First I want to say how grateful I am to be able to share my experience, strength, and hope with each one of you. I hear a lot of times from my Al-anon family “Brittany you are such an inspiration”. The truth is I am only as much of an inspiration as those who have dared to be vulnerable and shared their stories before me. Those who have been willing to bare their soul and share the most intimate parts of their lives. These individuals are my true inspiration and the reason why I can set her today and share my vulnerability, with courage. I also get my strength and hope from my Al-anon friends who message me daily. They message when the day is amazing or when my day has been at its worst, but no matter what they are there sharing their lives each step of the way. Each person in Al-anon has given me the courage to make the changes needed in my life in order to become the person I want to be.
I am taking the courage my Al-anon family has given me and I am growing into the person I want to become. The person I want to be is someone who truly and authentically experiences joy and happiness in their life. I want to truly and passionately love myself and believe it. (without feeling shame or guilt in doing so) I want to be a kind, compassionate, understanding, and generous person, without letting people take advantage of me, I want healthy boundaries. . I want to find balance in my life and with Al-Alanon and the tools it offers I have been able to take hold of my own life. I have started moving towards the person I know I want to become.
In saying that this journey has not been an easy one for me I have experienced the effects of the family disease of alcoholism the same as many of us have. I have seen the progressive disease take down my family and turn loving caring parents against each other and themselves. I will say this, not all of my childhood was terrible, my parents were loving and caring and provided love and support in the best way they knew possible. When things were bad though, it was really bad. The disease ravaged my family and left lasting scars on all of us. My sister and I witnessed a domestic violence situation where our mom tried to kill our dad. I saw what my mom was going through, she had an undiagnosed mental illness, which played into wanting to kill my dad, but she was also the one trying to control my dad and his drinking. My mom had put her well-being on the back burner and it showed with her anger, resentment, controlling and her inability to take care of herself to the point she is in a nursing home. My mom also fell victim to the disease of addiction herself.
In growing up I started to view self-care as a form of being selfish. I saw anger as the only true emotion, or as the only emotion, I recognized. I saw control as being the foundation of relationships and life. I developed a controlling nature out of survival because of the chaotic life I was experiencing in childhood. I also developed a controlling nature because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, I observed the behavior. When I controlled it gave me a sense of security like if I could only control the person or situation then everything would somehow be miraculously fine. Honestly, it did alleviate at the moment my fear and anxiety, but the fallout of my control was devastating not only to myself but to others. I was so controlling that I did not let other people live their own lives. I would later come to learn in Al-anon that controlling was a form of insanity and I was out of touch with reality, I was out of touch with my higher power and their will for me.
I then experienced a relationship where I totally lost myself and lost my whole identity. I attempted to mold and conform to the reality around this relationship to the point I did not realize I was being abused. I wanted the ideal family lifestyle so badly I attempted to mold and conform it to what I thought was the ideal family life. I essentially was in so much denial that I thought I could control and fix this relationship to fit what I wanted. The reality was that I was in an abusive and manipulative relationship and I was being verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused on a daily basis. I started to feel extremely depressed, anxious( to the point I could not leave the house) I experienced no joy in my life and I only had anger. But I continued to try to create a false reality. By the grace of God, I got out of that relationship and it truly had to be God, because I was in so much denial and so Naive that I actually did not leave that relationship, he kicked me out. It was the worst and most horrific experience that time because I became homeless after and did not know whose couch I was going to sleep on next.
After about 3 months of couch surfing, I came to live with my dad, who was still actively drinking. I was able to start briefly finding myself again slowly and then I met my current boyfriend and this is where my life drastically changed, this is where I really lost myself and my identity and this is the place where I truly and authentically discovered myself.
I fell head over heels for this charming and beautiful man who was kind and generous, but who was also an alcoholic, who I thought I could change. I immediately fell into the caretaker role, I immediately started controlling and manipulative behaviors. I did everything in my power to try to get this man to stop drinking, and somehow I truly believed I had the power to stop him from drinking. I bargained with him, if you don’t drink for 3 days then…ect, ect.. I even wrote a contract out that he signed..of course, he drank, I controlled the money, I nagged, I yelled. I became consumed with trying to get my loved one to stop drinking, my thoughts were so obsessive on getting him to stop drinking. The relationship became very unhealthy and I found myself in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship again. What was even more devastating was I became the abuser. I found myself yelling, calling him names, manipulating him, and controlling him to the point he was not able to fully experience his own life.
One day in the car while I was yelling at him, he then looked at me and said “ You are so controlling” I, of course, railed against that and then I yelled back. Looking back on that day I feel super blessed to hear the words you are controlling because I never knew what controlling was or that it was something I did.
I then decided to hit an Al-anon meeting in 2017…but I found myself so obsessed in trying to figure out how to use the Al-anon program to control my alcoholic loved one. I of course found that I would not be able to use Al-anon to control him, so I stopped going.
Fast forward again to 2021, the year that I decided to work Al-anon for myself. I came back to Al-anon after my loved one reached sobriety for 30 days and I still found myself obsessively thinking about if he was drinking or not, or if he was participating in his recovery program. I started to become aware of the role that I played in my relationship with my loved one. The reality was I created as much chaos as he did with his drinking, with my obsessive thinking, controlling, nagging, manipulation, and enabling behaviors. I decided it was time to take control of my own life and to stop falling into this perpetual victim mentality where I blamed the alcoholic for all of my bad decisions.
The reality was I played a role in our relationship with my behaviors and It was time for me to own up to that.
