Many of us in Al‑Anon grew up in families affected by alcoholism. However, we do not always recognize the part this disease played in shaping us into the individuals we are today. Not suspecting that the experiences we had as children affect us as adults, is it any wonder we are bewildered if we find that our lives today are unmanageable?
Through the honest sharings of Al‑Anon members who as children experienced the alcoholism of others, we come to see ourselves more clearly. Despite the often severe hurt and abuse they endured, each individual held tightly to the hope so essential to recovery. We all have family histories that include embarrassingand even devastating events. Fortunately, the experience, strength, and hope of our fellowship expressed on these pages can help us to explore our own roots and lead us to new heights of recovery.
For many of us, facing the past can be extremely difficult and painful. Al‑Anon is a gentle program and recovery is a gradual process. We learn in Al‑Anon to proceed at our own pace. If reading this book feels overwhelming at times, it is alright to take a break and give ourselves the time we need to absorb what others have shared. Talking with a Sponsor or another trusted Al‑Anon member about the feelings we uncover can help prepare us to come back refreshed and ready to continue reading.
With the help of Al‑Anon, if we are persistent in facing our truths, we can find hope. We don’t have to do it all at once, and we don’t have to do it all alone.
Chapter 1 – Do We Belong?
“I feel like I should be in this program and I want to belong, but when I look at my family, the only person I can honestly say is probably an alcoholic is my mother, and she didn’t have much effect on me because she left me the day I was born.” The young man speaking at an Al‑Anon meeting innocently revealed his longing to belong somewhere and his need to find someone—anyone—who could really care. We greeted him with knowing smiles, encouraging words, and a ripple of warm laughter. He most certainly belonged! His isolation and confusion about the significance of his terrible loss at the very start of life are among the common characteristics shared by many of us who have grown up in families affected by alcoholism.
Anyone who has experienced the devastating effects of another’s alcoholism is welcome in Al‑Anon. Even if we feel we were only mildly affected, we belong. Here we come to know that laughing together in spite of the darkness and pain we experienced is one of Al‑Anon’s greatest healing effects. We laugh with each other not only because we think we’re funny—as often we are—but because we recognize the many aspects of ourselves in each other.
We can see in others our own attitudes, actions, and feelings. We can feel their pain and recognize their denial of reality because we too have suffered and hidden from the truth. Yet we have learned that in order to heal and claim the joy that can be ours, we need to see the world as it really is. Learning to do so can be frightening, but in Al‑Anon we have the understanding and love of others like us who are traveling the same road. Together we can find the courage to change the things we can.