Tag Archives: Parents

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.

Learning to heal my own pain

When I came into Al‑Anon, I felt like a ping-pong ball, being bounced from crisis to crisis, constantly trying to fix my son’s life. Since that was impossible, I felt frustrated, resentful, and powerless—a victim.

When I came into Al‑Anon, I felt like a ping-pong ball, being bounced from crisis to crisis, constantly trying to fix my son’s life. Since that was impossible, I felt frustrated, resentful, and powerless—a victim.

I needed to stop thinking about what I wanted for everyone else’s life and look instead at my own. I learned that living with alcoholism gave me my own disease— trying to rescue, control others, and seek happiness outside of myself. Healing my pain couldn’t come from healing my son’s disease, even if I were able to; it had to come from healing mine.

I know now that in trying to control others, I was really trying to control my fear and grief, as I watched their disease unfold. By working my program, I’ve learned to face, release, and heal those natural feelings, and not avoid them by trying to fix others.

The wonderful paradox is that, as I began empowering myself, I also began to empower the alcoholic. By taking the focus off him, I stopped enabling him and removing the consequences of his actions. I have heard that most people make their biggest changes from a place of crisis. By preventing the crisis, I was removing his motivation to change. As Hope for Today (B-27) says, “It is an illusion that depleting myself will help someone else.”

Al‑Anon has empowered me to enjoy my life. It has liberated me from feeling like a victim of other people’s choices. Today, I know that whether the alcoholic seeks recovery or not, I will still be fine because I have healed my own pain and found my own life. My happiness no longer depends upon their choices, and that is true freedom.

By L. O’D
The Forum, December 2016

I was changing, and I liked it

When I went to my first Al‑Anon meeting, I was very surprised to find so many happy people talking before the meeting about things other than alcoholics. After attending the suggested six beginner meetings, I felt I had said all there was to say about our problems as parents of an alcoholic. I was encouraged to join the “regular meeting” the following week.

I learned through members sharing that many had been attending meetings for years, long after the alcoholics recovered, left the house, or passed away. I wondered why these people kept coming to meetings. Surely, they had better things they could be doing.

I saw that members talked about themselves a lot and actually had lives that centered on themselves and not the alcoholics. I wondered why. Didn’t they care about the alcoholics and want to help them stay sober?

I saw people volunteering for service at the meeting. Some made coffee, took care of literature, cleaned up, etc. I wondered why. I saw people going after the meetings for fellowship. What was fellowship anyway?

Even though the reading at the beginning of the meeting kept telling me I was here because of the alcoholic, not for the alcoholic, why would I have to continue going to meetings once I got our son to stop drinking?

After attending for several months, I felt part of the group. I was welcomed and comforted by others. I had the feeling that people actually cared about me just the way I was—a  somewhat emotional wreck. I too, had a choice on a Friday night, and I chose to keep going back. They all had what I wanted.

I began to feel that the sharings, topics, slogans, and daily readings were changing my thinking about whom the meetings were actually helping. I had some tools to work with. I was changing. I was thinking differently. I was feeling compassion for our son. I was beginning to detach. I was learning about setting boundaries. I started to take “One Day at a Time.” I was learning to “Let Go and Let God.” I was developing a relationship with a Higher Power that I could trust to do what was best for me. I was feeling the support from other members. I asked someone to be my Sponsor.

I looked forward to not only one weekly meeting, but I began attending more meetings in different locations. At one point, I was attending four meetings a week because I felt the more meetings I attended, the more reinforcement I was giving myself. I liked the change that was taking place between my ears.

I realized I wanted to go to meetings. I was never too tired, and if I was tired, I went anyway because the feeling I had after the meeting was always uplifting. Al‑Anon members understood what I felt as a child living with an alcoholic father, and what I felt as the mother of an alcoholic son because they felt it too. They understood. They had empathy, not sympathy, for me. I made friends. I wasn’t alone in this journey. There are some amazing people in these rooms. One of the most important things I learned early on is that there is always hope.

This is a program through which I have learned to better cope with my problems, celebrate my joys, feel all my feelings, and know that everything that happens will eventually pass. These are the reason I “Keep Coming Back.” I now know that it doesn’t matter whether God introduced me to the program or if the program introduced me to my Higher Power. All that is important is that I found Him through Al‑Anon.

By Kathy D., Illinois
The Forum, November 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

Change—a journey of ‘Progress Not Perfection’

Al-Anon is not a program of completion or destination. Two years ago, I entered the rooms of Al‑Anon distraught, confused, and looking for answers as to how to help my two sons who suffer from the family disease of addiction and alcoholism. I did not get what I wanted or expected, but I did get what I needed. Much has changed in the past two years, and yet much has stayed the same.

Though I have a program, I don’t always follow it. Though I have a Higher Power, I don’t always know His will for me. Though my sons are doing better, they still struggle with the family disease, and so do I. Though my husband and I both have program, we do not always see things the same way. Though sometimes my husband and I disagree, we can have an Al‑Anon meeting for two to work things out instead of forcing our individual wills. Though I never want to enable, I still want to help. Though sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, I still struggle with wanting to do something. Though I have a strong program and many tools, I still don’t understand or have all the answers. Though I have more faith, fear knocks at my door often. Though much has changed, some things are still the same.

