Thursday, April 25, 2013

A letter to the alcoholic from an Al-Anon

I am your family member, lover, friend.  I need help. I too have been affected by the disease of alcoholism which has caused me to lose my self-esteem, self-respect and motivation in our relationship.  I am learning through Al-Anon to take a stand on behalf of myself as your parent, child, wife, lover or friend.

Don't lie to me because in doing so you only lie to yourself by accepting your lies as truth. The truth may be painful, but I must realize my own truths in rigorous honesty.  

I do not have the power to make anyone "entirely ready" to choose recovery. I am choosing recovery for me.  If you so choose, you will call on your Higher Power - the god of your understanding for this help.

Don't believe you can outsmart alcoholism. It is a progressive disease that will take you hostage, teach you to avoid responsibility and lose respect for yourself, while others will lose respect for you at the same time. It will break you to the point that you may die.

Don't try to exploit or take advantage of me because I am learning to focus and take care of myself.  I have personal boundaries and dignity and won't be an accomplice to your evasion of responsibility. I am taking responsibility for my part by working the Al-Anon program one day at a time and embracing a new way of living.

Don't lecture me, moralize, scold, praise, blame or argue whether you are drunk or sober.  I am no longer a doormat. I have moved out of the doorway and you cannot step on me anymore.  I am detaching with love: "I'll see you after my meeting.  I love you."

Don't make promises you don't intend to keep.  Let's be honest with one another. Neither of us is perfect, and I doubt we ever will be. I think that is okay.  I accept you as you are.  I can take what I like and leave the rest. Can you say the same of me? If we postpone the pain by not working on ourselves, are we happier or just stuck? We can try to run away, but I know that wherever I go, there I am.

Mostly, I am not going to have expectations of who I think you "should" be.  For me, I can have expectations that by working the steps I will find peace.  I know now that half measures will avail us nothing.  Alcoholism drove me to surrender and choose recovery. Are you ready to do the same?

Don't lose your temper with me.  I am not going to take what you say personally and am not going to react to your anger by reciprocating with rage and harboring resentments.  When I point a finger at you and take your inventory, there are four more fingers pointing back at me.  Let's communicate respectfully, and speak in the same manner we would like to be spoken to.

If one of us grows a little quicker than the other, don't let anxiety about this cause us to abandon one another or give up on ourselves because of fear, nor let it compel us to do for one another what we must do for ourselves.  Let's not tell one another how to work our programs or make threats if there are program slips or relapses. Let's allow one another the dignity to make our own choices and experience our own consequences.

Also,  let us not use words and deeds that would cause us to suffer consequences of criticism, shaming, rejection, or abandonment for not being perfect. It's cruel to attempt to reduce a person through sarcasm and harsh words.  Doing so perpetuates a crisis to our new found trust in one another and therefore, exacerbates each of our illnesses.  Let's be kind to one another.

Above all, let's not run away from reality. We each have our disease and must never forget that. The journey back to ourselves is a worthwhile one.  Alcoholism is an illness, and it can be arrested but never cured. We can start now to learn, understand and plan for our recovery in our respective programs. We may need the help of professionals - a doctor, counselor, or psychologist, another recovering person (a sponsor). But mostly we will need guidance from our Higher Power to recover and restore our being - to make us whole as individuals and with one another.  The spirit that was broken can be repaired.

We may hate ourselves yet love one another. To do nothing is the worst choice each of us can make for ourselves and those we love. Instead let's strive together for honesty, openness and willingness.

My hope is that you will see that you are worth the effort of recovery. I know that I am.


  1. Dunno Syd I always and I mean always, drank alone but never hid it from anyone in the house. they were alseep when i left for work and asleep when i came home but they saw the empties. *shrug* I am happy for you and C, your road worked for you guys, mine has worked for me for well over a decade but they definitely were two different ways.

    Life sucks and a drink might make it temporarily suck less but then there's always tomorrow and it may suck less without the drink so far for 13 years i have been able to wait until tomorrow to see if i wanted that drink.

    Be Well brother

  2. nice...i like the honesty and strength it takes to say some of these no longer be that doormat...and those last lines...def carry the heart as well...

  3. This reminds me of AA's "Letter to the Family."

  4. It seems easier to quit sometimes and not try to work things out but ultimately we are our own worst enemy. If we want things to be different then we have to change ourselves or we will end up exactly where we are in a different relationship.

    It is such a blow to the ego when everything isn't the alcoholics fault. Realizing that we are getting something out of the drama is a hard pill to swallow. Two children in a relationship.

    The program has helped me to become an adult I have been dragged kicking an screaming all the way.

  5. Dear Syd:

    I was looking forward for reading this letter. Is always good to remember that the alcoholic is not the only one suffering from a disease. Is always good to remember that as him/her we need to learn how to love ourselves better. Reading you in these days have been really helpful to me. I really aprecciate what you give with your words. It makes me aprecciate too the sense of community that exists in any 12 step program: someone gives freely to you and then you give back. Love is the medicine.

  6. Thanks for posting this Syd. It goes beyond just finding space to co-exist with someone who is active in addiction, to all those dynamics of rescuing or caretaking or imposing expectations on those we love. How we keep growing and taking care of ourselves when others refuse to take care of themselves and try to hold us back.

  7. Hi Syd, just wondering if this is CAL? It is so moving. I would love to share this in my group as we frequently share the "letter from the alcoholic".
    Thank you, Patty

  8. I am the alcoholic in my family, Syd, and I think I've told you that my son (not an alcoholic) is dating "one of us" ... they've run into some snags and he's found Al-anon to be a life saver. I'm going to send this post on to him. Thanks so much.

  9. Thank you for this letter. I will keep coming back to it. I am working on treating my husband with respect and detaching with love. This will remind me of that intention and also allows me to share with him where I am coming from now.

  10. I found your blog today out of desperation to find online literature to get me through a small crisis until I can attend a meeting. I have been a member of Al Anon for a few years off and on and it changed my life around. I am so grateful to everyone who is brave enough to share and help me along my path to recovery from abuse. At my first meeting I was shaking and crying and now I am going early and making the coffee. I don't feel alone anymore. Stay an inspiration to us all!

  11. Ya. Sounds great. Unless you have someone in the program who does shame you, violate you, put you down! Tell you in front of your kids the worst of the worst. Little kids should not be involved in anything!. I have a movement disorder and have a husband who wants to take me down. Be little me, he's the one who sent me this link for me to read! I'm not an alcoholic. But I had my issues with pills with my parkinsons/cervical dystonya. When you have a bully that only looks for something wrong. Instead of being compassionate, and loving, as loving as I am. IT'S BULLSHIT! he can work on all these steps with everyone and make himself look good, unless he's golfing etc....instead of make situationa better pray as family etc... I love the program I hate when people take advantage of it as an excuse to not have responsibility!


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