Sunday, November 2, 2008

To an alcoholic, with love

The following is a letter that appears in the booklet Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2009. I found this letter to be particularly moving. It pretty much sums up what I've felt in my relationship with the alcoholic.

You’re an alcoholic. I thought you needed me, that’s why I fell in love with you. It was easier to delve into your drama than to look at my own issues.

I wasn’t the problem; you were. If only I could fix you, we could live like normal people, happily ever after. With blinders on, I didn’t want to acknowledge your alcoholism as a disease. It’s very hard, you see, because you weren’t losing your hair like a cancer. It’s a disease of the soul, and your soul was the last thing I was privy to. Mentally, I know you have an illness. Still, some days it’s hard for me to accept your actions as part of your disease.

I lectured, blamed, and scolded you for not being able to hold onto a job, drinking yourself into oblivion, and making yourself so sick you wanted to die. But I wasn’t accepting you for who you are. I was angry that you didn’t fulfill my lofty expectations and I reacted by attacking you with a torrent of hateful, vindictive words. I was holding onto my need for you to be what I wanted you to be. I should have looked at myself before casting stones. I added to the hatred you already felt for yourself. I am very sorry.

I’m ashamed of the things I did in the name of loving you. I wrote your résumé and set up job interviews. I drove you all over town. I covered for your illness so that your aging parents have no clue to this day that you end each night drunk, with a bottle in your hand, and begin each day with a new bottle. I spent money I didn’t have to give you what I thought you needed. The more loving and helpful I tried to be, the worse you became—and you turned away from me.

I let you use me and exploit me. But what did I get in return? You weren’t there for me when I needed emotional support. Adding insult to injury, you’d lie about where you’ve been or who you
were with. You’d make promises that gave me hope—and I always believed you.

I persevered in our relationship, even in the absence of affection and intimacy. I lied to myself that you loved me anyway. I accepted even the most mediocre gesture of caring. You shredded my heart and yet, I kept that ember of hope alive, thinking that maybe this time it will be
different, maybe this time he will realize just how much I mean to him. I still thought you would become the man I always knew you could be.

Was I in love? Or was I obsessed? You have your alcohol and your demons. I have you. You are my drug of choice. You were my world, you were my life. It was too painful for me to watch you dying before my eyes. I was lost and out of control. My pleas, threats, and ultimatums didn’t work. I had no more strategies to try.

Realizing my powerlessness, I got down on my knees and prayed. By the mercy of God, I found Al‑Anon. In Al-Anon meetings, I shared my story with others and learned that their stories were mine also. By listening to their experiences, I came to understand that you will find your own path, in your own time, without my help.

Whether you’re in my life or not, I still think about you. I still care about you and love you. But I’ve pulled my expectations down from the stratosphere. I’m exploring joy, forgiveness, and gratitude instead. More and more with each day’s passing, I’m finding love for myself and
my own life.
by Gloria R., from Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2009


  1. I am so grateful that God arranged so I could make peace with my ex before he passed away this year. I wasn't as eloquent as this letter writer but I made my amends and we even laughed at our own stupidity. How grateful I am that Alanon has taught me to treasure each day so I don't miss the opportunities He puts in my path. My youngest son doesn't have it so easy and was on the outs with his dad at the time. I pray for him and turn him over every day (sometimes twice!). Good post and reminder, Syd!


  2. Great. thanks for sharing. and the oriah mountain dreamer piece you posted not long ago which i LOVED.

    "Was I in love? Or was I obsessed? You have your ....(fill in the blanks) could be 'emotional autonomy/independence', 'self control', 'contained presence', (meaning it could be a GOOD thing as well as a bad thing long as it provokes an unhealthy possessive/controlling reaction in me). I have you. You are my drug of choice. You were my world, you were my life."

    For me this rings ! scarily true regarding possessive or sticky love. the desire to posses instead of 'abide with.' nothing belongs to us. thats just the way things are. nothing can be possessed really..
    so yeah. i really enjoyed reading that. so thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you! I cried and cried as I read the leeter. I could have written this letter because it is what I am going through and I had no clue where to turn. My husband, who I recently married in January of this year, but have known my whole life, just started using again after 5 months clean. I am learning what addiction is all about. Living a hell and I just found out about al-anon. There are no meetings in my area, but I will follow your blog. Thank you.

  4. Gosh, Syd, so many of us could have written this story with an amendment or two. How great that we found recovery and God's amazing grace.

