by Shannon Luders-Manuel. Four people describe their experiences as children in the rooms of Alateen and Al-Anon and whether it helped them cope with their family member’s addiction. My mother has attended Al-Anon religiously for as along as I can remember. She left my dad when I was three after a particularly bad physical fight,…
A few months ago, someone provided a simple image of a spiral that helped clarify how and when a family member should help an addict. Spiralling downwards: don’t touch (except, of course, for confronting your loved one with the problem and a solution). Spiralling up: give your full support. This image has helped me and my mom as we deal with a close family member struggling with alcoholism. We simply ask ourselves, “Is he spiralling up?”, before we invest our time and energy. Our love for him is constant either way.
Lois’ life got more hellish when her husband insisted on bringing alcoholics home with him to dry out. “I guess I thought that once he stopped drinking, everything would go back to what it was like before – happy and loving,” she said. She often felt excluded and grew resentful of Bill’s fellowship meetings.
But what about the other victims, mostly family members who’d also been scarred by the disease? It was Lois Wilson’s inspiration to invite those other victims into her kitchen, so they could share, so they could begin healing. This is how Al-Anon was born.
At first, I was a bit resistant to the idea of attending and being a member of “another fellowship.” I was a very active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and making room for attendance in another fellowship seemed a bit daunting. But then a situation presented itself which helped me transition to a new emotional bottom in my sobriety. And at the same time an Al-Anon group was started right inside my workplace. Could the message be any clearer?
Maybe our sponsor sees that we’re struggling in relationships or with self-care. Maybe in learning to be less self-centered we’ve somehow lost our sense of self. Maybe some old behaviours are seemingly intransigent, despite our very best efforts in working the steps. Maybe, just maybe, we need to enlarge the scope of our recovery. And so we may find ourselves gravitating to that “other fellowship” – Al-Anon.
I don’t think it’s possible to have recovery without talking about the past. And the purpose of talking about the past is to be able to put the past behind. One talks about the past to be able to undo the denial process. I don’t think it’s possible to be honest about what’s going on in my life today, in the here and the now, when I had to minimize, discount and rationalize the first five, ten, fifteen or twenty years of my life.