Relying on God, however we understand
God’s presence, is foreign to many of us. We were encouraged from early
childhood to be self-reliant. Even when we desperately needed another’s help,
we feared asking for it. When confidence wavered, as it so often did, we hid
the fear—sometimes with alcohol, sometimes with pills, Sometimes we simply hid
at home. Our fears never fully abated…Slowly and with practice it will become
natural to turn within, to be God-reliant rather than self-reliant
There’s a joke in the Program that
“our best thinking got us here (into the rooms of recovery).” And it’s so true!
I joke at meetings that I’ve always been “CSR,” compulsively self-reliant.” I
have been for much of my life, afraid to ask for help and even more afraid to
accept it. As a child I had to rely on myself for so many things, and that
became a survival strategy. But as an adult, that very façade of strength can
become a terrible defect. Appearing as a formidable wall of arrogance, it only
served to isolate me and separate me from my peers. I had to tear down that
And when I did, when I found the
courage to bare my fears and vulnerabilities and ask for help when I needed it,
I found my humanity. My faith in a power greater than myself enabled me to let
go of my self-reliance and join hands with others as we reached out and helped
It hasn’t removed the problems from my
life. But it has made facing them so much easier.
drinking brought me to the meetings, but day-to-day living keeps me coming
When I joined
the rooms of recovery, I thought that if my daughter would just change, then I
would be happy. I looked everywhere for the magic bullet to bring about this
change. Time passed, and for a while it looked like Angie was changing. And
then she wasn’t. I was confused. How was I ever going to be happy if I kept
riding on the roller coaster with her?
It was time for
me to get off. I needed to realize that a lot of my problems were of my own
making. And allowing my happiness and well-being to depend on other people
isn’t wise because I have no control over them.
But I do have
power over my own life and the choices I make. So I’ve learned to put the focus
back on myself and change in ways that will help me to live better. I’ve let go
of obsessing over a disease I can’t control. And I’ve turned my attention to
other things and people in my life that bring me joy.
program has shown me how to work the tools “in all my affairs.” It has shown me
how it benefits me everywhere. It started with my daughter. But, with or without
success on that front, I can still lead a good and productive life elsewhere,
enjoying healthier relationships to really make my life worth living.
“Surrounded by other recovering people, we are learning how to heal our broken hearts and create healthy, productive, joyful lives…(our program) has led many of us to serenity, fellowship, and relief from loneliness and pain.”
Because of the stigma and shame surrounding all forms of addiction, many of us have kept our loved one’s problem (or our own) shrouded in secrecy. I did most of my life, and only in recent years have I dared to share my family disease with the rest of the world. I realized that until I faced the dreaded subject and learned more about it, it would continue to rule me and my family.
“It” is addiction and all of its effects and consequences. They are far reaching, especially for the family of an addict. And they can become terribly complicated as we become enmeshed in the lives of those we love. Being in the rooms of recovery has helped me untangle the mess.
That’s why a number of programs have been so valuable to many of us who suffer. We break out of our isolation and share our stories with others like us. We gain valuable perspective by listening to others. Our self-esteem soars as we see others listening to us and validating our experiences. We are offered compassion and understanding inside the rooms when it may be hard to find either of those things on the outside.
And we begin our journey toward getting our lives back when once they seemed to be lost.
“If my problems have brought me to prayer, then they have served a purpose.”
There are so many different ways to pray: walking; meditating; talking to a Higher Power; singing; baking bread; sewing. I view prayer as letting go of myself for the time being and turning my attention to another activity. Turning to something else that calls me, that enriches me.
My problems with my AD Angie leveled me to the ground in the beginning. I took it on myself as if that were my calling. And I felt good about myself in the process because I was trying to fix a terrible problem. But what distinguished my behavior from prayer was that it was all about me. Far from turning to someone or something else, my obsession about saving my daughter was grounded in misplaced guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and stubborn will. I was addicted to my daughter.
I’m grateful I found a recovery program for parents of addicts that was compassionate and useful. I wasn’t helping myself or my daughter by blaming myself for an illness I didn’t cause. I needed to let go of behaviors toward her that weren’t helping. Though I’m always ready to help Angie when she asks for help, I’ve moved on.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know one thing for certain: I deserve to enjoy what’s left of my life. I don’t want addiction and its wreckage to claim two victims in my immediate family.
Step Five: Admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This is an honest program, and I recognize that I’ve been lying to myself and others my whole life. Shame, stigma, embarrassment were just a few of my rationales. But the lies kept my addictions going. I didn’t have to face them if I didn’t acknowledge them.
