I filled my Styro-foam cup halfway with coffee, stirred in a shameful amount of creamer and sugar, and made my way to the circle of chairs. I wasn’t thirsty. I just needed something in my hands.
We stood, bowed our heads, and said these words:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Hi. My name is WonderGirl. I am not an alcoholic.
But I am affected by one.
Tonight’s meeting was an open AA meeting, which means that alcoholics and Al-Anon members join together. Al-Anon is an offshoot of AA. Al-Anon is designed for the people surrounding the alcoholic, or drug abuser. Those left in the wake. Within Al-Anon, there is also Alateen, geared for the younger crowd. This was my first open meeting, after three Al-Anon meetings.
So, are you with me? You have the lay of the land?
How I came to be sitting in that chair is a long, complicated mess. It took eons for me to get there. It took me being completely, utterly overwhelmed. Desperate, frustrated, angry. It took me realizing that things weren’t going to get better on their own.
I came in with a sea of doubts and hurt and confusion.
I’m still in that place.
But, something is changing. I am treading waters that once lapped relentlessly over my head.
I see the old timers, the people who have been where I am. I see their peace. I see them on that other shore, even those whose addicts didn’t make it. That is powerful. I want to be there.
I am learning about myself, things I didn’t know. I go home each night with something new to wrestle. It’s tough. And yet, it feels so good to be doing something. I can stop being a victim. I can stop trying to fix things that are not in my power to fix. I can learn to let go.
Learning to let go…
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But for the family of an addict, it is the single hardest thing to do. Every instinct calls for you to hold tighter, try harder, because you feel them slipping out of your grasp, and into a deep, black abyss. If you can just hold them a little longer, they’ll keep from plummeting down. You try everything. You throw ropes, send grappling hooks and pulleys, you build bridges and ladders– but… they never look up. They don’t see your panicked attempts to save them. They are intent on that void, and there is nothing you can do.
Nothing. You. Can. Do.
It’s a pretty devastating realization.
With it comes a tsunami of emotion. Grief, anger, hopelessness. Some days are good days, those times when you think maybe you’re coming to terms with it, when you can accept it, when you think you’ll find a way to be happy even though they are not. Other days are not good, those when you are confused and angry. When you feel cheated, then selfish, then guilty. Days when you are overwhelmed at the fallout of their choices, when you can’t get an inch of distance or perspective. Days when you miss who they could be, when you can’t believe who they’ve become.
It’s a process.
For now, I go, and I sit in the circle. I listen. Sometimes I talk.
The coffee is terrible.
The people, wonderful.
It is exactly where I need to be. However rocky the road that got me here, I am glad. I want this for me, I want it for my family, my parents, my sisters– and my brother. But, I can only sit in my chair, in my group, and reclaim my life. I can’t do it for anybody else. I’m seeing that now.
My name is WonderGirl. I’m not an alcoholic. But I am affected by one.
And I’m gonna be okay.