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.