Tag Archives: October

I listened for the similarities, not the differences

A friend of mine says there ought to be a hologram over every Al‑Anon member’s face whenever a newcomer comes to a meeting. The hologram would be an image of each member as he or she appeared at that first meeting. Mine would show me unkempt and panicked, perhaps with my arms crossed to keep people away. I think that hologram might comfort the people just coming in and let them know we’ve all been where they are.

I was so angry, afraid, and confused. I don’t think I came in to find out how to get an alcoholic sober, because I had tried everything. A neighbor had suggested it might help me, because I was worried that the insanity I’d seen in my family might be contagious. I did not want to belong. I had no desire to “Keep Coming Back,” and so I listened for the differences. He was affected by parents, she by a son, and you by a daughter. I had many people whose drinking bothered me. Your situations were different. You were different. I didn’t fit in, and I certainly didn’t belong. To be honest, I don’t think I heard a thing in my first meeting without putting it through a “that’s not me” filter.

I went back to my neighbor, and he told me about listening for the similarities. He urged me to try again. I went back and the miracles started. I heard the feelings, and they were my feelings. In my second meeting, I decided that you have been reading my mail. I still didn’t want to belong. I was still angry, afraid, and confused. But there was another feeling that was born that day—hope. I discovered that hope was at the bottom of my Pandora’s Box of feelings.

I kept coming. I was able to identify more feelings than anger, fear, and confusion. I was able to talk about them to other members, and I was able to let them go. For me, sharing was (and still is) perhaps the most powerful tool of the Al‑Anon program. My concept of a Higher Power needed a lot of work. When I listened to members share, I got ideas on where I needed to adjust my understanding, and I heard my Higher Power in their words.

I kept coming. I was able to build healthy relationships, set boundaries, and love unconditionally. I learned all that. I kept coming. I started passing on what had been given to me for fun and for free. As I passed it on, I learned it. I really learned it. Thanks for letting me heal.

By Claudia M., Arizona
The Forum, October 2016

I can love my daughter without trying to manage her life

Growing up in an alcoholic household, I learned at a young age to be a problem solver. When I was 12-years old, the alcoholic in our family died and, as the oldest boy, I became “the man of the family.” This burden of responsibility was the catalyst for over-achievement, which served me well as a youngster but became my downfall as the mature father of a teen-age alcoholic daughter.

From the time my daughter was 15 and until she turned 30, we tried every drug, alcohol, and eating disorder program we could afford. Some were Twelve Step oriented; some were not. There were lock-down facilities, group homes, in-patient and outpatient therapy, recovery ranches, and wilderness programs in different parts of the country. I considered myself a smart and resourceful problem solver, and it would only be a matter of time until we found the right solution to our daughter’s problem.

Fifteen years and tens of thousands of dollars later, we were no closer to “curing” her than we were at the start. She had become my daily obsession. The quality of my life depended entirely upon the quality of hers. Was she in a crisis this week, or was she safe? Was she in a psych ward or in jail, or was she temporarily okay? The pain of living my daughter’s life for her finally became too much to bear. I started therapy and began to attend Al‑Anon meetings.

One winter day on a business trip, I stopped in at a church to say a prayer. As I knelt, the thought occurred to me that our daughter had been a gift to us from a Higher Power, and that I needed now to let go of that gift if I were ever to know any peace. With tears streaming down my face, I absolutely surrendered my child’s life to a Higher Power.

A feeling of enormous relief came over me, and I felt as though the heavy burden I had been carrying for many years had been lifted. I no longer had to be the efficient problem solver. I could love my daughter without trying to manage her life. I didn’t have to be competent at everything, and I am entitled to take care of myself before taking care of another. Most of all, I understood that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to be helpless sometimes.

These were life lessons I somehow had missed growing up, and listening to the experience, wisdom, and hope of others in Al‑Anon had prepared me to receive them when my spirit was ready.

Today, my daughter still struggles with her addictions, but I clearly understand that she has her own Higher Power, and that letting her learn from her mistakes is the only way she can grow and benefit from experience, which is the most effective teacher. Aside from telling her that I love her, I don’t interfere. Most of all, I enjoy the relationship I have with our other daughter, who was a second priority for too many years, and my grandchildren who are such a blessing. I have come to know peace and acceptance, and for that, I am enormously grateful.

By Joe McC., California
The Forum, October 2016

I learned to detach from my son—with love

I had two immediate thoughts when I first heard the phrase “detaching with love” and parenting in the same sentence. One, it’s a good theory. Two, whoever coined this phrase did not have children. How could a loving parent ever detach from their child knowing he or she was struggling and in pain?

Today, I have a better understanding of this concept. “Detaching with love” doesn’t mean I don’t care about my child or that I’m abandoning him. It doesn’t mean I don’t love him or think of him often. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad or disappointed about his lifestyle. I am only detaching from the horrible disease that he has been fighting for the last five years.

I still find myself worrying about him. When that happens, I ask myself if I can do something constructive. I have learned to trust my instincts. When my son was still active in his disease, I told him he could not move back home, but he could call me day or night and I would take him to get the help he needed. When he didn’t have access to a phone anymore, I loaned him my cell phone. If I’ve done all I can without enabling him, I “Let Go and Let God.” I pray that God watches over him and keeps him safe for me.

As of today, my son is sober. At the end of each day, if I haven’t heard differently, then I consider it a good day for him. This wasn’t how I pictured my life when my son became an adult, but I have accepted the fact that this is my new reality. I thank God for my Al‑Anon friends, and I continue to take “One Day at a Time.”

By Debbie L., Minnesota
The Forum, October 2016