The less able I am to believe in our epoch and the more arid and depraved mankind seems in my eyes, the less I look to revolution as the remedy and the more I believe in the magic of love.
We have been more likely to look outward than inward for solutions to problems. Yet this program is changing us from within. As we come to terms with ourselves, as we learn to be in relationships with friends and family, the same picture that looked so dismal in past years may look full of possibilities and even rich in the present. The love we feel toward others and the love we receive change our perceptions.
We need not expect all relationships to be alike. One friend may be a wonderful recreational buddy, but perhaps we wouldn't talk about everything in our life with that person. Another friend is comfortable and we can be ourselves but we may not be challenged to grow or change. No friendship, no spouse, no one person can be enough in our life. But as a group they sustain and enrich us. We need the love and contact with them all.
I am thankful for love, which gives meaning and hope to life.
I Felt Responsible For Everyone's Happiness-
I grew up in a peaceful household. I took it for granted that everyone was capable of happiness. If they weren’t happy, I made it my personal job to show them how. I took on this responsibility with stubborn dedication. After all, who wouldn’t want to be happy?
When I started dating, I had a couple relationships with young men who were well-balanced, happy human beings-but the relationships didn’t last. The powerful bad boys appealed to me. They weren’t law breakers or really dangerous, but they were into adventuresome, outrageous things. Their freedom dazzled me.
This pattern prevailed in my first and second marriages. I just followed my husband and said okay or yes. When he put me down, I was sure he didn’t really mean it. I would brush it off with a smile. I knew that, given time, I would make him happy. I kept at this goal for years, without realizing the awful cost to me. When alcohol entered the scene, it compounded the damage. I felt part of marriage was being a companion, so I drank to keep him happy.
We carried on in a civilized way. By the end of almost twenty years of “relaxing” evenings, my husband was well into the full-blown disease. I was also affected. After years of waking up in the morning with a tight knot in my stomach, remembering the ridiculous fights the night before, I was fearful and ashamed.
I’m not laying all responsibility for our downward spiral at his door. I was an adult, at least in years. But I didn’t have their deadly gene that overrides the stop button for alcohol addiction. Its power escalates in hidden ways. It tricks your mind into feeling in control, just happier.
My favorite uncle spent most of his life in alcohol’s grasp. He would show up sober after a five-year absence. It would last a short while. He would disappear again for a lengthy time, but not before turning us all upside down, as we tries to make some sense of his anger and hate.
I adored this man. He was wise, funny and loving-but that part of him could vanish in a flash.
Alcohol pays no attention to love except to stomp on it. It killed my uncle as well as a talented niece of mine. The loss is real.
At home, the steady escalation of conflict was such that if I didn’t take action we were both going down. My first search for help led me to a counselor specializing in the treatment of alcoholism. One of her recommendations was to find an Al-Anon meeting. I was referred to a treatment facility for more information. The first step was to gather a few people who were important to my husband; then carefully craft a plan for an intervention.
We needed to be very clear on actual incidents and their impact on us and our family. We had to let him know that he was on the brink of losing us all, as well as destroying himself. I had never been so terrified-before or since. I had no idea what his reaction would be. I had never had a full-time job; the prospect of living alone was petrifying.
The big day arrived. We each said our piece. I blubbered through mine. He sat there quietly until we finished, then answered, “What do you want me to do? At that point, our counselor stepped in, “Your family and friends want you to go in for a month of treatment. “He agreed. My apprehension disappeared. He stayed the full time and never took another drink.
This sounds like the end and in a way it was. There are two very different aspects involved with those who drink to excess. With my husband, the physical act had ended but the emotional void was still there. It was at the base of the whole problem and still had the power to override the stop button. It is almost impossible to conquer without support.
In Al-Anon, as in A.A., we learn to “Let Go and Let God.” It is slow and often uncomfortable. My husband could not take this step. Our life did go on and we found ways to stay together, and I’m glad we did. My sadness is knowing that we could have been so much more.
Over time, I made the vital shift from depending on keeping everyone happy-which was an impossible task anyway-to being the person I am, depending on God to guide my actions. This life-saving message is till my guide. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that I cannot change anyone but myself.
My husband has now passed on and I am living in a wonderfully supportive community. My Al-Anon books came with me-still as valid and valuable as ever.
Patricia D., Spetember 2009
Reprinted with permission of The Forum
Al-Anon Family Groups Incorporated, Virginia Beach, VA
Today's Hope is an Al-Anon themed site and is not affiliated with Al-Anon's World Service Office. The daily sharings contain a reading from Al-Anon's Conference Approved publication The Forum, an inspirational quote/saying and a recovery based reading/meditation. The intent of Today's Hope is to share experience, strength and hope. Please take what you like and leave the rest.