How do you feel about family secrets?

Welcome to “First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery” from Al-Anon Family Groups.  This podcast will discuss a professional’s concern for families who have been affected by a loved one’s drinking.

Colleen Hillock is with us today.  Colleen is  Coordinator and faculty member in the Bachelor of Health Science and Addiction Counseling Program at Medicine Hat College in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.

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  1. Sharon January 2017 at 7:56 pm

    A family member recently went to alcohol rehab. It is her 2nd time. We all thought she was okay just moody and not responsible. But sadly, she is binge drinking again. She didn’t want us to tell anyone the first time it happened. We didn’t. Now she is drinking worse with her same old friends. So I called her friend to tell her. I can’t stop her, but I can stop protecting her. I don’t want to keep the secrets anymore. Now she is angry, hates me and does not talk to me. Another family member says I shouldn’t talk about it. I am so confused.

  2. renee p July 2014 at 10:08 am

    I have a lot of family members in AA recovery and some who are active in Al-Anon and some not as much. One of our family members is still drinking. Her husband has told not only family members and close friends but neighbors and very peripheral people i.e. tennis instructor, etc. I am in recovery for quite a while but I interpret this telling everyone as hostility. I agree that you should not make excuses or cover for an alcoholic, but it isn’t necessary to contact everyone they know.

  3. Cleveland L September 2013 at 10:54 am

    I met with my wife and a therapist today and tried to get agreement on how to get tutoring for our daughter. I said turn left and of course she said turn right. My wife wants to teach her, but my wife’s impatient and her mind is not very clear. And it is difficult for my daughter to learn from her. I want to hire an outside tutoring organization or a sitter of some kind. I have looked into whether the school will have a program. It will take care of itself. I will work to find a program, and the right program will appear.

    I am resolving to step away and take care of myself first–and that means remain calm. Second, peacefully, take my daughter off to learn in another place. I resolve to make learning fun for her. I think somehow my daughter has now become the tug-of-war. I will look to myself to undo whatever part I have in that. I will not be righteous, although I don’t think I have been–but I will assume I have been and work to undo it and be better for it.

    I will not give sour glances when I think she is drinking. I will be kind and gentle and smiling. I do this for me and for the joy it may bring my daughter, so she knows me as a kind and gentle man and perhaps she will remember this model of a person to become. I am also going to breathe. Breathe. Fill up my diaphram/stomach with air. This will relieve the tension I am filled with. I have a lot of work to do, don’t I? Peace to all tonight.

  4. bluerose January 2011 at 6:49 pm

    My concern is what do you do or how does anyone deal with keeping Al-Anon from the addict? Now that’s a secret I can’t seem to face openly. I’ve been reading stories and literature on Al-Anon for 10 months now. Although I have found it to be God sent and came to me when I was at my lowest with the addict, I still can’t share it with him. The addict believes he has control of his addiction. All I get is false promises on when the drinking will change. This secret makes it tough to go to a meeting, which I would love to do. All he knows is that I read about Al-Anon, and that alone upset him greatly. Secrets are hard on a relationship.
    Faith, Love and Hope.

  5. Roberta November 2010 at 11:51 am

    I cannot hide what the alcoholics do in my life anymore. Whether my father is drunk or my significant other or working on their sobriety, I cannot hide what has happened or is happening anymore. So far that is as far as I have gotten. I am tired of telling lies and hiding lies about my behavior most of all, but I am tired of making adjustments to hide the alcoholics’ behavior or being nervous about their reactions to me.

    All I can do is change my behavior, but being in the same home as the alcoholic has started a frenzy of emotions within me. Anger is huge and I do not want to be angry anymore. I have to take care of me and my children, let this challenge be God’s challenge and not mine. I will look to my higher power right now and from now on. STOP BEING ANGRY is my goal for today.

  6. Navida October 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Someone I love very much is beginning a new adventure in their life through an occupation. Regardless if there is drinking involved or not, I could see how I was beginning to react to his decision. I became fearful, paranoid and sad because I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. I want to be with this person, while we are still getting to know each other a little more. My higher power has been able to guide me to see what I do have control over and what is an illusion.

    I just celebrated 4 years in my recovery and look foward to the next 40. But Love doesn’t have an age limit, neither does program. I can keep coming back knowing that whether someone is still drinking, taking crazy job assignments, falling apart, etc., I have the power of LOVE from Al-Anon and GOD to get through this, one day at a time.

