Sunday, December 16, 2007

Al-Anon can help you cope with alcoholics in your life

Margie and her husband go to one of those churches that frown on drinking, but her husband of 30 years drinks anyway.

Margie had an alcoholic father, an alcoholic uncle and an alcoholic brother. Her husband is an alcoholic. “I’ve had it all my life and I’m tired of dealing with it. I am a Christian and I always felt that with the Lord’s help, I could do this.”

But she can’t talk to her church friends about her husband’s drinking. They don’t know he drinks. “My husband is a closet alcoholic,” Margie said. “He doesn’t drink in bars. He doesn’t drink where anyone can see him. He drinks at home, but not when I’m there.”

Margie works a professional job. Her husband, now retired, is a functioning alcoholic, she said. Trouble is, he becomes unpleasant and verbally abusive to her when he drinks.

“You never know when you come home what you’re going to find,” she said, adding that her husband isn’t physically abusive. “Just nasty things coming out of his mouth, not cussing, but mean things.”

In August, a friend took Margie to Al-Anon, a 12-step program for people who have a loved one who abuses alcohol or drugs or has an eating disorder. The friend’s parents were alcoholic and she had gone until they died. For years, she encouraged Margie to go.

“You get wisdom from people who have gone through this,” Margie said. “Last night we talked about trying to find the blessings in other situations and not to concentrate on the alcoholic.”

The week before, people had talked about the three C’s: “You can’t cure it, you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it.” She added another three. “But with Christ, you can cope and have compassion.”

She has more peace now. She hopes her husband won’t drink so much, but he won’t have the excuse anymore that she is nagging him. “Now he doesn’t get the harassment from me. I have learned that this isn’t the way to handle it.”

Dan’s prodigal son

Dan has a son who first used alcohol and drugs at 14, attempted suicide at 18 and failed three times in rehab before finding success at a Hazelden residential rehab center in Minnesota. He stayed in residency beyond the initial rehab period, then stepped down to a halfway house, a three-quarter house and then independent living. He has been sober now eight years.

Dan, a minister, has been going to Al-Anon for eight years. Before that, his wife, a college teacher, went by herself. “I believed it was all our son’s issues. He was the drug addict and the alcohol abuser. What I found when I got to Al-Anon was that people who live around these people learn coping mechanisms.”

He had thought he could control his son’s behavior. He learned to accept that he couldn’t.

Dan and his wife go to meetings together now. Their son lives in Minnesota. Does the son attend meetings there? “I don’t know that I can answer that,” Dan said. “It’s one of those things I don’t ask about. All I know is he is clean and he manages his affairs.

“Al-Anon has helped me learn something about boundaries,” he added.

Charlene: Save thyself

Charlene’s son is an alcoholic and her husband was an alcoholic.

She and her husband were living separately when he died of his disease, Charlene said. “We were still married. I never gave up the hope he would get better. In fact, we were better friends when he was away because I didn’t get involved with everything and I wasn’t as affected. I had my own income, my own place to live and my life wasn’t as upside down anymore.”

Charlene, now in her mid-50s, stayed with her husband 10 years after she first attended an Al-Anon meeting in 1990. “His disease progressed and my situation became more tolerable because I made decisions that were right for me — with the help of Al-Anon.

“Before that I felt I was living in a cage of my own. I didn’t do anything without his approval, without his doing it with me.”

That didn’t happen often. “He was out doing his drinking and drugging while I was sitting at home worrying about where he was. I didn’t realize I alone had the key to that cage.”

When she moved out, the business she helped her husband run collapsed. She declared bankruptcy. The business was in her name.

She and her husband went to church together until his drinking and drugging got the better of him. They had Jet Skis and four-wheelers. “They’re toys,” she said. “They’re supposed to make you happy.”

Now, she has a good job and her own home. She no longer goes to church. “Al-Anon is a very spiritual program and it has brought me in touch with a higher power in a very different way, a more personal way.”

source: By Bob Schwarz
Staff writer
Sunday Gazette-Mail

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