January 11, 2013 | Back to: Opinion

Letters from Al-Anon members

It was still summer when I walked through the door of Al-Anon that first time. I recall the overwhelming sorrow in my heart, the result of the disease that was ravishing our family.

I recall my feelings of fear and dread, but most of all, I remember how embarrassed and humiliated I felt as I took my seat around the table.

I wanted to be invisible and hoped I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. When I summoned enough courage to glance at the group, they were smiling at me in welcome, especially the faces I recognized. Their warmth, laughter and camaraderie were signs to me that I was in a safe place, even though my throat was parched, my heart was racing and tears blurred my vision.

At meeting’s end, I heard everyone say in unison, “Keep coming back. It works!”

The program relies on the 12 steps, daily readings which are full of wisdom and the slogans which are easy to learn and powerful guides to healing. These, along with regular attendance at meetings and a wise sponsor, change attitudes and promote healing.

It’s been 16 months since that first day, and now I look forward to the meetings because I have gained so many valuable tools from members who share their experience, strength and hope. I have been humbled by the honesty of others whose stories I have been privileged to hear. Through their stories I have learned that I, too, always have a choice.

Most importantly, today I fully trust in the anonymity of the program. I keep coming back because I see the wonderful difference this program is making in my life and that of our family.

My experiences with Al-Anon have been truly life changing. There was alcohol abuse in my home while I was growing up. For the most part, my parents were awesome, but Dad could either be depressive or a rager when he was drunk. Mom’s style was more numbing, except when there were fights. So I married a pot smoker, thinking it seemed less dramatic than the alcohol-fueled fights.

I had heard about Al-Anon and thought it sounded good, but I wasn’t really a “group” person (I thought). However, when the pain of living with the disease of addiction drove me through the doors of Al-Anon, I found a “group” of people who had dealt with my same issues. Even more than the individual circumstances, the feelings were so similar. My new friends in recovery were walking a path with amazing grace and serenity. No dysfunction is too great to be dealt with in patience, acceptance and the numerous tools that this 12-step program offers. In Al-Anon, we can discuss our pains, frustrations and solutions in a safe, anonymous fellowship.

It’s 15 years later, and there isn’t enough space to list the miracles of this simple program.

My actions, not the alcoholic’s, let you know that my family was in trouble. My alcoholic became my “drink on legs.” I monitored her drinking, watered them down, poured them out and even bought them for her.

I became enmeshed in her life, losing myself. I set aside my dreams, plan, aspirations, intimacy and love. Desperately trying to fix her, myself and our marriage, I found fantasy, illusion and delusion, dogging my waking and sleeping moments. I became a chameleon, filled with anger, hate, fear and loathing (both directed outward and inward). I nagged, pleaded, punished, bargained with, blamed and mistreated her.

In doing so, I spiraled ever downward as I tried to fix her disease. I tried to keep the image intact that everything was wonderful, even as it crumbled between my fingers.

In Al-Anon meetings I found hope and peace. People there laughed, cried, spoke from the heart and, most of all, let me know that I wasn’t alone. I learned that alcoholism is a disease and that only the alcoholics can get themselves sober. I kept coming to meetings for the love, acceptance, wisdom and safety in the rooms. I continue to go to meetings to grow and pass along what I’ve been given through the 12-step programs, sponsorship, fellowship and a higher power.

I walked into the Al-Anon rooms looking for someone to tell me how to “fix” my husband because I was sure that if he just stopped drinking, my life would be fine. I wanted everyone to sympathize with how terrible my life was because of “him.”

Well, the meetings didn’t do that … so I left.

It took me a while to get back to a meeting. It took another big blow up in my marriage to get me to find help. This time I stayed in Al-Anon and started to listen. I found that just by listening, I was able to take the focus off my husband and onto myself. My mind was able to settle down. During the meeting, I was able to relax, breathe and be with others with similar problems. We shared our experiences and our strength, and most of all, we found hope without thinking we had to force solutions.

