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Al-Anon Forum Magazine Featured Article

I Know The Words
My husband has been paradoxically cursed and blessed with a terminal illness known as alcoholism. Originally I believed he suffered from a moral weakness and nothing more. However, once I began my own road to recovery in Al-Anon, I kept hearing this "defect of character" referred to as a disease. The literature I studied made repeated reference to the disease process.
Intellectually, I heard disease and I tried very diligently to believe what I was taught. My heart, however, was a long way from buying the idea. The emotional damage inflicted by this so-called disease was extensive.
I could not separate the actions of the man from the actions of his disease. I hurt. I was filled with resentments, despair and self-pity. To make a long story short, my husband could no longer listen to me vent my emotions and still maintain his sobriety. Because I was unable to let these feelings go, I began to turn my anger inward.
Eventually I experienced a profound depression in my heart and my soul. The pain was as intense as any physical pain I've experienced. During this time, I looked to my husband for compassion, patience, understanding and love. I wanted him to see me through this, but the more I looked to him to make me better the more he withdrew. I even felt abandoned by God, because God wasn't fixing me the way I thought He should.
The Day finally came when my husband looked at me and said, "Joan, I'm not responsible for your depression, and I refuse to be." His words sent me reeling with a familiar haze of rage. I was ready to call it quits, but within minutes the dam within me broke apart. I saw my part in all of this as clearly as the light of a new day. I realized, thanks to God, that at no time during my husband's illness did I ever offer him compassion, patience, understanding or love. My love had one big condition underscoring it. I wanted him to be the person I wanted him to be, rather than the person that God deemed him to be.
With this insight I realized that I knew nothing about unconditional love. Without the grace of God I might even have been incapable of unconditional love. As I wrote about this insight, I knew deep in my heart that I was only at a newborn's stage in trying to fathom God's love.
We celebrated God's love at our wedding when I repeated the words, "For better, for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health..." At that time, I thought I meant the words that I said. But today I know what those words really mean.
Joan S. - Iowa
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.