    Thank you for posting this letter.

  5. Wow, this fits so many of us in our relationships, this makes me cringe a bit as reading it I remember our bitterness and vitrolic words to one another and the shame that overcame us both. Thank you though and I have gratitude that today I don't have to travel that road. Thank you!

  6. Hi Syd,

    What a powerful sharing, and quote from on of Al-Anon's recovery books.

    This immediately brought to mind a meeting I attended many years ago, and the piece of literature that was used has been set in my heart. It is a pamphlet (P-15 CAL) entitled, "Three Views of Al-Anon - Alcoholics Speak to the Family."

    It had such a powerful message for me in helping me to understand the pain the alcoholic experiences, and to have compassion for the still suffering alcoholic or one struggling in the newness of his/her recovery.

    Letter #2 in the pamphlet reads:
    "An Open Letter from An Alcoholic"
    I am an alcoholic. I need your help. Don't lecture, blame or scold me. YOu wouldn't be angry at me for having cancer of diabetes. Alcoholism is a disease, too.
    Don't pour out my liquor; it's just a waste because I can always find ways of getting more. Don't let me provoke your anger. If you attack me verbally or physically, you will only confirm my bad opinion about myself. I hate myself enough already.
    Don't let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. . . . My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.
    Don't accept my promises. ...the nature of my illness prevents me from keeping my promises, ...
    Don't make empty threats. Once you make a decision, stick to it.
    Don't believe everything I tell you; it may be a lie. ... I'm likely to lose respect for those I can fool too easily.
    Don't let me take advantage of you or exploit you in any way. Love cannot exist for long without the dimension of justice.
    Don't cover up for me or try in any way to spare me the consequences of my drinking. Don't lie for me, pay my bills, or meet my obligations. It may avert or reduce the crisis that would prompt me to seek help. ...I can deny that I have a drinking problem as long as you provide an ... escape for the consequences of my drinking.
    Above all, DO learn all you can about alcoholism and your role in relation to me. Go to open AA meetings when you can. Attend Al-Anon meetings regularly, read the literature and keep in touch with Al-Anon members. They're the people who can help you see the whole situation clearly.
    I love you. Your alcoholic.

    -- paraphrased -- Based on material by Rev Joseph L Kellermann, A Guide for the Family of the Alcoholic (P-7).

    With this being generally stated, I was finally able to have some compassion for the alcoholic, and realize that he did not want that problem. There is a solution - - - and that is within the 12 steps and 12 traditions of recovery within AA and Al-Anon.

    God bless you!
    Anonymous #1

  7. Thirty years ago a guy told me I needed Alanon. I told him to go to hell. Cold have saved myself 15 years of heartbreaking , soul-destroying living. Me--an alcoholic, with her--an alcoholic, just was not a 'marriage made in heaven'. And so ended a 25-year non-collaboration.

    My life is full of "If only's". Thank you for sharing today, Syd.

  8. That is a great letter. I can relate to that in so many ways. My son, my friend, etc. Wow.

  9. Syd - great letter. I am going to print it and lead a meeting with it this week.

    Also - thanks for your kind words and inspiration.

    I am continously doing the three-step. (Steps 1, 2 and 3)

    I just need to keep coming back!


  10. powerful letter - and so close to my own reality.


  11. Thank you Syd. I needed to hear that today. I tend to lose sight of myself and my needs to often. Thanks for reminding me that when I am focusing on myself I am allowing others to take care of themselves.

    Peace and Serenity.

  12. That is intense, and so true, and some of it even hits close to home.

  13. Thanks, Syd. As usual you have posted a profound piece. Thanks for sharing it.

  14. Syd, my wife and I saw ourselves in this post. This is one of my favorites. Its amazing how one horrible thing such as addiction can bring so many people together. Thank you. ~AR

  15. it is amazing to see myself in someone else's writing. thanks for posting.

  16. When I was 43 years old I met this wonderful 47 year old Irish/German/French man with a 1900 Queen Anne Victorian. He was like an artist to me. He took a foreclosure home 5 years before I met him; and worked with his hands to restore the whole inside. (the outside was still a bit run-down).

    I spent every weekend with him from the very first Friday we met ..(something I never did in my whole life before)but my 9 year old at the time was with his dad from Friday to Sunday.

    This man would wake in the morning and make me Irish Soda bread by Scratch; and garden; and have his Hen in the yard.......all by the water in a Historic part of the island of NYC that I live on.

