After 8+ months of sobriety and AA meetings, I have just added Al-Anon meetings to my schedule. I’m dipping my toe in the water gingerly as this is something out of my comfort zone.
AA has been and continues to be my main focus and central to my recovery from alcoholism. But in working the 12 steps, lots of things have come to light that needed addressing. The 4th & 5th steps helped me understand my resentments toward others and my role in the pain that was caused. This has been a good thing AND a bad thing. The good is that I addressed these resentments, learned new and healthy behaviors, and how to set boundaries.
The bad is that some people in my life don’t like it.
My own family (some problem-drinkers, some not) has been the most challenging to deal with, and I’ve heard this is quite common. It’s as if they liked me better when I was drunk. I was “more fun,” more agreeable, more susceptible to their control. They’ve amped up the nasty gossip and negativity. They stir up shit for no apparent reason. And worst of all, they lay massive guilt trips on me. When I was drinking, I’d use alcohol to escape this unwanted behavior and to give me courage to attack back.
Now that I’m sober, I don’t cause drama, I live my life on my terms, and I set lines that shouldn’t be crossed. But that doesn’t sit well with people who are used to stomping all over those lines. Their behavior makes me very uncomfortable and I don’t have alcohol to cope. I have to face these things myself, and I don’t necessarily have the skills just yet to do so.
That’s where Al-Anon comes in. I attended a meeting a couple of months ago and another last evening and found it very strange. (Most new people in AA find AA strange too, as did I several months ago.) I have gotten used to my AA meetings and the culture and protocol. I’m comfortable and happy there. I look forward to meetings. Al-Anon is similar, yet different. It’s designed to support people who have family or close friends who are alcoholics.
I’ve found that people in Al-Anon meetings seem more fragile. (I’d be fragile too if I dealt with someone like me when I was an active alcoholic!) They’re sweet and polite with a quiet confidence but look like they’ll break into a million tiny pieces if you look at them long enough. Just my perception, of course. Bottom line is that living with an alcoholic is terribly stressful.
What I hope to learn from Al-Anon is how to deal with dysfunctional people. Last night’s speaker was terrific. She described a situation with an alcoholic family member who stepped all over her boundaries as well. I learned a lot from her in just the short, 1-hour meeting. I now understand that many, many people struggle with setting boundaries for themselves and for others. And in the end, we are the ones who get hurt by not doing so. We risk resorting to old methods and God forbid, drinking again.
Being an alcoholic meant that I didn’t have many boundaries for myself, let alone others. I taught people how to treat me, and now I must teach them a new way. But first, I must teach myself.