the dogs are barkin' today


North of San Francisco, California,
November 16
I teach, I parent, I learn, I contemplate. I am constantly putting my toe in the water. I dove in, now I'm trying to keep my head above the surface.


Sweetfeet's Links
APRIL 27, 2011 11:23PM

My Visit With Al-Anon

Rate: 20 Flag

spilled wine

Warning for my family: there may be some things in here you haven’t heard before.

It was a small house; ruffled curtains at the windows, a circle of mismatched chairs in the living room. I sat down gingerly. It had taken a long time to summon up the courage to be there, but I wasn’t sure that at any moment I wouldn’t jump up and make a rapid exit. This was long before I understood the Buddhist mantra of “it’s only temporary.” An hour later it would be over.

My husband was an alcoholic. This had taken a long time to dawn on me; I lived in denial for quite some time, as all codependents do. Kids in our twenties, we drank at all social occasions and on general principles. I had begun to suspect he had an addiction  problem when he canceled dates because he was drinking with friends, but it took several years of evidence to prove it to me. He drank when he was stressed, I was always the designated driver, his brother referred to him as “Jekyll and Hyde.” He’d go to a friend’s house to have a beer after work. Every hour or so he would call to tell me he was staying a little longer. Several hours into it, he would call to tell me he couldn’t drive. Several hours after that, I would hear the front door close from my bed where I wasn’t sleeping. One day shortly after our wedding, I got a call at work from my insurance company. He could not be added to my insurance because he had a DUI record. I was stunned into silence, then tears. Interesting that he hadn’t told me that bit of information before the wedding.

He’d quit drinking for six months, and then slide back. I emptied the house of booze, so he’d drink somewhere else. Hung over on a Sunday, he’d ride his bicycle back to the bar to get his van, left there because he was too drunk to drive home the night before. He sipped on wine as he drove us back from Tahoe, the hair-of-the-dog hidden in a commuter cup. A cop pulled us over for speeding that day. It’s a miracle he got off with just a ticket.

I finally realized I couldn’t make him change, and that I needed support. So I decided to try Al-Anon. I found excuses to avoid the first meeting. Wrong part of town, bad night, too much homework. I finally ended up at a little house in Santa Clara County, looking around at half a dozen other wounded human beings.

We went around and told our stories. Some of them were horrific. Everyone had a sad tale to tell, everyone was angry and hurt and broken. One woman spent a significant piece of time describing the tattered relationship with her son that had been going on for twenty years. There were kind words, nods of agreement, tears of sympathy and grunts of understanding.

I couldn’t stand it. Support is great, commiseration is great. But I couldn’t come to one of these meetings every week and listen to people cry and complain about how awful their lives were because of an alcoholic. It brought me so much further down than I already was. And I certainly wasn’t going to live with this kind of misery for twenty years or more. I wanted change, I wanted answers. I wanted action.

I don’t deny the benefits of support groups. I’ve done group therapy too, and I have a playgroup of supportive friends. But sitting in a circle sharing our collective sadness was not going to bring me any hope, only outline my despair. I don’t recall what I did next in my constant search to save my marriage and my husband, but I didn’t go back to Al-Anon. It wasn’t the answer for me.






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I cannot even imagine what you went through but I am the same way.To heck with groups and counselors. It is only me that is going ti find a way out.
Rated with hugs
Never being a fan of support groups
I went, in desperation to Al-Anon
My experience was quite different
from yours
I was new
and the first thing
I was hugged
by others there
and told that
I must know
I did not cause it
and I cannot cure it.
Everything after that
was easy
as each told
what they did
to cope.
I am sure all types of groups exist
I was lucky to find
the one I needed.
rated with love
Yeah, well, it was followed by ten years of therapy.

