For many years, my mother and other family members suggested I go to Al‑Anon. I had already lost my middle son to alcoholism in a drunk-driving accident, and my third son was also addicted to alcohol and drugs and has brain damage from a drug overdose. His life was out of control, and so was mine. Either I was going to move out or he was, so, for a second time, after a particularly bad situation, I told him to leave. That was years ago, and he is still in and out of rehab, continues to drink, and is currently homeless.
Meanwhile, people continued to suggest Al‑Anon, but I resisted. I had long thought it was selfish to want to take care of myself when someone I loved needed so much help. Finally, after yet another of his frequent relapses, something clicked in me. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to climb out of my self-imposed darkness this time and decided that enough was enough.
I drove myself to my first Al‑Anon meeting and sat in the parking lot trying to work up the courage to go inside. Should I, or shouldn’t I? Finally, I opened the car door. I decided to let my body go in and hoped that my mind would follow. It did. What I found inside were people just like me whose lives were hurt by someone else’s drinking, people who had the courage to acknowledge they needed help and did something about it.
I continued to struggle with feelings of guilt and selfishness for several months. In time, however, I began to realize that it was not selfish of me to help myself. I came to understand that thinking I needed to help my son first was a disguise for control and that I was relying on his sobriety and well-being for my peace of mind and happiness. That was selfish. I now know that by placing myself on the road to my own recovery, I will gain the tools I need to have a healthier relationship with my son as well as with the rest of my family. I am learning to separate him from his disease and talk to him in a respectful and nonjudgmental way.
I remind myself daily that only when I have taken the time to focus on my own recovery and healing will I have anything to give to anyone else. I am new to this journey and have a long way to go, but getting beyond the feeling of selfishness is a huge step, and I have Al‑Anon to thank for that. I am a work in progress.
By Pat N., Pennsylvania
The Forum, December 2023
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.