Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's hard to believe, that there's nobobdy out there...

I attended my first ever Al-anon meeting last night. I have very mixed feelings about it. I am supposed to attend 6 beginner meetings before I make a decision if the program is right for me. After we went over the basic "business" of the meeting, they broke out the "beginners", there were 4 of us. A long time al-anoner explained her story to us, child of an alcoholic, married an alcoholic, etc., and then she explained the program. I liked her but she was mousy.

She then gave an opportunity to share. Me, being the timid little mouse that I am, offered to share first. I advised them, that they should let me know when they had heard enough as I liked to talk and love having the "spotlight". The woman next to me kept shaking her head in agreement as I spoke. When it was her turn, she shared that she also has a drug addicted son. Crack-cocaine is his DOC. She is a classic enabler. She needs help. The next woman was 30, she was adorable, she looked 23. Her husband was in a 28 day program detoxing from alcohol. His alcoholism led him to get physical with her and that was the straw that broke the camels back. The last one to share, was embarrassed to tell her mild story, after hearing our horror stories. Her husband of 2 years has been clean and sober for 17 years. She didn't know him when he was drinking, she is just trying to gain some insight into the disease. She was very sweet.

During the break we were given beginners packets which included literature and pre-printed phone lists. There was also literature available for purchase and pamphlets. I stayed for the second half of the meeting and the topic was unacceptable behavior. One lady shared about her drug addicted twin sons, one got clean and got his act together, the other did not. OK, I was feeling good, that was three mothers of addicts in the room. Things were looking up for me. A few others shared about their husbands alcoholic behaviors, and another started babbling about her best friend who takes advantage of her. There was no mention of drugs or alcohol. I think she may have been a co-dependent type who was working this program because there doesn't seem to be a CODA group near us. I hate to say it, but she annoyed me. Alot. I know I won't like everyone, and I know I don't walk in her shoes, or know what her struggles are, but she was awfully upset and carrying on about her friend asking her to babysit every weekend and her inability to say no.

I believe I may have made a new friend in the other beginner Mom with the crackhead son. We had a lot in common. We live near each other, we exchanged phone numbers and decided to try another beginners meeting at a different group on Sunday night. I was feeling quite sad over the weekend about how few friends I have these days. It seems my old friends are moving forward with their lives and I am stuck here in this loop of pain. I also have been feeling as though I have no opportunities to make new friends in my life and didn't expect this to happen.

Ok, so now, here is where I feel like a total nutcase. Is it weird that I like the NA meetings better? The NA people were grittier. I felt more comfortable with them. There are no "pre-printed" phone lists, they passed around a meeting list and hand wrote their names and numbers. When we introduced ourselves at Al-anon, you only give your name, not why you are there. There was less hugging. They stressed the anonymity thing repeatedly. I was more nervous walking into Al-anon than I was at NA. It's funny Scout recently shared some pics of her home group, it was pretty run down, however the NA home group that I was attending with the Prince could have been the long lost twin cousin of her place. The meetings are in a tiny dingy, dirty, smelly room in the basement of a church. Paint peeling from the walls. Mismatched chairs, wobbly tables and crowded to the hilts. I loved it. Last night the meeting was held at a Catholic School cafeteria. It was very nice. Very roomy. the tables and chairs all matched. There was no strange odor. The coffee was instant. I did not feel totally at home. They closed with the "Our Father" rather than the Serenity Prayer. I was not too comfortable with that. I am trying to embrace a higher power, but I am not sure it will be the G-d of my catholic upbringing.


working mom NYC said...