Telling someone else was the game changer for me. Other people became the mirrors I needed for valuable feedback. And telling other people made it all real. I could no longer hide in the shadows with my defects.
Bringing them out in the open with witnesses gives us a chance to deal with our defects more honestly and effectively. Freeing myself of some of my defects is critical to my growth and recovery in the program. My defects were roadblocks for me and contributed to my drinking.
I’m glad I’ve come out of isolation and faced myself. Day by day, I’m healing and getting better.
“I am the adult child of two alcoholics. Before I came into Al-Anon, I had no dreams or hope. I saw my life through my husband’s drinking. I had heard about Al-Anon, but couldn’t conceive how it could help me. As long as my husband was still drinking and had no intentions of stopping, how could going to meetings and focusing on myself make a difference in my life? My existence felt like an out-of-control whirlwind that nothing could stop…
Without Al-Anon I would be on a dead-end road. Instead, my path is one of belief in the gift of recovery.” From Hope for Today, August 31:
Substitute “my husband’s drinking” for my daughter Angie’s drug problem and that’s my story. I was so joined at the hip with my child that I couldn’t separate my life from hers. Hers was chaos, so mine was too. As her parent, I felt overly responsible for her problems, and I took on too much. It helped her not at all when I shielded her from accountability and took on the blame myself. I needed to find some relief.
My recovery program has given me some tools to manage my life better. I’ve learned to detach with love, I’ve let go of my guilt, stopped enabling, and I’ve learned to have faith in someone other than myself. Though I thought I did at first, I did not know what was best. Being in the rooms was a complete education for me and I learned how to cope with Angie’s addiction more effectively.
When I was willing to face the fact that there is no magic bullet to save my daughter, I discovered a new freedom. Yes, I felt sad about my powerlessness, but sadder still would have been losing my mind and my well-being trying to save hers.
I almost did. But I’ve learned how “changed attitudes can aid recovery.” I just needed to find the courage to change. And the will and the humility to ask my Higher Power to help me do the work.
Life is still good. I know how to be happy now by altering my attitude. “It’s a simple program, but it isn’t easy.”
“Someone else’s drinking brought me to the meetings, but day-to-day living keeps me coming back.”
When I joined the rooms of recovery, I thought that if my my daughter would just change, then I would be happy. I looked everywhere for the magic bullet to bring about this change. Time passed, and for a while it looked like Angie was changing. And then she wasn’t. I was confused. How was I ever going to be happy if I kept riding on the roller coaster with her?
It was time for me to get off. I needed to realize that a lot of my problems were of my own making. And allowing my happiness and well-being to depend on other people isn’t wise because I have no control over them.
But I do have power over my own life and the choices I make. So I’ve learned to put the focus back on myself and change in ways that will help me to live better. I’ve let go of obsessing over a disease I can’t control. And I’ve turned my attention to other things and people in my life that bring me joy.
My recovery program has shown me how to work the tools “in all my affairs.” It has shown me how it benefits me everywhere. It started with my daughter. But, with or without success on that front, I can still lead a good and productive life elsewhere, enjoying healthier relationships to really make my life worth living.
“The first gift a newcomer receives from contact with Al-Anon is hope. Seeing how others rise above their problems, listening to situations worse than their own, absorbing the atmosphere of love and goodwill, send them home with a new lease on life.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.94)
“Happy Our Program Exists.” Well, that’s an understatement! Without the tools I’ve picked up in the rooms of recovery, I would be very depressed. It wasn’t easy to undergo a complete overhaul of my attitude, but I needed one.
I came into the Program miserable, anxious and terrified. I felt overly responsible, as though what I did could cure my daughter’s illness. But over time I’ve learned to let go of a situation I lacked the ability to change.
“A parent never gets over losing a child, Carlos. I’ve learned how to be happy and make the most of my life. My recovery Program is strong. But I’ll never stop missing Angie and all her possibilities. Never.
When addiction claims our loved ones, we often feel resentful. It feels to us like we had been tagged, even though we had run as hard as we could. It’s taken me a few years to get to a place where I don’t feel angry or gypped anymore. My lot is no better or worse than any other mother’s whose child was struck down by illness. Whether or not she outlives me—as is the law of nature—remains to be seen.
In the meantime, I must remember to watch the mountain turn into a big red watermelon, and enjoy the colors of New Mexico.”