How to Help a Loved One | Alcohol | AlAnon

by Ellen

Alanon is a fellowship of friends and families of alcoholics and I have been a member for many years. Anyone who is affected by someone else’s drinking is welcome.

I came into Alanon while my husband was still drinking. A member of AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] had come to see my husband and said there is also a fellowship for me. I said what I think every family says: “as long as you get him sober I’ll be fine.”

But I wasn’t fine. My husband continued to drink and so eventually I phoned this chap up and asked what I could do? I had tried everything else to get the man I loved sober but it was impossible.

I tried taking drink away from him, giving it to him, hiding the bottles, filling them up with water, taking money from him, giving him money; I tried to hate him and I loved him to bits. Nothing worked and I wore myself out trying. I was also raising two girls.

I talked at him until he was sick of the sound of me. I thought I would find the right words and a light would go on in this man’s head and he would do what I suggested and then he would be sober. Of course, as I now know, that just doesn’t work.

When I first went to Alanon I hoped they would tell me how to get him sober. That was what I wanted, someone to give me the diet sheet and tell me “if you feed him this, and do that, it will work.” I was told at my first meeting that Alanon was for me and my family, not for the alcoholic, and one of the things I found at that first meeting was hope.

Negative Preconceptions of Alanon

I went to Alanon thinking it was going to be a witches coven, full of women feeling sorry for themselves and without any money in their pockets, not the sort of people I mixed with. How clever was I? I was married to the local alcoholic!

I went into the Alanon meeting and found that they all had a story to tell. They were laughing and enjoying their life, but when they each said what had happened in their week I realised that some of them were having a worse time than me.

At Alanon I found the hope that my life could improve. Not my husband’s life but my life and my children’s lives. At Alanon we believe the family is important and sometimes, with the best will in the world, the family gets forgotten in the alcoholic’s recovery.

My husband eventually came into Castle Craig and I can remember the resentment I felt when people asked me “how’s he doing?” Inside my head I was shouting “What about me?”. Nobody was asking about me and my children and how we’re coping. Alanon helped me to put all that into perspective, to realise that I too am a child of God and entitled to a good life, and my children are too. So I had to put them and myself first and that wasn’t easy.

I learned in Alanon that what I had been doing for my husband was the opposite of what I should have been doing. I thought that if I deal with every crisis, every money problem, if I lied to employers and friends for him, if I made excuses for him at the end of the day he would stop drinking. I was enabling him to drink because he didn’t have to face a crisis by himself.

Today I don’t have any guilt about what I did because I know that, at the time, I didn’t have the right tools. I was doing what I thought was the best thing at the time: keeping my family together and trying to keep my husband as restrained as I could.

I continued in Alanon and learned that I had to take my eyes off him. I had to find the support for myself and my family within Alanon, and let my husband find his own recovery. I thank God that he did.

Resenting my Husband’s Rehab

Our GP had suggested my husband go to Castle Craig and my husband agreed to go. He later told me that he thought he would get 6 weeks away from me and get some peace and quiet. That was 20 years ago. He’s done well but so have we – my kids and I.

At the time I resented the fact that he was being looked after. Who was looking after me? For months I would come to visit him on Sundays with my sandwiches and can of coke and he would tell me about his roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Then there was the day I got a phone call and asked to bring sun cream as he was getting burned by the sun. I was working to pay bills, looking after children and trying to support him all at the same time.  He never really saw what was wrong with that.

In Alanon you will find the understanding, fellowship and friendship that you will find nowhere else, because people understand what you are trying to say and on the days you can’t say it they understand that too.

I’m glad I found Alanon before my husband got sober because afterwards I might not have thought it necessary. I could have thought “I’m fine”. But I still had all those resentments. In Alanon I was able to work on those resentments, and get rid of them.

The journey that we travel makes us who we are. It has not been easy living with a sober alcoholic, but it’s not easy living with me either. I suffer from the effects of my husband’s alcoholism and 20 years later I am still in Alanon because I need to be there for my own wellbeing.

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