22 Sep Al Anon and the Family Dynamic
“Alcoholism and addiction is a family disease”, is a saying that I heard of years ago but didn’t understand what meant, until my family was directly affected by it. Alcoholism as I understand it, is a progressive disease that affects the drinker’s physical as well as their mental well being.
I now understand Alcoholism to be a disease where the drinker’s drinking has created a problem in some portion of their lives and where each member in the family may play a part (even me). I most certainly did play a part in this disease in my family dynamic. I am not an alcoholic (or at least I don’t believe I am), but I am a co-dependent, and an adult child of an alcoholic; my father was an untreated Al Anon, and I married a woman who is also an adult child of an alcoholic; moreover, I am the father of an alcoholic.
In (the Al Anon conference approved literature) the writing; Understanding the Alcoholic it says: “…We react to an alcoholic’s behavior. We see that the drinking is out of hand and try to control it. We are ashamed of the public scenes but in private we try to handle it. It isn’t long before we feel we are to blame and take on the hurts, the fears, the guilt of an alcoholic…”. I had to learn what it meant to be, “co-dependent” or “enabling”. I thought I was being loving and helpful. For me the traits of co-dependency became clear for me in Al Anon when I did a personal inventory: A need for being liked, a need for approval, my peace and serenity is based on my drinkers struggles, I focused my energy on solving my drinkers problems, I thrive on control and order to feel calm, I try to manipulating my drinker, I become obsessed with cleaning up after my drinker, and the list goes on.
It was my dream to stop the ‘dance’ of this disease and about 14 years ago I started in my own recovery with Al Anon and I am grateful for the tools that the program has given me. However, I still have struggles. Today, the challenges and struggles that I face are with me and my ‘stinking thinking’. I ‘head trip, or future trip’ (I worry and can live in fear) about what ‘might’ happen to my loved one, my drinker (my qualifier). Additionally, I may lack the ability for ‘self care’ (self-loathing) as I may feel that I’m just not worth being good to myself, because I rationalize that, “I’m just too busy with my life and too busy to care for my well being”.
I now understand these feelings and emotions took a life time of dysfunction to develop, foster and learn, and may take the rest of my life to unlearn. I now understand that it is important for me to acknowledge my feelings and emotions, but to not be a slave to them nor to give into my old ways and behaviors. I need to be open to taking direction from other members in my program, as I have a tendency to think that my way is the ‘right’ way. To be open to the wisdom of the Al Anon program and to work the program as best I can each and every day and to place my focus on one moment at a time (because my head won’t allow me to do just ‘one day at a time’ – that is too long for me). I now understand that Alcoholism and addiction is a family disease, and that Alcoholism and Co-dependency / Al anon are really the same disease. They both manifest physically, psychologically, and have environmental factors; they are just the opposite ends of the very same coin.
My life now has more peace and serenity and I pray all who struggle with these diseases come to know the blessing of a 12 step program.
– John T., New Life House Father