Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two steps forward, one step back

I'm back to "cranky and morose" today. It won't last, because I won't let it last, but my brain is sort of saying (in the words of another blogger I really admire) "Wait. What?"

I went to my first Alanon meeting last night. (Disclaimer: I went to one single meeting about five years ago that I thought was great, but then I never got back to it because my addict bounced back in the door and I permitted myself to get distracted, hopeful, helpful, guarded, and otherwise occupied.... by the time I got another chance, that particular meeting was no longer there. My bad, entirely.)

This meeting was for parents of alcoholics.... and since she is an alcoholic/addict, and alcohol is a drug.... and she starts with alcohol and jumps to heroin.... I figured it was a good one for me to try. Figured I'd slink in, listen, learn, and slink out.... I have never been good at being the new kid, not in school, not now.... but I was willing to try. Figured I'd work my way into feeling comfy, perhaps get a few phone numbers, and maybe become a regular if it was a good fit.

It was a bit overwhelming. I've never sat in one place with 50 other grieving parents. The largest group we had in family therapy at the hospital was about 20-25, and some of these were boyfriends, girlfriends, platonic friends, coworkers, sisters, brothers.... not all that many parents. At one point, however, this meeting became a room full of aching hearts. The grief was palpable.

The meeting started positively enough, though, with the familiar readings and format I am used to from NA meetings. Lots of people shared, in the middle of the meeting. Then it took me by surprise when they asked each of us who had identified as newbies, to share. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I went from snuggled in my hoodie, sipping my hot tea and enjoying the meeting and the positive shares, the challenging shares, the encouraging shares.....

to feeling like I was having some of my impromptu vacations in the tropics hot flashes, combined with a definite cardiac disorder. I sat there terrified as one after another, the six newbies before me tried to talk and fell apart.

When my turn came, the leader turned to me expectantly and said my name. It was comical, I gaped like a fish. It took me three tries to find my voice. I held it together long enough to say something along the line of:

"I'm not sure I can do this this week, but I'll try. My daughter is a 26-year-old bipolar, alcoholic/addict, whose most recent relapse to her drugs of choice, alcohol and heroin, have landed her in jail yet again. Our family has been dealing with this for eight years. Her rehab counselor is a man named Milton, whom I positively adore and trust implicitly. He said I needed to come here. My daughter, even when she is loaded, concedes that "Milton has never been wrong, Mom." Therefore, I am here."

I didn't take up anywhere NEAR the three minutes they alloted before the timer would sound and announce my final 60 seconds to wind down. I was done.

(insert usual end-of-share clapping here)

At that point, I commenced with the dreaded silent cry.... wherein my eyes leaked from then until looooooooooooong after I got home. And I went from feeling okay, to feeling angry for being cornered into speaking unexpectedly, and extremely sad. (In retrospect maybe I could have said "no, I don't want to", but my frigging "polite Southern Ladylike behavior training" kicked in. Thanks, Mom!)

And today, I'm a basket case. I was fine until I went to the meeting and now I'm sad, mad, and I have a back ache and I just found out my little trainwreck is unexpectedly going back into court tomorrow on her third case (which she had thought had been dropped). It could result in more jail time (60 days). And really, that's fine. I kinda hope she gets another 60 days. She needs the clean time. I, selfishly, am not entirely ready for the spinning to start again. I feel guilty for hoping she gets it.

(My DH likens her life as a spinning tornado. We love our tornado. We ache over our tornado. We treasure and enjoy every good time we are blessed to have with our tornado. But even sober, she is a bipolar nightmare tornado. And every time the tornado comes back into our vicinity, we start spinning too.....we get caught up in the storm.)

And yes, I realize Alanon or Naranon could help me not get caught up in the spinning. And I will go back next week to another meeting. I was listening, and I heard the admonishment to attend six meetings before deciding if this is a good meeting for me.

I can take direction, I really can. But I sure hated being put on the spot like that. And I'm not entirely sure that being shy, and wanting to open up in a strange group in my own good time, is a character flaw.

*pout!* I'm off to take a rest and see if I can get my back to cooperate with me. This 'getting older' nonsense is not for sissies!

P.S. There were some really nice folks at the meeting, and I was welcomed afterwards with hugs and given kleenexes and a newcomer packet and a phone list and a homemade brownie's obviously going to be hard to stay mad at them! Deeeeeeep cleansing breath! I am going to try to go back next week!


  1. yeah. sometimes our comfort level is NOT sharing our pain and frustration and anger. cuz then, we have to friggin DEAL with it instead of ignoring it.

    i hate it when that happens!!

  2. Don't feel guilty about wanting the next 60 days of peace. Sometimes we need the healing time more than they do.

    And if you feel anger at her, you can always look at it as your revenge. I'm sure our little tornados feel none of the guilt of causing the heartaches we suffer like we feel the guilt of enjoying the peace

  3. Oh..I am so sorry for what you are going through, but I am pleased that you made it to Al-Anon. I was NEVER a joiner and the thought of group therapy and truthfully spilling my awful homelife to strangers was not anything I wanted to do in this lifetime. But, I went and cried...and shared and cried and shared for about 3 or 4 weeks. And I was NEVER put on the spot, so I am sorry that happened to you! Perhaps the next person leading the meeting will not be so forward with the newcomers. I've only been involved for 4 or 5 months and I say Al-Anon saved my life. I hope you'll keep going back and reap the benefits. Blessings and love...Lisa (In Kern County, California)

  4. Oh gosh I hear you! Know that there are NO musts in Alanon and you are *always* free to pass. You do not have to do anything you don't want to. It is a program of choices and self discovery, which comes for everyone at various speeds and times in their journey.
    I do hope you keep going back because as a fellow mother of an alcoholic/addict beautiful young daughter who I love so much, I can tell you that I would have not made it without Alanon. It took me awhile to make friends there and begin to really work my program, but it has changed my life. Occasionally, I still spin, I still worry, I still love my daughter so so much, but I have hope and I have tools to help me to live a sane life and not be destroyed by the choices my daughter makes. Any way you look at it, its a painful journey, but Alanon helps us to manage the pain and to live fulfilling lives with more periods of joy and peace then if I didn't have my program and my friends who understand without me having to say a word. ((HUG)) Glad you are here!

  5. Very often some of the hardest thigs we ever have to do turn out to be the most rewarding.

  6. Thanks for the follow. I have been a member of Alanon in my recovery carrer. I am also a former chemical dependency counselor and a long time sober alcoholic.
    The healthiest thing a parent of an addict can do is go to alanon or narcanon. I cannot tell you how many times I would recommend it for family members and they would not go. It was so frustrating. Give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for sharing. Your courage may have given another newcommer hope that maybe they weren't the only one who felt the way they do.Thank you for sharing so honestly.jeNN

  7. I'm surprised you had that experience. It is always acceptable to pass. I do it now, sometimes I don't want to talk. I sure hope it doesn't sour you on AlAnon. With me, the longer I worked at the steps & got a sponsor, the better all of my relationships got.

    Good analogy with the tornado. Like in the way they pick you up and drop you in a completely different place;)