Tag Archives: 2016

How Al-Anon works for me

When I first came to Al-Anon, I was so empty inside I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I couldn’t believe that my husband’s drinking was going to end the day he entered Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). He promised so many times to stop drinking, and now A.A. was going to help him and not me. As for our three children, I felt that I didn’t have any control over their behavior.

Slowly, I started to listen to the Al-Anon members in my weekly meeting. Gradually, I came to understand that alcoholism is a disease. I repeated over and over that I can’t control it, I did not cause it, and I can’t cure it. My group said, “Let A.A. take care of him, and let Al-Anon take care of you!”

Al-Anon helps me to look back on my behavior, particularly my behavior with my children. It was hard to admit that I probably harmed them more than my husband did. They knew their dad drank, but they wondered what was wrong with me.

When I heard people in Al-Anon share about growing up in an alcoholic home, it helped me realize that I, too, was a child of an alcoholic. This is what I brought into my marriage. I couldn’t blame everything on my husband anymore.

In the beginning, I used my Al-Anon group as my Higher Power. Today, I call God my Higher Power. God used my Al-Anon group to help me. Through God, and with Al-Anon’s help, I made it through a son’s attempted suicide, my parents’ death, the early pregnancy of a teenage son’s girlfriend, our two sons’ drinking and drug abuse, and going to court to fight for grandparents’ rights. Al-Anon has helped me keep my serenity.

Today, I am still in Al-Anon. I’ve held many service jobs in my group, district, and Area. I love reading the books and pamphlets of Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature. When my Al‑Anon friends share their stories, they give me a step-by-step approach on how to gain back my self-respect and self-esteem, and on how to keep them. The Al‑Anon program works, and I am proud to call myself an Al-Anon member.

 

By Carol R., Minnesota
The Forum, June 2016

My life was unmanageable and insane, only I didn’t know it

My life has been a journey; not always what I expected, but never anything I could not handle. I often think about how I got to be the person I am. I never realized the role alcohol had in all of it.

The first 25 years of my marriage were filled with progressing insanity. As my husband’s disease progressed, so did mine. Denial was my survival tool: ignore the drunken outburst; ignore crying children; ignore car accidents; and ignore verbal and physical abuse. My children were witnesses to all of it. My life was unmanageable and insane, only I didn’t know it. I began to lose my identity. I was the perfect enabler. I made sure everyone around me did not know my secret, or so I thought. I was in control. I made excuses, covered up, and made many deals to avoid the issue.

In 2000, I began to become unraveled, and my children were beginning to show signs of being affected by this family illness. My house was insane. When my husband’s car would pull in the driveway, everyone scattered to avoid him.

I confided to a friend that I could no longer stand it. I went to a therapist, who suggested Al‑Anon. I said, “Why do I need to go to Al-Anon? He has the problem and he needs A.A.” But off I went to the basement of the old church.

I can remember, like it was yesterday, how I felt: scared, nervous, embarrassed, alone, and worried I would know someone, or that I would have to speak. But what I found were people who were friendly, kind, inviting, and nonjudgmental. I felt safe. It is because of those people many years ago that I am in Al-Anon. Every time I see a newcomer, I am humbled and grateful for this program. Where would I be today?

As I continued to attend meetings, I realized these meetings were about me and for me, not him. For the next few months, the Serenity Prayer became my mantra. Practicing the Al-Anon principles and living with an active alcoholic was tough. Things were getting worse at home, but now I knew I had to get control of my home and my children.

One day, after a bad evening with my husband, my 16-year-old daughter wrote me a letter and said, “Either he goes or I go. I can’t live in this house.” That was my “aha” moment. No way was I letting her move out, so I gave my husband 48 hours to leave. He thought it was an idle threat. He bounced around to different family members, finally realizing he needed help. He went to rehab.

Well, I was glad I won. Al-Anon worked. Boundaries were set. He went to A.A and got sober. So I stopped going to Al-Anon. I still wasn’t happy. I couldn’t blame the alcohol anymore; he wasn’t drinking. My therapist, once again, sent me to Al-Anon.

