Growing up in an alcoholic household, I learned at a young age to be a problem solver. When I was 12-years old, the alcoholic in our family died and, as the oldest boy, I became “the man of the family.” This burden of responsibility was the catalyst for over-achievement, which served me well as a youngster but became my downfall as the mature father of a teen-age alcoholic daughter.
I had two immediate thoughts when I first heard the phrase “detaching with love” and parenting in the same sentence. One, it’s a good theory. Two, whoever coined this phrase did not have children. How could a loving parent ever detach from their child knowing he or she was struggling and in pain?
Al-Anon is not a program of completion or destination. Two years ago, I entered the rooms of Al‑Anon distraught, confused, and looking for answers as to how to help my two sons who suffer from the family disease of addiction and alcoholism. I did not get what I wanted or expected, but I did get what I needed. Much has changed in the past two years, and yet much has stayed the same.
Gail Barker, LCPC
We had our Alateen group meeting today and I have to tell you how grateful I am for Alateen. It has made such an amazing difference in these students’ lives. Many of them shared how they are now getting along better with their family—both the drinking and the non-drinking family members. I often hear how this is the one safe place they have in their lives—to be able to share whatever is on their minds, where others won’t judge, pass it around, or get mad.
It is amazing to see the transformation in these students. I see them going from a beaten down, angry, hopeless teenager—trying to cope with alcoholism in the family—to gradually feeling and finding peace, hope, and strength from others, loving each other and being happy. I so love it. It gives them assurance and hope that one counselor can’t possibly convey to them. It is a group process and an inspired process, and to have this opportunity in the school is amazing, since most of these kids would not be able to get to an evening meeting in the community. Their home life in their alcoholic families is such that they wouldn’t be able to get transportation at night or feel free to do so.
Alateen is supportive for them—safe and consistent. Children in alcoholic families do not know consistency, but in Alateen they learn to trust. It affects their outlook, their self-esteem, their grades in school, their friend and family relationships, their confidence, their ability to show concern for others, patience, peace of mind—so many things they probably would not get anywhere else.
The students ask if Alateen will be at their next school, if they are moving or when they go on to high school. It is a safety net for them. They count on it, and I am so grateful we have been able to get Alateen in so many other schools.
I so appreciate the Alateen Group Sponsors that are here faithfully each week. The Alateen members love them. I feel such overwhelming gratitude for the Alateen program. I know without a doubt the changes it has made in these children’s lives—changes and tools that will stay with them and affect their whole lives.
My husband and I were shocked the day we discovered that we had spent tens of thousands of dollars to finance our son’s drinking and drug habit, when we thought we were paying for his college education. Not only did he not have a college degree but was badly addicted. We traveled to the state where he lived, some 700 miles away, and did an intervention of sorts. It did little good. We came home resolved that we would start attending Al-Anon to help ourselves as well as “to help us figure out how to stop his drinking.”
“He is not living his life for me,” I thought as I shuffled into the cold kitchen. It was three o’clock in the morning. I was in search of an Al-Anon daily reader. My son, my only child and someone I loved more than anyone, had been arrested, spent the night in jail, and was in more trouble than I ever imagined possible.
Early in Al-Anon, one of the feelings I struggled with was anger. So many times in my childhood home, I felt angry but acted happy or pleased because the unwritten rule for the children of the family was, “Do not show anger.” For the drinking parents, anger was permissible to express loudly, and on occasion with the help of a brush or belt.
“Please press One if you will accept a collect call from the … county prison.”
My wife and I had been at friends’ that evening. We got home at about midnight and found the message on our answering machine. We listened to it three times without saying a word. The message summarized the relationship we had with our son over the past two years.
I felt so sad when my son called from jail. He had been sober for a whole year when he and his girlfriend had a verbal argument and she called the cops. He was arrested and sent to jail. Consequently, he lost his job and his apartment.
My beautiful son had successfully entered the honors college in our state, and had never given me any cause for concern. But this new college-life brought changes, including drinking. The downward spiral led to three separate suicide attempts.