Tag Archives: Adult Children

Gratitude: my recipe for a peaceful family holiday dinner

Growing up in an alcoholic family, I dreaded the holiday season. Mixing an alcoholic and three “reacters” rarely led to magical moments. Last year’s holidays were the hardest, as they were the first ones since the alcoholic in our family, my dad, died. My brother’s and my pain and mutual resentments were still raw, so we shared an awkward, tense dinner.

As this year’s holidays approached, I felt the familiar fear of family conflict and judgment. I tend to avoid whatever I fear, so I was reluctant to accept the challenge when my family asked me to host this year’s holiday dinner. I’m a self-conscious hostess at the best of times. However, I learned through Al‑Anon that God gives us challenges when we’re ready for them. So I agreed to welcome my disconnected family into my home.

My program helped me change my attitudes and actions before the dinner. In particular, I learned that I needed to let go of my paralyzing fear of conflict and judgment.

First, I reflected on how far I had come in taking care of myself over the past year. I learned that I didn’t have to accept unacceptable behavior, such as hurtful comments or accusations from my relatives. I also learned how to set boundaries. Even though I feared my brother’s rage, I faced my fears by continuing to reach out to him, even if I only e-mailed him once a month. I learned how to build bridges between us rather than walls.

By declining to host our get-togethers, I saw that I was burdening my relatives. My fear of others’ judgment held me back from serving my family. Instead, I needed to share the responsibility for hosting our events. I also realized that I’m rather self-absorbed. The holidays aren’t about me and my cooking skills; they’re an opportunity to heal my family’s weakened sense of unity. My Sponsor put it best: I needed to let go of my ego.

I also learned that it was unfair to expect my brother’s resentment toward me to fade as quickly as I would have liked. He had every right to work through the grief and anger that our dad’s death brought about, in his own time. I needed to be patient, detach, and focus on myself. God gave me faith that my brother’s resentment toward me would eventually fade. Even if it didn’t, I could choose to act maturely and be my best self.

My Al‑Anon program helped me remember that I’m not alone. God is always an available source of help. By working my program, I became willing to change. My attitude toward hosting the dinner evolved from, “Oh, heck no” to “Yes, I can!”

My strategy for success involved returning to the tools that helped me in recent months: prayer, preparation, and practice. Through prayer, I humbly asked God to help me face my fears. I knew I could not succeed—or relax—without God’s help, so I deliberately chose to “Let Go and Let God.”

I prepared emotionally by openly sharing those fears with my Sponsor, my group, and my husband. By communicating honestly, I became much closer to my husband. He became an enormous source of support. He helped me work through my trepidation and channel my energy into planning the menu several weeks in advance. Together, we practiced making every item on the menu and tweaked the recipes to our satisfaction. Cooking actually became a fun challenge that I embraced. I fell in love with my husband all over again.

All our efforts were worthwhile. My family’s holiday dinner was delightfully serene. I felt relatively relaxed and closer than ever to my husband. By placing “principles above personalities,” I was able to avoid reacting when my relatives made minor negative remarks. Instead, I kept my own thoughts positive by focusing on gratitude for my family’s drama-free reunion.

I feel grateful knowing that I did my best and applied the slogan “Let It Begin With Me.” My Higher Power helped heal my family by bringing us together in peace to mark a special occasion. I gained confidence and courage by taking the risk to try new things, knowing that I’m not alone. I could not have asked for a better holiday, and I truly believe that my dad would have been proud of all of us.

What a difference a year makes—when I work my program!

By Lisa G., Ontario
The Forum, December 2016

Forgiving myself for my shortcomings

As a child, I felt I could do nothing right. My father was impatient and critical. I thought, “When I’m grown up, I’ll get it right.” My father’s parenting style was to point out everything that I did wrong, and nothing that I did right. I believe he thought he was helping me become a better person. Of course, I never got everything right, but it didn’t stop me from trying. I demanded too much of myself in striving for my father’s approval. This determination carried over into my roles as a wife, a mother, and an employee.

When I came to Al‑Anon, I heard many slogans and sayings: “Easy Does It,” “Let Go and Let God,” “Progress Not Perfection,” “expectations are resentments waiting to happen,” and “put your oxygen mask on yourself first.” They were perplexing. But I knew there had to be a better way to live, so I kept an open mind, listened at meetings, read Conference Approved Literature, and eventually found a Sponsor.

Once I realized I was expecting too much of myself, I eased up, threw away my lists, and became less pushy. I renounced my endeavors to be perfect. My change in attitude allowed me to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Then it became easier to let go of my expectations of others, and I was also able to forgive them for being human. It was a relief to begin making different choices in my life.

This domino effect led me to find serenity, and my peace of mind and happiness continued to escalate. My faith in Al‑Anon also increased, and I began to understand that my old slogans, such as “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” no longer served me. I recognized that I and others each have our own Higher Power, and I’m not it. My Higher Power started as Al‑Anon, and now it’s something more. “Keep Coming Back.”

 

By Shelley H., Pennsylvania
The Forum, September 2016

My heart is open today

I met someone new recently. It was a completely unexpected event. As I spent time with this person, my heart was touched in a way that it hadn’t been in quite some time. A cascade of feelings came up afterwards, and I was a little unsettled for a while. I continued to work Steps One through Three and Ten through Eleven, every day, as I walked through all the feelings.

One thing I came to see is that meeting this new person and having my heart open up brought up other times in my life when I opened my heart for someone, but that someone was just not available to me.

