Category Archives: The Forum

Keep Coming Back

After an Al-Anon meeting one night, I stood outside the church in the freezing rain. Cars drove away, and people waved to each other with promises to meet next week. Once again, I felt deep despair because no one in the meeting was able to give me the answers I needed. I wanted a recipe for ensuring the sobriety of the alcoholic. I hoped for a prescription to put my shattered family back together and to enjoy a good night’s sleep without worrying about the next bounced check or overdue bill. Instead, a woman grasped my hands before I left, looked into my tear‑filled eyes and said, “Just ‘Keep Coming Back.’” Is she kidding? Why would I come back here? I thought as I drove home that night. I resolved not to go back.

But I did go back. I went back because of the urging of a friend who had been in these meetings for many years. And I went back because the literature I began reading told me that alcoholism is a disease and that there was nothing I could do to get my loved one sober. As I studied the Steps, worked with a Sponsor and continued to attend meetings, I learned that I could live life with hope and serenity with or without the sobriety of another.

That was over 30 years ago. I have learned a great deal about the disease of alcoholism, how to live with the alcoholics in my family and how to care for myself in order to live a fuller life. One of the things I do for my self‑care is to regularly attend meetings. And I try not to miss an opportunity to welcome newcomers. I grab their hands, look into their tear‑filled eyes and say, “Just ‘Keep Coming Back.’”

By Laura P., Colorado

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA. 

My Difficulties Led Me to a Place of Abundance

My feelings of “lack” all connected to events that occurred in my childhood alcoholic home. The fighting, drunkenness and disorder all confirmed to me that there was not enough love, peace, sanity, money or even the basic needs to lead a successful life. There were fleeting moments when I got a glimpse of a broader, more abundant world, but I would quickly retreat back into what seemed like a normal and safe view. I thought there would never be enough of anything for me, and that I was some kind of a mistake.

Through practicing Al-Anon principles, I have learned that I am not a mistake and that my life is exactly what it is supposed to be. None of the events of my childhood or adult life in alcoholic relationships were sent as punishment, but as a path to enlightenment. I’ve learned that a “good” life can be a wasted life and that difficulties can lead me to a place of abundance. Unconditional love is available to me when I open my heart and give from a place of abundance. Today abundance begins deep inside me and spreads from there to affect all of the external relationships and circumstances in my life.

By Bette R., Oregon
The Forum, June 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

I Became Willing To Surrender

I didn’t realize how deeply I was affected by alcoholism until I went to Al‑Anon. When I was living in it, around it and next to it, I simply became a part of it and I became an expert at my own role. My role? Let’s fix it before anyone finds out! The trouble was, nothing remained fixed. My frustration and resentment were covered up with denial and determination, accented with my need to control.

One of the first things I learned in Al‑Anon was that I was powerless, and, if anything, I was controlled by the alcoholic. After months of struggling with the First Step, I finally accepted how unmanageable my life had become. When I finally admitted I was powerless and my life had become unmanageable, what followed was a sense of freedom. I no longer felt responsible for the alcoholic.

It was only then that I became aware of not only how stubborn I was, but how strong-willed I had become. Me, surrender? No way was I giving up, because that meant I had failed. I would rather die trying!

I can laugh about that now, because my journey became an endless battle of letting go and taking it back. When I finally did surrender, not only to my powerlessness, but to the Al‑Anon program and my Higher Power, life became much easier.

The freedom that followed gave me the ability to finally let go of what I was not responsible for and move forward to a life of discovering who I was. No longer does my past dictate who I am, but I allow it to be a part of who I am becoming.

Today, I owe everything I am or hope to be to the God of my understanding. He works through Al‑Anon and all those He puts in my life. I am slowly giving the alcoholics in my life their dignity and the right to live as they choose. I’m learning to respect their feelings, their rights and their decisions along with my own. I believe today that God has a plan for each of us, and no one has the right to interfere—least of all me!

By Anne F., Ontario
The Forum, June 2017

 Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

The Beginning of My Serenity

I spent more nights than I can remember lying awake, tossing and turning over past mistakes and the ever-growing fear of the future with an alcoholic. I would wake in the middle of the night and not be able to return to sleep. I agonized over the seemingly horrible decisions of my past, which morphed into the blackness of despair for my hopeless future.

Each new fear replaced another as my nightmare scenarios increased exponentially. My Sponsor lovingly listened to my pitiful story. When I finally paused for a breath, she made two simple suggestions—say the Serenity Prayer, and make a gratitude list.

I knew my decision to attend Al‑Anon was a realization that I needed help, and I was ready to listen. That night when I was still wrapped in a cloak of victimhood and couldn’t sleep, I tried repeating the Serenity Prayer over and over, each time focusing on every word and its meaning. Eventually, I began a gratitude list. I did not believe I had much to be grateful for, so I began with a very simple list.

I was grateful for a warm, comfortable bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, the coolness of air on my skin, the soothing sound of the fan next to my bed, etc. Focusing on the many things for which I did feel gratitude, I fell soundly asleep and woke up refreshed the next morning.