    I had to tell this person that keeping his job duties a secret may have been necessary at the time, but I can’t anymore. It is still a secret. I have heard in program that you are as sick as your secrets. While he may be upset about this, at least he knows that I can tell him the truth. In turn I am willing to accept and love him.

  7. dee September 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Secrets never helped anyone to do anything more than hide the truth and delay the pain. I have seen this time and time again throughout my life. Family secrets are so-called meant to protect the family and their dignity or the dignity of someone that has done something society would frown down about. Pride and ego are selffish character defects. Combine them with secrets and you have a recipe for hurt and continuous coverups until someone gets sick of hiding behind a false truth and wants to be free.

    Coming to meetings has taught me to trust and not be ashamed, therefore I found no need to allow my pride and ego to show and allow the secrets to persist in my life. I feel free to say what is real and not what will sound good and make me or my family look good. Honesty begins with me and so others may hide the truth, but I refuse to take part even if it means they won’t like me anymore to include the addict/alcoholic. I could not get help until someone knew what was going on and I think the addict/alcoholic knew that and was willing to use this against me as a manipulation tactic in order for me to continue enabling them. No more. I am free. Thank you, AL-ANON.

  8. Jan September 2010 at 9:24 pm

    How do I answer the question, “Where is Joe tonight?” I might be at church, at a football game, or at any other social event. It is better to say at home, which is the truth, or say he is drunk and passed out, which is also the truth.

  9. Angelica July 2010 at 12:26 pm

    My therapist has been recommending Al-Anon for 8 yrs, and I didn’t understand why. My parents were alcoholics, but I don’t live with them anymore, and I am an adult. I don’t have any active alcoholics in my life, but every one of my relationships has been with ACOA’s, and very unhealthy! Now I understand why. I am a caretaker and an enabler. I am going to my first Al-Anon meeting, and about to end an 8-year unhealthy relationship. That’s MY secret. I have teenage wonderful children, and I can’t tolerate the dynamics anymore.

    I have a great support system of friends who have all tried to encourage me to step away, but I am terrified of what will happen to my kids, to me (single mother) and to my partner. She can hardly take care of herself or contibute, and I have carried the load of finances, emotional and spiritual load as well, the entire relationship.

    Now I have gone through a long, painful custody case, and I have lost so much financially and emotionally, I feel like I am empty. I walk in a fog. I want to be free to live a healthy life, and I want that for her too, and my kids. I see that can’t happen together, but the guilt is horrible. How can I do this to my family? How can I put my kids through MORE pain? How can I be so selfish? What will happen to my partner? How do I cope with the loss of my dreams? When will this pain stop? I am so unhealthy, even with therapy, I pray an Al-Anon family can help me gain my life and sanity again.

    I hear people speak of forgivenness. What does that look, smell, feel, sound like? How do you do it? I have many spiritual foundations, but lack this understanding. How do you know when you have truly achieved it? I love my children regardless of anything they have done. How do you love someone and forgive someone for continously trying to harm your family (ex husband) because he is a narcissist? He constantly abuses me emotionally for being who I am, and it makes me question everything, especially after our trial, and the courts will do nothing because he is in law enforcement. He is ACOA, as well. I hope for a lot of answers! I really hope for freedom from guilt!

    I pray that recovery starts now!

  10. Coleen B. May 2010 at 1:21 am

    Thank you to all my Al-Anon family. I have been a member for over 10 years now, and am still finding out secrets in my family of origin, and my family I married into. If I didn’t have Al-Anon, I don’t know where I would be now.

    Today, through working the program, I can say I am a better person, not perfect!

  11. Ickylicky501 May 2010 at 5:10 am

    The Serenity prayer truly is a blessing and a source of closure at times, where none can be found. Closure, that is. It is really hard to separate ourselves from what our environment was growing up. I have found that for most of the people that I have come in contact with that grew up like I did spend an entire lifetime looking for closure. It is really tough to be haunted by the past and try to focus on the future.

    I really don’t acknowledge my past as much as I used to now that I have had children, but it is still always there. Ever present, laying just underneath the surface of my adult life. At times I still walk around feeling as though I am just an adult child. I don’t ever think that I will fully connect with my adult mindset. I do and I don’t, if that makes sense. I only submerge myself so far into my adult mindset and then I regress again. I know there are parts of me that will always struggle with leaving my child-like mindset behind. I know that it is because I have unresolved issues, but at the same time I will always have part of my past to contend with, regardless of how much of my past I sort out. It is what it is and there are parts of my childhood that will never be restored, no matter what I do as an adult. That is the part that can and still does really overwhelm me at times.

