I am finding out who I am—‘One Day at a Time’

I was brought up in an alcoholic home where my father drank and my mother was the crazy one who tried to control it all. We had little money and not much food. Dad was the ruler, and mom was his punching bag. We children would run and hide when we he came home drunk. I was the oldest, so responsibility for the other children fell to me at an early age.

I grew up with a lot of shame and guilt. I never believed I was good at anything. I still have a hard time talking in front of people today. I do not blame my parents. They did the best they could with what they had at the time.

I always felt that there was something wrong with me. I can remember sitting in a restaurant. The people in the next seat were laughing, and I believed that I must look funny. Their conversation had nothing to do with me, yet I always felt that I was the brunt of everyone else’s jokes. I walked with my head down and did not look at people. I always felt that people were “above” me. I was terrified of anyone in authority.

At 14, I started dating the man to whom I am still married to today. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. He was the love of my life, and I wanted out of my abusive home. We got married right after high school. My husband was well on his way to becoming an alcoholic, but I knew nothing about alcoholics at that point and thought his drinking was normal.

When the first child came along, I thought it was great. I finally had someone who would love me. We bought our home and moved right in. It wasn’t long before the drinking got worse, and so did the screaming matches. I was usually the one who started it—screaming, throwing things, and hitting.

When my son was three months old, I went back to work because the bills were not being paid. My husband would watch the baby while I worked evenings. After my second son was born, the financial pressures got worse. I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I felt trapped in a marriage that was not good and knew I had nowhere else to turn.

I heard about Al‑Anon through one of my jobs. I had no idea what it was and thought it was for falling-down drunks. I kept up with the façade that I had the perfect family. But, whenever someone was willing to listen to my troubles, I would spill my guts, cry, and then feel guilty.

After a physical battle with my husband, I left with both kids and moved back to mom and dad’s. About two weeks later, I moved back with my husband because it was better than living like a failure. I started getting counseling at the women’s center, but I still resisted Al‑Anon.

I was taking courses to help me with my job with the developmentally challenged, courses in parenting, and I still felt like a failure. It wasn’t until I started attending Al‑Anon meetings that I finally found people who understood me. At first, I had a hard time grasping this Twelve Step self-help program. I believed that working on me was selfish, and that I needed to get help for my husband.

It was in Al‑Anon that I learned to start looking at my behaviors. I learned that I am not an all-bad person; that it is okay to make mistakes. If I made a mistake in the past, I would never own up to it because that would just continue to prove that I am a failure. I learned that I am somebody because God doesn’t make any “junk.”

Al‑Anon taught me to look in the mirror each morning and tell myself that I am a good person. I took self-inventories and learned to put the good with the bad. I had a hard time finding anything good about myself at first.

I never really knew how to take a good honest look at myself because I was so afraid of being judged, and I judged myself the harshest. In Al‑Anon, we are all equals. I still have some problems with authority and tend to question myself, but I do not let it ruin my day. I know it is just the “stinkin’ thinkin’” trying to sneak back in on me.

Today, I can walk with my head up to face the world where, at one time, I was afraid to look at anyone, let alone chit chat. I had no social skills. I do not know all the answers, but today I do not have to. I am still learning and that is all any of us can do.

I found out that it was much easier to raise children when I was not on edge all the time. When my kids were small, I had no idea that alcohol was the problem. Unfortunately, my boys turned to drugs and alcohol themselves. My oldest was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder; my youngest is still living with us, at 23, and uses drugs and alcohol. They both know about alcoholism and its effects, but choose their own paths. I learned in Al‑Anon to detach with love.

I have a daughter who is 15 and is doing well. She grew up not knowing the old crazy me. I think I was more available to her. My husband does not drink and was involved in A.A. for quite a few years. Today, I can ask questions. It’s okay if I answer something only to find out that it is wrong. That is how I learn. I am finding out who I am—“One Day at a Time.”

By Sharon M., Nova Scotia
The Forum, July 2014