This time, not only did I go back, I worked the program, did the Steps, used the slogans, read literature, got a Sponsor, and used the telephone list. Now, I was truly an active member of

Al-Anon, and lived the principles of the program every day of my life.

It has taken me many years to see that only I can be in control of my life and no one else. I am responsible for my actions and my happiness. This program has taught me self-care, how to do the Fourth Step, and to only take my own inventory. I no longer beat myself up for a slip; there is always tomorrow. One regret I continue to have is that I didn’t act soon enough to protect my children from this disease. I do know I did the best I could at the time. I am still a work in progress.

When an Al-Anon group was started at the church I attended, I thought, “Let me give this a try. It’s my parish and so close to home.” I was no longer afraid I might know someone. So I went and, for a couple of weeks, I was the only one there with the person who started it. But I persevered and today, 11 years later, we still meet every week with sometimes 25 people in attendance. This is my way of paying it forward. The experience, strength, and hope of every person who has walked through this door have helped me on this journey.

I will never forget how and why I am here. I am ever so grateful that my husband is sober 14 years and never had a slip. We are in this together, and both still committed to our programs “One Day at a Time.”

 

By Anonymous
The Forum, June 2016

Today, I know that love is unconditional

I grew up not knowing the difference between shame and guilt. Shame told me that I was fundamentally unworthy, insufficient, and unlovable: a “wrong” person. Guilt is what I feel when I make choices that disrupt the harmony between myself and my Higher Power, other people, or the universe.

My shame came from physical and emotional abuse suffered in childhood, a lack of validation and support at home, and a rule-oriented religious practice that seemed to say I could almost accidentally be damned. I also discovered, at age 11, that I was gay. I thought it was something horribly unique to me that made me an unfit human being. Feelings of shame and guilt made it very difficult for me. Since I saw myself as “wrong,” the hope of being a good person was hard to realize.

Shame robbed me of the thought that I could be loved. I didn’t see that I deserved love, which had a huge negative impact on my relationship with my Higher Power. God was a fierce judge, not a loving parent.

Shame meant I didn’t understand that love is unconditional. It seemed to me that God’s love came with many conditions and catches, and had to be earned. I thought this was true of human love, too. It led me to set conditions about whom and when I would love; conditions so impossible to meet that I couldn’t love freely.

In my months in Al-Anon, I have never felt judged by any other member. Instead, I received the message that I am loved just as I am, character defects and all. The first three Steps are teaching me how to trust my Higher Power, Al-Anon members and principles, and the universe.

I have learned that my Higher Power is there to help me grow and change; pick me up when I stumble or fall, and teach me that I am loved unconditionally.

I am not a finished product, but I am finding enough serenity in the Al-Anon program to make hope take root and grow. I am starting to feel some gratitude. I am learning to live without unreasonable fear. I am starting to feel love, and return it.

 

By Joe M., Kentucky
The Forum, June 2016

My serenity is up to me

Let me start by saying I don’t often like epiphanies. The sudden awareness of something I didn’t understand before can be unsettling—and annoying.

During my first few months in Al-Anon, I kept saying, “I don’t get it.” I saw other members of the group smiling, laughing, exchanging hugs, and generally looking happy. Often those people had stories far worse than mine, and I couldn’t understand how they could seem so calm and content.

I kept repeating that phrase to myself over and over, “I don’t get it.” Then one day, it occurred to me that I wasn’t saying it correctly. I realized how strong my resistance was. I was so afraid of being disappointed once more that I was holding back. In that moment, I understood that “I don’t get it” really meant, “I won’t let it.” Fearing failure, I was being self-protective and wasn’t letting myself grow. Once I admitted that to myself, my experience in Al-Anon began to change.

Another time, I was talking about wanting to get off the roller coaster, a phrase I have heard others use as well. But this time I heard something come out of my mouth that surprised me. I started by saying, “I really want to get off the roller coaster” then added, “But I keep buying the tickets.” It was a moment of realizing my role in my own happiness—and in my unhappiness as well.

Sometimes, a new understanding can bring comfort out of misery. In my first few months in Al-Anon, I often felt worse at meetings than I did other places. Part of that came from feeling as if I could never achieve what others seemed to achieve, but I’ve come to understand there was another reason. I often felt worse in meetings because that was the one place in my life where it was safe to be unhappy. There wasn’t anyone there who didn’t understand, and on some level I knew no one there was going to judge me for it, or try to change me. I was allowed to be me—tears and all.

