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Al-Anon and Alateen Family Groups in Santa Barbara

36 Hours of Pain and Confusion Before I Found Al-Anon

Something is wrong, terribly wrong. I feel like I'm bashing my head against a wall, only I can't see the wall. I just know that it's there, blocking my way. It won't move, and I certainly can't move it.

But maybe the doctor could give me something to make this cold of mine feel better. It would be nice just to have someone focus their attention on me for a change. I feel invisible.

So much effort to find the phone number, and make the call. I'm so tired. Can I really do this? Maybe I should just try to rest.

Dial. Put on hold. I disappear again. Somebody finds me.

"The doctor can see you tomorrow."

Exhaustion. Find something easy to make for supper. Will he come home? Do I want him to come home? If he comes home, I know there will be some kind of fight. I don't have the energy. I don't want to do this anymore.

There's the car. I'll just talk about the weather. Nothing to provoke him. I won't even think about whether he's drunk or not. Eat. Watch TV. Stumble off to bed.

Silence. Dark. Quiet. This is the only part of the day I like.

Try not to be anxious about wanting him to leave for work. Eat slowly. Soon he'll be gone.

Relief. Alone. Soothing quiet.

Silently I weep. Today I am going to the doctor's. Someone will pay attention to me. That'll be different.

The waiting room. Don't have the energy to leaf through a magazine. Rest. Just rest.

"What seems to be the problem today?"

"I have this heaviness in my chest. . . This cold won't go away."

"Well, tell me why you are really here. What's going on at home?"

Know! You know? How could you know?

"Your husband was in here two weeks ago. He's an alcoholic."

He didn't tell me.

"This visit really has nothing to do with your chest. You have choices. Here's a meeting list. Do you know about Al-Anon?"

"That's for my husband. He's gone a few times. He plays around with it."

"No, this is for you. Al-Anon is for people affected by other people's drinking."
I take the list. I'm numb. I can't absorb any of this.

I have choices. Sure, I can stay here and put up with this, or I can leave.

I confront my husband. "Why didn't you tell me you're an alcoholic?"

"I'm not an..."

"The doctor showed me your chart. Why didn't you tell me?"

"He showed you my records? I'm going to sue him. He can't do that!"

"I have a right to know this!"

Slam. Out of here. I'll just drive around for awhile and relax. Tired. Just too tired to drive. That church. That's where that meeting is. I'll just pull in there and rest for awhile. Get away for an hour...Maybe he'll pass out by the time I get back.

I'm in no mood to talk. Hide in the back. Be ready to run.

"Alcoholism is a disease."

Right. A disease, just like cancer or diabetes I suppose. If he just quit bending his elbow, he would be fine. We would be fine.

Respectful silence. I am not used to this. No one is fighting back with me. New territory for me. That book over there. What is that book? Courage to Change (B-16). That sounds good. I'll take one.

"Would you like a Newcomer Packet? You can have a copy of our magazine, The Forum, if you would like one..."

"Sure, sure. I'll take anything you've got."

I guess I have to go home. Is there anywhere else I could go? No...All the lights are on in the house. What now?

There he is. Passed out on the couch. Good. I need rest. Turn off the lights. He can stay there. I don't need a fight now. Get in bed and look at some of this stuff. What's it about?

Where is my childhood Bible? I want to read it. I'm going to find a church Sunday whether he wants to or not.

I'm going back to that meeting next week. At least I'll have an hour to rest, an hour of quiet, a safe hour. They'll listen to me. They may not know what they are talking about, but knowing I don't have to fight with them makes it worth it.

An hour of quiet a week. That's something to look forward to. I don't know where any of this is going, but there is a bit of relief. I don't feel so alone.


Reflections on the past: today I'm happy
That's how it began ten years ago. I still go to that meeting once a week. I read Al-Anon literature most days. I talk things over with my Al-Anon friends. They understand me.

My husband and I are still married. I thought the marriage was over ten years ago - but surprise! - here we are enjoying retirement together. My husband has been sober for nine years. We go to church together.

I enjoy hearing the car come now I no longer fear riding in the ca with him. We plan on spending month together in our small motor home. We'll explore Alaska with friends.

Will these miracles happen for you if you come to Al-Anon? I wish I could answer "Yes," but I don't know what will happen. One thing I've learned, though, is that I have choices when I follow our program - choices that are uniquely mine, choices that will enable me to ease the pain of someone else's drinking. But I have to be willing to work the Al-Anon program to discover those choices.

There is no quick fix. There is no guarantee that the alcoholic in my life will remain sober because I go to Al-Anon. But the way out of jail is already inside of me. I just have to look for it.

By Karen S., Alberta
The Forum, November 2007

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.