When I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting, I was convinced that I had no choices about anything. I was convinced I was destined to be stuck taking care of everyone else and that love meant putting everyone else’s needs above my own. I was there that night because my spouse had finally hit bottom and made the decision to get help for himself. By the grace of God, I, too, somehow realized that I needed help. I had become so numb to my own emotional and spiritual needs that I felt like I merely existed. I wasn’t really living, and I sure didn’t know how to feel anything at all anymore.
On that first night, I wasn’t afraid going to the meeting. I wasn’t afraid of sharing my story. What I was most afraid about was the thought that I would never be able to feel anything again. I wanted to be able to laugh, love, grieve, get angry. I had been stuffing my feelings for so long that I was fearful I wouldn’t be able to turn them back on. And, when and if I did turn them back on, how painful would it be? How would I survive that process?
Of all the things I have learned so far on this journey, the most powerful for me has been the realization that I have choices and that other people in my life have their own choices. I may be powerless over the disease of alcoholism, but I am not powerless over the choices I can make for myself with the love and guidance of my group, Sponsor, and Higher Power. I am not able to—nor should I try to—make choices for the other people in my life.
I found the experience, strength and hope I needed in that room that night and every night since then. As I listened to others talk about their experiences and feelings, I realized that part of the program included learning to feel and be present with those feelings. I was shocked to hear that I am both “worthy of love and loving.” I was surprised to begin to see that there was a way forward and people there to support and guide me. And, most importantly, I was grateful to see that I have choices.
By Beth C., Virginia
The Forum, May 2020
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA