Tag Archives: 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

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

I found myself—in the midst of chaos

The most important day of my life was the day I walked into my first Alateen meeting. A week before, I was waiting for my guidance counselor in her office. I spotted a pamphlet that had an array of questions about alcoholism. At the bottom it said, “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then Alateen is for you!” I answered “yes” to all the questions, and started on an amazing path to self-discovery and serenity.

The alcoholic in my life was my stepsister’s mom who came to live with my family because of her life troubles. I never saw her drunk. I only heard loud snoring and mumbling from the next room, and the stories my mom told me after we asked her to leave. All I saw was that she either never stopped moving or never started moving. When my stepsister lived with us, they would verbally abuse each other.

I always felt it was my job to mediate the situation because I was “mature.” It was my job to fix things. It was my job to help them get along, because if I didn’t, who would? It never worked, but I tried over and over again, hoping for a different result. I’ve learned in Alateen that my mission was in fact the definition of insanity. The end result was me feeling worthless. I always focused on them instead of myself. I didn’t even know how to focus on myself.

Before discovering Alateen, I struggled with depression and anxiety. There were times it got so bad that I was not able to get out of bed and go to school because I would be crying so much. I didn’t have any friends because I was not able to talk to people. During high school and the first few months at cosmetology school, I was that small-looking, unapproachable girl with a dark cloud over her head. This girl sat alone at lunch tables, refused group projects, and turned people away because she was afraid of rejection.

Alateen is the most amazing, eye-opening experience I’ve ever had. It is best described by one of my Sponsors who once said, “It is a safe place to find out who you are in the face of chaos.” Not only did the program help me with coping with the alcoholic, but everything I’ve learned can be applied to my daily life.

Although I do use and appreciate the Alateen slogans, the thing that resonated with me the most was what another Alateen member said—it wasn’t her job to fix other people’s problems. I jumped at that thought. I remember being truly amazed that it wasn’t my job to fix the alcoholic. I learned how to separate myself from the alcoholic’s situation. I learned to detach with love. I realized my actual job was to take care of myself.

My depression and anxiety have substantially subsided, and I have made real connections with other Alateen members. Every week, I become a better person just by showing up to my meeting. There is no way to explain how grateful I am for Alateen.

 

By Kayla F., CT
The Forum, September 2016

Dreams do come true

Three years ago, I could barely say my dream aloud. Today, I’m living it. Back then, a friend asked me about my ideal job. I meekly squeaked out my answer: I wanted to pursue my passion at home while raising my children. At the time, it felt like a faraway dream. Growing up amid active alcoholism, I was used to keeping my focus on others and neglecting myself. I didn’t know what I enjoyed, what I was good at, or where I fit in.

Although my colleagues commended my smart, strategic mind, I spent almost a decade in a dead-end job at an organization I didn’t respect. I certainly hadn’t applied my smarts and strategic skills to my own life. Instead, I naively hoped my dream job would miraculously come to me. I also felt paralyzed by fear.

Thank goodness for Al‑Anon. Over the past three years, I have worked my program with my Sponsor as my guide. Like adventurous archeologists, we have excavated the real me and uncovered my natural talents. Now, I respect and honor my abilities, taking time each day to hone my craft. By mapping out a rational plan and diligently working away at it, I have reached my dream. I feel exhilarated! A friend put it best: Dreams without action are just fantasy. I feel so grateful for Al‑Anon’s gentle encouragement to finally choose to take steps toward my dreams rather than continue to fantasize.

 

By Lisa G., Ontario
The Forum, August 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

I learned how to take care of myself

I cannot express how much Alateen has helped me. Growing up, I was all alone. My parents were always fighting. Whether it was about what to have for dinner or getting a divorce, they were always at each other’s throat. I would try to solve the issue and make things better, but I quickly learned that it made things worse. As a seven- or eight-year-old, I didn’t know how not to be in the middle. Until Alateen, I didn’t learn how not to get upset when they were fighting and to focus on myself.

Alateen has not only taught me how to detach with love from my parents’ fighting, but it has also brought so many friendships and opportunities in my life.

When I was younger, not only did I have to deal with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from my alcoholic father, I also had to watch my life fall apart day by day. Although my life was extremely hard and sometimes unbearable, I put on a smiling face and showed everyone that I was the happy kid in school, and that I loved life. This was hard to do, but I certainly did not want people asking questions and finding out that I really was a sad and lonely girl who had messed up parents.

I kept everything quiet until about sixth grade, when my parents got divorced. The divorce was so hard on me. I needed someone to talk to, so I told a few of my friends what was wrong. Being in sixth grade, drama and secrets spread fast. By the end of the day, my whole school knew that I was going through a hard time and that my perfect family had fallen apart. This was very hard to deal with, but looking back on it, I realized that this is what brought me to talk to people. I wanted to be popular and have friends so badly that I just poured most of my life out to them.

With everything being so bad both at school and at home, my mom suggested Alateen. I wanted to give it a try, however my sister didn’t want to go. I found the courage to go alone. My first meeting was horrible. There was only one other kid and one of the Group Sponsors. Although I had hated that meeting, I decided to give it another shot, and I am so glad I did.

Slowly, everything started to make sense. I realized that I can’t control my father, and that it really is not my fault he is drinking. I learned how to find a Higher Power, and most importantly, I learned how to take care of myself.

Alateen has brought so many people into my life, and I don’t know what I would do without them. I am so thankful that I was able to bring four other people into the rooms of Alateen. Not only does Alateen help me deal with the alcoholic in my life, I use my program every single day. Words cannot describe how much Alateen has helped me. Although having an alcoholic in my life is extremely hard, I wouldn’t change it for anything because it brought me to Alateen.

 

By Julie, Connecticut
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

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

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