17 January 2011

The contagious disease

Picture from steadyhealth.com

Last week, I went to my local Al-Anon meeting for the first time since before Christmas. I have explained before that the Al-Anon philosophy is taking its time to have an effect on me (if any) and I am rather stuck on Step 3 which is handing my life over to a Higher Power. I have no idea what or who my Higher Power is and whilst stuck on Step 3, I have no real hope in hell of progressing through to the next stages and beyond. Maybe somewhere along the way, I have missed a vital link or important piece of information. I find writing my blog does me more good, to be honest,as I can get all the anger,frustration and despair off my chest. Writing it down just seems to be the help I need. Yet some people have been going to the group for over ten years and swear by its usefulness. I just go because I like to meet people who have been in a similar situation to me and who can empathise with me. Until you have lived with alcoholism, you really have no idea how horrific and life-changing it can be. The group members come from all walks of life, are all ages and have different faiths, but we all have one thing in common....we have lived with an alcoholic parent, partner or offspring. I enjoy the chat after the meeting rather than the meeting itself.

At last week's meeting, someone new turned up. A young girl in her late twenties together with her mother. Her brother is the alcoholic and is causing so much grief in the family. Like many people who first come to Al-Anon, they were at their wits' end and were looking for that magic wand to solve their problem. Sadly the only person who can wave that magic wand is the alcoholic themself. It is the alcoholic who must first recognise that they are an alcoholic and make the first move to stop drinking. Only they can agree to try detox (i.e. come off the alcohol under a medically-assisted programme) and then rehab (i.e.six-month long stay in a centre where the reason for drinking is analysed and coping mechanisms are learned.) Only the alcoholic can fight the demons and stay firm against temptation, for that is truly the hardest part. Relatives and friends can advise, support, cajole, beg, nag, plead, but it needs co-operation on the part of the alcoholic to bring about the change to sobriety. If the alcoholic won't see that they are addicted or refuse to do anything about it, that is unfortunately where you hit the brick wall.

I felt sorry for the newcomers at the meeting. They were clearly so desperate, like I had once been. The young girl sobbed uncontrollably as she unfolded her story. Her mother kept walking away from the group in tears as it was too much for her to hear, even though she lives with it every day. It made me so angry to hear of yet another victim of alcohol and their damage to those around them. It is often said that alcoholism is a contagious disease. Only one person is the alcoholic, but it affects everyone else in the family. All the people in my group are such lovely people. That is why I like to talk to them afterwards.They really do not deserve all this and certainly did not ask for it.


Anonymous said...

Well said. The flipside is that if you are in recovery as I am, well, when I feel like a drink I think of my family and the fact that I desperately don't want to put them through all the pain again.

In my AA meetings, sometimes people refer to GOD as Gift of Desperation - that their higher power was the gift of their desperation to find an answer. Sometimes I like to think of my higher power as the sun. It brings light and life each day and without its daily, predictable appearance all living things would perish. I've thought of all sort of wacky things for my step 3 over the years. I now accept that the search for my higher power is just part of my recovery, as I don't come from a religious background.

Nota Bene said...

That's an excellent piece - it's such a shame for the 'new' people.

Saz said...

very interesting, it reminds of when l attended and how the grup dynamic i realised was skewed and would help me not.

many were drinkers themselves, and l know have subsequently moved on to AA....the group was small and struggling, no wonder l thought...it was about men bashing, and putting blame on others when so many obviously were denying their own issues...
I'm not saying l wasn't an enable, colluder, but it didn't help with my issues and fears, of living a lie, keeping secrets, being manipulated, abused, controlled, coerced, frightened, LOST!

luv saz x

Linda said...

Well said Addy... you are doing the right thing by going to Al-Anon. Not everyone gets the same thing from it. It is very comforting to be around others who have shared your experience.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can quite believe that is true. My Uncle was an alcoholic, he lives in a home now as he couldn't look after himself after his wife died. I should think she lived a pretty dismal life.

I also know another really lovely lady who looks after her husband who is alcoholic and has suffered 3 strokes. She's only in her early 60's and has devoted her life since being in her 40's, to him. And is he appreciative? What do you think.

CJ xx

andrea said...

rouble in families are destroying ones life . why I often ask ..

Kit Courteney said...

I've said it before. I'll say it again:

You really should have this blog out there, being publicised, being published (in book form)... not that it's not being read(!), I don't mean that, but you write so amazingly about every aspect of your life that I feel sure that there must be thousands and thousands of people to whom this would be helpful, useful, a massive gift in the void that is so often despair.

Kay L. Davies said...

I can empathize with your struggle about the Third Step, and the only thing I can suggest for now is that a group of people is more powerful than an individual, and many people have used the group or the fellowship as a whole as their higher power.
As for the mother and daughter who came in, I know for a fact it is possible for them to recover even if the alcoholic in their family continues to drink. Some of the strongest people I have known are Al-Anon members whose alcoholics are still drinking. They got well, they got strong, in spite of the continuing alcoholism in their lives. Don't give up on those two women. Hope and help can be found in Al-Anon, and many an AA member has eventually sought sobriety because the spouse, mother, father or sibling has become well in Al-Anon.
No situation is hopeless while hope still lives.

DogLover said...

Step 3 was also difficult for me, Addy, not having any religious beliefs. I envied those who had!

I seem to remember that I told the group of this problem of mine with Step 3 and we had one of the best evening of discussions I ever experienced - maybe I thought that because it was I that needed the help!

