stop dancing around the elephant


I went to an Al-Anon meeting tonight where one of the participants said something that really stuck with me. When you live with an alcoholic, he said, the disease is like the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room. At first, you dance around the elephant, pretending it's not there. When you finally acknowledge the elephant's presence, however, it doesn't disappear. It's still sitting there, as big as ever. And you're still dancing around it, still trying to avoid getting trampled.

Letting go of denial--acknowledging that the elephant is there--is only the first step. After that comes detachment--figuring out how to stop caring so much about the elephant. For those of us who live with the elephant, many of our problems come from the unending and inevitably unsuccessful attempts to make it go away. What Al-Anon is teaching me to do is to take the focus off the elephant, and put it on myself and my own needs. When I stop focusing on the elephant, it gets smaller. It will never go away--that's important to accept, as well. But the more I focus on it, the more dominating and damaging it becomes.

As I thought about that on the way home, I was reminded of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I took the boys to see earlier today. I started thinking about the elephant as a boggart...but that's not really it. Making it ridiculous isn't the solution. In many ways, the elephant is more like a dementor, ready to suck the life out of you if you can't draw on your own inner strength and summon a shield--a patronus. For me, right now, Al-Anon is teaching me how to summon my patronus, and protect myself from the elephant in the living room. Eventually, I'm hoping that it will shrink into a corner, no longer the center of all of our attention.


This is very true, yes. In its way, it's not unlike fighting depression; you know you're winning when your vision opens up to something beyond "tunnel."

Strength to you. Not that you need my sloppy help.

good work Liz!

I can say, it does shrink into a corner and you begin to notice it less and less, but some days it feels like theres no way around this elephant and your face to face with it. Thankfully, those days become fewer and farther between.

I know the elephant well� it was the focus of my life for many years. It�s gone now. The trigger point was a very wise lady at Al-Anon. She told me a simple truth. �It�s not your fault.� For some reason that simple statement opened the floodgates for me. That night I told my elephant that from this moment forward it�s your problem, solve it. She never did � so I moved on.

Love your site � Your TOMCAT blog was a great help.

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This page contains a single entry published on July 5, 2004 11:24 PM.

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