A Member of Al-Anon Recounts Struggle and Terror Living With Alcoholic Family Members

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For April Alcohol Awareness Month, a member of Al-Anon Family Groups shares the story of how she became aware that family members’ alcoholism was affecting her. She recounts how finding Al-Anon changed her life for the better.

Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers

Al-Anon Family Groups

We were married for years before I realized he really had a drinking problem. I was raised around people who drank, so it was normal to me. Over the years I became further entrenched in the idea that I'm not a lovable person.”

Many Americans suffer with lifelong effects from a friend or family member’s drinking problem. “April Alcohol Awareness Month provides an opportunity for self-reflection,” according to Pamela Walters, Information Analyst at the Al-Anon Family Groups World Service Office. “It may be that someone else’s alcoholism is the cause of worry and stress,” said Walters. Al-Anon Family Groups meet in local communities throughout the country, and the world, to provide strength and hope to anyone who is troubled by a loved one’s alcoholism.

Walters said, “Besides the obvious reasons, what makes the disease of alcoholism so heartbreaking for friends and family members is the confusion over how a loved one could behave in this way.”

In an Al-Anon podcast for Alcohol Awareness Month, Julie, an anonymous member of Al-Anon, shares painful memories of how she first became aware of her father’s drinking when she was a young child. She explains how she found her way to her first Al-Anon meeting, and how it changed her life for the better.

Julie said, “One night, I was in bed asleep. I woke up to the sound of my mother screaming. My dad was yelling and cursing, and I was terrified about what I was hearing and what was happening. I really wanted to go help my mom, but I was too afraid. I just sat there in bed, terrified. When the light went out, I walked out of my room and I saw my mom sitting up in bed and she had two black eyes. Dad was sitting beside her and he was holding her hand.” Julie continued, “Looking back, I know that that incident and others like it created a wound and fearfulness.”

Alcoholism in Julie’s family led her to grow up feeling unlovable and insignificant, and later in life, she married an alcoholic. “He was handsome, charming, intelligent. He had an infectious laugh and a generous heart,” said Julie. “We were married for years before I realized he really had a drinking problem. I was raised around people who drank, so it was normal to me. He went to work every day, but he would go to his favorite bar right after work. He had many affairs, and that took the focus off the real problem. There were many years of me begging and pleading for him to come home to me. There were many years of him blaming me for his drinking; accusations like, ‘If you didn’t nag me so much about my drinking, I’d come home to you.’ So, over the years I became further entrenched in the idea that I'm not a lovable person.”

“Often times, it’s difficult to accept that alcoholism may be the cause of problems in a relationship, and that help is needed,” said Walters. “In Al-Anon, people can speak freely about their experiences, and learn from the experiences of others. Many Al-Anon members begin to see things more clearly, and that can be very comforting,” said Walters.

Julie said, “One day, I was sitting in a [Al-Anon] meeting and I could feel my emotions, just, bubbling up, getting ready to boil over and erupt. And, erupt, they did.” “I didn't realize it at the time, but everything changed for me that day. For the first time in my life, the door opened - just a crack; but there was a little sliver of light shining through, and that little sliver of light was hope, and it was feeling accepted,” said Julie.

Listen to the entire podcast on the Al-Anon Family Groups Web page, or on its YouTube page.

Al-Anon Family Groups are for families and friends who have been affected by the drinking problem of someone close to them. Nearly 16,000 local groups meet every week throughout the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. Al-Anon Family Groups meet in more than 130 countries, and Al-Anon literature is available in more than 40 languages. Al-Anon Family Groups have been offering strength and support to families and friends of alcoholics since 1951. Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. acts as the clearinghouse worldwide for inquiries from those who need help or want information about Al-Anon Family Groups and Alateen, its program for teenage members.

For more information about Al-Anon Family Groups, go to http://www.al-anon.alateen.org, or read a copy of "Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2014." Find a local meeting by calling toll-free: 1-888-4AL-ANON.

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