I was very angry at my boyfriend, who was physically abusive, unfaithful, and disrespectful. He also drank a lot, used drugs, and was frequently unemployed. I spent most of my free time cleaning his apartment, cooking for him, doing his laundry, and loaning him money. I kept telling everyone how awful he was, hoping someone would tell me how to fix the situation. The most frequent response I got was “leave him,” but I just wanted our relationship to change for the better.
One day I told my horror story to a woman at work who immediately recognized that my boyfriend might be an alcoholic. She asked me what I thought I could do about it. I talked about many ways I could get back at him so that he would be sorry and treat me better. Nothing I did for him was changing anything, and I was just getting angrier and sadder. She pointed out that retaliation or rewards for his improper behavior would not be helpful to me or him, and we brainstormed about what things I could change. She invited me to an Al‑Anon speaker meeting. I was afraid that he would be very angry at me for going to the meeting, and I was afraid he would hurt me because of it; but I was so desperate that I gave it a try. At first, I listened because I didn’t know what to say. Soon I realized that, though I didn’t have to say anything, I wanted to speak at least one sentence when it was my turn to talk. As time went on, I was able to participate more fully at the meetings. No one judged what I said. They just kept telling me to “Keep Coming Back.”
I heard that I am powerless over the alcoholic, and I realized that my life had become unmanageable. Then I learned about acceptance; acceptance does not mean I agree with something. It means that I acknowledge its existence and can then look at what my choices or options are. Having choices gave me power over my own life. Most of the choices I saw were very tiny changes that I could make to improve my life. Knowing I had choices and could change my mind if something wasn’t working for me was a huge step in my recovery. I really wanted to end the relationship, but I was afraid that he would stalk me and hurt me. I gained the courage to tell my story to the police, who had him arrested for assault. I was terrified that he would retaliate, but he never did.
It has been many years since that relationship ended. I continue to attend Al‑Anon. It helped me through my first marriage and divorce. This program has been vital in helping me choose appropriate friends, relationships with my family and co-workers. It also helps me in my present marriage and with raising our children. It has given me a broader outlook on life. I also learned that whatever is happening, good or bad, is just for today, which helps me keep a balanced view of my life.
By Linda D., Wisconsin
The Forum, February 2020
Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA