My first husband was an alcoholic. When I married him, he was a successful businessman who then went through a series of job losses and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. His drinking progressed and he refused to medicate his bipolar disease.
At home, things spun out of control, as his job became looking for a job (which he never found). I managed everything in our household, worked full-time outside the house, and was responsible for everything with respect to our young son. There were financial difficulties and, only with the assistance of my mother-in-law, were we able to keep our heads above water.
At that time, having no program, I did the usual begging, pleading, crying, and demanding that my husband stop drinking. When it became apparent to me that he would not (or could not), I made the decision to leave. I was fearful for my son’s future and mine if we stayed with him.
Soon afterwards, I divorced my husband. I was filled with anger and resentment about our failed marriage. I blamed it all on him. I was waiting for an apology for all that he had done. That was all I wanted—for him to say he was sorry.
A few years later, after having married another alcoholic, I found Al‑Anon. I heard somebody say at a meeting that resentment was like taking poison and waiting for someone else to die. I realized that the anger and ill will I still felt for my first husband was only hurting me; that I would never receive that apology, and that I needed to let it go. Gradually, I was able to see my own part in what had happened, forgive him, and have compassion for his situation.
My dear mother-in-law is now almost 95 years old, and her health is failing. She resides in Mississippi, while I live in Illinois. My 25-year-old son and I decided we needed to pay her a visit, since we did not know how many more opportunities we might have.
My ex-husband, who no longer drinks, now lives in a halfway house and still suffers the consequences of all those alcoholic years. He too wished to see his mother, but could not make the trip unaccompanied. My son and I decided we would take him with us.
We made the thirteen-hour train trip and had a lovely weekend. My son and I took care of my ex-husband, made sure he took his medication, and got his insulin shots. It was so wonderful to see my mother-in-law. She was so grateful we had come and brought her son, otherwise she would not have had a chance to spend time with him. I knew I had done the right thing. My ex-husband deserved to see his mother, and she deserved to see him. I was very happy to be able to do it.
The other side of this story is that I was able to undertake this trip. Before Al‑Anon, I would never have left my alcoholic husband at home alone because I would have been too worried about what might happen while I was away. I had felt so responsible for his wellbeing. What if he fell, or took the car out when he was drinking, or any one of a thousand other “what ifs.”
The fact that I was able to turn him over to his Higher Power and leave my home for four days is just as amazing as escorting my ex-husband on our visit! I was able to be present on my trip, not worrying about other things that were definitely out of my control. When I got home, my husband had survived, and the house was still standing. None of the horrible possibilities had happened.
The freedom that I feel today by not being burdened by the past and not spinning into the future is one of the greatest gifts of my program. Living in the day, with gratitude for all I have and the help of my Higher Power, has changed my whole view of life. I try not to worry over past woes and those that may yet come. As one of our Conference Approved Literature daily readers states: “Worry is like a rocking chair—gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.” I am getting better at it. Looking back gives me the perspective on where I was four years ago and where I am today. I know I am making progress, and that is all I can hope and pray for.
By Leslee E., Illinois
The Forum, June 2014