I remember my anger when I learned I’d have to work the 12 steps in Al-Anon, just as my husband would do in AA. This was his problem—he was the alcoholic! I seethed for longer than I care to admit. What it comes down to is that I was damaged by alcohol use even though it wasn’t my addiction. It cut into my life the deeper it sunk hooks into my husband. My recovery process may not be as desperate as his, but it is still about self-care and recognizing my limitations in the light of powers greater than myself.
From my first Al-Anon meeting, I knew I’d have issues with Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Yes, my life had become unmanageable. That wasn’t the difficult part to swallow. It was the offensive word “powerless.” The stubborn girl inside of me argued that I could achieve anything I put enough focus and work into. Powerless, my ass.
I avoided the first step, but I still listened to the sharing in meetings. Others were on step 4 or 6, the old timers had already worked through all the steps and were revisiting certain ones. Apparently, they all had admitted this powerlessness and moved forward, but I was stuck. I kept falling back on old habits when our relationship met turbulence, asking useless questions, trying to catch the alcohol before it showed up to taunt me from its hiding places. Then my husband relapsed.
Just days away from a month sober, I found him sitting on a chair in the dining room, with his head hanging. “I messed up,” was all he could say. His relapse devastated him, and it hurt to see him so broken. As I held him and smelled that all too familiar scent on his breath, I understood, Holy shit, there is no way I can do this on my own. He can’t do it on his own—the damn alcohol is bigger than both of us. We need help greater than just ourselves. I finally was willing to admit the first step.
I’ve been stalled at step 2, not because I have issues with it, but because life exploded in all its potlucks, birthday parties, and anniversaries. Step work got pushed to the side. I’ll get there. Bring on the higher power. He’s always been there, I’ve talked to him throughout the course of my life and given thanks often. I’ve never asked for help. First time for everything.