When I was a young girl growing up in alcoholism, my father was the first person who was unavailable to me. He remained unavailable until he got into Alcoholics Anonymous and tried to reach out to me when I was in my 30s. By then, my heart had been hurt so badly that I was not able to let him back into my life. That was before I found my way to Al-Anon.

My mom was also not available. She was very focused on my father in the way that we all focus on the alcoholic when they are suffering in their disease. Unfortunately, the family I was born into has been deeply impacted by alcoholism. Although my father has long since passed away from the disease, my mother, brother, and I have not yet found our way back to each other.

I know that I have also had my heart open in romantic relationships where the other person was not available. I also know that before I found my way to Al-Anon, I was not available either.

I am available today, though. My heart is open, thanks to Al-Anon. Meeting this new person has helped me to see that I have some grieving to do for the times I gave my heart to someone who was not in a position to receive it. I am grateful for Al-Anon’s book, Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses (B-29), which I can refer to as I work through my grief.

The gift of this experience is that my Higher Power is giving me an opportunity to see some of my past patterns in relationships more clearly, and to do another layer of healing. It feels good, today, to have the capacity to be in relationships with people who are available to be with me. I am very grateful to the Al-Anon fellowship for these gifts.

 

By Anonymous
The Forum, July 2016

Shedding the emotional weight

It has been almost 14 years since my father had his last drink, his last rage, his last broken promise, and his last lie. But it wasn’t until he stopped drinking that I realized I was just as sick as him. I wanted so much to trust his words, to not be afraid of him getting angry, and to trust that he wouldn’t lie to me. But the reality was that I still feared all of it. He stopped drinking, but I didn’t stop fearing.

The sickness boiled over into other relationships and affected my social life. As long as I could remember, I feared alcohol and places where people would over-drink, like parties, weddings, and bars. I never knew if someone would get out of control and hurt me. When deciding on who I was going to let into my life, I had a strict screening process. I felt I had to protect my children and myself from going through what I had lived through as a child and young adult. I thought all this made me healthy. I thought that although I couldn’t control my father or my home life when I was a child, I could certainly control it as an adult. I was protected and I was safe.

In Al-Anon, I have learned that control is a façade that people who live or have lived with an alcoholic needed to protect themselves. In reality, I don’t have any control over people, places, or things. I have learned that not only do I not have control, I don’t even want it. Having that much control meant that I had to have that much responsibility in everyone else’s life—a burden much too heavy to carry. In Al-Anon, I learned ways to become free of that emotional weight. I learned that in trusting myself, I could trust others. In loving myself, I have learned to love others. In being strong and emotionally sound, I have developed strong and emotionally sound relationships. Al-Anon gives me the tools to set me free.

Today, through my continued commitment in the Al-Anon program, I am strong and I know that no matter what happens in my life, I am capable of handling it. I am no longer afraid.

“Looking back and remembering what I was like…makes me realize how grateful I am to the program.” Alateen—a day at a time (B-10), p. 366

 

By Sarah R., Maryland
The Forum, May 2016

Today, silence is golden for me

I cringed when I first came to Al‑Anon and heard the words “silence is golden when you listen to your Higher Power.”

When I was growing up, my mother fell a lot. The truth was my father was a very abusive alcoholic. He would physically and verbally abuse my mother. Other times, he was funny, often joking and giving everyone and anyone anything they wanted.

All that changed when I turned 12 years old. After one of those bad episodes, my mother told my father that if he ever hit her again, she would let his family know what was happening in our home. My father’s family thought he was the greatest and, at times, he was. They did not know what was going on behind closed doors and many miles away. I don’t think he believed her because he hit her again. She kept her promise and wrote a letter to the family informing them what was happening.

My sister was getting married that summer. My father’s family came in about three days early. They could have confronted him at any time prior to the wedding. However, they decided to confront him at the reception, after he had been drinking most of the night. When we got home, all hell broke loose. There was screaming and yelling, “Why did you tell my family that? It’s not true. I never laid a hand on you!”

All the puzzle pieces came together for me that night. I realized that my mother did not fall all the time—he was hitting her. I never saw the abuse, though I did at times hear it. Being young, I never put twoand two together. That night, my life changed forever.

My father never laid a hand on my mother again from that point on. What he did do, however, is become mentally abusive. He would not speak to her. They would go for months upon months not speaking to one another. If she walked into a room and he was there, he would walk out. One year, they missed the full year mark of not speaking to one another by only two weeks. It would take a family tragedy to get them to talk, crises with one of us six children getting into trouble, or vacation time.

For the teenager I was, the silence was horrible. I can’t imagine what it was like for my mother—a woman who loved this man and stayed with him through thick and thin—to be treated like that. She used to tell me that she wished he would go back to the hitting her because at least there was a honeymoon period and things would be good for a while.

I don’t know how long after this that my mother found Al‑Anon. She would leave literature around the house for everyone to see and read. At times, she even offered to take me to a meeting, but my thought was “I don’t have a problem with it.” At times, I thought my mother was crazy for leaving the literature and wondered why she was doing it. The truth was she was planting a seed for us children—and it worked. When I realized I had married a man just like my father, I remembered those pamphlets and remembered the Al‑Anon name. When the time came, I knew where to go, and I did.

So you see, I did not like silence (the “bad silence” I grew up with) and wanted no part of it, or for people to tell me to be silent and listen to my Higher Power. But I learned that there is “good silence”—Step Eleven and listening to my Higher Power.

Silence is golden for me, and now after 14 years in the program, I welcome it. Step Eleven teaches me to be silent through prayer and meditation, to help keep me focused on my Higher Power, and to bring me through whatever it is I need to get through, even when my past comes back to me.

 

By Susan T., Michigan
The Forum, December 2015