I had my whole life planned – the education, career, marriage, baby and the happily ever after. All was on track, then alcoholism reared its ugly head and ruined my carefully mapped out life… Or did it?
When I met my husband, he was a social drinker. Many years into our marriage, his drinking patterns changed, and he began consuming alcohol every other weekend. Although there was no abuse or violence, I began to despise alcohol. Even though I could see a problem arising, I had this stigma linked to alcoholism. My image of an alcoholic was the untidy, jobless bum on the park bench so I couldn’t accept that my husband who was the provider and protector in our home could be an alcoholic.
I didn’t realize I was affected by alcoholism until I came to Al‑Anon. I was an expert at my own role and alcoholism simply had become a part of. My role? Fix it. I always thought it was my job to “fix” everything and “help” everybody. When my partner’s alcoholism made its appearance, I tried to “fix” that too, but all attempts were futile. Since nobody knew that my partner was an alcoholic, I went to great lengths to protect or hide his addiction. I thought by denying it existed, it would go away. As keeping secrets is often the unspoken rule of an alcoholic relationship, I suffered alone. Not being able to share my feelings with anyone, my life became unmanageable as I tried to control the uncontrollable.
I tried on numerous occasions to share my thoughts with my husband regarding his drinking, using the ever famous “if you love me, you will not drink” line. I even imposed certain conditions and consequences if he drank, but none of that worked until he made a decision to seek help for himself. A year after my husband joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I attended my first Al-Anon meeting where I was shocked to discover I was the one who needed fixing…
Lack of awareness that alcoholism is a family illness is what keeps people from acknowledging the problem and seeking help. In Al-Anon members, I found a new family who had previously walked the same path. Gradually I began sharing my experience, strength and hope at meetings and this freed me from my secrets. Sharing the challenges of loving an alcoholic and seeing other members nodding their heads in agreement, assured me that I am not alone. Talking openly about alcoholism helped in my healing & recovery.
Learning that alcoholism is a disease for which there is no cure and acceptance of my powerlessness over it, brought much relief as I was able to live with and love my husband without exhausting myself in foolish attempts to “save or fix” him. Practising detachment with love, separating him from his problem and loving him without liking his behaviour, I no longer manipulated situations so that he would stay sober. Accepting that I didn’t cause his alcoholism, I can’t control or cure it, was liberating and gratifying as I was relieved of feelings of guilt, blame and shame.
Al-Anon’s 12 step recovery program helped melt my heart. It helped me to accept my husband for who he is and accept myself for who I am. Once I understood he was suffering from a disease, my feelings of anger were replaced by compassion. I was able to forgive, love, support and encourage him. I then began to focus on myself, on my own choices and behaviours rather than on his. Trying to control the outcome of my husband’s behaviour, judging him or trying to solve his problems is not my business but allowing him to face the consequences of his actions and treating him with dignity is my business.
Keeping the focus on myself was a bit of a struggle in the beginning. Gradually I was able to accept my character defects, weaknesses, and strengths. As I became willing to admit my defects, I acknowledged my distorted thinking, foolish actions, unloving attitudes, and behaviour was really the issue creating the chaos and insanity we experienced in our home. Fortunately, my attitude changed and so did my behaviour. Thanks to Al-Anon, I am now living a much more composed life than ever before. Today I have serenity in knowing that I am responsible only for me and not the entire world. I can treat others with kindness and compassion. I can accept people as they are and not try to change or fix them. I can get out of God’s way and to allow natural consequences to unfold.
I will forever be grateful to Al-Anon. It gave me a brand-new life which directed me to my spiritual journey of self-realisation and placed me on a serene path filled with love, hope, patience, faith and courage. Although I may have had my whole life planned, it is God who establishes my steps. So now, I don’t run ahead of God, I let Him guide & direct my steps.