For so many years, I held in what I knew to be true. There seemed to be no safe place in which to tell what was going on in my childhood home. This included nightly arguments fueled by alcohol, a mother whose personality changed as soon as the ice cubes hit the glass, items often thrown against a wall, and my need to cover my head with a pillow to keep out the terrifying shouts of my parents. They dressed well, held jobs, and were supposed to take care of me, but they could not.

Each morning, after my father left for work, I began my chores of sweeping up broken glass, emptying sticky glasses, and opening the shades to let the morning light and fresh air clear the stale, boozy air while my mother still slept. I walked teary eyed to school sleep deprived and quietly tense. I learned to be a caretaker then, and to guard the secrets of the house. My mother taught me to never tell anyone what happened behind our closed doors.

I obeyed her until I arrived at Al‑Anon and found that listening to others bravely share their stories gave me the courage to try to do the same. I felt compassion and acceptance from these strangers. My first words slowly began to unravel my past. By attending many meetings, I got to know others and they got to know me. I began to feel a release each time it was my turn to speak. Doing so created a freedom from the secrets of the past and allowed help and healing to take the place of fear and repression. In Al‑Anon, I found a new way of living and a fellowship of honesty and hope.

By Elizabeth B., Massachusetts

The Forum, July 2020