This interview is the latest in our Family Interview series. We will be sharing one interview each month from the family members of those who struggled to get sober, those who are sober today and those who have died as a result of their addiction. Family members are often in pain after years of doing everything in their power to help their loved one. Living with the effects of someone else’s addiction is devastating and for most people it is impossible to bear without outside help. Our hope is that as a family member, you can find experience, strength and hope in these stories.
What crisis brought you to recovery? Two things happened to me that caused me to seek help. The first was my mother had just died and the grief I felt was overwhelming. I was in my country of origin when my
mom died and the family chaos that followed was too much for me. To cope, I returned to the United States thinking that would ease my pain. However, when I came back I found that my roommate’s drinking had progressed and she had constant twitches that were getting worse. She was passing out on the couch almost nightly and I thought she was going to die. I was at my wits end and totally broken. I knew then I needed some kind of help. I just didn’t know what exactly.
Had you ever heard of Al-anon or Nar-anon before this crisis? I had never heard about Al-Anon before I entered the rooms of Al-Anon. A new friend I had made on my return from abroad was talking about her husband who was an alcoholic and I told her about my friend who could not stop drinking and how scared I was that she would die. My new friend invited me to attend an Al-Anon meeting with her, an in-person meeting. I was so tired of all the chaos around me that I decided to go, to get away from the house. That was my only in-person meeting because after that covid happened and there were no more in-person meetings. That was my introduction to Al-Anon. I started attending zoom meetings and have stayed since then.
What have you learned about the importance of family members recovery? I have learned that I cannot force recovery on any family member. They have to want it and that is a critical point to remember. When a person is ready they will find the help that they seek and recovery will come to them in a way that is for
them. It is personal and caring. Alcoholism and addiction affects every single person in a family, including me. Recovery is a gift and I can share that gift if and when others ask, and also by the way I live my life and the love I show my family members, regardless of where they are on their journey. That’s what I have finally learned.
Did you have any reluctance in accepting your need for your personal recovery? Meaning, did you ever have thoughts of “I don’t have a problem so why do I am I the one who needs help? Actually, when I first came into Al-Anon, I thought I would get some ideas to help my friend stop drinking, but I also entered yearning for some way to deal with my brokenness. I was at a really low place in my life and was literally crying out for help. What I was reluctant to admit was that I had lived with someone for almost 20 years and couldn’t admit the problem of alcoholism to anyone. I knew then that I, too, had problems of my own that needed to be addressed.
What would you tell family members who are considering their own recovery? Try it. Go to meetings and just listen to what members say. People will welcome you with open arms and there is no pressure on your part to DO anything. You will find that you aren’t alone in your pain. You will discover safety in these rooms and
before you know it you will say to yourself, “this is the best thing I have ever done for myself.” You will find the help and peace you are seeking and that you may not have known.
Have you experienced any stigma surrounding addiction and recovery? I have experienced the stigma in my own family and among friends who had very negative things to say about alcoholics and addicts, that they can stop if they really wanted to, for example, but they really just don’t want to. That is one of the reasons I was afraid to let anyone know the details that I lived with someone who couldn’t control their drinking. I myself held that opinion until I learned about alcoholics and alcoholism when I came into Al-Anon. Being judged by others and the jokes made behind my friend’s back stuck with me and I knew the stigma was real.
Is there anything else that you would like to add? The Al-Anon program works. It’s simple and has simple and beautiful guidelines to help you along the way. You will learn that there are people who have similar problems as you, and are willing and happy to assist you in your recovery. And most of all you will discover you are never, ever, alone again.