All my life, I’ve struggled to feel that I belong. As the only girl, I felt distinctly different from my three brothers. As a “feeler” in a family of “thinkers,” I felt alienated. Coming out as a lesbian in my twenties did nothing to mitigate my feelings of being “other.”
So, it’s no surprise that it literally took me years of attending meetings to feel like I truly belonged in Al‑Anon. And it had nothing to do with being a lesbian. I felt like I didn’t belong in Al‑Anon because I hadn’t grown up with alcoholism, I’d never been romantically involved with an alcoholic, and there was no alcoholism in my family.
Tradition Three says, “The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of alcoholism in a relative or friend.” I had friends who were recovering alcoholics, so I used them to “justify” my attendance at meetings. No one ever challenged my right to be at a meeting, yet I felt like a fraud.
Still, I kept coming back. I knew that Al‑Anon was helping me. I knew it gave me tools to deal with my coworker whose erratic behavior reflected that of her alcoholic mother. I came to see that my two long-term partners, both adult daughters of alcoholics, had been affected by the alcoholic system they’d grown up in. And that, in turn, I was, too.
And then, when I’d been in the program about 15 years, my adult son came to me for help with his drinking problem. He told me he was an alcoholic. I hadn’t known anything about the extent of his drinking nor the devastation it was causing in his life. But he knew that I knew something about alcoholism. And he knew he was safe coming to me for help. I was immensely grateful to Al‑Anon for that.
So, then I did have a “legitimate” reason to be in Al‑Anon. However, I no longer needed that legitimization. Somewhere along the way, I’d come to believe that I belonged in Al‑Anon. I’d realized I didn’t need to look outside myself for justification. I knew that the Al‑Anon program gave me steps and tools to stay sane in relationships with the potential for insanity. I had learned that I truly belonged.
By Patricia B.
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.