Today, looking back, I realize this was the beginning of my serenity, the beginning of my recovery and the beginning of a whole new life of gratitude.

By Keith K., Florida
The Forum, May 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

Choosing Whether to Ride the Roller Coaster

Loving an alcoholic is like being on a roller coaster. The ride involves unexpected twists and turns, and things can get very scary. One moment I’m riding high and enjoying the view, and in the next instant, I am plunging to new depths. Just when I think the ride has come to an end, it seems I am taken on another crazy adventure. At times, things are upside down, and I feel like throwing up or jumping off the ride.

There definitely is a thrill to being on the roller coaster of crisis and chaos—it’s exciting, dramatic and distracting. The experience gets my adrenaline going and makes me feel alive. However, the roller coaster has a dark side. I forget to take care of myself, and I neglect other important responsibilities. I can get so used to being on the ride that I forget to put my feet on the ground once in a while.

Al‑Anon has helped me know that I have a choice today about whether I stay on the ride. I can even leave the amusement park if I so choose. It’s okay to take a break from the roller coaster and catch my breath.

By Christina S., Ohio
The Forum, May 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

Finding hope at my first Al-Anon meeting

When I started coming to Al‑Anon over 20 years ago, I had no light, no hope in my life. I had been married almost a year when I walked through the doors of my first meeting. Everything on that day felt like darkness and despair to me.

During the meeting, I remember the lighting in the room as being dim. The atmosphere seemed to add to my mood. I remember thinking, “How could these people, sitting around a table—actually smiling—understand what I was experiencing?” I felt I desperately needed to quickly find a solution to help me handle what appeared at that time to be an insurmountable problem in my life!

As I searched the eyes of those sitting around the table, I had a strange sense that I was in the right place. Although just sitting in the chair at the table was challenging for me, I tried my best to focus and listen, to take it all in. I wanted to feel something. My mind kept whirling. I asked myself what was going to happen to us, what would the future bring, and could or would my life ever change? I had no hope.

I heard someone read a passage from a pamphlet that I found out later was titled, Understanding Ourselves & Alcoholism (P-48). The words that resonated with me then included:

“Perhaps the most severe damage to those of us who have shared some part of life with an alcoholic comes in the form of the nagging belief that we are somehow at fault. We may feel it was something we did or did not do—that we were not good enough, not attractive enough, or not clever enough to have solved this problem for the one we love. These are our feelings of guilt.”

Ahhh . . . feelings of guilt got my attention. My solution that night was to buy Al‑Anon literature, take it home, read it, and figure out what I needed to do. Luckily, I couldn’t figure out what to do on my own. I did find hope in the pages I read and the courage to keep coming back to Al‑Anon meetings. I was grateful at each meeting for the presence of the other members.

Although this was a very dark period in my life, I am aware that if it had not been for the presence of those smiling members at my first meeting, I would not be where I am today—thankful to be a part of the hope for those seeking our fellowship now and in the future!

By Marsha W., Director of Programs
The Forum, April 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

My closet, myself

Several years ago, I looked at my closet. It was a mess, everything in disarray. I couldn’t find anything. I didn’t know where to begin to sort it out. My closet seemed a reflection of me. I was a mess, at a loss. Where and how could I begin to change things?

Then I found Al‑Anon. I began to realize that the clutter in my closet reflected the clutter in my mind. I couldn’t sort things through. At meetings, I learned I didn’t have to do everything at once, whether in cleaning my closet or in straightening out my thoughts.

I could take baby steps. I started with my shoes. There they were, that one great-looking pair. The downside was the pain they caused me when I wore them. I had to give them away. Some people in my life were also causing me pain. Al‑Anon taught me I could rethink those relationships and, in the end, do what was best for me.

Next, I looked at my clothes, many of which were not a good fit. I could donate what wasn’t working for me anymore and keep what made me feel good. I learned in Al‑Anon if a situation didn’t feel right, I could make a change. When I changed the way I looked at things I could make a better decision.

As I cleaned out my closet, I could find things more easily. At the same time, my mind was getting more organized. When my side of the closet looked pretty good, I started to take inventory of my husband’s side, but in Al‑Anon I learned I could only change myself.

Now my closet is neat most of the time. Sometimes I fall back I into old habits and it gets a little messy. I realize that life can be messy; it is matter of seeking “Progress not Perfection.” So, I continue to go to meetings, read literature, practice the Steps and Traditions, speak to others in the program, and do service. By practicing my program, I have found serenity and have a really nice closet as well.

By Arlene L., Florida
The Forum, April 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

I came for a quick fix and found a way of life

As I look back, when I walked through the doors of Al‑Anon, I had planned to stay long enough to find out how to get the miracle of sobriety in my home. I’m still there!

I was broken spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I had given up on everything and everyone. A friend dragged me to Al‑Anon, but I was sure it was hopeless.

After my first meeting, I was still very angry. How could all those people be happy and smiling? Their homes could not be as bad as mine. Fortunately, I wanted to laugh and smile too. A member, who later became my Sponsor, took an interest in me as a newcomer, and I kept coming back.

