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