Talking to Other Alanon Members Can Help So Much!
What attracts people to Alanon, and what causes them to keep coming back? There are certainly many reasons. Most people come to their first meeting because they hope to change the behavior of the alcoholic or drug abuser who has created turmoil in their life. They heard about this support group for the friends and families of alcoholics and drug addicts, and they thought Alanon might help. However, newcomers rarely think that they need to change their own thinking … they are only looking for a way to change the alcoholic or addict. After a while, new Alanon members do gradually begin to change their own thinking, behavior and expectations. As they do, they frequently keep coming back to the meetings because they begin to cherish the friendships and emotional support that they have found there. Eventually, they discover that they feel just a bit less stressed and crazy after an Alanon meeting, whether the alcoholic or drug abuser has changed their behavior, or not. But what is going on here? Why do the meetings seem to make us feel so much better?
Honestly Sharing Our Experience Strength and Hope in Alanon
Many newcomers to Alanon prefer not to talk about the problems that are being caused by the alcoholism or drug abuse they are dealing with, especially within their families. In fact, they may feel a bit shocked when they hear others discuss their family problems. Why are so many of us uncomfortable with talking about it, since we aren't the ones with the substance abuse problem?
Most of us have grown up with the idea that we do not share our family's "dirty laundry" in public. It doesn't matter how awful the alcoholic or addict in our family has been behaving, or how many problems they have caused; we have been taught not to confide our problems to our friends and acquaintances. We go out into the world, show up for work, socialize with the neighbors, attend our church or religious institutions, and cheer on our children's sports teams, all the while telling everyone we meet that everything is "fine." If our alcoholic spouse or child doesn't show up for an event, we explain that they are sick. If they behave in an embarrassing manner in public, we tell our friends that our loved one was just stressed, or took the wrong medication, or we tell some other little lies. Sometimes, we've become so good at lying that we almost begin to believe the lies ourselves.
Now, we find ourselves at an Alanon meeting, and we sit there in disbelief listening to people who openly discuss how their friend or family member is in rehab, or even jail. Sometimes you hear them talk about a loved one that is no longer in contact with their family. Other people may share at a meeting about how a spouse, boyfriend or child has overdosed on drugs and died. Because you don't know these people at first, you may be particularly shocked to hear them talk about these situations so openly. In addition, you may be even more startled to hear them share at the meeting about how they are learning to take care of themselves, improve their own lives, and stop letting the active alcoholics and addicts they love ruin their lives, too. Often, you may be surprised when you realize that the meetings don't dwell on the awful situation the alcoholic or addict is in; instead the members talk about how happy they have learned to be regardless of the substance abuser's behavior.
Sharing our Own Story in Alanon
Many newcomers take months before they begin to tell their own stories. However, once they do, a startling transformation begins to take place. For the first time in years they are able to talk honestly about what is going on in their private life. Alanon may be the only place, in fact, where they feel they can talk about their situation. They may still continue to go about their life in the outside world telling everyone that they are "fine." However, now they have a place where they can go and share their truth. The result is profound.
Alanon members realize that they cannot become totally honest and open about their loved one's alcohol abuse or drug addiction in every situation. Unfortunately, we know that there can sometimes be unpleasant repercussions if we are too open. But keeping these secrets all the time is very stressful. One popular slogan in Alanon is "We are only as sick as our secrets." That is why it is such a relief to have someplace where we can go and share our burdens, without fear.
The Burden Begins to Be Lifted in Alanon
Once you are able to share your own experience with others, you will discover that your burdens will begin to be lifted. You will no longer feel as though you are carrying the weight of the world on your own shoulders. You will feel a little less alone. You will no longer feel as though no one understands, and no one knows what is happening to you. You may actually start to feel as though your problems are not quite as bad as those of some of the other people in Alanon.
As your stress and burdens begin to lighten, you will discover that you, too, can begin to think about the things you can do to take care of yourself, how you can improve your own life, and how you can stop letting the active alcoholics around you create so much destructive turmoil. Your focus begins to move away from them, and back to yourself. You stop feeling guilty about enjoying your own life. In short, you begin to heal.
If you are interested in learning more about alcoholism and how Alanon can help you change your life, you may be interested in reading:
This is a Wonderful Book to Help You Understand Alanon
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