Members Share Experience, Strength and Hope

“I remember feeling scared before heading to my first Al-Anon meeting. I was afraid I would be reminded of my alcoholic loved one and would start to cry. My mom passed away from the disease of alcoholism when I was 11 years old. I listened to the other members sharing stories, and I could relate to each of them in some way. As more members began to share, I started to cry. It brought back a whirlwind of memories I had with my mom. After the meeting was over, a very kind woman approached me, gave me a big hug, and told me I wasn’t alone. She gave me a newcomer’s packet and told me more about the program. I felt welcomed. Ever since then, I have kept coming back. Today I am so thankful that I have found a safe place where I can share my experience, strength, and hope with others.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“I grew up in a loving home where there was no alcohol. But I married a man who grew up in an alcoholic family. While I knew that when I married him, I did not understand all the ramifications of it. He talked about how terrible his childhood was, but I still didn’t get it. We made the decision not to have alcohol in our home. When we moved East, he started drinking socially. However, as time went on, I realized we had a problem. I decided to find an Al-Anon meeting because I was at a loss as to what to do.

“The meetings were so helpful and comforting because I soon realized I didn’t cause the problem. I also learned that I couldn’t control it, and I couldn’t cure it. We struggled through rehab, detox, hospital visits, and DUIs. Although he attended lots of AA meetings, he was unable to stay sober. I continued to attend Al-Anon meetings and use the tools of the program. When my husband committed suicide, I knew because of my Al-Anon experience that I had no control over his decision to take his own life. His drinking made him miserable, but because of Al-Anon, I am able to find serenity and even happiness. At this the first anniversary of his death, I continue to attend Al-Anon meetings where I find comfort and help and where I am able to reach out to help others.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“Knowing that I was not alone, that other members of Al-Anon were in the same situation as I was, struggling with the same disease, allowed me to deal with the shame and guilt associated with the disease. It also allowed me to share more easily and understand that, in asking others for help and in listening to their experience, strength, and hope, I was able to allow myself to shed some of my pain and begin to heal the hole in my heart.

“Understanding that I was powerless over alcohol and its effects on my family allowed me to gain some sense of manageability in the home. I no longer felt that it was up to me to fix everything or that I was to blame for what was happening in our lives. I found that by accepting the situation as it was, I could find some sanity. I was no longer allowing obsessive thoughts to fill my every waking moment and every sleepless night. By understanding that I was powerless, I suddenly found I could sleep, and I had more time to do other things. I no longer sought refuge in my car, listening to the same song over and over again, crying all the time I was finally able to function with sanity, hope, and manageability.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“My husband and I grew up together. When we got married, I just knew it was forever until death do us part. I never gave his drinking a second thought in our younger years. I just knew that, because I was raised in a loving and nurturing home environment, I would be able to help him overcome his drinking problem. After all, I loved him. And doesn’t love conquer all? I thought if I could just convince him to let go of his resentment and anger, all would be good. I did everything I could think of to help him, nurture him, and love him. Unfortunately, he did not respond as I thought he would or should.

“However, once I started attending Al-Anon, I realized that I had also become ensnared in the web of resentment and anger. It was like cancer eating me up inside. I was out of control. In time, I accepted the reality that I had no control over the alcoholic’s life or choices, but I did have control over mine. My life began to change, despite the fact that my husband’s did not seem to. However, I realized that was okay. As I began to turn my energy inward toward myself and started to heal, I saw just how much of myself I had lost through the years. My husband of 40 years passed away recently, and I am still learning how to take care of myself. I am so grateful for the fellowship of Al-Anon and the literature available to me, all of which is helping me along the way.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“I had just given birth to my first child — a beautiful baby girl — and I thought all my problems were going to disappear. I thought I was going to be the perfect mother and wife, and I was going to have a perfect family. However, my life was spiraling out of control. I had grown up in a family with addiction and married an active alcoholic. I was sad, frustrated, and unable to see beyond my own pain and fear. Upon the urging of a mental health professional, I decided to go to an Al-Anon meeting. In the beginning, those meetings were challenging. I was flooded with years of stuffed emotions, and I would cry or rage throughout them. However, I kept comping back because they offered my soul a deep relief I found nowhere else. I had to go slow and allow time for healing before I could move forward. However, I soon found that, just as the welcome in my group stated, I could find happiness whether the alcoholic was still drinking or not. I have learned to let go of my fears of what may be and live and love in what is. I no longer need to be a perfect mother or wife; I have learned that it is not possible. Al-Anon has provided me with a lifeline of hope in a situation that once felt hopeless.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach VA

