The Secret

As I walked into my first meeting my mind screamed with the question—What’s the secret to get my son to stop drinking and using? I had tried everything—counseling, rehab, psychiatry, new schools, and new cars. Nothing worked. He was destroying himself, and I was powerless to stop him. I felt I had to find the secret. Al‑Anon members were the nicest people I’d ever met, but they wouldn’t tell me the secret. They just smiled and said, “Keep Coming Back.” I did go back, and I felt a little better after each meeting.

I learned to lower my expectations and to stop accepting responsibility for my son’s decisions. I learned that detaching with love does not mean abandoning. I learned to respond, rather than react. I learned I could become part of this worldwide fellowship that offers support when my work takes me from city to city. It took time to weave these lessons into the fabric of my life. Eventually, I realized I had been asking the wrong question. Instead of asking How can I get my son to stop drinking and using? the question was How can I find peace in the face of my son’s self-destructive behavior? I realize that the members had given me the secret that first night, but I hadn’t understood it. The secret for me was to “Keep Coming Back.”

By Don B., Ohio

The Forum, August 2018

2018-07-31T14:57:05+00:00July 31, 2018|Categories: Alcoholic Child, The Forum|


  1. Marsha November 2018 at 7:14 am

    Our daughter is a heroin addict and alcoholic. When she disclosed this to me, my husband and I decided to move to be closer to her. She was in yet another treatment center, and for the first time her counselor wanted us to go to a family meeting. Our daughter never wanted us involved before this. The day of the meeting, my husband was going to leave work early, and we were ready to go. I dropped him off at work and went home. When I got home, I received a call from her counselor, that my daughter had left the treatment center and proceeded to go to the 6th floor of a building and jump off. It was an extremely serious attempt at suicide. By a miracle, she landed on a car and lived, with a shattered pelvis, broken bones, skull fracture. We didn’t know right away that she was going to live and proceeded to drive the 2 hours to where she was in the trauma unit. When we got there she was talking, and her counselor was sitting beside her. I was so relieved she was alive and it seems she would be alright eventually, at least physically. I was left with tremendous guilt, it felt like my fault. She was in the hospital for quite some time, and we visited her quite a bit, and then they moved her to a rehabilitation facility for physical therapy. She was being given oxycontin, despite the fact that they knew she was a heroin addict and despite my conversations with the doctors, they didn’t get it. When she was going to be discharged from the rehab center, they wanted me to take control of her oxycontin, and I had told them all along I do not want that role. They wouldn’t listen to me. Our daughter stayed with us for one month, and it became clear she had no intention of trying to become clean and sober. So with the help of her counselor, and Alanon, we decided that we would insist that she go to another treatment center. She was in a wheelchair for 3 months, and I could find no treatment center that would take her in a wheelchair except for one about 1500 miles away. So she went there. We paid for everything. After a month, she contacted me and asked me what she was suppose to do now. From what I had learned from Alanon, I told her that she would have to figure that out herself. So she found a sober living house, and from then on, she stopped communication with me. It’s been over 4 years, with one point we talked a few times on FaceTime, and then she stopped talking to me again, and I haven’t heard from her since March of 2018. This is very painful, and I’ve found through Alanon many ways to cope, but I don’t get to meetings much. I still feel guilty, and feel like I made a lot of mistakes in her upbringing. I am a recovering addict and alcoholic myself, sober and clean for 34 years. It hasn’t always been a picnic. It’s very painful to not have a relationship with my daughter. I miss her so much. I can only try and practice the principles of alanon, as best as I can. Thank you….

  2. Missy September 2018 at 7:23 pm

    I will be attending my first meeting tomorrow night. I have already gained encouragement by reading your comments, thank you.

  3. Bobbie September 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I am living in fear today. And I have gone to meetings. Which helps. The 3 ‘s. Yes. The fear will change if I keep doing what I need to do

  4. Anonymous September 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Go to meeting, read literature and connect with your higher power, all takes time

  5. Maria S. August 2018 at 8:42 am

    I have been in Al-Anon for 5 years and have finally come to realize that “I cannot change anyone but myself.” My son has been struggling from bi-polar and addiction for 27 years. He has put our family thru hell but we still love him but will not fix his messes anymore. My HP has given me the strength and knowledge to accept this.
    I attend 2 meetings a week, have been a GR and am now a Chairperson for Institutions. I have a sponsor. I am working my program. It has helped me in ALL areas of my life.
    Keep coming back!

  6. Anonymous August 2018 at 12:17 pm

    The serenity prayer helps me to find peace.

  7. Darlene H. August 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I think my daughter has started drinking again. I don’t know if I should confront her.

  8. Roy A. August 2018 at 6:12 am

    We are powerless, but not helpless, in the face of another’s self-destructive behaviour. The sooner I realize this at a heart level rather than a head level, the sooner I can begin to make progress. Detachment is big for me–detachment from the problem but still loving the person.

  9. Kathi G August 2018 at 1:31 pm

    I have a son that has been drinking/using for 18 yrs. He was the last thing on my mind at night and the first thing on my mind in the morning. I started attending Al-Anon meetings 10 yrs ago and I have found peace. How??? I stopped taking responsibility for HIS drinking/using. I detached from his situation but not from him and I kept repeating the 3 C’s … I didn’t CAUSE it, I can’t CONTROL it and I can’t CURE it. When that light bulb FINALLY went on I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted. Have I had setbacks? Absolutely! The trick to peace? Keep coming back. Every meeting is ended with “Keep coming back, it works if you work it, and WE’RE WORTH IT” and we are. Each and every one of us dealing with this are worth taking care of and finding peace. Good luck to you and keep getting to those meetings.

  10. Chris Z. August 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Besides the ‘keep coming back’, I have found it immensely helpful to pray for our loved ones. Also meditation is also a great gift. HP is always there for you…..

  11. Linda August 2018 at 12:28 pm

    That is a feeling I know and understand all too well. Al-Anon meetings are a wonderful place to learn how to find peace. It seems impossible while you have a child in so much trouble, but serenity is possible.

  12. Charles N August 2018 at 11:09 am

    I am going to a counseling session later today with my wife and two daughters. We all attend twelve step meetings and recently my 48 year old son reached out to us to “rejoin” the family. He has survived over 30 years of addictive behavior and today we will discuss together how to use the programs we have to help ourselves and just maybe, him too. It can seem that despair is easier to accept than hope when hope is dashed over and over again. I try to stay balanced and choose the hope for myself rather than the struggling alcoholic/addict. And I do believe that miracles can happen.

  13. Katherine B. August 2018 at 11:40 pm

    I feel so powerless with my sons self destructive behavior.
    How can I find peace?

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