When the Chairperson announced that the topic at the Saturday morning Al‑Anon meeting was control, I sat back in my chair and told myself that I didn’t need to share or even pay attention because control wasn’t my problem. Hadn’t I always acquiesced to my husband’s every wish? I never tried to control him. Whatever he wanted was all right with me. I had quit wanting anything years ago. It just wasn’t worth the effort in my marriage because anytime I tried to ask for what I wanted or even talked about a book I was reading or a funny story at work, my husband would either start screaming at me, or he would belittle and ridicule me for my feelings.
But for a reason I couldn’t understand, early in that meeting—the meeting I didn’t have to pay any attention to—I started crying uncontrollably. A friend was sitting next to me and kept putting tissues in my hand because I was crying so hard. In the last few minutes before the meeting ended, I finally shared. Through tears, I said that I didn’t understand. I said that I never tried to control my husband. He could always do whatever he wanted. I never tried to make him do anything. I was so confused!
After the meeting, another friend came over to hug me and said something that finally helped me clarify my confusion. She said that she used to try to quiet everybody in her house so that her adult alcoholic son wouldn’t drink. In Al‑Anon she realized how futile this was. Her son was going to drink no matter how peaceful the house was because he was an alcoholic. I finally came to understand that I had been doing the same thing in my marriage—trying to control my husband’s anger by always agreeing with him and never wanting anything for myself. I continued to do this, even though his drinking and his anger had gotten worse as the years went by. I slowly began to stop living in fear of how my husband would react. I couldn’t control my husband’s anger any more than I could control his drinking. I learned to do what was right for me.