Once again I came out of an al-anon meeting thinking that not enough people know about the support that is available to those who live in or who grew up in an alcoholic home. Many years ago a learned and beloved couple encouraged me to go to al-anon; my response was “I am not an alcoholic and I don’t need it.” Just over two years ago I was pushed by a client of mine to “try” going to a meeting and then deciding if there was any merit to the concept.
The very first meeting I attended I heard the survival skills we learn as a child in an alcoholic home do not work as an adult. No they don’t! Being self sufficient I still was arrogant enough to think all these other people here needed this but I did not have the level of problems “they” did. I obviously knew on some level that I needed to be at those meeting or I would not have returned week after week, but still on a cognitive level I did not “get it.” As we say in our groups, untreated aL-anons are worse off emotionally than almost any alcoholic. The other day I heard a joke: “When an AA (alcoholic) gets close to death his/her whole life flashes before them, but when an al-anon dies everyone else’s life flashes before them.” If you have not been there you may not get the hook; those who drink are self centered and consumed by the alcohol, those that live with them are consumed with or controlling the alcoholic.
Part of the “skills” that I mentioned before are those of control. We who grew up in a home controlled by the drink, seek to control everything that surrounds the alcoholic to protect themselves and/or others living in the house. Things that we try to control is information, situations and behavior. Information includes what we tell the alcoholic, others in the house (generally children, as if they don’t see it), neighbors, employers, family, friends, and even strangers. Oh, I did say protect, did I not!? There is always an underlying fear that someone is going to be hurt, and that is going to happen, it is not just an irrational fear.
I want you to know alcoholics do not have control, well really none of us do, but if a person had any level of self control or self awareness, substance abuse would not have become the ruler in a house. I do not know all of the things that go through the mind of an alcoholic but I do know that fear is a huge problem and that is what is a factor in the person giving into the draw of the drink and also the volatility of the drinker. Fear is also transferred to the spouse and children for all can be and often is lost in a moment. For myself as the oldest child in our house. along with being the oldest male, I wanted to fix everything. I don’t know if I had a “God complex” or what, but somehow I tried to do HIS job.
Although I had all the cognitive and spiritual teaching I could have growing up, also as a Jehovah’s Witness, I still did not have an appropriate relationship with the Creator, and to be sure, I still do not. My mother being a Jehovah’s Witness and my father not adopting the religion, also put me at odds with reality. As I learned later in life too, is that how we filter our connection with God, our heavenly father, is based on how we “see” our earthly father, and mine was not there. Most of the children growing up in a home where there is addiction, have trouble learning to let go to a higher power, they hold on to “helping” others; I am not unique.