The 12 steps lead to a wide-ranging change of feelings and ideas and this is so the more times one does them.

I always found something I needed in every meeting, but I think that doing all 12 steps is what best leads one to Al-Anon's "serenity". For this reason, if I may, I would suggest that you don't accept the invitation you are getting from some of your well-meaning readers to think about putting your blogs into a book. In due course, that might well be worthwhile and of help to others who are trying to cope with living with an alcoholic, but I think you might feel that some of your previous blogs would benefit from a little revision!

Kelloggsville said...

*sigh* I am fed up of the constant cajole, beg, nag, plead. It's tiring, it's draining and it means I can't live normally, watching the bottle to see if it has gone down more, watching his mood, listening for the glug glug glug as yet another is poured and the knotted frustration inside as it happens over and over again. And yet I don't see the point in me going and seeking help...I'm not drinking. Why oh why *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Hi Addy,

The Al-anon meetings but bring about a lot of heart-ache and humbling times. I guess you can only really know if you have been there. And I can only imagine just how bad it is to see someone you love deteriorate from an illness that in theory they can recover from. Not to mention the hell those loved ones have to go through mentally.

I agree with what Kit said. You should think about writing something because there is a very important message that needs said and you get that across beautifully in your posts. My eyes have really been opened in my visits here. It is really more devastating than a lot of people would realise.

All the best


Flowerpot said...

Very interesting Addy and I could feel the pain of those poor women. Must be a fascoinating group, no wonder youlike to talk to them afterwards adn as you say you all have something in common.

AnyEdge said...

I don't know anything really about Al-Anon, of course. But I know quite a bit about AA. And you're right about sobriety having to come from the alcoholic, or God if that's your belief, rather than from another person. No one can help an alcoholic get sober. The only thing you can do is help them to the bottom. If their alcoholism is negatively impacting your life, refuse to help them, enable them, or even see them or talk to them. It is only when alcohol has stripped us of the last shreds of our dignity that we seek help.

I will make one comment though, in mild disagreement. When you say: "Only the alcoholic can fight the demons and stay firm against temptation, for that is truly the hardest part," I have to disagree. I have no difficulty 'fighting temptation', becuase I feel no temptation. Alcohol's hold on me, through God, through AA, through work, has been abolished. Totally annihilated.

Fighting temptation may be a difficult thing for some, after all, I can speak only to my own experience. But I can tell other alcoholics this: temptation need not be a constant companion of the sober alcoholic.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Crikey, heavy stuff. The older I get, the less I can drink. Luck in a way. Re my blog, go back two or three posts and ypull see. been a strange fortnight! Good luck.

Furtheron said...

Brilliant post.

First Step 3 - there is a great bit in the Alcoholics Anonymous book on this. God of your understanding. My mates was a little green tin money box his Nan gave him over 60 years ago. Honestly ... it worked he has been sober many years now.

Mine is the people around me who get it and stay sober. I nick from each of them a bit of whatever is working for them since I don't have a religion or a viable concept of God.

I was interested in the bit about rehab - mine didn't analyse why I drank... I'm an alcoholic I will drink plane and simple if left to my own devices I will drink I'm hard wired to do it. You don't analyse why someone has cystic fibrosis - they do, it is a genetic cock up - same for me with alcohol. I don't want someone or thing to blame - I'd never get well if I did that.

Finally - the damage to others. Only the other day we were as a family talking about one of the last bad days in my bad old days. My daughter talked about how it affected her - I never knew. She remembered vividly locking herself in the bathroom while I ranted and raved at my son about something. Horrible, just horrible. It makes me feel so guilty. But now it if different. I need to be reminded though how shit it was for others as well as me to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Fantastic post Addy - I can't thank you enough for smacking me in the face in the ways I need to be

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

You are being very positive Addy and I suspect those meetings are doing you a power of good. Whatever it takes to heal you and your pain is so worthwhile. The fact that you enjoy talking to the others must be beneficial to you and to them. A X

DogLover said...

Sorry to come in again, having already commented. But I wondered if you had discussed your Step 3problem with your sponsor. If not, she may be able to suggest a way round the difficulty.

Vasanth G.Benjamin said...

The greatest of my prides are not what have bought, but the ones that have earned and carried within me....
A little piece of my greatest journeys - well shared...

Gattina said...

When I read this it makes me angry that some youngsters are arrested because the have 10 g of haschish in their pockets !
Alcohol is a drug as dangerous as heroin or cocaine !

Retiredandcrazy said...

My take on the 3rd step is this. The steps were written by the first 100 members of AA. They decided to write down the steps they had taken which had bought about their sobriety. You will notice they are written in the past tense - "We ADMITTED we were powerless ...etc".

Now this is where it gets tricky. The 12th step is "Having had a spiritual awakening AS THE RESULT OF THESE STEPS....".

Like you I struggled with the 3rd step "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him" -but I worked the steps to the best of my ability and I believe that as the RESULT of this eventually had a spiritual awakening 10 years into the programme.

So Addy my message to you is don't struggle and above all be patient. If it's going to happen -it will! Trust me and enjoy.

I heard at one meeting "if you don't believe in a higher power that's OK, but for now just believe that I believe."

Much love, Ann xx

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say that following your blog has inspired me to start my own about living with an active alcoholic and my progress in recovery. I hope you will check it out one day when you have time. Thanks!