I met the alcoholic in my life through online dating. Though I felt that I was okay with social drinking, I learned that there is no such thing as social drinking to an alcoholic. My partner was in A.A., but was a binge drinker. When he wasn’t drinking, he was kind, loving, and respectful—all the traits I wanted in a partner. I thought he drank to be nasty to me and to sabotage our relationship. I lost sleep worrying if this day would be the start of a binge. I went to A.A. meetings with him for about two years trying to figure out what he was missing so that I could save him, but the other A.A. members would often suggest that I go to Al‑Anon. I didn’t know what that was or why I needed to go when I felt that he was the problem.
The first program idea that had particular significance for me was that alcoholism is a disease. This actually made sense to me because I could view it like a form of mental illness. I have a dear family member who is mentally ill. I finally realized that my partner was not drinking “at me” or because of anything I did or didn’t do. He was self-harming, much like my family member. He didn’t know why and didn’t know how to stop. What kept me coming back after my first meeting was that I saw that the people there were having fun. They celebrated each other and shared their successes and struggles. No one judged anyone or told anyone what to do. Instead, they laughed, they cried, and I could sense the love and support in that room. I wanted to learn how to do that and just get some sleep and feel happy again.