    I resent the fact that I was abandoned and neglected by one parent completely, and used and manipulated by another fully. I can’t change who my parents were or still are to this day, and that is the part that really requires WISDOM. I know that forgiveness and understanding come at a great price and that there are some things that we will never fully understand until God deems us ready. And there is a possobility that we may never be fully ready in this lifetime. I just have to have enough faith in my God and trust him to show me the right way whatever that may be. I know he’s always there and I know that no matter how painful or uncomfortable some things may be that there is a certain amount of discomfort that all of us are meant to go thru in this life so that we have a greater understanding of things yet to come. I know we can’t know all the answers and that we have to look at the BIGGER picture. EVERYTHING included, and that can be really hard at times. I just have to keep my head up and believe in a bigger purpose than myself and know that there is more to be gained in this life than ever will be lost.

  12. marilyn May 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I am a grateful member, in Al-Anon 20+ years. It’s a first mtg for me each day I choose to be at a meeting. I continue to grow every mtg. I attend.

    Participation is the key to harmony. I sometimes go 2-3 mtg a week depending on the chaos, crisis, or secrets going on in my family’s life at that stage in my life. In Al-Anon we say courage is fear that has said its prayers. And fear also stands for
    from all the family secrets. I set myself free by working my program.

    Fear and faith cannot co-exist.

    “One Day at a Time”
    “Easy Does It”
    “First Things First”
    “By the Grace of God”
    “This Too Shall Pass”–even the good times that I share with my Al-Anon Family Group, Sponsor, and other members.

    I pass on the mental soberiety I’ve found in Al-Anon.

    God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Peace and Love.

  13. June April 2010 at 12:08 pm

    It is so true that it is hard to come out because you fear the addict will be believed and not yourself. It happened to me. I went to my pastor and other “professionals” and said something is not right with my son. They said, oh no, he is a good kid. Then he ends up in jail charged with using & selling drugs. Al-Anon was so welcoming, understanding, non judgemental and helpful!

  14. Angela A. March 2010 at 10:25 am

    Attending Al-Anon meetings was how I learned to deal with the family secrets that were keeping me stuck and keeping me sick. I have learned two important things: (1) there is no shame in loving someone who has the disease of alcoholism or addiction and (2) I didn’t cause the alcoholic to drink, I cannot control the drinking, nor can I cure the alcoholic.

    By learning how to keep the focus on myself, in Al-Anon I have learned how to break the bondage of secrets and lies. I cannot save my alcoholic loved ones. I can save myself. And I have seen first-hand how becoming more healthy MYSELF has brought about a desire for more healthy living in those whom I love. Today I am committed to speaking the truth — MY truths.

    Al-Anon has taught me that this does not mean violating the anonymity of my loved ones. It simply means that I have choices in how to live my life — choices I didn’t even know that I had before I walked into the doors of Al-Anon. I am incredibly grateful to have the privilege to be a part of the Al-Anon Family Groups today.

  15. Colleen March 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Tomorrow, my son, my husband and I will be meeting with a family counselor. Six months ago, we discovered that our teenage son has been using marijuana. At the time we discovered it, our son promised to give it up. He has not done so. The past 3 months have been very difficult and I am plagued by fear for him. I find myself consumed with what he is doing and who he is with, which has turned my relationship with him into one of constant conflict. There is a history of alcohol addiction in my extended family. My grandparents and uncle on my mother’s side were alcoholics. I am thinking about joining an Al-Anon group to help me cope with what is happening.

  16. Mary C March 2010 at 10:50 pm

    This is my first visit to this site and already feel better. I have picked my first place for going to an Al-Anon meeting. My family has just learned a secret about a very close family friend who is an alcoholic. This of course is not the only secret. My family will need to find the emotional courage to not communicate to our friend until we get the guidance needed thru this program. I do realize this will take time and effort on our part. My daughter will also be joining me along with my husband. My daughter is so very upset and wants answers. The lies are just so draining. Thank you for this program and my wish to all is happiness in our families with the love and hope for wonderful relationships.

  17. ann January 2010 at 10:58 am

    Some secrets were revealed to me a few years ago. I found out I have a half-brother living in the states.

    My mother was a rager all my life, so she probably had issues trusting my dad. I married an alcoholic, and then came very similar issues that I did not trust him because of affairs he has had. Now I see the pattern and the dysfunction. I have been told that even though I have come from dysfunction that does not mean I have to choose it today.