The tools of Al-anon have really helped me see the roles I have played in my alcoholic loved ones’ life. It has really helped me see that Alcoholism is truly a family disease and I have been affected by the disease all throughout my life without realizing the impact it has made on me. Al-Anon has given me the ability to see that I don’t have to be the victim anymore and that I have the power to make changes in my life,If I am willing to allow a higher power to come in and take control, instead of me constantly going against the will of a higher power.
I realize now that I am the number one important person in my life and I have to truly and authentically love myself before I can truly and authentically love other people. I now know that I am worthy of love and that I am a valuable person. In saying that I decided that it was time to acknowledge that I no longer want to let myself be abused in any way and I no longer want to be the person who causes the abuse or the harm.
In doing that I sat down with my loved one and told him first I was sorry for the role I played in the verbal and emotional abuse and told him that I no longer want to be a part of abuse in any way. I gave up my control and my will over to a higher power and told my loved one I would not stop his drinking, but I am putting a stop to this abuse by setting boundaries around drinking. I learned it was okay to express to my loved one that his drinking makes me unhappy, I learned it is not something that needs to be hidden. It merely needs to be expressed in a direct non-confrontational manner of speaking and, above all, in my behavior, because before I wanted to express my unhappiness in a way that harmed him and myself with my behaviors. I had wanted him to feel the pain his drinking caused me. I set a boundary that when he was drinking I would not be around him.
I express to him that I feel uncomfortable around you right now because you have been drinking. I then removed myself from the situation and did something for myself. I remove all attention away from the behaviors associated with drinking.
If I felt the need to control or if I felt unsafe in any way I put my boundaries into place. I either went for a walk, left the room, or went to the bedroom and locked the door. In communicating these boundaries we both agreed that we did not want to be part of an abusive relationship.
I was setting up boundaries, and putting the focus on myself, but still found myself obsessing over the drinking and wanting to control it. This was insanity in its truest form and I realized again how much the grip of the disease of alcoholism had on me.I found myself attached to the emotion of drinking even though I wanted the drinking to stop. This is when I realized I really needed more help, so I reached out and created a group of supporters and found a sponsor, and started working the steps and reading al-anon literature. This is then where I discovered the concept of Radical acceptance
Radical acceptance is the Idea of accepting reality the way it is without trying to mold or shape it to fit our conception of what reality should be. The whole principle of radical acceptance is to keep pain from turning to suffering. It’s also important to realize in radical acceptance that acceptance of reality does not mean that you approve of the situation, but accept that this is reality. ( I don’t approve of the behavior of drinking but I accept the disease of alcoholism for what it is, a disease)
I believe that acceptance is the first true way of letting go of control and allowing a higher power to take hold. I also feel it’s very valuable in staying ground in the present moment. I have for so long tried to mold reality to fit what I thought it should be in order to live what I thought was a happy life. I tried to control and manipulate people, places, and things to fit my own conception of reality. I used a relationship to try to mold a reality for myself of the ideal family lifestyle first by denying reality, then by conforming to a reality that went against my core values, and then by attempting to change or control reality.
I then in turn denied my current reality and tried to deny the disease of alcoholism and attempted to control the behaviors of another person to alleviate my own anxiety and obsessive thinking with the disease of alcoholism. I tried to create a whole reality that was beyond my own control or understanding, for I was trying to control a higher power’s will for myself and their will for another individual.
The reality is that I have no control of the outcome of the future nor do I have control over the past. I realize now that what I have control over in life, and that is one thing, myself. I am in control of how I choose to react and respond to people, places, and things around me, but I am not in control of how the events unfold. Life is not static, it’s constant and there are many events that are put into motion before I have even attempted to control them. It is literally insane to think that I tried to mold and shape a reality that has already been put into motion long before I came along and tried to control it.
Letting go of the need to control my loved one has been freeing. I am now able to see the whole person behind the disease of alcoholism. I am able to have compassion and understanding for my loved ones. I have been able to fall in love with him as a person instead of the idea of a person. I see and accept our two realities as separate and as a whole. We are both unique individuals on our own unique paths of life, this concept or spiritual awakening has given me the freedom to stop trying to change my loved one.
I can now fully accept him even if he is actively drinking or not ( remember though it does not mean I have to approve of the behavior, I accept it because that is reality, and it’s not in my power to change my loved one). I am now able to support my loved one instead of trying to fix or control him. In fully accepting my loved one and putting the focus on myself, setting boundaries, and turning my nagging and controlling behaviors into support, I have been able to see my loved one realize that he too needs recovery, and he checked himself in a 30-day rehab program.
I am now able to fully understand what is in my power and that is myself. I am also able to have compassion and love for myself. In letting go of the control I have let go of the obsessive thinking and it has freed me up to follow my passions in life and has allowed me to love myself truly without guilt or shame. I am now able to take care of myself in ways that I never have done before, I value myself. I have healthy boundaries, I have healthy friendships and support. I am creating balance in my life. I am healing and growing more into the person I want to be one day at a time. I am not perfect, all I try every day is to make progress, practice makes progress.
When I find myself wanting to control I replace the word Change in the serenity prayer to control, God grants me the serenity to accept the things I cannot control, courage to change the things I can control, and the wisdom to know the difference…I can only control how I act and react.
I have been able to do this through the program of Al-anon and all the support that I get from the people in each one of these groups. I truly appreciate every single one of you, each of you is a true inspiration. I know it is hard loving someone with addiction, you are not alone.