I grew up in an alcoholic home and had heard people say that "alcoholism is a family disease," but never knew what that meant. I didn't believe I had been affected by other people's alcoholism. After all, alcoholism was their problem, not mine. And that was a long time ago. I was an adult now. I wasn't ruled by the past. I could make my own choices.
I had heard about Al-Anon and even attended a few meetings. But I came to stay after my daughter started having problems. Every now and then, she'd find herself in some trouble and I'd fly out for the rescue. During one of those visits, she had found her way into another fellowship. For the week I was there, I made sure she went to a meeting every day, sampling a variety of meetings so she would find somewhere she was comfortable. There was much talk about getting a sponsor and after a week she asked a woman named Kelly to be her sponsor. Kelly very gently suggested that I attend Al-Anon. "You can work your own program," she said. "You won't have to attend your daughter's meetings anymore."
I took her advice. The day after I returned home, I attended an Al-Anon meeting I had found online. In my welcome, I first heard the three C's: I didn't cause the disease. I couldn't cure the disease. And I couldn't control it. Some people find comfort upon hearing this. Not me. This was my daughter, after all. I wasn't convinced I didn't cause it. Maybe I couldn't cure it. But control? I had spent years trying to control whatever it was that was wrong with my daughter. I gave up my life to it. Having come from an alcoholic home, I thought I knew where she was headed and I was bound and determined to keep her from it.
But nothing I did fixed the problem. It only served to alienate my daughter and exhaust me.
I didn't remember much about what I heard that day. But I did remember the most important thing: to "keep coming back." It was suggested to me that I attend at least six different meetings before I decided Al-Anon wasn't for me. Though based on the same principals, meetings are all a little bit different. Some are small and intimate. Some are very large. There are a variety of formats. It was important that I find a place I felt comfortable and keep coming.
At first, I wasn't sure substance abuse was my daughter's problem. Still, I went to five meetings a week at first. The people in my daughter's fellowship had impressed me. Walking in, many of them looked world worn. But what they said struck me as honest and wise. They radiated serenity. I wanted what they had. I could see that what I had done so far hadn't worked, and I was willing to try something new.
Things started to turn around for me after I got a sponsor and started working the steps. (We follow the same steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned to "mind my own business" and got busy living my own life. I learned a lot about myself along the way.
In Al-Anon, we talk about dropping the rope. The typical pattern is that the alcoholic acts and everyone around them reacts. It's like a game of tug of war. The idea is that if we drop the rope, the alcoholic will have no one to fight with. Many members have reported that once they "dropped the rope," the alcoholic in their life sought help. That doesn't always happen. But what I've learned in Al-Anon is that I can find happiness and serenity whether the alcoholics in my life are drinking or not.
In my case, my daughter is still on her own path. The difference is that today, I know it's her path. In the end, it mattered little whether her problems stemmed from substance abuse or something else. For me the answer is the same. I've learned to love her unconditionally without trying to run her life. Our relationship is better than it has been in years and, yes, I am happy.
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