Alcoholics Anonymous has revolutionized the way alcoholics are perceived by their peers. The shame of having a problem has been made much easier by the respect given to those who change their lives by giving up an addiction.
After I came to recovery in 1976, my daughter (who was five years old at the time) told me that she had been telling the neighbors that I was an alcoholic. I was somewhat surprised because I didn’t know my neighbors very well. So I sat down and asked her to tell me what an alcoholic is. She said, ” Oh, Mommy, you know. It is someone who doesn’t drink and smiles a lot.” The only alcoholics she knew were in AA.
In the early 1980′s, the adult child/codependency recovery solutions began to appear in many reading sources. The media figures who helped launch the recovery movement were Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey. Betty Ford brought a high level of acceptance to the recovery field as well as a treatment center that worked.
Codependency Anonymous was started in 1986. The field of addiction was learning that the early recovery is about giving up the main addiction. What follows is another addiction; then sometimes, another, and another. After giving up alcohol, I eventually gave up smoking. eating sugar. gluten, and most dairy products. Codependency is what I call the 2nd addiction and I believe all recovering people would benefit from this study. I will always be codependent which to me to loving too much. But now I let go before I lose my self-respect.
In the middle of all that, I learned all I could about codependency as I was starting to believe three things.
(1) That quitting drinking alcohol meant giving up all that I was addicted to because I believed that any holding on to something that enabled me to not face reality would lead me back to drinking.
(2) I would not pursue romantic relationships among recovering people. I was so grateful for AA that I was afraid to lose it.
(3) I knew that I had a predisposition to alcoholism as I had seen my father advance in his drinking career. The only time in my life that I learned from someone else’s choices was when I saw that my father’s drinking never got better.
But I was also learning that living in a home with such a major problem and no one educated about the solution certainly contributed to my addiction. For much of my childhood, I had to parent my parents. This is often the role assigned to the eldest child in troubled families.
I went to AA after Thanksgiving 1976. Two months later, I checked into a home for alcoholic women in the town I lived in–Jacksonville, Fl. The home was not attached to anything like mental health but the founder believed in Jesus Christ. We prayed on our knees morning and evening. I had a radical conversion in that home. So there I was–2 months sober, born-again, female, high-bottom, and a “lady”.
But AA was my only choice. Needless to say, I didn’t have much support there. But I kept going back and eventually I took the 13th step–giving up support groups as the only way to live. That was years later after I had clinical depression for 2 years. When I had clinical depression, I was 10 years sober–sponsoring 13 people but no one in AA said why don’t you seek professional help. I guess I looked too well. But I did notice that persons with long-time sobriety were committing suicide. I didn’t want to do that anymore than I wanted to drink.
I deeply believe that there is no recovery without a spiritual experience. Many people have a gradual awakening which can take years. During that time, s/he becomes gentler, kinder, more thoughtful, more relaxed, etc. These qualities are the fruit of the Spirit. When I see these qualities, I know that God is working in that person. In fact, the fruits of the Spirit are the only indicators of someone’s recovery that I use. Recovery is an inside job that shows on the outside of a person.
Although I never forgot that I was going to AA as a recovering alcoholic, my recovery changed over the years to encompass new learnings and teachings.
In 1976, when I came to AA, there were few female members. In my 3rd month of recovery, I had a profound spiritual experience which I have related in here. I quickly learned to shut up about God in 12 step meetings as many members wanted to talk about alcohol only. Being female and a God person almost insured that I wouldn’t have a lot of group acceptance.
The focus for my recovery took a profound change in direction when I discovered ACOA. I have never “forgot” that I am first and foremost an alcoholic and am deeply grateful to be in recovery. Nor have I ever considered myself as recovered. These beliefs about myself have helped me to stay centered and focused on recovery.
ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) has gone through several name changes. In 1977, (one year after the beginning in my recovery in 1976), a group of Al-Anon members realized that they were all children of alcoholics. This was the beginning of ACOA. In later years, ACOA became ACA and/or COA.
Up until 1983, any Al-Anon meeting I attended was to help heal that child inside me who grew up in a very troubled family. But when I shared at Al-Anon meetings about my alcoholism, I felt a subtle change in the group of some members feeling that I didn’t belong in an Al-Anon meeting.
But when I found ACOA or ACA meetings, I immediately knew that I belonged because they talked about feelings. I continued to be completely committed to my recovery with AA groups. But the AA groups were male-dominated groups whose members seemed to be proud of how far they had fallen to their bottoms. So I started attending ACOA and Codependents Anonymous as well as AA.