The OTHER Program: Al-Anon
When I got sober through AA twelve years ago, I would hear women with double digit sobriety talk about the “other program” and how it was another layer of sobriety. I never paid much attention to this other program, because I was solely focused on getting and staying drink free. Fast forward to when I was around 8 years sober and I found myself sitting in a meeting for the “other program”.
The “other program” is the sister to AA: Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a 12-step program that aids families and friends of alcoholics. We do this by, “Practicing the ‘Twelve Steps’, by welcoming and giving support to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.”
What is a Qualifier?
Most people attend Al-Anon because they have a “qualifier” in their lives (someone who makes them eligible to attend). A qualifier can be your spouse, your mother, your daughter, a co-worker, a friend… The meetings are open and welcoming and are usually held in the same location as AA meetings.
So, maybe needless to say, when I started going to Al-Anon a few years ago I was going for my spouse. He had recently relapsed and I found myself sitting in a meeting, scratching my head and thinking, “How did I get here?” and also listening to other members share the fact they go to Al-Anon so they can learn how to take care of themselves. I didn’t understand that at all when I started going to meetings. It took a while to fully grasp the “how tos” of the program and eventually, after a year or two, I finally got a sponsor.
Getting a sponsor in Al-Anon has been a huge help and it lets me see things from a different perspective. The biggest aid I have received from attending Al-Anon, is realizing I don’t have to take on the issues of my qualifier anymore. I get to focus on my recovery and not his. I focus on what I need to do to take care of myself, because for the longest time I was trying to control my husband – what he was doing or not doing. I was trying to help him, but all the while I was enabling him.
Enabling v. Detaching With Love
I learned the difference between enabling and detaching with love. It didn’t happen overnight and I still find myself wanting to control and enable; but today I know what that looks like and I stop myself and take care of me. Taking care of myself usually means: keeping my mouth shut and minding my own business. It has me biting my tongue and not saying the thing I think I should say to my spouse. I let him have his own journey in sobriety.
Taking care of myself is also living my life: doing things that keep me busy and not focused on him or them. I do yoga, my walks with my dog, my lunch dates with girlfriends and my own prayer and meditation. It keeps me in check with who I am and not focused on who he should be.
Not every day is easy, but when I sit in an Al-Anon meeting and listen to others tell stories about their qualifiers, I realize how lucky I am and how grateful I am that I have a place to go and share. I’m really blessed that my spouse got the help he needed and his recovery is in a great place. I’ve heard a lot of stories about parents wishing their child could get clean or that someone wishes their husband or wife would stop drinking. With the community of Al-Anon, there is hope they will get the satisfaction I have experienced…
I’m indebted to the program of Al-Anon because it has truly given me a new layer to my recovery.