What I didn’t understand at my first Al-Anon meeting

I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting after my boyfriend had his first relapse. Tears that hadn’t stopped in days were running down my face. I wasn’t wearing makeup and my hair was tied back just to keep it out of my face. I brought my boyfriend’s Sponsor with me, a longtimer who had more than 20 years of sobriety under his belt. He was the only person I could think of to call for help; he showed me Al-Anon.

I remember walking into the room knowing that these people were going to tell me what I needed to do to help my alcoholic boyfriend get back on track. I shared what had happened: he picked up drinking again after being sober for two and a half years and was now in jail. I waited for someone, anyone, to tell me their secret since they all were either nodding their heads or smiling. One lady turned to me and said, “Keep Coming Back.” Another person said, “Welcome.”

What was going on? Why wouldn’t they tell me what to do? I sat there crying even harder. My boyfriend’s Sponsor didn’t say anything; he just patted my back as I was doubled over in pain and confusion. Why were these people not telling me how to fix the problem? Couldn’t they see my pain? Didn’t anyone care?

I got angry. I stood up and proceeded to let everyone know that I thought they were mean and hateful people for “keeping” their little “secret” to themselves, apparently thinking I wasn’t worth knowing it. Once I had given everyone in the room a piece of my mind, including my boyfriend’s Sponsor, I stormed out determined to fix my alcoholic boyfriend without their help.

I spent the next four years going to open A.A. meetings, learning the Steps, and reading everything I could about alcoholism and addiction. I talked to men and women in recovery and listened to their stories. I became somewhat of an expert on this horrible, destructive disease that was eating up my soul.

During this time two things happened. My boyfriend and I got married, and he had six more relapses.

By the time I came back to Al-Anon, I was so broken and empty—all I could do to go on was breathe. I was dead inside, and no one could see it. I had no hope, no joy, no feeling of self-worth. I was drained and tired. I had tried to “fix” the alcoholic only to destroy myself in the process.

I walked into my second Al-Anon meeting not so much with the hope of help but with the fear of not getting it. I walked in prepared to kill myself and had the means to do so. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that I couldn’t continue living in this pain anymore. Something in the back of my mind kept telling me that if A.A. works for them, Al-Anon could really work for me.

I didn’t yell at anyone; I didn’t double up in pain and confusion, I just sat there crying and listening. Some of it I could relate to, some I couldn’t. Then I heard someone say that “I” didn’t cause it, “I” can’t cure it, and “I” can’t control it. All of sudden this huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. It wasn’t my fault! A very small glimmer of hope started to form in my mind, and I wanted more.

I went to that meeting wanting to rid my life of this agonizing feeling but left wanting to come back. Over the next several months I went to meetings every week, bought and read literature, talked with others, found a Sponsor, and got into service work.

In the beginning words couldn’t describe the pain I was in. Now words can’t describe the peace I’m in. My worst day in Al-Anon far outweighs my best day without it. Today, I understand serenity, I appreciate suggestions, and I have hope. I’ve accepted the alcoholic for who he is because now I know who I am.

By Angela L., Washington

2017-07-27T15:39:50+00:00September 29, 2016|Categories: Common Concerns|


  1. Alanna H. November 2018 at 11:58 am

    The part I don’t get is the same question asked above. What does accepting the alcoholic as he or she is look like?

    The loved one that I speak about is my son. How do I accept him without enabling him? How do I live in peace and serenity while I watch my son self destruct year after year after year?

    I don’t feel like I even know him anymore. I refuse to speak to him or see him when he is drinking so I rarely see him. He is not a part of our family and I want that so badly for him.

    So tell me please…how do I accept him as he is without enabling him?

  2. rae September 2018 at 6:45 am

    Thank you so much for this, I am just beginning to reach out to learn to manage life with a loved one struggling.

  3. Desperate August 2018 at 6:13 pm

    I have boyfriend whom idk what to do. I’m at my wit’s end, his alcohol addiction is killing me…I’m embarrassed to go anywhere with him so I stay home because he wants to go if I go somewhere. He literally died from it in front of me and his kids. I saved him. I breathed life back into him waiting on the EM to arrive. I don’t know what to do. His kids quit coming over to see him after that. I feel if I leave, he will die again and nobody will be there to save him again.

  4. Anonymous August 2018 at 10:43 pm

    It’s a helpless feeling when the one you adore is doing this to him/herself. It makes you realize how very little you can do for them in that process. I just started Al-Anon, so I have a ways to go. I grew up with an alcoholic. I was young and the person who I was supposed to trust was the one who was deeply and emotionally drinking. What child could possibly know how to manage that? Obviously, once I grew up and realized what was going on in my life, I vowed to myself never to drink. I’m 55 now and I still am a non-drinker, but the pain of my childhood was a work in progress. I carried the guilt and shame with me to my own marriage. I was angry and felt betrayed. I had little self-worth. My first meeting, one woman said, “You’re here because you’re worth it.” That might seem like a small statement, but when someone likes me thinks, “Really? Am I worth it?” That is an indication that I needed to reexamine my own value. This is why it’s so important to get help when you’re living with an alcoholic. You can’t fix them. You can’t. You have to start working on yourself.

  5. T.M.L. June 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Hi, I am dealing with two very close and dearly loved ones in my home who are alcoholics. I am so over whelmed and broken. I have been mentally hurt ,physically hurt financially destroyed and just feel like I have lost everything. Yet I keep on trying to get help for them. I am afraid that I might be the one who made them do this. I have been told I am the trigger, I am the reason that one drinks so I am told. My pain is so deep. I don’t sleep well . But they are my family. One has been sober for 51 days! I am so happy I know that relapse is highly possible but I try not to think about it. PLEASE PRAY FOR ME and for THEM ALSO. I feel so alone!!!

  6. Gina April 2018 at 2:11 am

    I really liked this article. I came into Al-Anon in the same place. Emotionally bankrupt from beating my head against the wall. The stress had caused me to become very physically ill, and I had our newborn in my care, alone and literally near death. I have a long way to go, but Al-Anon is saving my life, zero doubt. Thank you for this article.

  7. Michelle April 2018 at 9:32 am

    Does accepting the addict mean that you stay with him? Is it more codependent and controlling behavior to say it’s me or weed, but after 22 years, you can no longer have both?

  8. J P March 2018 at 9:25 am

    You sounded as though you were talking about me.

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