“I came to Al-Anon because I had an alcoholic child. I felt miserable because my child was in trouble and frustrated because I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. I also felt angry that he lied and took advantage of me. As a father, I saw myself as the fixer. I provided wisdom, guidance, and advice — lots and lots of advice. I minimized problems with humor, provided money, and showed disapproval. The effect of my actions put roadblocks in his path to recovery because they gave him no room to breathe, no opportunity to help himself and rebuild his self-esteem. Every time he turned around, I was there to help, or so I thought, by offering what I felt was a better way. We always had long phone chats, which used to consist of him telling me his problems and me giving him advice because I knew that, if he would just listen, all would be well. In truth, my advice, money, and disapproval did nothing but injure him. In effect, I was telling him that he did not have the skills necessary to make his own decisions. I was demeaning him, not helping him.

“However, by using the tools I learned at Al-Anon meetings, I changed the nature of our conversations. Instead of giving advice, I gave empathy. Instead of telling him what to do, I told him I was sorry to hear about his latest problem and let him solve it for himself. Then a remarkable thing happened. After several weeks of these conversations, he said to me ‘You know, I really enjoy these talks we’ve been having lately; they mean a lot to me.’ At around the same time, he began his own program of recovery.

“My new approach did not cause him to recover or even help him to recover, but it did remove some obstacles that I had been putting in his way. In essence, my script had changed, and therefore our relationship changed. Through this program, I learned that if I take care of myself and treat myself with respect, then I will be in a better position to help my son in a way that acknowledges that there is a real person, a loving person, inside my alcoholic son. I finally realized that he is an adult and, therefore, has the right to solve his own problems and to live his own life. As a result, in addition to being my son, he once again became a very close and dear friend.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“The first Al-Anon meeting I attended was not for me — or so I thought. I was accompanying a friend who was looking for answers about her alcoholic loved one. I was immediately welcomed by the women and men there, and I noticed that they were all smiling and laughing. I felt comfortable before the meeting even started. As we all took turns reading the Steps and Traditions, I was filled with the desire to be accepted by these people, to fit in and enjoy the same serenity they exuded. Then everyone shared about the First Step and how they came to understand it and start their journey to serenity. More importantly, when it came my turn to share, everyone listened attentively as I described how unmanageable my life was. Without judgement, they nodded in understanding. I wept as I realized I’d found a place where I felt I belonged. I hadn’t ever thought that I would find answers to many of my personal difficulties, much less be invited to share the company of such inspiring and loving people. As it turned out, Al-Anon was absolutely for me.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“I remember the pain of dealing with my alcoholic partner in the area of intimacy. Even though he was right next to me, I was alone and aching for human touch, warmth, and affection. Months would go by, and I would get nothing from him but cold indifference. I didn’t want to leave him or be unfaithful, but I couldn’t take the emptiness I felt inside, either. Whenever I would broach the topic, he would recoil and say I was unattractive, fat, or just not really his type. Usually he made me feel guilty for seeking affection by telling me I was too needy. I would give up trying to initiate any deeper connection for another few months until my longing became unbearable again. I would literally cry out of frustration.

“It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the reality of the situation. Alcoholism had taken his ability to physically respond, and he would take his shame out on me. But by then I had already started to question my own sanity. Was I really asking for too much? I wondered. After all, I had learned in Al-Anon that an expectation is a premeditated resentment.

