By Whitney McKendree Moore
“When I first stopped trying to fix other people, I turned my attention to ‘curing’ myself. I was in a hurry to get this healing process over… I looked forward to the day I would graduate from Al-Anon and get on with my life. As year two and year three passed, I was still in the program.” Hope for Today
When Did I Catch Alcoholism?
I finally turned to Al-Anon after twenty years of denying we had a problem related to alcohol in our marriage. At first, I didn’t think I had a problem — the drinker did, but I didn’t.
When I first entered the rooms of Al-Anon, I truly believed that, if only my husband stopped drinking, everything would be fine.
Imagine my surprise to learn that alcoholism is contagious and that I’d caught it — not the “alcohol part” but the “ism” part. And that I had plenty of isms — the earmarks of what they referred to as stinking thinking.
I listened and learned about the challenges others had faced, how they had turned to their Higher Power, and then, what had happened next.
I heard jaw-dropping reports in Al-Anon meetings: agony being turned to triumph, not necessarily for the alcoholic, but at least for someone who loved that person despite their addiction.
Acknowledging my Isms
My own addiction was an obsession with the drinker. I was worried sick over things outside my own skin, not realizing that I had unwittingly conflated love with interfering.
Apparently, I had learned this in my family of origin, where everyone was constantly wringing their hands over someone or another. What we called “genuine concern” was actually minding other people’s business.
As I grew up, caring took the form of focusing on other people and their needs instead of my own. It became crystal clear eventually that I was doing this at my own expense.
The Al-Anon idea is the exact opposite: I am responsible for me, myself, and I – period. I am accountable for how I live my life – period. I learned that it is impossible to coach or manage (or even threaten!) anyone else, which was new news to me in 1989.
Unlearning Codependency and Learning the 3 C’s of Al-anon
Thirty years later, much of what I had initially been taught is unlearned and replaced with principles of recovery. It has taken vigilance and discipline to stay on top of the stinking thinking I seem to have inherited, Slowly but surely, I am recognizing those unhelpful thought patterns and replacing them with ways that work. For example, I now know that:
• My life is my responsibility.
• Anybody else’s life is their responsibility.
I was awkward and awful at walking in the Twelve Steps at first, mostly because I did not know how to trust this invisible Higher Power people kept sharing about in meetings, but I could remember that I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.
Saving Me from Me; the Power of Support
Then came a night when my husband was hours late returning home from his Friday night meeting, and I was frantic because I had to work on Saturday morning. When I called someone in the program, I was encouraged to:
- Turn out the light
- Put my head on the pillow
- Say a prayer
- Go to sleep
“Right!” I said sarcastically into the phone, adding “Thanks for nothing!” (I think I actually said that). But then, I did three of those four things anyway — and seconds after I had done them (fuming), the garage door went up. My husband was home, safely home. I went to sleep, and I slept soundly.
My Higher Power is in Charge
Before Al-Anon, I expected life to go smoothly. I thought I could prevent shipwrecks, but alcoholism crashed me on the rocks (pun intended).
Al-Anon taught me things no one ever had told me before — namely, that my Higher Power is eager to help. I attend meetings to share my proof of that (even examples as small as the story of the garage door).
Most importantly, I go to hear other people’s evidence. Their experience augments my own and strengthens me to trust. For me, trust is a must, and it’s one of the main ways we help one another in Al-Anon.
Bio: Whitney McKendree Moore
Voice and pen became Whitney’s personal ways to be heard. After she married in 1971, she published an article every year as she pursued her professional career and she continued to “sing constantly.”
A turning point for Whitney came in 1989, when she found her way into Twelve-Step recovery.
There, people were sharing “dirty laundry” and seeking God’s guidance to overcome. Now her writing is focused on encouraging others that God is still in the miracle-making business.
To Connect with Whitney:
Websites: Recovery in the Bible
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
Do you think your story of addiction and recovery could help another? Then consider a guest post today.