As a full-time working mom with two young children, my truth at that time was that I had all the good things in life: a loving husband, healthy and talented kids, a professional career, a beautiful home in Hermosa Beach, parents living nearby, and our family dog, Duke. My truth was shattered as the insidious disease of alcoholism invaded our family. It took me seven years to crawl out of the hole of denial as my son Dan, now 20 years old, got sober at 18 years old, but had been using drugs and alcohol since the age of 11.
My new truth is that I am as sick as the alcoholic in my life. This truth has required me to accept, first and foremost, that alcoholism is a family disease. As convinced as I was that my son Dan needed long term treatment after his shorter prior experiences with jails and institutions, I finally realized that I needed help, too. I was on the verge of emotional and physical collapse, I was crippled with constant negative thoughts, I was living in the past daydreaming about my young and healthy son, desperately hoping Dan would have a happy, healthy and successful future.
I was physically ill with gastrointestinal issues, gout, weight loss, weight gain, low energy, erratic behavior, isolating from family and friends, and slowly destroying my relationship with my husband. I seriously ignored my responsibilities in my job and found myself lying to cover up my inability to perform as required. I was lying to everyone to cover up the truth. This insanity was my truth and I was embarrassed to admit it to anyone, including, at times, to my own husband.
I walked into the rooms of Al Anon in December of 2015 and knew I was not alone in my truth. By the time my son entered New Life House in April of 2017, I had already been in Al Anon for 16 months. I was attending 2 meetings each week. One of those meetings is specifically designated as a “Parent Meeting” meaning that everyone in the room (approximately 40 people each week) was a parent of an alcoholic. This meeting has been critical to my recovery because I know that I am not alone in my recovery journey as a parent of an alcoholic son.
I heard things in my first Al Anon meeting that I use on a daily basis and will never forget:
- That we can get better if we keep coming back and work the Steps with our own sponsor;
- That Step 1 contains the word “We” so I know I never have to be alone in my recovery; and
- The 3 Cs: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. What a relief I felt after my very first meeting!
Al Anon has been the number one critical piece of my recovery. It provides me with a safe place to discuss my insanity, it provides me with literature to read on a daily basis to get me through difficult days, it provides me with literature to guide me through the Steps, it provides me with guidelines regarding my behavior (i.e., my obsession, anxiety, denial, anger, and guilt), and most of all it has brought me closer to God, my Higher Power. I have learned to “let go and let God.”
In the rooms of Al Anon, I learned to “detach with love.” Letting go and detaching from my son does not mean that I ignore him, love him any less, or do not support him in his recovery. It means that I will allow God’s plan to unfold naturally and that I affirm Dan’s right to live his own life, make his own choices, and to grow and experience the results of his own actions. I learned in Al Anon that my son Dan has his own Higher Power and it’s not me! Most importantly, I have learned in the rooms of Al Anon to keep the focus on myself… that I am powerless over my son.
I am learning all I can about the disease of alcoholism. This includes reading the Big Book of AA, attending open AA meetings, attending meetings at New Life House and reading anything relevant and interesting suggested by my Al Anon friends. The more I understand the disease, the more I understand my family and our behaviors.
Sponsorship is a critical piece of my Al Anon recovery. I have heard more than one longtime Al Anon speaker say “You must get a sponsor. You’d be silly not to because a sponsor is a teacher and a friend who will help you find serenity.” “Wow,” I thought, “who would not want serenity in their life?” After trying and failing multiple times to get my son to stop using drugs and alcohol, I want what my sponsor has: serenity, whether my son is drinking or not. It’s important to find a sponsor who you can relate to. My own sponsor knew I was fragile and needed to work Step 1 slowly. I just recently finished Step 1 and am moving on to Step 2, but I can see that I have to work Step 1 on a daily basis. I have to constantly remind myself of my powerlessness over people, places, and things.
Initially, I was disappointed in myself that I was not working the steps quicker, comparing myself to others. However, I have come to realize that I can take as much time as I want because it is my recovery and no one else’s. Today, I am proud of myself for my Step 1 accomplishment and look forward to continuing my work with my sponsor. I have made a commitment now to meet with her on a weekly basis for approximately one hour. I am so grateful for my loving, kind, and compassionate sponsor who is willing to guide me through my recovery. She is a precious gift. Al Anon is a gift of a lifetime; the gift of fellowship, the gift of recovery, the gift of serenity in my life.
Service is also an important part of my recovery. I have been able to have commitments at my Al Anon home meeting, including treasurer, leading meetings, speaker person, birthday person, and greeter. These commitments keep me coming back and keep me close to my fellowship in the rooms. I have made friends for life in the rooms of Al Anon and am forever grateful for the friendship, support, and guidance they have provided to me. In the spirit of service, I have reached out to help other families in need of guidance with the issues of alcoholism and I have also become involved with my son’s recovery community.
New Life House provides a family component of my son’s recovery program. After 16 months at New Life House, Dan is an in-house graduate and I continue to attend family meetings twice a month on Saturdays. The meetings provide families of alcoholics information and knowledge about the disease of alcoholism. They also provide an opportunity to learn about how my son is doing in his recovery and to engage with the other young men in the program and their families. I plan to continue to attend family meetings on Saturday and be of service to NLH families who may be struggling with their son’s addiction and recovery. I am grateful to NLH for all that I have learned about the disease, my son, and myself. NLH is definitely a part of my own recovery experience.
My own spirituality has grown tremendously through my recovery process. Although I was raised with religious education and beliefs, only recently have I realized that God is the source of all love and serenity in my life. Prayer and meditation play a significant role in my recovery. Every morning I pray and every day I find time to meditate. I have also taken meditation classes which have really increased my awareness of the importance of living in the present moment. I am learning to focus on “the now” and let go of the past and the future.
My truth today: I am grateful to God, to Al Anon, my sponsor, NLH, and my son Dan for all that I am learning in my own recovery. I know I have a lot more work to do in my recovery, but I can work on it one day at a time!