Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Today is the 9 year anniversary of the day I walked into AlAnon.
I had many years of learning and mastery ahead of me since that day, and I am so incredibly thankful for the unconditional love and support AlAnon offered me.
Even when I wasn’t ready to accept the truth, members of AlAnon held space for my own delusions.
Even when I wasn’t ready to accept responsibility for my own life and choices, members of AlAnon quietly and gently continued to hold a mirror up.
Even when I wasn’t ready to be brave, members of AlAnon modeled bravery for me.
Even when I wasn’t ready to stand up for myself and justified my own self betrayal, members of AlAnon accepted me without shame anyway.
There were times I twisted AlAnon to fit what I wanted it to say.
There were times I told myself I could use AlAnon to give me a way to avoid my biggest fear - abandoning my alcoholic.
I told myself I could practice all the skills - detachment with love, boundary setting, focusing on my own choices, compassion, and faith - and I could successfully be unharmed by my loved one’s addiction, abusive words, and absence.
For YEARS, I practiced mastering these AlAnon skills and I got pretty damn good at them.
No amount of detachment with love, however, took away the sting of verbal abuse or loneliness within my marriage. It gave me a numbness and the skill to dissociate when the pain was too much. Today, I still practice detaching with love because I truly believe other people’s behavior and choices have nothing to do with me. Most things aren’t my business and most sentences simply don’t have my name in them. I don’t, however, use detachment as an excuse to continue allowing my own mistreatment and abuse anymore.
Boundaries could only support me so far as I was willing to let go of whatever was dishonoring. For many years, I was not willing to let go of much. I stood in my own way and justified this was just part of the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Today, I don’t reduce my standards or boundaries based on someone else’s limitations or addictions. I don’t justify suffering someone else’s consequences. I don’t settle.
I used to tell myself I was capable of focusing on myself and my own choices while at the same time living with someone else’s addiction. I told myself I could chase my dreams, crush my goals, take care of my emotional and physical health, and give my passions my attention. I was dishonest about the emotional cost verbal abuse, fear, unpredictability, and loneliness had on my life. When I really got real with myself, I was not a robot. I was not a superhero. Choosing to tolerate my own mistreatment had a steep cost.
I’ve always been a compassionate person and I liked that AlAnon validated and acknowledged that quality. Compassion had a dark side for me though. I often had so much compassion for others who were suffering, I would baby them and treat them as fragile. I would dishonor them through my disbelief and I would lower my standards to meet them, dishonoring both of us. Today, I realize I can have compassion, without lowering my standards or babying anyone. I can believe in people and encourage them to rise up.
It has never been hard for me to see positive outcomes and to have complete faith everything would work out for the best. Sometimes however, this belief has gotten me into trouble. My optimism and faith could turn into a dark denial of repeating patterns and worn out second chances. It made me gullible and vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Today, I can still have faith in a higher purpose, without denying the truth in front of my face. I can believe people’s true colors when I see them.
AlAnon was the catalyst that started me on my journey, healing from deep and dark codependent patterns. It helped me take my first baby steps toward loving me and putting an end to my self betrayal. I will be forever grateful. I will continue to give back. Although it has taken me many years to peel back the layers, it has all been more than worth it. I will continue to get ruthlessly honest with myself and tenaciously commit to choosing myself, no matter what. AlAnon gave me that gift and it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.
If you struggle with loving someone who is suffering from addiction or alcoholism, I highly encourage you to explore AlAnon. It is a powerful journey of unlearning and healing. If you let it, it will change your life.