I'm glad your experience was better. I maybe should have tried a different group.
No I did not like it either. But I began studying about different meditations and that has helped me. R4
No solid answers to this dilemma. I went through trying to live through the roller coaster of emotions with an alcoholic. It was so very stressful. Never been more unhappy. So hopeless too. Glad those days are behind me. Your description of the meeting made me uncomfortable. I wanted to leave and I wasn't even there. Fine writing, by the way.
This is great, your writing this. You've written in past tense so maybe this is in the past... I do know that different meetings have different focuses and different ways of doing things. I have had great success with Alanon. It has been a very supportive, empowering, uncluttering my mind, emotions and actions assist to me and gives a real sense of belonging to the bigger, wide world. I hope you find the support you need, that all humans need, to do the challenging and the healing things we need to do in life. hugs R
Support groups have their places for certain people who need that outlet to vent; people to talk to. Like you, not for me though.
Compelling account, Sweetfeet. Reminds me to be ever grateful I gave up abusing alcohol at a pivotal time in my life. Fortunately I wasn't addicted. I knew too many folks who were, and I saw their lives circle the drain.
Everyone needs to find their own way. Some have the strength to do it alone, or with a therapist. Whatever works, baby.
Meetings vary quite a bit. Alanon is not supposed to be about everyone getting together to bitch and moan and support one another in that...That kind of thing is not helpful...
Compelling story, sweetfeet. I think everyone just needs to find their own path. ~r
I'm just thrilled to pieces that I "inspired" you to write this piece. As more of us are willing to replace victim-hood with action, the better the world will become.
Keep on keeping on!
This was over 20 years ago. I have since found my peace, I am a huge fan of talk therapy with a good therapist; I had my own issues. And my ex hasn't had a drink in ten years. It's all good now. Thanks for your comments everyone!
Being an alcoholic, although I haven't drank in years, I attended one meeting of AA. It wasn't for me. I was a cross alcoholic. I drank, then I had to have drugs. Never failed. But I quit cold turkey. I'm not bragging, this worked for me, some people need the support. Of course, the first thing I did was lose every friend I had, and that is what hurt me the most. I miss them, but not the hangovers!
I truly appreciate this post. I am currently penning my experience with 12 step programs. My experience was similar in some respects but helpful, as well. Linda, I agree with you, it is ourselves, ultimatley, that makes our way out.
I finally had to quit. I don't mind being around people who drink but I wouldn't want to live someone who does. I think of drinking as kind of a "lifestyle" (and a lifestyle that is open to much persecution).
Your post is very articulate. However, it reminds me of what happens when I fail to follow the directions printed on the label of prescribed medication or in a instruction manual. I know what happened to me by resisting going to Al-Anon. I got mentally sicker as did my behavior (violent, verbally abusive), he continued to drink, got promotions at work, and I became the problem by not recognizing that I needed help. I went to a marriage counselor--my husband was brutually honest. He wanted to continue drinking and I was in his way. I chucked the counseling and tried group therapy. A bunch of whiners who had different issues than me.

Finally after five years of resisting Al-Anon (I thought it was religious), I went to my first meeting. I knew right away I was in the right place with the right people. Whining, telling tales of woe, talking about the drinker rather than focusing on ourselves IS NOT what Al-Anon is about. It is always suggested to newcomers to attend at least six meetings before deciding whether or not Al-Anon is an appropriate and helpful resource. The first meeting was so great and such a relief that I found another meeting to go to besides the first one. And I found other meetings in other towns and cities to go to as well. The principles of Al-Anon become a way of life. It took about two years but I realized I was now continuing to attend Al-Anon because it was helping me make my life better. And I continue to seek help from therapists when I need it. Life grows on.

Thanks to continued attendance in Al-Anon, I sought individual counseling because I had learned to ask for help. Between the two resources, a year and a half later, I found the courage to ask for a divorce because it was what I needed to do for myself to improve my life while he opted to continue drinking. I could have spent the rest of my life waiting for him to stop drinking, promising to go to treatment and probably tolerating more of his "peckerdillos." If I had been able to save the marriage, I would have but I couldn't waste anymore of my life on being in love with someone's potential. In addition, duh--he was moved in with woman-friend/new drinking buddy. Although it took me a while to reach the point of being grateful for the "other woman," she really was a blessing because the situation made me go on with my life.

Since I started Al-Anon, he's been through three marriages and I'm making much better choices of male significant others. With the help of Al-Anon, and counseling, I have reshaped my life.

I've seen a lot of people like you attend one or a few Al-Anon meetings and then walk away. Some come back because the drinking eventually gets worse as does the relationship and they (the non-alcohol abuser) feel even worse than they did when they tried Al-Anon the first time. They beat themselves up for not staying involved in Al-Anon. I'm glad I didn't go that route.

There is a saying that Al-Anon is for the people who want it--not just those who need it. But I think it is unfortunate that the people who need it don't want it or aren't ready for it by truly getting the focus on themselves. For me, it took strangers coming into my life to help my healing process. You, of course, are entitled to your own journey.

So, I wish you the best of luck with whatever type of support you choose or do not choose to seek. I hope you will continue to write about your feelings and what is happening in your life. But I hope you know that tThe meeting room doors of Al-Anon are always open, and the light is on in the hall for you or anyone else affected by someone else's drinking.
I went to an Al-anon meeting and like you I felt it was not the right thing for me. I felt like if I remained in that group that I would forever stay in the misery of my past. There is something to letting go of what happened in your past. I mean I did not mind telling about my pain and aguish with my counselor, but to do it in front of a whole group was not my thing.

And I did not want to keep reminding myself once or even twice a week that I had been through hell. Who wants to relive the horror of the experience over and over.

So like you I am very happy that it works for some, but it was not my cup of tea.

Thank-you for this blog because when I stopped going I felt so guilty. I felt like I was not doing what so many swore by and thought it was the only way. When I tried to tell them it was not my way, they thought I would be lost, but I did find my way and it was without the help of Al-Anon.
I have promised someone I would try a meeting, possible 3 just to see if it offers me anything. I don't think it will, but I guess I won't know if I don't try. I can see exactly what you are talking about.
I too am the designated driver. My husband carries a flask I bought him once I realized he was never gonna change. Better for him to not hide anymore and keep other people safe.
Supporting friends are the best friend indeed.
One of the quotes that helped me through some rough times was " If you are in hell, keep moving." Group therapy wasn't my thing either.
this was such a realistic view of the feelings and dynamics - thanks so much for this honest account....