I walked into Al‑Anon full of very strong and volatile emotions and beliefs that I had adopted growing up with alcoholism and then carried with me after marrying an alcoholic. Although I cried a lot in the first and many later meetings, I held onto the belief that I had my life together. I had a tight grip on my intentions and felt I took care of myself by holding my feelings close. I had been in survival mode for so long that I was not even able to live a happy life. I thought I had it together, but when I came into the rooms of Al‑Anon, I saw y’all.
You all smiled and hugged, and I thought you were nice enough people. But then I heard you speak of those terrible secrets, the same ones I kept hidden, about the insanity of living with alcoholism. I was shocked. They were the same secrets. You had them too! When I heard you share, I realized that we have all experienced the same things in one way or another. You understood me.
But you were happy, and I was not. How was that possible? You said, “Work the Steps”; “Get a Sponsor”; and “Read the CAL (Conference Approved Literature)!” I learned that I had to really look at my survival mechanisms. After getting a Sponsor to guide me, I put some of my rusty old coping skills in one pile, other skills in another. I soon found that many of my old coping mechanisms made me look like I functioned well, but in truth, they were not working at all. In fact, it appeared I was not really living.
My Sponsor lovingly looked at my years of pain, grief, and failure with me. She suggested that I read, practice, and pray. And when I did, I made new, healthier mechanisms. Sometimes I still have fears and feelings that are inappropriate. Today, though, I use the slogan “First Things First.” I think before I speak. I walk away if I need to. Today when I walk into an Al‑Anon meeting, I bring a lovely new creation: me.
By Sara B., Arkansas
The Forum, February 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.
There is no pre-registration for joining Al-Anon. All you have to do is look up the meeting you want to attend and start attending. You can find local and virtual or electronic meetings available at: https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/.
Thank you Sara
That is almost exactly my life! My family and friends all love him and I cannot talk with them about it. He recently stopped working, so now spends his days playing golf, or listening to books. I see him when he comes downstairs for dinner and then goes back to his book, drink and passes out. He wakes in the middle of the night and moves from the couch to the chair. I am trying to detach and do things for myself, but what life is that? I only feel more alone and detached, when I had hoped to spend… Read more »
I don’t know how to join can someone call me to tell me
Thank you, Sara B. I related to this line: “ I thought I had it together, but when I came into the rooms of Al‑Anon, I saw y’all.” I’m also in associated program and this morning I found their reading how early on we want to be the “master of [our] destiny” and [fight] to the end to preserve that position.” But that didn’t lead to growth or any real changes. Giving up “having it all together” is where healing started for me, too. Thank you for your piece. Perfect timing for me.
The secrets. The embarrassment that your husband chooses to drink all day instead of spending time with you. That while traveling in a foreign country on vacation he chooses to sit in the hotel bar while you are left to explore the city on your own. That he takes 3-4 naps a day then passes out at 6 pm-another dinner by yourself. And then the constant wondering of why you’re not good enough or interesting enough. You just know your friends with “normal” husbands would also wonder so you keep it to yourself. Secrets.