    My son is addicted to crack cocaine and I go to Al-Anon meetings. There I meet people with similar situations. I listen to their experience, strength, and hope. The program teaches me about loss of life that’s a reality for me and to focus on my life one day at a time with God as my parent.

  18. Mary O January 2010 at 8:00 pm

    My family had a history of alcoholism, and hiding. We lied at all times, to cover up. I grew up knowing I was the only one on whom I could depend. My Human Development class brought it all back. The lies, the fear, everything. It will never happen in my family again! I broke the cycle. I never married. How could I put a child through that? My hope is to simply get on with my life. I have friends, people in my church, and others who are a good resource.

  19. elda January 2010 at 3:32 am

    I have never been to a meeting or gotten any kind of help, but as I read so many stories it helps me in knowing that my girls and I are not alone. My husband still doesn’t believe he has a problem, even though many of his relatives have sat him down to speak about his problem. I really hope that this will be the fist step for me to finally take control of our lives and not be scared or ashamed to get help for our family. Thank you.

  20. Loretta December 2009 at 11:02 am

    I will be thinking about family secrets more, now.
    Thank you

  21. Ricardo A November 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I think good communication is the best way to break secrets. I’ve learned this in Al-Anon, because healthy communication involves honesty, trust, emotional closeness, and many other positive human qualities.

    I found out that my family had terrible communication problems, and therefore secrets were part of our family for decades. For instance, this year my father died because of lung cancer. After this loss, I heard my father was born in Chiapas, México. Since I was a kid, I was told he was born in Acapulco, Guerrero. This kind of secret was kept hidden and “nurtured” with shame, embarrassment and guilt for decades.

    Now, thanks to Al-Anon, I´m convinced there are no more hidden secrets.

  22. Nette October 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I have only been in Al-Anon now for almost eight months. The secrets that I have uncovered and the things I have found out about myself are amazing. I wish that I would’ve discovered this release years ago. However, now that I am aware of some things and learning more every day, I have to keep reminding myself of all our slogans.

  23. sandladyvb October 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I have been in Al-Anon a long time and family secrets are still being uncovered. I’m not looking for them, but they crop up from time to time. I knew when I started Al-Anon that I had uncovered my biological family’s secret. I just didn’t know who the alcoholics were.

    Two years ago, my brother gave me a box of old family pictures. I asked him why there weren’t any pictures of our grandfather’s father. My brother said, “You won’t find any pictures of him. He was an alcoholic and a womanizer.” I never knew that before, but it was a defining moment for me.

    Suddenly I understood why my grandfather was so angry at my father at the time of my parents’ divorce, when I was 8 years old. My father’s alcoholic behavior and personalty, and his treatment of my mother, brother, and me, recreated my grandfather’s childhood. Even though my parents remarried each other five years later, my grandfather never spoke to or saw my father again. I never heard him say a negative word about my father until my grandfather was on his deathbed. He cursed my father and warned me never to trust my father.

    I haven’t liked my family secrets, because they are painful. But I am grateful to Al-Anon because I can come to terms of acceptance and process them through the principles of our program. I had to talk to my first cousins about my family and found out a lot–about more alcoholics and other types of addictions. When I was about 15, I was told that a cousin won an award for having the best service and sales in his grocery chain stores in his state. Thirty years later, I found out that the grocery stores were liquor stores.

    It hurt me a lot to find out that family members lied to me. But, thanks to Al-Anon, I am able to let it go. It happened in the past and I am not letting the secrets cloud my present. In a way, I’m free to live my life because I think I know most of my family’s secrets.

  24. Elaine October 2009 at 12:06 pm

    The truth will set you free. Al-Anon has been so liberating. The ability to express ourselves without fear of reprisal does so much to build confidence. I can’t say enough about how much better I feel since coming to Al-Anon. It is truly a wonderful program. I intend to be there when anyone else reaches out for help.

  25. Garden HWY girls August 2009 at 7:58 pm

    This question means one thing. Do you like to hide the big white elephant? Are the family problems everyone else’s problems? But the actual elephant is on the living room floor. The big elephant.

    Family secrets help operate the addiction and each member plays a role. If the secret is no longer a secret then healing can begin for the spouse, friend, child, and the person who is affected by this secret. Denial is on both parts if the enabler and the addict are keeping secrets about the addiction. Secrets, in general, break down the intimacy and trust in a family

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