Those who live with alcoholism often live in fear: fear of abuse, fear of anger, fear of trusting others. Al-Anon Family Groups (including Alateen for younger members) is a source of understanding, help, and hope to families and friends of alcoholics. The following story, originally published in the August 2002 issue of Al-Anon’s monthly magazine, The Forum, illustrates some of the fears experienced.
My pattern of isolation began in childhood when my mother’s abusive behavior became a source of sadness and embarrassment. I coped by being a good little girl and keeping my feelings to myself. Years later, while I suffered from my son’s alcoholism, I withdrew again. When the pain became intolerable, I decided to try Al-Anon.
It was scary walking into a room that was full of strangers, so I put on my everything’s okay mask. Then the members began to share their stories. Everyone’s words carried such depth and honesty that I began to feel hopeful. I thought maybe I could let my guard down, too. Maybe somebody would finally understand.
Continuing to attend meetings, I confronted longtime habits of self-pity that kept me stuck in misery. It was pretty difficult to feel alone and sorry for myself when I sat with people whose experiences were the same or even worse than mine.
When I was little, I often blamed myself for Mommy’s anger. Later I felt somehow guilty about my son’s alcoholism. Al-Anon told me I did not cause the disease and that I could not control or cure it, either.
The only thing I could change, I learned, was my own response. As I gradually let go of guilt, I felt a new sense of lightness and freedom.
Sometimes I still find myself sliding back into isolation, but now I have a choice. I can stay in a dark, lonely place, if that’s what I choose. Or I can keep coming back to this program, into the healing light of intimacy with my fellow travelers on this journey we call life.
–Kathy S. (Al-Anon members maintain personal anonymity)
See also; Al-Anon