After work, I rode home to the 20th-floor apartment I shared with my alcoholic partner. It faces a main avenue of our city. When I got off at the bus stop in front of our building, I looked up at the windows to see what was awaiting me. If there were no lights on, he was either out or asleep. If I saw one light, he probably was in the kitchen preparing a nice meal. But if all the lights were on, that meant he was as brightly lit up as the flat.
Those bus rides were a source of anxiety, because I never knew whether my evening would bring solitude, a pleasant dinner, or alcoholic chaos. Over time, the discomfort began to creep into my afternoons as I started worrying long before finishing at my job. Eventually, I was anxious from the moment I walked into the office and a wreck by quitting time.
Once I began attending Al‑Anon meetings, I learned not to suffer in advance of things that haven’t happened yet. I began to see that worrying about the future robbed me of days and weeks, but never changed the outcome. Instead, if I focused on “Just for Today” and not tomorrow or next week, I could bring myself back to my own life in the present.
One day, I decided that when I got off the bus, I wouldn’t look up at all. Instead, I would think about any purchases I needed to make or if I wanted to take a walk and think about what had happened that day. I decided not to anticipate anything at home until I put my key in the door, since whatever it was would still be waiting for me then. Several times a week, I attended Al‑Anon meetings before going home, which reinforced my determination to enjoy myself.
My new outlook began to filter into my days, as I slowly freed myself from concern about what another person was doing in my absence. It also spread to my other dealings with the alcoholic, because I realized that he was in the grip of a disease that he couldn’t control, despite his efforts.
That all happened a long time ago. The alcoholic and I parted ways, and I bear him no resentment. However, to this day, I sometimes remind myself not to “look up” at what someone else is doing that might, or might not, disturb or complicate my life. I’m too busy seeing what’s down here on the ground, right in front of me, right now.
By Tim F., New York
The Forum, May 2021
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA