In 2001 I went to my first Al-Anon meeting and didn’t go back until May 23, 2015. What happened? Why the long break? Let me explain…


14 years ago, my husband had just finished an intensive 6 month inpatient stay in rehab to battle an alcohol and drug addiction that kept him away from our family for years. He finally realized that he was ready to change, stop drinking and using, and get help.


When he left rehab, he had all the tools he needed to deal with his new found sobriety and I had none. He was staying with his mom, working, going to every meeting he could, had a sponsor and was working his program. I didn’t know how to deal with this new man and make no mistake he was a new man: he was alcohol and drug free for the first time since I had met him at the age of 17, and I had absolutely no idea what to do!


So it was suggested, I forget by who, that I check out Al-Anon and see about attending some meetings. I ordered the One Day At A Time and How Al-Anon Works books and started reading. After getting a quarter of the way through the books I decided I was ready to attend my first meeting, so I found one nearby and went.


Now I will admit that I was very apprehensive and nervous about attending my first Al-Anon meeting. By nature I am a private person and am known in my family as the ‘strong one’, so going to a meeting where I would have to talk about an extremely difficult and personal matter and admit that I needed help dealing with it was incredibly hard for me. Maybe that colored my experience, maybe not, but that first meeting was a complete and total disaster.


When I got to the meeting place, in this case a senior living facility, I couldn’t find where the meeting room was so I was wandering around the building a bit. Then when I get in the room, there were only a few of us there, so I was asked to help set up the refreshments. Okay...I don’t know anybody here, I haven’t had a chance to introduce myself or have others introduce themselves to me and I’m being asked to make coffee, which by the way I don’t know how to do because I don’t drink it. Go with the flow Nay, I tell myself…

So now refreshments are set up, people grab their coffee and take a seat so the meeting can start. They say the Serenity Prayer, we go around the room and introduce ourselves and they go right into the topic; I guess it was a topic meeting, I really have no idea because nothing was explained. Again I tell myself, go with the flow…


The meeting is going and it’s just one sad story after another. People are saying how miserable they are and how horrible their lives are because of the alcoholic in their lives. It is all I can do to not shout out “shut up and stop feeling so sorry for yourselves, suck it up and just deal with it, I did”! Honestly back then I was just so angry and resentful, I didn’t want to hear what sounded to me like a bunch of people whining about their problems. At the break, I didn’t say anything to anyone; I left and vowed to never go back and I didn’t for 14 years.


Fast forward to May, 2015. Our family has been back together and thriving after a VERY rough start. My husband now has 14 years of sobriety, has gone back to school and gotten his degree, and now works in the field as a drug and alcohol counselor to pay back the gift of sobriety. You would think all is well right? Yes, but…

Recently things have started bubbling up under the surface for me, and I didn’t even realize it until my husband and I had several discussions and I finally said I think I need to go back to Al-Anon and he agreed. It was finally my time to work on me after all those years of worrying and dealing with his addiction and taking care of our daughter on my own. It was now MY turn!


I went online and found an Al-Anon meeting in my area and went. The first meeting was was a large meeting and everyone seemed nice enough. I listened as they went over the structure of the meeting and the steps, which I appreciated since they didn’t do that before and I had a much better understanding of how the meeting was supposed to work. During the break no one came up and introduced themselves to me, but then again I didn’t introduce myself to anyone either. I stayed for the whole meeting and after, the GR (group representative) came and introduced herself to me, asked if I was new, talked to me for a bit and gave me some literature. I decided this was way better than my first meeting and told myself I would come back next week.


The next week came and I didn’t feel comfortable from the moment I came in and sat down. I sat in almost the exact same spot next to the same person from the first meeting, and for some reason I just felt extremely uncomfortable. At the break, the people sitting on either side of me turned to the people sitting next to them and started talking; no one said anything to me: not hello, NOTHING. I felt extremely uncomfortable and I just did not want to be there. I knew I wouldn’t last the whole meeting and sure enough I ended up getting up and walking out before the meeting was over and again vowed to never come back.


I talked to my husband about it and he told me not to give up and to try another meeting. I went online, found another one and I am so happy that I listened to him because I have found my home. I’ve attended two meetings at the new location now and from the moment I walked in, I felt so at ease and welcome that I shared at both meetings! It feels so comfortable here and the people are so open and engaging that it feels like I’ve known them for years. I feel very safe opening up in these rooms and for someone like me, sharing information like this, that is not an easy thing. Funny thing is, some people from the meeting that I left are in this meeting as well, so maybe I’m just not ready for a large meeting right now. This meeting is everything I could want and need in an Al-Anon meeting; I am so thankful that they have accepted me with open arms and I definitely plan to keep coming back!


For anyone that may be on the fence about Al-Anon or may have had a bad experience, I urge you to give it another chance like I did. It is so important to focus on YOUR recovery and self-care and Al-Anon can help, you just have to find the right meeting because it works if you work it; so keep coming back!


Nadine Herring is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support to addiction specialists and social service organizations. I specialize in working with this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization.

Connect with me here on LinkedInGoogle+TwitterPinterest, or my website

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