I’m not alone.
The first time I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I felt like a weight had been lifted from my body. I hadn’t even realized how alone I had been feeling. But when I was finally surrounded by people who understood what it was like to live with or to love an alcoholic without me having to explain or justify my feelings, I knew I wasn’t alone in this.
Addiction is hard to talk about. There is so much social stigma surrounding alcoholism and drug addiction. I often feel the need to protect my loved ones from others’ judgment, so usually I choose not to talk about it. Other times, I worry that because alcohol and drug use is so normalized, especially in my community, that people will judge me and think I am overreacting when I can’t handle the fact that my loved ones drink or use.
The problem is addiction is more than just drinking or using drugs. Addiction can present with numerous symptoms, such as mental and emotional dysregulation, that often can often lead people experiencing addiction to continue to use despite adverse consequences. The person can become blinded from seeing how their addiction and behavior affects their loved ones and others around them.
Addiction is often referred to as a “family disease” because it affects not only the person with the addiction, but those close to them as well. I never really understood this until two of my closest friends showed signs of addiction. When a family member or friend is suffering from alcoholism, it affects you. Seeing someone you love in pain is hard. Having someone close to you fight addiction and lose or choose not to fight is painful.
Al Anon is a wonderful community because it’s a gathering of people who are going through similar experiences. I have been to several different meetings, and each one has welcomed me into their group with open arms. I’ve received kindness, affirmation, and support. I learned that I’m not alone and that there is always a place for me to talk when I need someone to listen and understand. Even when I don’t talk, going to meetings still helps. As I listen to everyone’s stories, which are so similar to mine, I feel comfort of solidarity and leave with new understanding and coping mechanisms to try.
I also came to understand that my own recovery is just as important as that of my loved ones. Not only do I deserve to find healing and relief from pain and to pursue improvements in my own mental health, but I cannot be there to support my loved ones if I myself am not being supported.
If you have a loved one who is an alcoholic and would like to be a part of the Al Anon community or just go to check out a meeting, visit the Al Anon Family Groups website. If you live in a rural area with limited access to Al Anon, you can find a list of electronic meetings here.