07 Nov Changing My Story with Al-Anon
There is a common feeling that ties together people affected by the disease of alcoholism – that of being a “victim.
Some people believe that our loving commitment to the alcoholic forces us to tolerate and participate in physical and verbal abuse, unpredictability, stunning financial chaos, and employment and relationship problems caused not only by the drinking, but by our reactions to it. Sometimes we feel simultaneously loved and hated by the alcoholic. To be raised with a drinking parent pretty much assures an extraordinarily memorable childhood. As the parent of a burgeoning alcoholic, the family is guaranteed to experience emotional extremes that defy all logic.
Many years ago, when I came into Al-Anon, I had these same feelings. I was brought up in an alcoholic home and, as a single parent, raised a child who grew into a self-admitted alcoholic. I blamed my chaotic past as the reason I made questionable decisions. I would stay in unsuccessful relationships and unbearable employment situations way past normal human tolerance levels. The outcomes of my choices were due to “bad luck” and “the disease.” That was my story and I was tired of it. I wanted to change it. Al-Anon helped me do that.
My Beginnings in Al-Anon
After just a short time in Al-Anon I started to entertain the idea of seeing my part in things. But wait – if it wasn’t for he – she – my employer – my past – my present – the weather, etc… my life would be JUST FINE! However, I was slowly learning to trust what I was hearing at meetings. More and more, I became teachable. I made friends in Al-Anon with people I never would have liked outside of the program. And I got a sponsor, who helped me see the good and the not so good about my self, and helped me to find the courage to change.
Changing my Story with Al-Anon
Now, many years later, I have to say the number one thing that changed everything for me was learning how to control my reactions. Along the way, I realized that my explosive reactions to other people’s bad behavior added a log onto an already blazing emotional fire. If I didn’t get a handle on that part of who I was, I was assured of a miserable future. I always felt justified in my reactions. I always felt that people were doing things to me to make me angry. Well, I realized that regardless of another’s behavior, I had to react in a healthy way so that my life could improve. Once I started what was for me “contrary action,” my outlook on life changed. Then, my relationships became better and more fun, my career more manageable and secure, and best of all I developed a terrific relationship with my now-sober adult son.
Changed Attitudes Can Aid Recovery
There is a slogan in Al-Anon that says, “Changed attitudes can aid recovery.” Living this slogan completely changed the course of my life. And the attitude I choose to start each day with is one of gratitude, and the willingness to Let Go of my crappy thinking and Let God do his thing.
Today I embrace a Buddhist inspired approach: total commitment to the process, total equanimity toward the outcome. I no longer think the hell out of something. I welcome change. I let people get ahead of me in line. I have a loving, romantic relationship with a wonderful man. I go to meetings, have a sponsor, and sponsor others. And just for today, things are pretty damn great.
Al-Anon is a mutual support group of peers who share their experience in applying the Al-Anon principles to problems related to the effects of a problem drinker in their lives. It is not group therapy and is not led by a counselor or therapist; This support network complements and supports professional treatment.
Alateen is a peer support group for teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s problem drinking. Many Alateen groups meet at the same time and location as an Al-Anon group. Alateen meetings are open only to teenagers.
No advance notification or written referral is necessary to attend an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting. Anyone affected by someone else’s drinking is welcome to attend.
There are no dues or fees. Groups are self-supporting, and usually pass a basket around for a voluntary contribution to pay for rent or Al-Anon literature.
The 2012 Al-Anon membership survey shows that 88% of newcomers who first came to Al-Anon because of a loved one’s drug addiction later came to better understand the seriousness of that person’s alcohol problem only after attending Al-Anon for a period of time.