Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Family Afterward

I went to an AA meeting last night where I listened to a Big Book study of Chapter 9 "The Family Afterward". What an appropriate topic for an Al-Anoner to walk into! It was interesting to listen to the shares about the damage done to families and how the wrongs were being righted by all through love and compassion.

Here are some passages that resonated with me:
"Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us," Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill."

How true that is. My own "neurotic" and crazy behavior was what made me finally see that I needed Al-Anon. Sadly, there are so many who go it alone, trying to make sense of an insane life affected by alcoholism. I hope that one day they will realize that there is hope and help.

Al-Anon was mentioned by a couple of people in the meeting. One fellow said that his sister needed the program. He asked for my number saying that he would ask her to call me. She left a message last night which is good. Tonight is an Al-Anon meeting that I am going to attend. Perhaps she will also attend.

As I was reading this chapter, I thought that Lois Wilson must have given some input. I read in one of the books that Lois wanted to write this chapter and the one "To the Wives". She certainly had lived with the pitfalls that families encounter once the drinking stops. Selfishness and self-centeredness may affect all the members of the family as might the harboring of resentments and being critical or impatient (122:6-13). Ill-considered revelatations of past love affairs may damage a marraige (124:11-125:3). Gossip and harsh criticism are to be avoided (125:6-11). Extremes of enthusiasm such as single-minded pursuit of financial success or speaking of nothing else but the new spiritual way of life will hamper the repair of home life (125:12-126:12). The alcoholic's values and priorities may continue to be out of balance for some time (129:4-7). The re-establishing of family and relationship roles places a burden on many households where the non-alcoholic spouse has been forced to assume sole responsibility for the functioning of the family.

What I heard in this meeting is that there is a desire to get closer to those who are most loved, yet been harmed. One fellow shared that love is what he was seeking. He is learning from his mistakes and those of others to avoid many of the pitfalls that are common to families in early recovery. He had hope that if he practiced the principles, he would stand the greatest chance of a happy home life. I hope that his family also will get some help in order to be willing to admit their wrongs and make amends.

And finally, this struck me: "We think each family which has been relieved owes something to those who have not... the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them." I believe that I do owe something to others--to tell them that it is possible to find happiness whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.


  1. The part about extremes of enthusiasm jumped out to me. I have experienced that with myself trading my obsession for another person with an obession for the program or spiritual path. It seems to me no matter what side of the street you are on the similarities are humbling.

    For me finding balance is really the hard part.

  2. Interesting post today, and I believe that each individual should give what they can to others who are going through a similar path.

    My son's friend is an addict, his mother called me, knowing my own son's history and we have met and talked and compared notes and I have given her the list of meetings that worked for me and offered to go with her. But I think just having someone to compare notes with was what she needed. For now anyhow...

  3. I read a biography of Lois (not her own watered down version), and she really did take a lot of crap. But far be it for me to judge, since I took a lot of crap too, and kept on loving the addict.

    The take away here is "wrongs being righted by all through love and compassion." That's working at our house too.

  4. I've been reading alanon literature again as well, I'm finding that It IS possible for us to find happiness whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.

  5. Nice post, Syd. Safe travels, buddy.

  6. Sometimes I just want to tell you that I think you're someone very special, Syd. Today is one of those days.

  7. Your last paragraph is the kicker. We all need to pass it on.

  8. An interesting post, Syd. You mentioned Lois Wilson. She once remarked that "being married to an alcoholic is a very lonely life" and that phrase just hit me to the core and made me think how lonely my husband had been for years.
    He died just 15 months after I got sober and never reaped the benefits of the program ... but at least my children have.

  9. I find myself passing on much of what I have learned in Al-Anon, often without giving Al-Anon the credit for it. Being an adult child of an alcoholic I can't ever really "divorce" the addict in my life. Whether or not my mother ever finds recovery I am responsibility for my own recovery.

  10. Hi Syd,

    I have been reading your blog for quite awhile and you always share something insightful and this post was no exception.

    Thanks so much,

  11. I love that last paragraph! It's why I love meetings with lots of newcomers. I can stay so focused on where I want to be that it's hard for me to see my own progress sometimes. The truth is that most days I'm at peace, even if I'm sad, and that's a miracle.

    It also made me think of a couple AA members I've known who have carried their white chip with them everyday for the last 10 or 15 years....

  12. I've reached a point in my life where I can be grateful for my "dark past" and the compassion I can bring to others because of that.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.