I still make mistakes because I am not ready to do what I may know is best, and that makes me human and a work in progress. I know I am better than I was when I entered the program, but not exactly where I want to be. I have recovery, but I am not recovered. I will continue to come to meetings because what I know without question is you, my chosen family, will help me get to where I want to be.

Change is “Progress Not Perfection.” I get to work on my recovery every day, “One Day at a Time,” as long as I am open-minded, willing, and grateful for the lessons.

 

By Shelley G., Florida and Toronto
The Forum, September 2016

Today, I love my son with no resentments

Soon after my son turned 18, he announced that he was moving out. I knew by the look on his face not to challenge his decision. That was 28 years ago, and with the exception of three or four brief times, he has not wanted to be a part of my life. During his brief pop-ins, he would wreak havoc, and just like that, be gone again. I didn’t have Al‑Anon then, and so I got caught up in the doubts, fears, and shame. It was agony. There is a hook in being a mom, and Al‑Anon is where I found the courage, strength, and wisdom to unhook myself from my son’s unacceptable behavior.

Miraculously, I was led to Al‑Anon where, ever so slowly, I began working the program with a Sponsor. The more I learned, the more I wanted, and that kept me coming back.  As a result, I’ve been given guidelines for living a healthy life, and a toolbox filled to overflowing with every possible tool I would ever need to keep me out of the problem and in the solution.

Two weeks ago, after seven years, I heard from my son via e-mail. Although cool in tone, his words conveyed that he wanted us to have a relationship. Being cautiously optimistic, I responded simply and affirmatively. His third e-mail, however, showed his colors, and as a direct result of living the Steps, I was able to stand in my own truth. I was happy to learn that he was well, and I was looking forward to building a healthy relationship, but after receiving that e-mail, which was riddled with assumptions and conditions, I truly did not see how this would be possible.

Today, because of the Al‑Anon principles, I am able to love him right where he is now, with no resentments. I have also been given the clarity to acknowledge the risks to my well-being. Today, with my Higher Power’s help, I am willing to do the next right thing.

Lo and behold, by trusting my Higher Power and knowing that more is always revealed, several days later I received a response that was warmer in tone and included an apology. This is a first, and a miracle in the making.

 

By Rosemary B., Arizona
The Forum, August 2016

There’s a slogan for that!

As a mother of two young adult boys who have multigenerational problem drinking in their genealogy, I sometimes wonder if they’re developing their own problems with alcohol. I sometimes worry that they will end up like their dad and/or grandparents. It was only when my anger at the disease of alcoholism had become so overwhelming that I sought help from the Al-Anon program.

At first, the Steps and Traditions were a little too deep to try to unravel. The slogans, however, were just the thing I needed to get through each day. As soon as I became preoccupied with where my adult son was going, or how much alcohol he was consuming, I could take “One Day at a Time.” If he asked me for money to support his habits, I could “Let Go and Let God.” No matter what life threw at me, I could use a slogan to handle it.

Now with the advancements in technology, there are “apps” to help one do various things instantly. The same goes with Al-Anon. No matter what life throws at you, Al‑Anon has a slogan for that!

 

By Maxine D., Newfoundland/Labrador
The Forum, July 2016

A mother practices ‘Live and Let Live’

Our son was struggling with his addictions and needed a place to stay for just a few days. I strongly felt I should bring him back home. My husband was more skeptical, and I didn’t blame him. The year before, our son had pawned many of my husband’s possessions to feed his addiction.

However, I soon realized that our son would be staying for more than a few days, and I became nervous. Even though I had my Al-Anon group, and focused on taking “One Day at a Time,” I was juggling my work schedule so I was home while my husband went to work. Our son did not have a job, and we both felt we could not trust him to be in our home alone.

It crossed my mind that this could be a great opportunity for my husband and my son to start rebuilding their relationship. Before Al-Anon, I would have been giving each of them all kinds of suggestions and advice on how they could do that. But Al-Anon taught me to stay out of other people’s business and keep the focus on me. So that’s what I did. I didn’t say a word, although I was tempted several times.

The amazing thing is they figured this out on their own. A week after my son moved in, my husband’s boss offered our son a temporary job. My husband thought it was a good idea. I wasn’t so sure because that meant they would be spending more time together, and I was afraid that would be too much togetherness. However, just the opposite happened. They would come home from work deep in conversation. I even heard them laughing a few times about something that had happened during their day at work.

Our son ended up staying for ten weeks. After he moved out, my husband said they had talked more in those last few weeks than they had in the last 18 years. Things are far from perfect, but I am awestruck by how much this situation improved our relationships. I firmly believe that an entire family can benefit, even if only one member follows Al-Anon’s principles.

 

By Debbie
The Forum, July 2016