Growing up in an alcoholic home, I lived amidst instability and insecurity daily. Unlike children who grew up being told they were loved “to the moon and back,” or “this much” by someone with arms spread wide, I would ask my mother, “Do you love me today?” only to be answered with a shrug of her shoulders and, “Eh, same as usual.” She died when I was 15, and I never got a different answer.

When my son’s drinking grew out of control, I retaliated with all the fury that had gone unexpressed in my childhood. I lectured, punished, and bargained with God. I searched my son’s room; snooped in his drawers, closet, and car; rifled his pockets; tested him; and tried to smell his breath when he came close. I cajoled, belittled, and threatened. He lied, stole, and retreated to his room. He was angry and shut me out completely. It seemed I’d lost him. Only when I realized I was losing myself did things begin to change.

In Al‑Anon, I learned to start taking care of myself and loving myself. Progress was slow at first because I thought I was unlovable. I felt like a failed daughter and mother. But as I became more aware of how my behaviors transferred my pain to my son, I began to change, to pull back and let him have the dignity and self-determination he is entitled to.

Recently, my son told me he’d tried heroin several months ago. He waited for my response. I waited for my Higher Power. Instead of being angry or upset or hurt, I looked into his eyes and saw my little boy, my son. I heard myself say, “Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for trusting me. I love you; I always have, and I always will.”

Before Al‑Anon, I never would have been able to hear that what he was really saying was, “Do you love me today?”

By Deirdre B., New York

The Forum, November 2022

Feel free to reprint this article on your service arm website or newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.