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5.) I PLAY A ROLE IN MY ILLNESS.

Al-Anon asks each member to do a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of herself. It took me about 18 months to complete this task with the help of a trusted sponsor. Part of the moral inventory included looking closely at my own behavior to see where I allowed the alcoholic to continue his downward spiral. As an antidote to enabling his tailspin, I learned how to “detach with love” from the alcoholic’s behavior. For me, this meant that I could be happy and enjoy serenity even if the alcoholic was still drinking. Before Al-Anon, none of these concepts would have made any sense to me. Working the Al-Anon program helps me to recognize the role that I play in all of my relationships and that I am responsible for my own behavior in every personal and professional relationship in my life.

"Al-Anon is a mutual-help organization that is a fellowship of ordinary, everyday people who experience distress with someone else’s drinking."

6.) I AM HUMAN.

As a recovering perfectionist, I constantly beat myself up for not living my life correctly, according to some unreasonable set of standards. In my early years in Al-Anon, I felt so guilty about not being the perfect member of Al-Anon or not working the program in just the right way. Now I can look back at this attitude and chuckle. Al-Anon reminds me that I am perfectly imperfect. In other words, I am human, like everyone else. I will make mistakes. I will even repeat the same mistakes multiple times! I will have emotional relapses. And guess what? No one will judge me. I am still loved. I am forgiven. I don’t have to be anyone other than myself. I am human.

7.) I PLAY A ROLE IN MY RECOVERY.

The Al-Anon program asks for “progress not perfection.” Every day, every month, every year, I can choose to focus on and improve some aspect of myself and my recovery. I can continue to learn about the disease of alcoholism, about myself, and about my relationships with others. Once upon a time, I was the terrified newcomer. Now I have the chance to be a living example for someone else who is entering the meeting room for the first time. I can encourage her to “keep coming back”. My mother still wonders why I continue to go to Al-Anon meetings, even though I have been divorced from the alcoholic for almost three years, and I have not lived with him for almost five years. I used to get very defensive at her questioning. Now I say, “Al-Anon was never about the alcoholic actually. I keep going because it helps me stay sane and serene. It improves the quality of my life.”

8.) I AM GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING.

Old-timers in Al-Anon used to tell me, “One day you will even be grateful for the alcoholic in your life.” I nodded my head but secretly disagreed with them on the inside. I hated what alcoholism had done to me and my life. Alcoholism had transformed a functional man into a shell of himself, had destroyed a thirty-year relationship, had taken a father away from my two daughters, and had turned our lives completely upside-down. As far as I was concerned, alcoholism was a disaster, a living nightmare, a curse that I would not wish on my worst enemy. How could I ever be grateful for that? Nine years into Al-Anon, I am beginning to have a glimpse of what gratitude is all about. Today, I cannot say that I am grateful for the alcoholic in my life, but I do recognize that my own spiritual awakening would not have been possible without him. Alcoholism brought me to my knees, crawling into the supportive fellowship of people in Al-Anon, and for that, I am grateful.

9.) I HAVE LEARNED TO LOVE MYSELF.

When I started attending Al-Anon meetings in 2013, I did not like myself. I was depressed, anxious, angry, and resentful. I was a ball of bitterness and self-pity. I asked myself over and over: “Of all the people in the world, why did this have to happen to me?” I also thought I knew everything and had all the answers. Looking back, I realize how foolish and close-minded I was. Not only is Al-Anon a spiritual program of recovery, it is a path to love. Most importantly, it is a path toward self-love. I thought I knew what it meant to love myself. Yes. I generally liked myself. I was proud of what I had accomplished as a mother and addiction psychiatrist. When evaluating myself by typical measures of success, my self-esteem was intact. However, looking back, I was not firmly rooted in taking care of my soul. I had placed more value on living up to ideals and standards of success that existed outside of me and less value on the quality of life for which my heart longed.

Today, inside of me, I feel the deep self-love that comes with being a child of God and having a Higher Power to guide me. I understand the self-compassion and self-forgiveness that results from loving myself as I am, warts and all. I have experienced first-hand how loving myself has manifested so much joy and goodness in my life.

After nine years, I sometimes still feel like a newcomer to recovery, especially when it comes to loving myself without harsh judgment, and that’s okay. I know how much more I still have to learn, and I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.


RESOURCES | CONNECT WITH AL-ANON:

  • https://al-anon.org/newcomers
  • Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters Inc. (1995). How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics. New York: Al-Anon Family Groups.

Editing by Paul M. Kubek of PMK Consulting, LLC.

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