My son’s addiction took a toll on our family. The pain and chaos caused by his illness had trans-formed our family life into a screaming, blaming, shaming, and guilt-ridden nightmare. We were living in a feuding daytime talk show. I had started out playing the loving, concerned, and supportive role but, all of a sudden, that role turned into that of the supporting culprit.
I’m glad I have an alcoholic in my life. My son is the alcoholic. I know that he is a good and kind person, a loving person, and someone who has given me great happiness and joy.
I grew up in a loving, stable home; there was no alcoholism. One of my mother’s uncles was said to have enjoyed his drink, but I never witnessed any odd behavior. I didn’t have a clue.
For eight years, I had been living a life of emotional hoarding because of alcoholism. I lived in seclusion, consumed by depression, constant worry, and panic. Unlike a hoarder who collects things, I had been collecting “hurts.”
For over five years, I had thought Step One was easy: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” I certainly felt powerless, and I wasn’t managing my life very well. Then one day, in yet another attempt to help my alcoholic daughter, I had an epiphany.
Three a.m.: My eyes squeezed shut. I crave sleep, but worry, fear, and obsessive projections about what might befall my alcoholic loved ones worm their way through my thoughts. Gnawing. Gouging. Over and over, pulverizing any chance of sleep. Hospital scenes play out. DWI arrests? Accidents? Jail? Bail? Maybe worse. Death. Wakes. Funerals.
Admitting I was powerless over my son’s drinking brought a sense of calm I had not previously known. So much of my time and energy had been devoted to “saving” my son. I diligently pulled family, friends, church members, and anyone who would listen into my personal drama—hoping someone could save him or give me the answers to save him. The relationship with my son had deteriorated to an intense power struggle filled with loud, angry, hostile words and actions. I knew that if I lost this battle, my son and I would both lose. I did not recognize that we had both already lost.
He pensado en la relación con mi Poder Superior y en la relación con mi hijo. Esto es lo que me imagino que mi Poder Superior me diría:
It was a distressing phone call from my youngest daughter, age 20. She was calling to tell me that she was in trouble with drugs and alcohol and had gotten a DUI. She went on to say that her life was out of control and she needed to come live with me, to get her life in order.
This year, I was thrilled to reunite with my daughter after a ten-year silence. On the Sunday of that visit, I was tested when she started drinking one beer after another. I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this is not good.” Then I switched my thoughts almost immediately by asking my Higher Power for help. That thought was replaced with, “You are not here for your daughter’s sobriety. You are here to reconnect with her.” I became calm and was able to love her the way she was. It was nothing short of a miracle. I could not have done this without Al-Anon.
I started going to Al‑Anon in August of 2012. By then, my son had been drinking for nine years. At my second meeting, I heard, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it,” and it changed my life. “How profound,” I thought, “I’m not responsible for my son’s drinking.” I had been blaming myself for nine years, wondering where I had gone wrong, and thinking I should have done this or that differently when he was growing up.
“Matt shot himself.” It was my son, Jared, on the phone. I couldn’t believe my ears. Was this a dream? Would I awaken and realize it was a terrible nightmare? No, it was Jared’s voice. “Mom, are you there?” “Jared, what are you trying to tell me?” I replied. He shouted into the phone, “Matt shot himself.”
There is nothing more heart-wrenching than seeing my child held hostage by an addiction, and being unable to save him. After 15 years in Al‑Anon, I have come to understand that I have to be sane before I can see what is best for my child. I have to accept that I can provide some care for the affected members of my family. But when they are facing the consequences of their actions and have to make life-altering decisions, I need to draw a line in the sand that I will not cross.
When I first came to Al‑Anon, I felt as though I had finally found a group of people who really understood my struggle. It was such a relief to know they understood my emotional language, not just intellectually, but experientially as well. I felt heard, and never judged. I was encouraged to begin working the Steps and find a Sponsor. It was a great place to start. I felt I had a strong relationship with my Higher Power, and as I began working Step One, that miracle of getting the guidance I needed came to me one day. My daughter, who desperately wanted to come home to live with me after treatment, simply did not understand why my answer was “no.”
My dear daughter,
You asked me to write a letter stating the impact your addiction to alcohol has had on me. I’ve given a great deal of thought to the question.
I came to Al-Anon starving and humbly begging. I was starving emotionally and begging for “food.” I found food in the program—nourishment for my starving soul. I kept coming back and working the program, because I gained emotional nourishment.
There was a lunar eclipse this cold Saturday morning and I got up at 6 a.m. to see it. I got out of my warm bed, went to the window, and opened the shade. I was disappointed in what I saw: a barely visible, blurry blob of white with a gray smudge and a little red tint on the bottom. Maybe it was just a streetlight in the fog, maybe it was too overcast, or maybe I had forgotten that I am nearly blind without my glasses.
It is an understatement to say that my life had become unmanageable. My 17-year-old son was abusing drugs and alcohol. I spent night after night wondering what I had done wrong, and what should I be doing differently. It seemed like the more I tried to fix and control him, the worse things became. I would listen in on his phone conversations, spy on him, and raid his room looking for drugs and alcohol; yet continue to clean up his mess and mistakes. I took the fall for his actions.
My mother’s drinking led me to Al‑Anon 22 years ago. I came and went through my eleven-year marriage to an alcoholic. I am back, once again, because of my 19‑year‑old son. Never in my wildest dreams had I expected the path of my life to take this course. Yet here I am, caught in the embrace of this beautiful program that works as hard for me as I am willing to work it.
Our adult son was an alcoholic, and I was the perfect enabler. I thought I was helping by giving him money, food, and even doing his laundry—until one evening as I was returning his laundry. I saw him walking down the street, intoxicated. Suddenly I realized that I was not helping, but hindering the possibility of him getting help for his disease. All of the caretaking that I had done had been destructive.
Vine a Al -Anon porque estaba muy enojado con un joven alcohólico. Él es el hijo de la mujer con quien estoy saliendo, y le está haciendo su vida ―y por lo tanto la mía― miserable. Quise aprender la forma de hacer que cambiara. También quise comprender lo que su madre estaba experimentando.
Y porque quería que ella fuera feliz, tuve que tratar de hacer que ella también cambiara.
I did not come to Al‑Anon willingly. I was, after all, too worldly, too well educated, and far too experienced to require help from anybody. My grief and despair for a son caught up in the disease of alcoholism and drug abuse persisted despite all my efforts to cure him or to have him cured. Such were the actions I believed a responsible parent was supposed to perform in our society. I expected him to stop. His conduct was contrary to those I believed to be the hallmarks of our “class.” Yet he persisted.