An Online Al-Anon Email Meeting
On February 3, 1997, I went to my first Al-Anon meeting. It wasn't that the alcoholic in my life had done something different that day. The alcoholic that affected my life the most was my grandfather, and he was long since deceased.
It was finding love letters from two women on my husband's computer that sent me to the telephone to call all my friends and find out if the world was still round (because this just wasn't possible in my universe).
From that survey, one friend I trusted told me to go to Al-Anon. So I called their number, spoke to a lady for a few minutes, and got the meeting schedule. And that's how I ended up at the Monday night Step study meeting hearing about Step Two for the first time.
I entered the meeting still bewildered, frightened about my future, in nauseating pain and confusion, trying to decide what to do about it all. I didn't hear much of what anyone was saying, but I did notice that a person would read from this book (the 12 and 12) and then speak for a few minutes, then pass it to another person.
I was fine, sitting there in sort of a numb state of shock, until the book got to me. The woman next to me pointed to the passage I was to start reading, and so it was that I read:
"It often happened that a newcomer, deep in despair, came to Al-Anon already determined to make a radical change in his or her life, e.g., court action, separation or divorce."
That's when I started crying, and I did not stop crying throughout the rest of the meeting. I mean, that was me! "Despair" wasn't the half of it, and here I was 20 years with this guy who all of a sudden was a stranger to me. What was I going to do? I was so scared, and the pain was so bad that all I could think of was escape!
If I had been able to continue reading, the next lines might have given me the answer I needed:
"Al-Anon members who had been at this crossroad themselves shared their experience and pointed out that there might be other options available. They know that Al-Anon members never advised another to take or not to take action; particularly newcomers, who had not yet absorbed enough of the Al-Anon ideas to know they had other choices."
Of course, I didn't hear any of this. But after the meeting the man sitting next to me reached over and caught my eye. He told me that he had been told when he first came to the program that it was suggested that he not make any major decisions until he had been going to meetings for at least six months.
This helped him not make a decision based on emotions and reactions in the moment, and it had given him an opportunity to learn some things in Al-Anon that helped him make the best decisions for him in the long run.
I sort of heard most of what he said, but I most remember the feeling of relief when I heard about that six-month reprieve. I didn't feel any less betrayed or hurt, but I did feel better about myself, because up to that point I was feeling like a loser because I didn't just up and throw the guy out.
What I felt I should do and what I was willing to do at that point were not the same, and I had been feeling less of a person for not acting as I thought I "should."
As it turned out, I needed nine months in the program before I came to any "decision." My sponsor had told me that "When it's time, you'll know it. You won't be able to not know it." That is how it happened for her, and that's also how it happened for me. One day I knew my decision, and it was one that was solidly based on Al-Anon principles.
I won't give the specifics of what my decision was, but I will mention one last thing. My sponsor told me that how things turned out in the end would probably be different from all the possibilities I had run through my mind, and she was right! I never would have imagined this ending and it's a happy one.