The disease of alcoholism wove its thread through our family for as far back as I can remember. As a child, I was protected from some of the darkness related to it—the death of one uncle due to liver failure and the suicide of another. Later, I experienced my grandfather’s taunting and my father’s flares of anger. Both were alcoholics. Sometimes, the heaviness in my heart felt like a dam that held back painful memories of embarrassment and shame, and was about to burst.
As an adult, I felt inadequate as a wife. Believing that any conflict was my fault, I endured years of verbal abuse and episodes of rage from my alcoholic spouse. Our children were generous in spirit and action, tactfully dealing with intolerable days. One particularly distressful night, I retreated to a bathroom and locked myself in, away from hostile glances and exhibitions of fury. I caught myself incessantly humming rather than giving in to screaming, as a visceral outpouring of grief. That night, I made the decision to attend my first Al‑Anon meeting.
Now, I attend meetings regularly. In Al‑Anon, I learned how to handle difficult moments with more grace and to accept situations for what they are, not as they might be. Sharing vulnerabilities takes courage, but the group interaction uplifts me and I no longer feel alone.
Al‑Anon has helped me to become aware of the effects of alcoholism in my family, accept its realities and impact, and take action focusing on my recovery.
I do not cause the alcoholic to drink; I am not able to control behaviors other than my own; and I cannot cure alcoholism. My staying with the alcoholic does not mean that I am complicit in a charade or condone bad behaviors. Rather than dissolving into another performance of “pitiful me,” I now detach and try to calmly accomplish something with my day. Taking a simple walk for my well-being is an achievement.
My aspiration is to continue to take steps to embrace serenity, make positive changes in my life, and contribute in Al‑Anon groups to help others. I find contentment “One Day at a Time.” Today, there are moments that are positively joyful, and hope where once there was hopelessness.
By Nancy C., Ontario
The Forum, March 2016
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.