Hi, Kel--
Haven't written for awhile - big dramas going on in my home. I would say that you should follow your instinct about whether that meeting is right for you. Sounds like you identify more with the addicts than the non-addict family members. Before you give up on Al-anon entirely, try a couple of different meetings. Each meeting has a different personality based mostly on the types of people who attend. I'm by no means an expert, never having gone to Al-anon. Definitely pursue the bond with the crackhead mom, there is nothing quite like the empathy of someone else who's been there. And I think that AA (& by projection, NA) meetings probably are more interesting - the story of sin and retribution on a first person level is so much more compelling, especially when you see really great progress that sobriety has brought. My last AA meeting on Monday discussed the fact that some (mostly old-timers) believe that drug addicts should not attend AA, they should go to NA. However, more of us believe that alcohol is a drug, narcotics are drugs, - most young people today are dual-abusers, and should find a meeting that feels like home to them. If that's AA (which also has a reputation of being slightly more warm and fuzzy, not as hard core as NA) so much the better.

You also have to take into consideration that almost everybody at any of these meetings (including ourselves) is a bit mental and abnormal. But if there's someone who's going to hog the minutes with irrelevant drivel, I would find a different meeting.

I also really identify with the sense of social isolation. I used to be a fairly gregarious person with a lot of friends and an active social life. That just isn't the case any more. I have a strong visual image of myself - post-divorce - in a sunny kitchen with friends around a table, laughing and eating. Some day, I hope you are one of them!

Alan said...

Thanks for your insight into Al-Anon. I've never been to a meeting (I assume I would be the reason for someone going to Al-Anon) and found this post very interesting.

Maybe you're less comfortable in Al-Anon because it is for you, whereas NA is for "them". Just something to consider.

msb said...

I hated al-anon when I first went but I earned my seat by hangen with the guy I was hangen with. So I just kept going back even if I felt like a fish out of water. I seemed like those al-anons held it against me that I was "one of them" (addict). I'm sure I had a part in that. Anyway, years later I was voleentering at a battered womens shelter and one of the clients really needed to go to an al-anon meeting and I went with her. I listened to the people share and I shared on the topic also as it was relavent to whatever was happening in my dramatic life. When I left the meeting i felt refeshed like a good meeting will do for me and then it dawned on me that 12 steps were 12 steps and I had forgotton that it was al-anon and I had reached a turning point in my recovery. Happy Trails dear 12 stepper.

pat said...


Try other Al-anon meetings. They are not all the same and you may come across one you really like. Though I am a grateful member of Al-Anon I also attend AA & NA meetings to get the chance to understand the other side.

Trudging said...

I am sure there is Al-anon with funny smells and miss matched chairs. Just keep trying other meetings.

ME, myself, & I said...

I'm really glad you found a friend... you're going to a different meeting with her next week, maybe that will be more to your liking. 'just keep swimming...'

Alene said...

Years ago when married to an alcoholic, I attended two different Al-Anon meetings for several years and it was awkward at first, but helpful in the long run. The one comment someone made there that has stuck in my mind was "there was only one savior, and you're not it." That statement and the serenity prayer have served me well through the years.

I'm glad to find your blog, I am a mother of a meth addict who's been on that roller coaster ride for 14 years. I have one friend (another mother of an addict) who understands and I'm grateful that we can talk when times are rough.


Anonymous said...

Ya, kel, NA has a way of really inside of your heart, whether or not YOU are the addict. It's gritty; it's street; it's raw; and so, so REAL! I completely understand why you like it.
I second what everyone said about finding another Al-Anon meeting. Keep checking them out until you find the grit and rawness that appeals to you. It's out there somewhere.

Syd said...

I go to several Al-Anon meetings as well as AA meetings. In one of my Al-Anon groups, there is a lot of recovery still happening. A lot of crying and whining. In the other, there are many old-timers and more recovery. I find that I don't want to hear about the horror stories but what each is doing to achieve serenity. What is the strength and where does it come from? You'll find that as you go to many different meetings, there will be people with whom you can relate. You will make friends and share things. I was like a fish out of water at both the first Al-Anon and AA meeting because I didn't know what to expect. I just knew that I needed help. Now I feel much more confident and don't mind going into any of the meetings.