We come to Al‑Anon because of the problems caused by someone’s drinking. Some of us are primarily concerned about a relationship with a spouse or partner who has a drinking problem, while others have alcoholic parents or children. Sometimes an alcoholic situation in the workplace brings us to Al‑Anon. Regardless of the particular relationship, there is one common denominator: the effect of someone else’s drinking on us. Al‑Anon gives us an opportunity to look at ourselves and understand how alcoholism has distorted our perspective, hurt our self‑image, and affected our ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships.
It isn’t unusual to enter the doors of an Al‑Anon Family Group in a state of distress. Despite the confusion and chaos we may be experiencing, the program offers us hope that by improving our attitudes, we can live better, happier lives. In Al‑Anon meetings we meet people who have had experiences similar to ours. They share how much their lives have improved. They show us that our past failures don’t have to limit our future growth as long as we are willing to learn new approaches.
An Al‑Anon Family Group also offers opportunities to understand our own feelings better, and how to reach out to other people for support. Before we began attending Al‑Anon meetings, many of us ignored our feelings and felt isolated by our problems. We focused primarily on trying to fix the alcoholic relationship or coping with the crisis of the day. We tried to keep things as “normal” as possible by taking on responsibilities that the alcoholic neglected. It was all up to us, or so we believed. We felt we had to keep up the appearance that everything was okay, even if that meant making excuses or lying for the alcoholic. Under these circumstances, it can be painful or confusing to pay attention to our own feelings. When we hear other people share in the meetings, however, we begin to recognize how much we have in common with them. As we relate, we begin to feel connected—sometimes for the first time in our lives. Trust begins to grow.
An Al‑Anon meeting is a safe place to share our feelings. We learn that we’re not the only ones whose point of view has been twisted by the strain of living with the effects of someone else’s drinking. As we listen to other people’s stories, we discover things about ourselves that we may have never suspected. We can begin to admit to ourselves how we feel and come to understand ourselves better. With the love and support we find in an Al‑Anon meeting, we’re able to recognize—and accept—who we are.
Wherever we may be in our search for healthy relationships, we have to begin where we are today. It may be painful to think how much better our relationships could have—or should have—been. There’s no point in criticizing ourselves when we did the best we could with what we had. We can gain peace of mind by putting aside what we could or should have done and by accepting who and where we are right now.
The Al‑Anon program offers a range of tools that can help us. As we continue to attend meetings, we learn that it is possible to let go of old companions like failure, shame, and guilt. In time we can make progress, but we can only make it “One Day at a Time.” The Al‑Anon tools help us realize that the ability to start over is always within our reach, and that there’s always more hope than we may have thought.