The slogans and all the tools annoyed me, and I didn’t share. I thought I didn’t need Step One because I was surely in control. I didn’t need Step Two because there was no way I had done anything wrong. Did I ever have a closed mind! But for some unknown reason, I kept going.

One night, I went with a group of women to another group’s anniversary. They had an Al‑Anon and A.A. speaker. My Higher Power moved me that night. Everything I heard there and all that had been shared in meetings made sense. I finally understood powerlessness, and I surrendered.

I started taking care of myself and gave the alcoholic a choice to get help or to go his own way.

I worked the program every day, especially the Steps and Traditions. It became easier. Five years later, we got the miracle of sobriety in our home, and we both work our programs today. But the real miracle was finding me. In Al‑Anon, I learned how to change my life and really live.

By Bertie P., Florida
The Forum, March 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

My son’s alcoholism challenged my whole identity

I was in my Al‑Anon home group meeting yesterday when I looked over at a newcomer and saw my previous pain on another woman’s face. I remembered the overwhelming heartache, like nothing I had ever felt before, as I realized—my beautiful baby boy is an alcoholic.

Before Al‑Anon, nothing else was as much a priority as keeping my son alive. In my mind, he could die at any time from this disease, and a good mom would do anything to help her child. I was embarrassed that people would think I had done something wrong in raising my son. I begged, cried, and obsessed about finding help for him and his drinking.

This included behaviors I had long ago abandoned, because as a child I was not allowed to express opinions and have feelings. I had also grown up in a home tainted by this disease. As an adult, I knew that was the wrong way to raise a family. I thought I knew the exact answers on how to have a successful, loving family. Much of my thinking was based on a television show that I had watched as a child to escape my reality.

My son’s addiction challenged my whole identity. I remember begging my Higher Power for a book that would tell me exactly what to do. I would do it exactly that way, no matter how grueling and tiresome.

I was willing to lose my home to send him to rehabilitation. I neglected my husband and my other three children. My best friend at the time abruptly stopped talking to me. My husband wanted our son out of the home. Even my son wanted out of the home and went so far as to try to get social services to remove him.

The worst reality was that my son resented me. His resentment and dislike sent me back to the rooms of Al‑Anon. I had been there years before because of the effects of my husband’s alcoholism. It just never occurred to me to go because of my child.

I now have my own life, with no time to immerse myself in others’ lives. I learned through working the Steps to recognize my feelings, without stifling them to the point they begin to own me. I remember doing everything as fast as possible to get as much done as possible and feel as little as possible. I thought I had to work in servitude to others. In Al‑Anon, I learned that if I was resentful in this made-up slavery, it wasn’t a gift or service to others.

The hardest part was learning to be still with myself. At first, I would have to do needlework during meetings, just to sit that long. The greatest thing I learned was that I could not control all my defects of character, but my Higher Power could and would, if I asked. In my mind, I would visualize that my Higher Power loved my son as much if not more than I did. Daily, I would imagine my Higher Power surrounded by children. I would swaddle my son with a blanket and hand him over to his Higher Power.

Today, the biggest reward is my relationships with others. If not for Al‑Anon, I would have alienated everyone I knew. My oldest daughter and I are true friends. She has forgiven me for the neglect she had to endure and the responsibility she had to assume. My youngest two children are finding their own identities. My husband is allowed to have his own opinion and actions separate from mine. My son and I don’t have long, heartfelt conversations, but he will spontaneously hug me, and I know I have overcome his resentment.

By Chris M.
The Forum, March 2017

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Hdqts., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.

Today, I’m doing more of what makes me happy

“Don’t make me stop this car!” The bold quote on the travel mug sitting on the shop shelf caught my eye. I laughed out loud. How many times had I said that to my daughter? I bought the mug.

That was six years ago. Today, I grimace when I think how I blamed my youngest for my crazy behavior. No one can make me act a certain way; only I can control my emotions and conduct.

Today, I don’t even like the travel mug that once made me giggle. But I keep it to remind me how far I’ve come. When I feel my anger surging, I no longer blame others, but look within to find my part in it.

Recently, I bought another mug that makes me smile. It says, “Do more of what makes you happy.” It took some reflection and investigation to rediscover what makes me happy. I was so busy working on my career and being a wife and mother that I felt I had no time to make myself happy. I thought back to high school and remembered I enjoyed arts and crafts. I searched for classes and studios I could join. Each day, I try to do something nourishing. Sometimes, it’s something small, like picking up a new library book.

My transformation began when I heard at a meeting how the flight attendant always instructs passengers to place the oxygen mask on them first, before turning to help anyone else. I had flown and heard this before, but this was the first time I accepted it as my responsibility for my self-care. It’s not selfish. It’s logical. How can I help the person or child next to me if I can’t breathe?

When I’m happy, it’s easier to think calmly. Through Conference Approved Literature, listening at meetings, and sharing honestly with trusted friends, I’ve learned that I have choices and what my choices are. I can change. I can learn to take care of and control myself. I’ve altered my attitude and it’s transformed my life. “Keep Coming Back.”

By Shelley H., Pennsylvania
The Forum, December 2016