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.