I have peace and happiness—whether my sons are sober or not

I grew up in a loving, stable home; there was no alcoholism. One of my mother’s uncles was said to have enjoyed his drink, but I never witnessed any odd behavior. I didn’t have a clue.

Unfortunately, my husband and I became all too familiar with the behavior by the serious addictions of two of our three adult sons. One was a binge and blackout alcoholic; the other went from pain meds to heroin. They weren’t functioning. They had ruined their marriages, lost their jobs and their homes, and their health was failing. How could we not help them?

We tried everything – financially, physically, and emotionally – but nothing changed. I was consumed by their lives, their dramas. I was filled with fear, worry, and extreme sadness. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate. My anxiety and stress had brought me to the Emergency Room on several occasions.

I heard about Al‑Anon. I don’t even know how or where. We found our way into these rooms almost four years ago, in complete desperation. During our very first meeting, I heard the phrases “dignity to live his own life” and “enabling is disabling.” My sons were grown men. With the best of intentions, we were hurting our own children. We weren’t going to be around forever. We could no longer be their safety nets.

We continued going to meetings, listening and crying, and acquiring tools along the way. After knowing how much we had done for them without change, I was finally able to accept that I am powerless over their behavior, and that my life had become unmanageable.

I had given so much of my time and energy, and my heart that I had lost sight of myself. We had to back off and let them sink or swim. It hasn’t been easy. At one point, they were both homeless—one on the street, the other in his car. I feared the worst.

Today, one son has a year of sobriety and the other has two years, because of nothing we did, except to let them live their own lives. There were relapses along the way, but we survived—all of us! And I couldn’t have done it without Al‑Anon.

I went from despair to hope, and finally to some peace and happiness (whether my sons are sober or not). The meetings, the fellowship, the slogans, and the time to grow have helped me to replace my old thinking and attitudes with new, appropriate ones. I try to adjust myself to what “is” instead of changing things to my own desire, and I focus on the good in my life, for which I am thankful.

Although the concept is still difficult for me, I often repeat the phrase “Let Go and Let God.” I know when we let go, our sons started to grow up. I never gave them the credit to find their own way. They were resourceful and needed the chance to exercise their struggle muscle. We gave them the freedom to experience both their failures and successes. With each accomplishment, they gain self-confidence and belief in themselves.

Working the Steps with a Sponsor and doing service has added to my growth. When I hear the pain and despair of the newcomer, I see how far I’ve come. The June 18 entry in One Day at a Time (B-6) says, “Perfection is a long way off, but improvement can be made to happen every day.” By using the tools I’ve learned and focusing on what I do have control over, I am practicing new behaviors as they become part of my life in all my affairs.

With the advent of the Fourth of July, my thoughts went to freedom and independence. I couldn’t help but think of the freedoms I have found through Al‑Anon—freedom from the past; freedom from guilt; freedom from worry; and freedom from having to find solutions to others’ problems. Most of all, I have found the freedom to live my own life and to let others live theirs.  Remembering the Declaration of Independence, I came to realize that I too have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and my sons have the right to theirs as well. 

I am my own person, and I’m beginning to find myself again. I’m not just a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, or sister. I am Linda, with my own feelings and desires. I have the right to discover who I am. Al‑Anon is allowing me to do just that. It’s a bit frightening to focus only on me. I may not like what I see, or find that I don’t know how to live without being that mother, but I look forward to the journey.

Before Al‑Anon, I was my sons’ “Mommy” trying to make everything better. Now I am their mother, loving them with compassion and support, listening and sharing, and allowing them to live their own lives. We have wonderful relationships with our sons, and enjoy being together.  In fact, there’s recently been a role reversal—they’re actually concerned about their “old folks.”  When I look at my sons today, I no longer see only those infants of yesterday, but I see them as the men they are today – separate from their addictions – and I love them.

By Linda G., California
The Forum, April 2014