Tag Archives: April

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.

What does it take to recover in Al-Anon?

“Easy Does It”—that tiny phrase holds so much meaning for me. I’m a lover of history, particularly nautical history and historical fiction. “Easy Does It” is what was said to sailors or longshoremen when a very large, difficult task was being undertaken—a task that required a great deal of effort and strength, but also one that required care, patience, and gentleness. It was for the movement of a great and heavy bulk, but one that was also very delicate.

That reminds me of what it takes to recover in Al‑Anon. Dealing with the behavior of an alcoholic is not just challenging, it’s exhausting—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being on nearly constant alert, suffering the consequences of the disease of alcoholism, or watching as a loved one deals with them, can be excruciatingly difficult. Awareness, honesty, and adherence to the Al‑Anon principles can feel like a deep mental strain, and recovery requires a lot of emotional heavy lifting.

However, as the slogan suggests, I cannot accomplish my daily tasks by reacting and lashing out. I need to be caring, patient, and gentle with the alcoholic, but more importantly, with myself. I find I cannot get to a place of serenity through a forest of bitterness and rage. The only sure way for me to get there is when I follow the principles as laid out by the program.

As the sailors of old knew, I cannot accomplish these tasks alone. It takes a great deal of resources and the concerted effort of a lot of people, all bringing their experience, strength, and hope to bear, in order to ease my burden and carry out what I need to accomplish without breaking anything in the process. Recovery is a great, heavy, delicate load. Al‑Anon members are my crew. The principles of the program are the ropes and the tackle, and together we can move anything.

 

By Patrick P.
The Forum, April 2016

The case for the dual control mattress

One day in a meeting, a friend mentioned that he and his wife bought an adjustable bed with dual controls. The controls allowed them to elevate their heads, change the temperature, and adjust the firmness or softness of the mattress. For a while, they slept great and woke up rested and full of energy.

Time went by. One day, I asked him about his bed and he said, “It is terrible.” He was mad and irritable. He said he was not sleeping at all and was tired of the bed. I was surprised because I’ve heard that those beds are very nice. More time went by and one day he said, “I found out what was wrong with my bed. I had my wife’s control and she had mine!” That was why their sleeping time was unmanageable.

I laughed for a while, and then I experienced a revelation from God—my life is unmanageable because I have my boyfriend’s remote control and he has mine. I became aware of all the times I wanted my boyfriend to do things my way, and he wanted me to do things his way. We did this without talking to each other; we tried to read each other’s mind instead, which always ended in frustration and disappointments.

Accepting that I want to control him because I know what is best for his life is insanity. I am pushing the buttons of his control, and he doesn’t want to live his life my way. The same goes for me; I don’t want to live my life his way. Our lives are unmanageable when we try to control each other.

Accepting that he lives his life differently, and accepting that “different” does not mean “bad” was a big part in my recovery. My action part was to give him back his “remote control,” to take my “remote control” back, and to pray:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept that I cannot control his life,

The courage to only use my remote control to change my life,

And the wisdom to know what remote control I have every morning before I start my day.”

My life has changed in a positive direction as I continue my path to recovery.

 

By Ana E., Colorado
The Forum, April 2016

My mom is on the path to recovery, and so am I

I was awakened by the sound of a male officer’s voice telling me that my mother had just been arrested for drunk driving. I was 12. I should have never had to answer that call.

My mom was arrested for the first time when I was in the sixth grade. I had a friend over for a sleepover and we were waiting for my mom to return home with dinner for us. We waited for hours but she never returned. I watched as she drove down the street on the left side instead of the right and immediately regretted allowing her to drive.

When I answered the phone to find out that it was the local jail telling me she’d been arrested, I knew it was my fault—if I hadn’t let her drive; if I hadn’t wanted takeout food; if I’d been nicer to her—I made up excuses, always blaming myself. She begged us to bail her out, but my dad was out of town. She said she was sorry and asked why we let her drive when she was drunk. Everything she did was our fault.

I couldn’t sleep that night, knowing I was the reason she got caught. Alcohol was just something she had every now and then—a glass of wine while making dinner. After she came home from her night in jail, she was extremely depressed. Refusing to call herself an alcoholic, she hid the alcohol from us and only drank enough to give her a buzzed feeling. She didn’t want to get drunk for the fun of it. She used alcohol as a way to block out the bad feelings. My dad was confused, not knowing how to talk to her. So she drank. I developed a case of extreme social anxiety and I was scared to go to crowded places or to talk to other friends. So she drank. We developed a fake reality. We tried to cover it up by hiding behind the walls of our house so our neighbors and family would think we were a perfect family.

Things didn’t get better. Mom continued to hide the alcohol around the house. My dad moved into the home office, converting it into a bedroom. We didn’t talk about our problems because we were scared to admit that we needed help. We were a broken family, and we all knew it was because of her drinking, but we couldn’t blame her.

My dad researched the disease and told my brother and me about the effects of alcoholism. We found support groups called Al‑Anon and Alateen that were for family members of alcoholics. I was 14 at the time. I asked my dad why we needed to go—mom was the alcoholic. He bribed me to go and I gave it a try.

When I first walked into Alateen, I saw distant, scared faces of people just like me. I could see in their eyes that they’d gone through a lot. By listening to their stories, I heard personal experiences of parents on drugs, abusive parents, kids who witnessed rapes, and many divorce stories. I was lucky that my parents stayed married despite how difficult it was to deal with my mom’s drinking. I knew that if we didn’t support my mom, she might be living on her own somewhere in much worse conditions.

I was surprised about how much I shared at my first Alateen meeting. I had bottled up a lot and didn’t think I’d let it all out. Everyone listened. They responded with, “I’m here for you,” and many members gave me their phone numbers and told me to call them if I ever needed anything. I liked how it didn’t matter that the girl who was sharing was popular and the leader of the cheerleading squad at my school. In Alateen, everything is kept anonymous, so nothing shared in the room would be repeated elsewhere. I felt safe and free to finally share how I felt about my mom.

My mom agreed to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings after her second DUI. Living without a license for six months was difficult for her, and she was scared of getting a third DUI and losing it for a longer period. She came home crying after her first meeting. I was really confused. I didn’t understand why this disease made people so emotional. I thought, “Alcoholism is not like cancer. She’s not dying. She doesn’t have a tumor.” She told me that she had a wiring in her brain that made her addicted to alcohol. It ran through our family, and it would continue to run through my brother and me.

When she went to rehab at the local hospital, my dad, brother, and I went to the family meetings held there. Learning in depth about the disease helped us understand what she was going through. We felt more sympathetic knowing that we had no control over it, unlike what we thought at first.

Now, six years after I answered the phone call that not only changed my life but my mom’s too, I am proud to say that Alcoholics Anonymous, Alateen, and Al‑Anon have worked for my family. I wouldn’t be so accepting, loving, and caring towards my mom today if it wasn’t for these groups. I would still be blaming myself and looking for ways to hide my family secret.

I have learned how common alcoholism is. According to statistics, one in five adult Americans have grown up with an alcoholic parent. Although my mom is not cured of this disease, and may never be, she is on the path to recovery, and I am supportive of her. There is a saying in Alateen that gets me through every rehab, group meeting, family outing, anxiety episode, or anything else in my life—“One Day at a Time.” I will continue taking my days “One Day at a Time,” and live in the moment, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

 

By Courtney E., Iowa
The Forum, April 2016