When I came to my first Al‑Anon meeting, I did not come to get my mother well. I knew I was a mess. I knew, too, that there was something very wrong with my family, but I couldn’t articulate what it was. I just felt nervous and worried all the time. In fact, I don’t remember a time up until then when I felt at peace. Further, despite being raised by fundamentalist parents, I felt little comfort in religion. At the end of that first meeting, though, when people welcomed me with hugs and words of understanding, I knew there was something genuine there. And I knew I wanted it.
As I continued to return, and I became more able to truly listen to the other members share their experiences, something amazing began to unfold for me. I gained understanding as I heard my story in theirs, and I could acknowledge the pain I had felt for so long. It was as if I had been unable to admit how I had been affected by alcoholism until I heard others talk about it.
Over the next couple of years, I spent time with my first Sponsor, who told me to “get in the car.” We went to Al‑Anon weekend retreats, speaker meetings, and conventions—anywhere we could to supplement our recovery. I met people from all over the country at these gatherings. And, as I got to know them, I got to reach out of my shyness and start to know myself for the first time. When I was little, I was the kid who hopped on his bicycle and rode to the new neighbor’s to say hello. By the time I reached Al‑Anon, the disease had turned me into a shy boy who just tried to stay out of the way and off the radar. Because my Sponsor encouraged me to try new things and get to know new people, my self-esteem grew, and I began to like who I was.
Once I started acting in some group-level service roles, I began to feel more confident. I took the focus off of my alcoholic loved ones and instead looked at myself. After several times of dropping out of college, I saw—finally—that I could succeed if I just took it a day at a time. I learned that I could not only do well, but that I could enjoy the experience. Even in the difficult semesters, I found that I could do whatever was placed before me.
Most importantly, however, Al‑Anon gave me my Higher Power. As a preacher’s kid, I always believed in God, but the disease can do a real number on one’s views of spirituality. I didn’t feel much like God liked me, and so establishing a close relationship with Him was difficult. When I heard people at meetings talk about how much God had brought them through, I began to have hope that I, too, might experience a spiritual awakening. And soon I did. It didn’t happen in a flash all at once. It happened through many meetings, tear-laced talks with members, and reading Conference Approved Literature. And it continues to happen today.
I know today that every gift I have received in and out of the fellowship has come from my Higher Power. I see it as my job to pass them along to others still hurting from the effects of this disease, as it is true what I have heard in meetings—“to keep it, I’ve got to give it away.”
By Mark S., Magazine Editor
The Forum, December 2019