As I’m gearing up for my Holiday weekend, I am gathering up some step work that I’m going to take with me to our mini-getaway in Idyllwild. I have AA step work, and I also have Al-Anon step work as I’ve been working with an Al-Anon sponsor and we are going through a notebook and it’s been kicking my butt! it got me thinking of my genesis of going to Al-Anon and what my journey has been. I wanted to share a post I wrote a couple of years ago.
When I got sober through AA twelve years ago, I would hear women with double-digit sobriety talk about the other program and how that was a whole other layer of recovery. I never paid much attention to this other program, because I was solely focused on getting and staying sober. Fast forward to when I was around 8 years sober and I found myself sitting in a meeting for that other program. The other program being the sister program to AA, Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a 12 step program that aids families and friends of the alcoholic and according to their literature, “Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.” Most people attend Al-Anon because they have a qualifier in their life. A qualifier can be your spouse, your mother, your daughter, a co-worker or a friend. The meetings are open and welcoming and are usually held at the same location as AA meetings.
So needless to say, when I started going to Al-Anon a few years ago I was going for my spouse, he had recently relapsed and I found myself sitting in a meeting scratching my head, “how did I get here” and also listening to other members share how they go to Al-Anon so they can learn how to take care of themselves. I didn’t understand that at all when I started going to meetings. It took a while to fully grasp the how-to’s of the program and eventually, after a year or two, I finally got a sponsor. Getting a sponsor in Al-Anon has been a huge help and it helps me see things from a different perspective. The biggest aid I’ve received from attending Al-Anon is how I don’t have to take on the issues of my qualifier and that I get to focus on my recovery and not his. I focus on what I need to do to take care of myself, because for the longest time I was trying to control him and what he was doing, or not doing, and I was trying to help him, but all the while I was enabling him vs helping him. I was able to learn the difference between enabling vs detaching with love. It didn’t happen overnight and I still find myself wanting to control and enable, but today I know what that looks like and I get to stop myself and take care of me. Taking care of myself usually has my keeping my mouth shut and minding my own business. It has me biting my tongue and not saying the thing I think I should say to him and letting him have his own journey in sobriety. Taking care of myself is also doing my life, things that keep me busy and not focused on him or them. I do my yoga, my walks with the dog, my lunch dates with girlfriends and my own prayer and meditation. It keeps me in check with who I am and not focused on who he should be.
Not every day is easy, but when I sit in an Al-Anon meeting and listen to others share stories about their qualifier I realize how lucky I am and how grateful I am that I have a place to go and share. I’ve heard one too many stories about parents wishing their child could get clean or that someone wishes their husband would stop drinking, and those keep me so grounded in my own recovery. I’m indebted to the program of Al-Anon because it’s given me a new layer to focus on and it’s not all about me!