As I drove toward the church on that warm, dusky night, I desperately hoped the meeting would be canceled or that no one else would show up. I felt the knot in my stomach tighten as I pulled into the parking lot filled with cars, dread filling my body like helium in a balloon. With ten minutes until the meeting started, I sat in my car scanning the people walking into the basement of the church and prayed I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. What would they think if they saw me here? They would know. They would gossip. Then I thought of the desperate promise I had made to myself while lying on the bathroom floor the night before in tears—to give this a shot.

I got out of my car and walked into my first Al‑Anon meeting feeling like a kindergartner on the first day of school. I held my head down to avoid eye contact with anyone in the room. People of all ages talked animatedly with each other while holding cups filled with coffee or hot chocolate. I quietly took a chair, hoping to make myself invisible to those around me, but the group members welcomed me. As people began to read aloud, words like peace, serenity, and hope were tossed about as if they were part of everyday life. If these people are peaceful and hopeful, I thought, then their stories cannot be as bad as mine. My life was spiraling out of control. I sat in that chair an anxious, short tempered, sleep-deprived wife and mother, exhausted from pretending my life was as perfect as I made it appear on social media. No way was I going to share my experience with this group. I spent my days looking for hidden bottles and my sleepless nights waiting for my husband to come home, arguing, and making empty threats that the drinking would stop—or else.

As the group members shared their stories, I felt my jaw drop in disbelief. My heart began pounding, and I felt a sheen of perspiration come over me. One after another, I heard stories so similar to mine being told with compassion and even serenity. Soon the tension started to drain from my body, as I felt the years of bottled up anger and resentment being pushed aside like the dirt from a budding flower. In its place sprouted a glimmer of hope.

By Sherri S., Oregon

The Forum, April 2019