Shortly after I joined Al-Anon in earnest and began working a program, my sponsor suggested I attend open AA meetings to help develop compassion for the alcoholics in my life.
I attended the first meeting as an Al-Anon. I attended the second as an alcoholic.
The question had always plagued me. My parents were alcoholics. My daughter found her way to Nar-Anon. Did I think I was immune? Why shouldn't I be an alcoholic?
I had history. Years of binge drinking. Black outs. Things I did under the influence that filled me with shame the day after. My husband and I drank every day.
My AA meetings quickly became my favorites. They were raucous affairs, with much laughter. Coffee and cookies were served. By contrast, Al-Anon meetings seemed somber affairs. Instead of cookies there was Kleenex on the table. There was a lot of crying.
But I was also aware that I didn't fit the pattern. My first assignment from my sponsor was to read the AA Big Book. At the AA meetings I attended, parts of the Big Book were read at the opening of every meeting.
Everything I read about Al-Anons seemed to fit me to a tee. But the readings at AA didn't. For one thing, the AA literature said that alcoholics grow worse, never better. That wasn't true of me. I had to go back 30 years to relate to periods of heavy drinking and feeling out of control.
I had six months of sobriety in AA before my Al-Anon sponsor said she wasn't convinced that I was an alcoholic. She encouraged me to explore the possibility. She put me in touch with other Al-Anons who had partied heavily but who were not alcoholics. I re-read the Big Book and the Merck Manual. It was true. I didn't seem to fit.
One Al-Anon and a friend in AA both suggested "the test" in the Big Book. Non-Alcoholics, it said, could go out, have a drink or two and then quit. A "true" alcoholic couldn't. I knew I could do this. I had done it many times. I had quit drinking for years without missing it. But I tried the test again. I had no problem having a drink or two and stopping.
I quit introducing myself as an alcoholic at AA meetings. Finally, I had an answer. I was not an alcoholic. I felt comfortable in that for the first time in my life. I was not an alcoholic. For some reason, that part of the disease had passed over me. How lucky was that?
Just one more thing to be grateful for.
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