When I first walked into an Al-Anon meeting, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was at a very low point emotionally and knew that I needed to get some help. They say in AA that you have to hit bottom before you recognize the problem and get with the program, or else you die. I guess you can say that I had pretty much hit bottom emotionally. I felt empty and tired of everything. I had pushed myself to work, do chores, and keep life moving along by sheer determination. My "qualifier" and SO wasn't getting any better in spite of hollow promises and all the guilt that alcoholics dispense.
I used to believe those promises and did think that things would change. The guilt would make things better for awhile and then it was back to drinks every night. Thankfully, my SO has a good job, functions very effectively at work and has never squandered money. Just because one isn't boozed to the max every day doesn't lessen the pain of the person who is living with the results of the disease. The outrageous moods, the "dry drunk" anger and frustration, the verbal abuse were all things that wore me down. I gradually got to the point that I not only fell out of love with the person but hadn't a clue how to love myself either.
So after a particularly bad weekend, I talked to a friend who has been in AA recovery for a long time and opened up about my life. My friend told me that it sounded as if I needed to go to an Al-Anon meeting. At that point, I was thinking that I had poked myself in the eye with a sharp stick long enough so what was there to lose by going to a meeting? I got the information on local meetings from the web and eventually found one that would be occuring that day.
You are virtually stripped emotionally when you walk into a meeting. I felt raw, edgy, and F.I.N.E. After opening with the serenity prayer and statements about the purpose of Al-Anon, everyone introduces themselves by first name. Meeting formats can vary a bit according to group dynamics. For instance, in some groups after you say your name, "Hi, I'm Syd", the entire group will shout "Hi Syd". Read Augustine Burroughs book Dry which has a pretty hilarious account of attending an AA meeting for the first time.
Since I was the "newcomer" that night, I got a chance to talk about what brought me there. I laid it out in graphic terms, keeping the focus on how I felt which at that time was bad. After my introductory remarks, a topic was introduced by the chairperson and everyone then got a chance to "share" if they wished. The cool thing about meetings is there isn't any cross-talk so each person gets to have their say if they wish and everyone else keeps quiet and listens. What I heard was amazing. There were people who were living with all kinds of degrees of alcoholism. Some had children who were dual addicted, some had abusive spouses, some had "qualifiers" in recovery but had been working for years to gain their own sanity and serenity. A great thing about Al-Anon is that there are people at meetings who have felt what you feel and who have seen how devastating the effects of alchohol can be on the family and friends of the alcoholic. I knew that I was in the right place at last.