Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012.04.25 The Gift of Alanon

When I went to my first Alanon meeting I was in the midst of my own midlife turmoil, getting things straightened out by messing them up first. You know the usual adolescent passage.

Anyway, all I could think as I sat quietly tense listening to many stories told by people who had lived with alcoholism, some all their lives, some only recently, and all of them stunned that they had never realized what was happening to them, was, “MY MOTHER WOULD KILL ME FOR BEING HERE!” (I was violating the tabu against narking or ratting. I was telling "classified" family info.)

The story tellers were mostly women, stunned, to varying degrees, that they had not realized what was happening to them because of what was obviously someone else’s problem.

Odd and crazy! I hated this meeting. Yet...... odd to find myself so utterly one of them. Odd too that I worried about my mother when wasn’t my father the alcoholic? He after all was the one with the tri-cornered martini glass twisting between his thumb and forefinger nightly.

Alanon, I read in the pamphlet, was initiated in the mid 1900s by Lois Wilson, wife of alcoholic Bill Wilson, founder of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous.) Lois realized that her own life was as affected by Bill’s addiction as his was. You don’t have to be the one vomiting to feel nauseous. You don’t have to be the one lying to feel blame. You don’t have to be the sleep-distrubed one to lose sleep.

AA and Alanon are siblings and, yes, they often rival but they have the same goal: to live sober, serene and happy lives. Transformation is the way out and it can not be done without the help and support of other people and God aka Higher Power.

The meeting went on around me as my mind smashed into its own fears and judgments. Why hadn’t I known and why hadn’t my mother known and done something about it? And why hadn’t my father loved me at least as much as his glass? And why did I fall in love with alcoholics?

But I sat and flinched because my mother would not want me to know or to tell. It was then that I first realized how ashamed and self-condemning she too must have felt at her helplessness. It was then that I began to understand my mother, avoid being “killed” by her, and understand her micromanaging as an effort to make things right not torture me.  It was then I began to forgive her, just a little.

The meeting ended and the friendly women said to keep coming. All you need is the desire to live well and sane.

I left that first meeting vowing never to return. Too much truth blinds—and awakens.

Yes I went back. I kept on listening. I never was at a meeting that I didn’t hear in the shreds of another’s story something that was part of my story, something that enlightened me and helped me feel not so confused, hopeful that insight could bring healing. Sometimes I told my story, too.

What Alanon taught me: 1) You don’t have to drink to be alcoholic. All you have to do is be constantly/secretly anxious, engage in a life mission of controlling the uncontrollable, and alternate between anger (bullying and tempers,) passivity (cold withdrawal and secret scorn,) and micromanagement of your own and other’s lives— all strategies of control. 2) You can’t recover, transform, your life by yourself. 3) How you think about God, or the transcendent dimension of life, is crucial. It’s easy to give your heart to the wrong God or follow the wrong star. 4) Humility is the highest virtue. 5) How to take care of yourself, a little like coming home to your own integrity and worth and knowing that you matter. 6) How to detach with love: to love fully without losing yourself in the other, or abandoning the other to save yourself.

Alanon is like eastering.