Truth was hard to come by in my family. Growing up with a disabled and moody dad with chronic pain and lots of health problems was not the easiest experience for a young kid. What made it worse was that we never talked about it or admitted that it was frustrating and upsetting to live with those challenges. As a family, we pretended he was okay and did our best to seem as normal as possible to the outside world. I thought as long as no one came inside to see the wheelchair, wooden leg, crutches, and medical supplies or notice the ambulances coming late at night, no one would know that my family wasn’t quite normal.

After my dad died and I was a teenager living with an alcoholic stepfather, I didn’t think much had changed. By then, I was so numb to my feelings about my family that it didn’t occur to me to be embarrassed about him passing out every night. As usual, the family’s priority was to act as if everything was okay, so we swept his drinking under the same rug we had swept my dad’s problems. I was left feeling that no one cared what I felt or thought anyway.

When I came to Al‑Anon in my mid-30s, I had a serious need to hear some truth, and I found plenty of it. People in meetings talked straight about being neglected and mistreated. They revealed their deepest secrets and talked openly about how poorly they had handled the problems caused by the alcoholics in their lives. People cried, and they laughed. Part of me felt like I had landed in heaven, and another part was terrified at the prospect of getting honest myself. One of the greatest gifts I have received from Al‑Anon is learning to speak my truth—not in anger, like I did as a teen, but clearly, without apology, and without shame or guilt. In the loving presence of other members committed to honesty, I can do what my family could not—acknowledge the real story of who I am, what I am coping with, and how I am doing it. It may not be perfect, but it’s real. Today, thanks to Al‑Anon, I can handle that.

By Dylan M., New York

The Forum, August 2019