Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are All Your Ducks In A Row?

When I was raising my children, at the end of the day, my daughter used to ask me how my ducks were behaving? That question was code for how was your day? At the end of the day, I used to always tell my children how my day was based on what my imaginary ducks were doing. If my ducks were in a row, that meant the day was good and everything happened based on a level of control and predictability. If my ducks were all over the field it meant nothing happened as I expected it to. It usually indicated I was flustered, frustrated and overwhelmed. Most of the time my ducks were close by and easily rounded up which meant my day was not quite as planned but manageable. My daughter used to find this imaginary duck reference funny and in a way it was however, it really was a barometer reading of my stress level based on control. I needed control to feel sane. If my car broke down, if a child got sick at school, if a bill came that I did not expect, my day could suddenly go south very quickly and my emotions would closely follow. I would let outside stimulus affect my happiness and my ability to cope on a daily basis. I thought by somehow controlling my environment and the people in it, I could control my safety and the safety of my loved ones. The need to control was based solely on fear and insecurity. It is for all of us who thrive on control. I was at the mercy of the world at any given moment if I did not hold a tight reign on all those imaginary ducks.

The reality is I never had any control over those ducks and I never will. The only thing I can control is my own actions and behavior. The rest is out of my control. Once I truly realized that and let go of the need to control, I was able to give the control back to God, the only one who had control in the first place. For example, I can tell my loved ones to drive safely when out in their cars but I cannot control the actions of the other people on the road. What I can do is pray that God will keep them safe and put no one dangerous in their path.

In one of my recovery groups there is nice older gentleman. As it is a closed group, we all go around the room at the beginning and state the nature of our disease. This is done to make sure all that are present are there for the correct purpose. The older gentlman routinely states the nature of his disease and then adds, "I am powerless to people, places and things". I thought that was a strange phase to add, so one day I asked him why he says that. He said, "it is just a verbal reminder to myself that God is in the pilot seat, not me". I thought that was terrific. You see, the first step to recovering from drugs & alcohol is the understanding and belief that one is powerless to it. The disease of addiction flourishes when one thinks they have the ability to control the using or taking of a specific substance. Since almost all addicts / alcoholics are controllers, it makes sense that admitting powerlessness to all people, places and things aids in a "control free" way of life which fosters faith in a higher power. If I cannot control, only God can. I love the shortened version of the first three steps of AA, Step 1: I can't, Step 2: He (God) can, Step 3: I think I'll let him.

Therefore, today I am powerless to drugs & alcohol and to people, places and things. I make no reference to ducks unless I am at a lake with my grandchildren. If I find myself reverting back to the old duck barometer system out of habit, I stop and ask myself who and what I am attempting to control. I then take a deep breath and let the ducks swim back to the lake where they belong.


The Deans said...

Step 1: I can't, Step 2: He (God) can, Step 3: I think I'll let him.

if this works for you - thank God. I used that version as well, until it was pointed out to me that I was being rather egotistical in my statement "i think I,ll let him" perhaps i should go to God with some humility and ask for his help, only then (for me) did the wonder of this program open up to me.
Peace and Love,

IrishPatty said...

Thank you for your post. It really is about humility. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, God Is My Co-pilot. God is not my co-pilot, he is flying the plane. I think I am somewhere in the cargo section and grateful to be there. :)