“In time, though, I realized it was futile to expect this person to give something he just didn’t have. However, I was pursuing an equally futile endeavor trying to learn how to be happy without love and affection. I learned that my needs were legitimate and not unreasonable in a monogamous romantic relationship, but I had to accept his choice not to fulfill those needs. And as long as we remained together, I was not free to pursue a new relationship that could better meet those needs. In the end, I found the serenity I needed to detach with love and part ways with him. Even though he is still active in his disease, we remain friends today. I see now that’s probably all we should have been from the beginning.

“I eventually met a kind, gentle, and loving man who is all I could have wished for. We have decided that physical intimacy will wait until after marriage, and the decision has allowed our emotional and spiritual connection to flourish. When I came to believe that I deserved more, I found it.”

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

“I am fairly new to Al-Anon. What has helped me the most is to be able to distance myself from others’ behaviors and attitudes. The slogan ‘I didn’t cause it; I can’t control it; I can’t cure it’ has been a lifesaver for me more than once. Before Al-Anon, I tried to fix everything so there was peace again. I didn’t value myself enough to care or question what I wanted. If things turned out badly, I would beat myself up. If things turned out good, I breathed a sign of relief. My own personality was being chipped away by others, until I didn’t know what I liked or wanted. Through Al-anon I am finding myself.”

Anonymous

“I woke up this morning much earlier than usual and noticed racing thoughts, focused on my daughter’s current struggles with her partner’s relapse and the challenge that presents for her and their child. My thoughts had that familiar texture of desperation for a solution and pushing myself to ‘help.’ As I became aware of the push, I reached for my favorite slogan: Let go and Let God.”

Anke

“My wife died recently. It was devastating. I didn’t think I could live without her. Thank God I had some Al-Anon recovery within me. The 12 Steps led me, at last, to gratitude. I have been carried along through grief and pain by the power of gratitude. I am blessed to have spent 52 years with this amazing wife and soulmate. I am grateful for the Al-Anon friends who have supported me all the way. And I am grateful for, at last, finding strength and courage through a loving guide – my Higher Power. I have found gratitude to be the secret to healing and moving on with my new life, supported by my Al-Anon community.

Ed C.

“I deserve to be happy. This program has taught me to be happy and love myself.”

Anonymous

“Al-Anon has taught me that a problem is not there to be solved. It is there as a messenger to be listened to. It has moved life from ‘push through’ to ‘flow with.'”

Anke

I can’t change the ‘crazy,’ but I don’t have to participate in it.”

Anonmymous

“Al-Anon has become my haven, from a very stressed and overwhelmed mother of an alcoholic, to a person filled with hope, peace, compassion, and love. It’s been amazing how quickly I felt loved, accepted, and understood. The slogans help me every day. I’m striving to let go and let God have the reins of my life, as well as my family’s lives. I can never thank my Al-Anon family enough for their compassion, honesty, love, and understanding.”

Lydia

“In Al-Anon, I learned to be gentle with myself, as well as with my loved ones. ‘Rigorous honesty’ is not brutal honesty. I can convey my thoughts and feelings of hurt in a gentle way and remain at peace with myself and others.”

Linda

“One Day at a Time means so much to me. I started coming to Al-Anon because of my alcoholic father-in-law. Since, I have lost a relationship with my youngest son, which was unbearable at first. Then my granddaughter became addicted to drugs, along with her boyfriend. Two children were born to them, and my husband and I now have custody of these children. Having already been in Al-Anon gave me the tools to help deal with these situations. I face all situations “One Day at a Time.”

Anonymous

“I am grateful for the Al-Anon program, especially Step Five. It was a real turning point in my life. The hardest part was admitting to myself my own self-righteousness and arrogance. I found that honesty equals freedom. Thank you, God, for using the Twelve Steps to help me grow up.”

Anonymous

I spent a lot of time trying to decide if my husband was an alcoholic. I presented a case to myself both ways: He’s never been arrested; he goes to work; he must not be an alcoholic. Then I would present the case that he gets drunk every night by himself in his garage. Back and forth I went, trying to decide. But after working my Al-Anon program, going to meetings, talking with my sponsor, I realized that if my husband’s drinking bothered me, then I needed to take of myself and my feelings about it, and I could let my husband decide how he felt about his own drinking.

Bonnie W.

Kentucky Area Al-Anon