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Al-Anon Forum Magazine Featured Article

Intimate Strangers
By the time I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting two years ago, I was lonely and frustrated. My loving companion of ten years had drifted into a pattern of memory lapses and slurred speech every evening. Our once intimate dinners digressed into rambling, dull conversations.
My work as a consulting psychologist in an addictive disease program compounded my frustrations. Having worked with hundreds of recovering alcoholics in treatment, I found myself helpless to stop the downward spiral of the person I loved most. I was unable to prevent my own marriage from turning into a lonely nightmare. My worst realization was that alcohol had taken away the person who was the emotional foundation of my life.
When I came into the Al-Anon program, I had already taken part of the First Step. I admitted I was powerless and that my life had become unmanageable. Since I had already stopped drinking myself in an effort to bring abstinence into our home, I didn't feel powerless over alcohol but I was surely powerless over the alcoholic. In stumbling through the Second Step, I came to believe that a power greater than myself could get my wife to stop drinking. I secretly hoped I could learn some advanced techniques that might bring sobriety to my home. Instead, my first lesson included the three "Cs" of alcoholism: I did not cause it; I could not control it, and I could not cure it. I am still learning that lesson today.
When I looked at the Second Step, I didn't think I needed to be restored to sanity because I wasn't insane in the first place. It was only later, when I went on one of my "search and destroy" missions, that I realized how truly paranoid I had become: I found myself searching through the garbage for empty bottles of vodka. Even one of my colleagues, who was a recovering alcoholic, thought that was crazy. I recall another day when I picked up a glass of vodka and took it to a laboratory to be tested. I wanted to be convinced that my wife had told the truth when she said it was just water. I didn't even trust my own senses to know the difference.
Having worked with recovering alcoholics in treatment, I felt initially inspired to renew my commitment to my marriage. I thought my own commitment to a Twelve Step program would support my wife's recovery efforts. However, nothing in my life prepared me to cope with the daily fears and nightly loneliness of living with active alcoholism. My nightly loneliness is acutely worse today because she moved out of our home last month.
Often I relapse into thinking that I must have done something wrong or she would have gotten sober. Again and again, I am reminded that I did not cause it, cannot cure it and cannot even control it. It is in Al-Anon meetings each week that I find a loving presence and a power greater than myself that restores me. Though I lost my once intimate companion who became a stranger to me, I have found companionship among a group of intimate strangers. I am learning to live each day, One Day at a Time, as we share our experience, strength, and hope.
Initially, I maintained my professional anonymity in Al-Anon because I was too ashamed to admit my dilemma. Although by day I was respected for my work with recovering alcoholics, by night I watched helplessly as the person I loved most was taken away from me. In keeping with the spirit of our Traditions, I continue to maintain my anonymity today because it is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions. As Al-Anon's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions on page 135 reminds me, "When we do not emphasize our uniqueness, we gain strength from being part of a group conscience which flows from a power greater than ours alone."
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.