The time spent together built a foundation for the recovery of my own serenity. I found that by attending meetings, reading the Al-Anon literature and, most important, finding a sponsor to work with, I could start to pull my life together.

Whether I was living with the alcoholic or not, I needed to learn how to take care of myself. I began to see that I could live “one day at a time” by “keeping it simple.”

I learned that I didn’t cause the alcoholic to drink, I couldn’t control his drinking, and I definitely could not cure the disease. What a relief … because I was really working hard at doing all those things with absolutely no success!

Today I practice all the principles of the 12 steps of Al-Anon in all my affairs. Am I perfect at it? No. Am I better at it? Yes.

I keep going to Al-Anon because it works, and I need to be reminded that old habits die hard. But the journey to a healthier and more serene life is so exciting now. I feel better equipped with the tools of the Al-Anon program to be able to tackle traumatic events as well as everyday disturbances. And the best part of it all is that I am breaking the cycle of craziness for my family.

I am a daughter, wife and parent of now recovering alcoholics. Prior to Al-Anon, I was ready to leave my marriage. I was totally devastated when I realized my adult children were in the depths of their disease. I was obsessed with trying to fix them.

Ten years ago, I walked into an Al-Anon meeting feeling alone, afraid and ashamed. I heard the first step of Al-Anon: We admitted we are powerless over alcohol, and our lives had become unmanageable. I also heard I was at the meeting for myself, not for the alcoholic, and that I didn’t cause the alcoholism nor could I control or cure the alcoholic.

I listened to the members sharing their experiences, strength and hope and slowly came out of my isolation. I began to share at the meetings. No one judged me or gave advice. The Serenity Prayer taught me that I could change some things in myself and that I must let go of others and give them to my higher power.

I still have days I believe I am in charge, cross the boundaries of others, and then must make amends. I try to follow my favorite Al-Anon slogans of “Keep it simple” and “How important is it?”

I am so grateful to the Al-Anon program and friends and to my alcoholic family, for they show me the miracles in my life.

My doctor recommended Al-Anon because my son’s drinking was affecting my own health. My expectation was that Al-Anon would tell me how to stop his drinking. That did not happen.

What I learned was, although it is a family disease, I didn’t cause the behavior, couldn’t control it and couldn’t cure it. With Al-Anon’s help, I learned that my responsibility was to take care of myself first — a very difficult life lesson. After all, isn’t a mother’s job to take care of the family?

Eventually, with the understanding, love and support of many, the miracle of sobriety did happen. Nothing about this process was easy for any of us, but it’s been one year of sober living — meetings at AA for him and Al-Anon for us.

Every day is a blessing, and tomorrow is in God’s hands. The wisdom shared in these meetings provides immeasurable guidance and hope.

When I first came into the Al-Anon room, I was a lost child living in a woman’s body.

Gone were most of my addictions, and I no longer lived in an alcoholic and abusive environment. The bare bones of what I was hiding were apparent to the outside world. Not trusting, feeling unloved and having great shame were some of the parts of me needing healing.

Trusting the women at the meetings took some time. Finally I saw that the women were very caring, honest and aware. I began to open up and share my experiences.

Thanks to Al-Anon, I am no longer just surviving. I’m learning to change my ways and become the real me.

As the child of an alcoholic, I was physically and emotionally abused, leaving me more comfortable in abusive relationships.

I accepted blame for my parent’s drinking and unhappiness, proving to myself that I was damaged goods and that I was the problem.

I took care of my parents rather than them caring for me, habituating myself to a life of caregiving and self sacrifice.

Attending Al-Anon meetings, reading literature and connecting with a community of like-minded souls has given me tools that free me from the chains of this disease and give me a safe place to grow my life in healthy ways.

As a practicing member of Al-Anon, I find that this program continues to help me lead a rich and full life regardless of the alcoholic’s behavior, and it benefits me in my relationships as a husband, father, son, friend, nephew, uncle, employee, neighbor and the person in line next to you.



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The Union Updated Jan 11, 2013 06:09PM Published Jan 11, 2013 05:32PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.