Embracing new attitudes— going from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’

My husband got angry when my children told him that he was an alcoholic. When they confronted me with those words, I said it was impossible. My husband went to work every day, came home every night, and earned a paycheck. How could he be considered an alcoholic? Alcoholics lived under bridges and didn’t have a job or a place to call home.

My children told me he drank alone, and he’s drunk every night. They said he was a closet drinker because he didn’t want anybody to know about his drinking.

I was ashamed that my husband was an alcoholic. I felt envious of others and bitter that my life was not like theirs. I felt angry, resentful, and fearful. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and hide.

During this time, the children also suffered. They rarely had friends over, and when they did, it was a disaster. No one talked to each other. They either went to their rooms or went out.

When my husband invited his alcoholic friends to dinner, I uninvited them. So many dinners were spoiled or not eaten because of the drinking. Soon no one came over.

By this time, the children were also losing respect for me. They had enough of my complaining, nagging, and over-protectiveness—while also being a puppet to the alcoholic, to protect him.

I thought everything was manageable as long as I was in control. I pretended, enabled, lied, and did a lot of covering up to protect myself. What a rude awakening when I found out that in Al‑Anon, this is called “unmanageable.”

I had given up any hope of change because I was so obsessed with the alcoholic. At every meeting, I heard “you are powerless.” Finally, I had to admit that I could not make the alcoholic sober any more than I could be responsible for his drinking. I did not cause it, I cannot control it, and I cannot cure it.

I will never forget my first Al‑Anon meeting. The whole group answered all our questions, and made us feel so welcome. I also received a copy of One Day at a Time (B-6). As I read it, it seemed every page was written for me.

I had to change my attitude from saying, “I can’t” to “I can.” I had to make up my mind that I was not going to let the alcoholic’s drinking and behavior affect me.

Al‑Anon has shown me how to think for myself. Only in that way can I be comfortable in my beliefs and choices. I can do nothing to change the past, but I can stop repeating it in the present.

There are many things I cannot change, but I can start with myself and change my self-defeating attitudes. I can put a stop to negative thoughts. Awareness is the beginning but I must do more than dismiss negative thoughts; I must replace them with positive thoughts.

After every meeting, I would get a little more hope when I heard others sharing. When we get sick, we go to the doctor. But in Al‑Anon we go to a meeting and we have ourselves—you and me. We learn to recover by sharing. For me, sharing is the key to healing. We have the freedom to take what we like and leave the rest.

I knew I was recovering when I could see the alcoholic as a human being. He was ill—not bad. Al‑Anon helped me accept him as he was. I will be forever grateful to the alcoholic and alcoholism in my life. It is from this disease that I was introduced to Al‑Anon.

By Martha M., California
The Forum, June 2013