My life has been a journey; not always what I expected, but never anything I could not handle. I often think about how I got to be the person I am. I never realized the role alcohol had in all of it.
The first 25 years of my marriage were filled with progressing insanity. As my husband’s disease progressed, so did mine. Denial was my survival tool: ignore the drunken outburst; ignore crying children; ignore car accidents; and ignore verbal and physical abuse. My children were witnesses to all of it. My life was unmanageable and insane, only I didn’t know it. I began to lose my identity. I was the perfect enabler. I made sure everyone around me did not know my secret, or so I thought. I was in control. I made excuses, covered up, and made many deals to avoid the issue.
In 2000, I began to become unraveled, and my children were beginning to show signs of being affected by this family illness. My house was insane. When my husband’s car would pull in the driveway, everyone scattered to avoid him.
I confided to a friend that I could no longer stand it. I went to a therapist, who suggested Al‑Anon. I said, “Why do I need to go to Al-Anon? He has the problem and he needs A.A.” But off I went to the basement of the old church.
I can remember, like it was yesterday, how I felt: scared, nervous, embarrassed, alone, and worried I would know someone, or that I would have to speak. But what I found were people who were friendly, kind, inviting, and nonjudgmental. I felt safe. It is because of those people many years ago that I am in Al-Anon. Every time I see a newcomer, I am humbled and grateful for this program. Where would I be today?
As I continued to attend meetings, I realized these meetings were about me and for me, not him. For the next few months, the Serenity Prayer became my mantra. Practicing the Al-Anon principles and living with an active alcoholic was tough. Things were getting worse at home, but now I knew I had to get control of my home and my children.
One day, after a bad evening with my husband, my 16-year-old daughter wrote me a letter and said, “Either he goes or I go. I can’t live in this house.” That was my “aha” moment. No way was I letting her move out, so I gave my husband 48 hours to leave. He thought it was an idle threat. He bounced around to different family members, finally realizing he needed help. He went to rehab.
Well, I was glad I won. Al-Anon worked. Boundaries were set. He went to A.A and got sober. So I stopped going to Al-Anon. I still wasn’t happy. I couldn’t blame the alcohol anymore; he wasn’t drinking. My therapist, once again, sent me to Al-Anon.
This time, not only did I go back, I worked the program, did the Steps, used the slogans, read literature, got a Sponsor, and used the telephone list. Now, I was truly an active member of
Al-Anon, and lived the principles of the program every day of my life.
It has taken me many years to see that only I can be in control of my life and no one else. I am responsible for my actions and my happiness. This program has taught me self-care, how to do the Fourth Step, and to only take my own inventory. I no longer beat myself up for a slip; there is always tomorrow. One regret I continue to have is that I didn’t act soon enough to protect my children from this disease. I do know I did the best I could at the time. I am still a work in progress.
When an Al-Anon group was started at the church I attended, I thought, “Let me give this a try. It’s my parish and so close to home.” I was no longer afraid I might know someone. So I went and, for a couple of weeks, I was the only one there with the person who started it. But I persevered and today, 11 years later, we still meet every week with sometimes 25 people in attendance. This is my way of paying it forward. The experience, strength, and hope of every person who has walked through this door have helped me on this journey.
I will never forget how and why I am here. I am ever so grateful that my husband is sober 14 years and never had a slip. We are in this together, and both still committed to our programs “One Day at a Time.”
The Forum, June 2016
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.