    Each weekend he drank more and more in front of me......... until I realized we had too many social events at his house or the neighbors so he had an acceptable reason to drink and drink each weekend.

    He would call me each evening when I was with my son in my house; and I would count how many night he sounded intoxicated; and I realized wow, he sounded Drunk about 4 to 5 times a week (the weekends plus a few times on the week days).

    I noticed we only stayed with neighbors that drank alot too in his area.

    I never let him spend time with my son...... because I was old fashion......and my weekends were free. I did not let him come to my house; I live on a quiet block and did not want the neighbors to see that I had a man staying at my house. (old fashion a bit).

    I had to let him go.......after 2 years (but really 15 months since I saw him less and less). When I was sick he still could not miss a social event; when I did let him come to my house on the weekends; he seemed all nervous that I did not have booze in my house; and he said that my smaller house made him feel trap. (I have a 2400 sq house). (His was twice the size; but it was the size of my home; it was that he rather be drinking).

    I let him go; and I missed the GOOD PARTS of him..........but I was not going to fix him .. I tried; and he acted like he wanted me to fix him.

    He did let me know when he was married his wife talked him into AA; and he had me peg; and he was right;.......i was trying to fix him since I could not fix my alcoholic dad as a child.

    He called recently DD (drunk dialing) and I did miss him; but no thanks. He emailed me a picture of the small log cabin he made with his own hands in his yard... beautifully done; cozy; and a part of me missed all of the wonderful things he did with his hands..

    He told me that since it was over for 2 years ago; that he felt I deprived my now almost 13 year old son.........he said I should have loved him enough to ignored the Alcoholism Problem. He said that I let my son not grow up enjoying all the FUN Times......and all the kids running in the grass properties around his house..etc.

    I know the truth; I saw him give his first cousin 13 year old son beer behind the cousins back. Did I want him to do something inappropriate like that to my son?

    I also remembered the times we left his neighborhood and he overdrank Upstate or in PA and I was scared how we were going to get home (I do not drive).. how was I going to get home and be a MOTHER and be able to raise my son.

    My almost 23 year old daughter is Intelligent and an Alcoholic .. I made her leave home at 21. She graduated college with Straight As. She is gorgeous too. (she has her grandfather genes).

    I wont' live with anyone that drinks; I can't; I already had to do it as a child and not again. And I don't want my little son to see his sister like that year after year. (coming home drunk and fighting on her cell phone); he actually slept through most of it; including when i got a court protection and the police came and put her in hand cuffs and had her removed when I had enough of the drunk nights 3-5 times a week.

    She is doing so much better now; living on her own; because she did not have my roof; me paying the mortgage.......she had to cut back so her landlord would not evict her. I believe if you don't enable them by having them live in your home; their survival instincts will kick in.

    i wrote a lot............. I like that letter.........because that was me..... and I'm not dealing with active alcoholism ever again.

    (and not live with one).

    I'm happier because I'm not anyone higher power. And the 3 C's. I did not cause it; I can't control it; and I can't cure it.

    I am sorry my daughter inherited genes from not 1 but 2 grandfathers; her dad's dad and my dad. (but she has to grow strong herself).

    thanks again for your post.

  17. Thanks for sharing everyone. My husband and I joined Alanon face to face meetings. We go every Wednesday and love not playing God anymore or rescuers to our daughter 32 years old. We will be moving out July 28, 2017 to take our lives back and for us our Higher Power is Jesus Christ. Please take what's helps and leave the rest. We saved our active drinking vodka everyday daughter when she got pregnant and then again second pregnancy and then again divorced June 2016....we rented two bedroom with boundaries NO ALCOHOL brought in home... she been drunk the whole time in between 8-9 ER due to alcohol poison... ending consequences of her choice of vodka drinking is cirrohis of the liver...on medicine for liver disease and chooses to continue drinking... we did it for the grand kids 13 and 10 yet to this day she is choosing vodka... recently fired...we go to our meetings we will move out July 28, 2017 and so will her n kids... unknown where... she has kids at other grandparents home for summer... we are grateful to Alanon which FYI I personally have been in 31 YEARS and finally surrender my filling out the application for God job.... its been filled... all of heaven rejoiced when I surrender our daughter grandkids as all family members on both sides to God and we CHOOSE to mind our own business as let the live their lives without our permission with the love of Jesus to let go and let God to live and let live in Jesus name amen. Thanks for letting me share and thanks for sharing and reading.


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