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Al-Anon Forum Magazine Featured Article

A Right To Dignity
When I first came into Al-Anon, I came to get my alcoholic son sober. He was in an alcohol rehabilitation center. I was in so much pain for him that I was willing and eager to have anyone tell me what to do. I felt confused, guilt-ridden, ashamed and miserable, but I was doing what "angels sent from God" told me to do. Thank God, they told me to go to Al-Anon. I didn't hear them say I couldn't do anying for my son. If they said all I could do was help myself, I didn't hear that either. I don't know why I went to Al-Anon. I just went.
I thought everyone in my first Al-Anon meeting was nuts because they were smiling, laughing, hugging and talking. I figured it was the wrong meeting for me. This was serious! I tried another meeting and it was the same story. I tried yet another meeting - same story again. Those "angels" had told me to go, so I kept trying different meetings. It finally hit me that the people in the meetings were sharing their pain and their healing. I wanted some of what they had because I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted peace in my life. I wanted to feel it was okay for me to be alive.
My ex-husband was an alcoholic. I was married to him for 16 years and I never did get him sober. Both of my sons were alcoholics. I couldn't get them sober either. I felt like a complete failure, but I kept going to meetings. I heard, "Keep Coming Back." I did and it helped. I didn't feel the pain quite as deeply as before. The guilt I had been feeling was beginning to make sense. I even realized I needn't feel ashamed because I wasn't the one responsible for keeping anyone sober or even happy. My situation reminded me of Step One - yes, I finally paid attention to what I was reading: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
My Mom had been ill since I was two years old. For as long as I could remember, I was responsible for the cleaning, cooking, laundry and anything else that had to be done around the house. When I was not quite 11 years old, I was responsible for taking care of my newborn sister. I learned responsibility, caretaking and enabling very early in life. But I didn't remember feeling loved. I didn't remember being listened to, much less being asked what I felt, needed or wanted. I didn't think anyone cared even a little bit about me. I remembered feeling an empty place inside that I could never fill. I used to accuse my parents of adopting me and not wanting to admit it.
With Step One, I began to believe I was once, am now, and always will be powerless over the disease of alcoholism. I did not cause it. I could not control it or its effects. My lectures and screaming did not help the alcoholic or me. They just hurt, confused and destroyed us. Through Step One, I learned I could change no one but myself. My attitude was the main thing to change. If I could keep a decent attitude, then I could do a better job of detaching - not enabling, care-taking, checking on and destroying. I could love the alcoholics in my life just as they were, even though they might slip.
On page 264 in One Day at a Time in AI-Anon it says, "They are not 'bad boys', who must be directed, disciplined or punished by us. They are sick, confused and guilt-ridden human beings with badly battered egos." A quotation at the bottom of the same page suggests the surest way to make a man a certain way is to think of him that way. The surest way for me to stay sane is to read page 264 because I believe it and feel it. I think God knew I needed to see those words in print to remember that alcoholics are human beings who deserve respect and love, too. They have a right to their own dignity. So do I. With Step One, I can continue believing in them and in myself.
Pat M. - Ohio
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.