My journey toward the spiritual life I’ve found in Al‑Anon began when I was a young child growing up in an alcoholic family. But I didn’t start down this road to recovery until halfway through my life, when I became concerned about my daughter’s disease.
I was unhappy growing up. It’s a classic story of family dysfunction that many of us experienced as children. My father’s alcoholism was never treated, and he died prematurely because of his illness. I, too, went untreated for the effects of his alcoholism upon me.
It was a rocky road. I suffered from low self-esteem, intense self-judgment, an inflated sense of responsibility, people-pleasing, loss of integrity, and, above all, the need to control. I carried all these defects and more into my role as a mother to my struggling daughter, and, predictably, the situation only got worse.
I was a very hard sell on the first three Steps of Al‑Anon, which pointed out my powerlessness and inability to manage the family disease of alcoholism, as well as my need for the help of a power greater than myself. My stubbornness cost me my health and my career. But once I did let go of my self-reliance and started working the Al‑Anon program, my whole life changed for the better. The Serenity Prayer has been my mantra every day. I’ve learned to let go of what I can’t change. I don’t have the power to free my daughter from her disease, but I can do my part to be healed from my own. This is where I’ve focused my work in Al‑Anon.
My daughter has gone up and down the rollercoaster of her disease for 20 years, and right now she’s in a very bad place. But that has only tested me more. My faith grows stronger every day when I release my daughter with love to her Higher Power, and I can firmly trust in mine.
Friends ask, “How do you do that? You make it sound so simple!” I tell them that, first of all, getting here hasn’t been simple. I’ve reached this point only after years of poisoning my most important relationships with the defects I talked about earlier. I knew I had to change in order to be happy. Secondly, today I choose to accept whatever happens in my life, unconditionally, in faith. I read somewhere that pain is in resistance, not in acceptance or surrender. It’s much less painful to let go and have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. I just have to get out of the way.
We all have different stories, but what has blessed me about the spiritual life I’ve found in Al‑Anon is that I can always look within myself and find peace regardless of the storms raging around me. I’m learning how to dance in the rain.
By Marilea R., Washington
The Forum, February 2023
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.