Today I attended my first Al-Anon meeting. I was looking forward to it until my hand grasped the door handle. Suddenly I was blanketed with nervousness and fear. I hadn’t thought much about what to expect. Light-headed I fell into the first chair I came to. As my body fought against the stiff shape of the chair I realized I had put all of my energy and hope into believing that this would be the magical solution.
Sitting as still as I could, to hide the nervous fidgeting, I allowed my eyes to survey the room. I was the youngest person in the room by at least 20 years. As the meeting started everyone fell into routine. They almost appeared robotic. They moved with purpose and precision as they took their seats and placed their literature on the table in front of them. Then there were introductions and quick Hello’s overlapping the next introduction.
How am I supposed to know what name they have said when the crowd is saying hello and off to the next before the person finishes saying their name? Crap! I’m already failing at this. Just focus. Breathe.
The silver-haired women two seats to my left starting reading from a binder. I presume she is leading the meeting and try to shift in my chair to face her without drawing any attention to myself. She was reading something I can only imagine they read when someone new attends. It was read completely void of any emotion and carried little impact as a consequence. As her monotone words carry on in the background I found myself scanning the pamphlets wondering which of these they took the text from. I did my best to listen and stay hopeful. Each person took their turn sharing. It was supposed to be based on the topic discussed that day but the train off thought jumped many tracks. I managed to crack a smile as I find myself off topic often. However, what I noticed even more so was that each and every person was the parent of an alcoholic or addict. Not a single spouse or girlfriend.
Great. Just f’ing great.
More hope poured out of me and I sank little in my chair. It makes sense after all. Most people won’t “divorce” their children no matter how much heartache they cause. The love for your children is this unbreakable bond that is not questioned. Choosing to love another, share your everyday life, home and take them as your spouse is a lot more challenging. I can only imagine that most spouses won’t take the time and energy to stick around. Or they don’t feel like they should have to attend any type of meetings. They aren’t the one with the “problem”, right? I am sure in the romantic relationships its easier just to walk away. I have, more than once.
Near defeated I decide to move forward and take as much as I can from this meeting. I continue to look down at my still fidgeting fingers and fight back the tears of disappointment. Just when I think I have found something to relate to as a woman shares her recent experience a hurricane of “He will comfort you, turn to God and pray” obliterates me. I silently scream obscenities at myself and carry on for another minute to scold myself for even thinking these words in a church.
Hello, you are in a church! What did you expect? Why?! Why can’t I be more like them? Why can’t I have a faith in God or even in any higher being that will give me comfort and hope?
I have tried. I have tried my entire life. I was raised in a very religious home where the majority of my family are very devout and practice what they believe. It would’ve been easier for me to believe, but it just never happened. The more I tried the more withdrawn I became. The more I rejected any amount of faith at all. I have to find a way to make this work. There is nothing left of me and if I can’t make this work then I will end up walking away, again.
When the meeting concludes I do my best to smile and not immediately burst out the door. The attendees seem to gather in groups. It’s like watching a group of teenagers after a class bell rings and they all fall into their familiar cliques. I do not fit in any of these groups and the thought of human interaction at this very moment terrifies me. My heart starts pounding and I feel that impulse to flee getting stronger. I hold strong and decide to peruse the books they have for purchase on the side table. I find a little comfort here. The voices seem to fade in the background and I don’t have to answer any questions for these books. Even if I may not be able to benefit from all the content just the feel of the binding in my hand and the smell of newly printed pages calms me. I make a mental note to set the book down and move to the next so that I don’t draw attention as I clasp onto these books as my lifeline.
I see a workbook for the twelve steps of Al-Anon, which are near identical to those in AA. From what I heard of the steps earlier in the meeting it would prove impossible for me to use them given my shortcomings in the faith department. However, I refuse to give up at this moment. There has to be a way. I crave the instruction and structure that a solution can have and as my fingers graze across the workbook I make a plan. So here, in my desperation I will do everything I can with what determination I have left. I will create my own workbook and I will tailor what they have to create my own twelve steps.
Picture Source: Google Search “Endless Steps”