stuff.  My father would give up alcohol during Lent just to prove to my mother that he was not an alcoholic.  Unfortunately for all of us from Ash Wednesday, the day he gave up the bottle until Holy Saturday night, the night he picked it up again my mother would torment him about how she just knew that he would go back to the beer.  She minimized his efforts to make a sacrifice, a sacrifice for his faith and for his wife whom he loved dearly.   Both of my parents are deceased now, but at this time of year I am acutely reminded of alcoholism and its many faces.  Most of us will make some effort during these days leading up to Easter to give something up or to try a new and positive behavior as a way to make a closer relationship with the god of our understanding. 

     When I think back to my parents and their struggles with the disease of alcoholism I am struck at how sad I feel that my father’s good faith efforts were not accepted in the spirit that I suspect they were offered in.  Are there ways that we who live with alcoholism in our families can make these forty days a beginning, a time to increase our own awareness of our own behaviors, thought processes and actions that are all part of the constellation of addictive disease?  A first step is acknowledging that the only person that you have any hope of changing is yourself.  Gossip, nagging, martyrdom, people pleasing, anger, violence, passive-aggressive behaviors, controlling, bitterness, back-biting, justification, projections, blaming, rescuing, punishing, lying, splitting, minimization of actions are all negative symptoms of active addiction for those who do not use the substance themselves.  My father gave it his best shot to quit for a period of time.  My mom did not change her nagging behavior. 

     A new Lenten behavior might be to say nothing when it is your style to lay someone out.  “No” is a complete sentence.  You do not need to justify, rationalize or explain every action and response.  Nor do you have to go to every fight that you are invited to.  Keeping quiet when you usually jump into a discussion with a comment or idea to better things is another way to center yourself and pay attention to the inner workings of your own heart and soul.   Family dynamics are developed over time.  Once my dada quit drinking for even those short forty days there was little for either of my parents to discuss, after all they had made alcohol the focus of both of their lives for longer than I had been around.  They had both invested too much energy in defending their own, polar opposite positions.

Change is difficult and it always has both positive and negative manifestations.  Lent is time of change, a time to go inside of self, a time of growth, of opportunity, a time to sweep your front yard clean of the detritus of winter.  If you choose to do this work you will have sore muscles from the new activities required to clean up the mess.  And if Lent is not your thing you can still make a conscious decision to change the way you approach the alcoholic/addict in your life.  Most of us do the best we can do.  Cut the alcoholic some slack as he/she tries to change.  Focus on your own problem areas and be gentle with yourself as you too try to change.   Bfitz38@msn.com  



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