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Al-Anon Forum Magazine Featured Article

Holding Me Fast
Five years ago I became a stay-at-home mom with infant twins. It came as a bit of a shock after working full-time for eight years, including a lot of overtime. During this time it finally sank in that my husband was an alcoholic. We had argued about his drinking before, but after each incident I passed it off as nothing. I had been too busy to give it a lot of thought until after our children were born. Then I had time to think.
Every day I mentally picked up the subject of my husband's drinking. I wanted to figure out the perfect thing to say to him to get him to realize that he needed to quit. Almost every night, by the time I went to bed I felt like I didn't know up from down. My husband with his red, glazed eyes didn't seem to realize much of anything. Instead of solving problems, my thoughts were increasing my own confusion, despair and panic. I resembled my husband who kept thinking with a little more effort he could control his drinking. I kept thinking I could figure out how to get my husband all fixed up if I just tried a little harder.
One weekend when my husband went fishing, I began searching the phone book for private investigators. I wanted to hire one to tail my husband after work. As I scanned the yellow pages, I believe my Higher Power brought me to the A's instead of the P's. As a result, I began attending Al-Anon the following week. I knew after my first meeting that I was in the right place, so I kept going. Whenever I found myself obsessing about my husband, I read Al-Anon literature instead. Gradually, I began making friends in the group and I slowly became a person with some ability to reason again.
About six months after I started coming to Al-Anon, I had a problem with a friend. She was angry with me and I didn't know why. I thought she must be angry because my husband wouldn't help me with the kids-so she probably felt she had to offer to help. I told my sister about it and my sister said, "Maybe she's just angry because she wants to help and you won't let her." A light went on in my head when my sister said that. It was the first time I saw my tendency to blame all of my problems on my husband and his drinking.
One time I took a trip alone with the kids to spend a pleasant week with my parents. After I got home, my husband said he missed me and he asked if I had missed him. Before I started Al-Anon, I would have answered, "Yes," because that's what I thought a good wife was supposed to say, or because it would have hurt his feelings if I didn't. Another way I might have answered was to scream, "All you do is drink! Why would I miss you?!" But this time was different. I thought about how I honestly felt. Quietly, I said, "No, to be honest it was nice to be away from all the drinking for awhile." I could tell he felt hurt and I was sorry about that, but it didn't seem fair to either of us to pretend things were different from the way they were. The heated discussions that followed made it obvious to both of us that our marriage wasn't going to hold up much longer if something didn't change.
I felt petrified. I didn't want to give up my marriage, but I was powerless to save it. I really don't know how I survived the fear that hit me in giant waves--except to say I believe my Higher Power was with me, holding me fast, giving me strength that I didn't have before. The following month, my husband decided to quit drinking. As far as I know, he hasn't had a drink since. The first year after he quit was difficult, but lately things have been pretty good. I'm not sure what to make of it, except just to enjoy it.
I still go to Al-Anon. I find I need it now as much as I ever have. Lately, I've been feeling very fearful again. I'm back at Steps One, Two and Three and I'm struggling with them--just as I did when I first entered Al-Anon. This time, it doesn't involve my husband but a friend who is going through a very difficult and unhappy time in her life. I have wanted so much to help her, to listen to what she's going through, but every time I reach out it seems as though she slaps my hand. I know she's in pain but I find myself angry, hurt and obsessed with the situation. I thought my days of obsessing and worrying myself sick were long behind me, but I find that they aren't. This time, I'm struck by the realization that all this obsessing keeps me from living. While my mind chases its tail, my kids say funny things, geese fly in a giant V outside my window and soapy water warms my hands as I wash the dishes. Life goes on and I feel as though I'm missing it.
I have heard a million times in Al-Anon that it helps to have something good to replace a negative habit. Maybe what would be good for me is to live in the moment - Just for Today, as we say in Al-Anon. If I pay attention, I might find life a lot more interesting than I ever realized. The last week or so I have been trying to do just that. It's hard! I must have caught myself a million times, drifting away to thoughts of my friend.
I have been playing a game with myself as I drive the car. I try to see how long I can think of absolutely nothing except what I'm doing. I'm trying to be aware of what's going on around me, but I don't think I've made it a minute, yet. This week I noticed a couple of funny things that my kids said, though. Also, I never guessed that washing the dishes could feel so soothing. I have a long way to go, but I have hope for myself. I am very thankful to be in this program.
Karen E. - Minnesota
Alcoholism is a family disease. Those of us who live with, or have have lived with, this disease as children or adults sometimes have problems which the Al-Anon program can help us to resolve. If you have answered yes to some of all of the above questions, Al-Anon may be of help to you. You can contact Al-Anon by checking your local telephone directory, or from the Resources page. Phone numbers and Contact Information for the Austin Area are listed on the Contact Page of this website.
These articles were reproduced with permission from 'The Forum', the monthly inspirational newsletter of Al-Anon. Al-Anon World Headquarters, Inc. is located in Virginia Beach, VA. See www.Al-Anon.org for more information.