Let me repeat what I said at the beginning. I often don’t like epiphanies. They often remove my excuses for not learning and changing, and they remind me that my serenity is not dependent on what someone else does or doesn’t do, it’s up to me. But it is also a reminder from my Higher Power that serenity is possible, even happiness, and sometimes I just need to get out of my own way. I also need to remind myself that “Progress Not Perfection” lets me grow in my own way and at my own pace—a priceless gift.

 

By Eric F., California
The Forum, May 2016

Upright and balanced—on the trail and in life

This past summer, my daughter and I planned to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. Although we both loved the outdoors and were frequent day hikers, neither of us had attempted an overnight backpacking experience. After watching numerous on-line videos for advice, studying trail maps, and loading our packs, we set off for adventure, compass in hand and a smile on our faces.

Seasoned backpackers will tell you that “newbies” on the trail are easily recognized by the size of their packs, carrying everything but the kitchen sink. We were no exception. Our packs were easily half our body weight and towered over our heads. After the first mile, we got the hang of balancing our loads and conquered one steep ascent after another.

All was well until I had the misfortune to misstep and “roll” on a stick. I was thrown off balance, my feet went out from under me, and I found myself looking up at the sky, my fall cushioned by my pack. My daughter ran to my aid but was quickly overcome with fits of laughter at the sight of me attempting to get back on my feet.

Every effort to stand up was negated by the heavy pack. No matter how I tried, I was stuck, much like an overturned turtle. After valiant efforts to right myself, I lay exhausted by the situation, needing some kind of helping hand to stand. Once I gave up fighting the pack weight, a thought came to me. If I just unclipped my pack, I would be able to stand. I did. Now free from the weight of my burden, I stood upright.

My experience on the trail holds many lessons for me when compared to Al-Anon. Many of us carried a burden from the effects of alcoholism, causing us to lose our balance and get stuck. Our best efforts were ineffective in “righting” ourselves in our relationships and lives. For me, the experience, strength, and hope provided by the program are the freeing solutions to the family disease of alcoholism. The Steps and Traditions help me unclip the burden of the effects of growing up with alcoholism, allowing me to proceed down the trail of life upright and balanced.

 

By Mary Jo H.
The Forum, May 2016

Shedding the emotional weight

It has been almost 14 years since my father had his last drink, his last rage, his last broken promise, and his last lie. But it wasn’t until he stopped drinking that I realized I was just as sick as him. I wanted so much to trust his words, to not be afraid of him getting angry, and to trust that he wouldn’t lie to me. But the reality was that I still feared all of it. He stopped drinking, but I didn’t stop fearing.

The sickness boiled over into other relationships and affected my social life. As long as I could remember, I feared alcohol and places where people would over-drink, like parties, weddings, and bars. I never knew if someone would get out of control and hurt me. When deciding on who I was going to let into my life, I had a strict screening process. I felt I had to protect my children and myself from going through what I had lived through as a child and young adult. I thought all this made me healthy. I thought that although I couldn’t control my father or my home life when I was a child, I could certainly control it as an adult. I was protected and I was safe.

In Al-Anon, I have learned that control is a façade that people who live or have lived with an alcoholic needed to protect themselves. In reality, I don’t have any control over people, places, or things. I have learned that not only do I not have control, I don’t even want it. Having that much control meant that I had to have that much responsibility in everyone else’s life—a burden much too heavy to carry. In Al-Anon, I learned ways to become free of that emotional weight. I learned that in trusting myself, I could trust others. In loving myself, I have learned to love others. In being strong and emotionally sound, I have developed strong and emotionally sound relationships. Al-Anon gives me the tools to set me free.

Today, through my continued commitment in the Al-Anon program, I am strong and I know that no matter what happens in my life, I am capable of handling it. I am no longer afraid.

“Looking back and remembering what I was like…makes me realize how grateful I am to the program.” Alateen—a day at a time (B-10), p. 366

 

By Sarah R., Maryland
The Forum, May 2016

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