How Al-Anon and the Church can change lives

Much is written about the impact of alcoholism and drug abuse on the individuals it affects, but the consequences for those closest to them are just as devastating. Al-Anon is a spiritual fellowship – run along the same lines as Alcoholics Anonymous – specifically for the families and friends of problem drinkers and addicts. Here, two from the Thames Valley region describe how their lives have changed, thanks to Al-Anon.

Rosemary’s story

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An unexpected bonus of my journey through Al-Anon is the opportunity it’s given me to reconnect with God as, over the years, we had become somewhat estranged.

I was desperately seeking something or someone to help quiet the incessant noise in my head when I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting four years ago. I was like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle, obsessing constantly about my alcoholic husband’s drinking, wondering what I was going to do about it, as if it were my job to fix him. With a strong sense of shame and no-one to confide in, I felt I was quietly going insane.

In Al-Anon I quickly learned that I did not cause the alcoholic’s drinking, I cannot control it and I can’t cure it. The Three Cs (cause, control and cure) were a huge comfort to me as I let go of my false notion of responsibility for an unmanageable situation.

Accepting my powerlessness made it easier for me to hand over my desire to control and my fears and worries to a Higher Power — the God of my understanding — who is so central to the Al-Anon 12 step programme.

Over time, my interpretation of my Higher Power has changed. I first regarded the meetings, my fellow members and their collective support as my HP.
Now I accept my HP is an actual God. I align him more with the religious God that I grew up with. I went to a clergy orphan school. Morning and evening prayers took place in Chapel every day and I rebelled at the strictures of it all, refusing to be confirmed, to my parents’ dismay.
God and I never really saw much of each other down the years, except at the occasional wedding or funeral.

But that has changed now. Thanks to Al-Anon I am comfortable to explore my faith. I attend church, read daily Bible verses (thanks to my phone app), pray on my knees and wear a crucifix. Most importantly, I put my trust in God and he guides me daily in ways I never imagined possible.

Sebastian’s story

I discovered Al-Anon as the adult child of an alcoholic and embarked on a spiritual journey through the 12 steps. The literature states that: “we will be amazed before we’re half-way through, we are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” I had no idea that, through looking at my own life with the help of a sponsor (who guided me through the steps), I would achieve such freedom and happiness.

During this process, my Dad, spontaneously and out of character, invited me to church one Easter Sunday. I wasn’t aware of the presence of God in Holy Communion and how it is believed that the bread and wine actually turn into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

After drinking the non-alcoholic wine I experienced a feeling of Jesus’ blood entering my heart and purifying it from all sin. Driving home from my Dad’s that day my tyre burst and I remember standing on the motorway bridge and feeling like I had met God. His love just poured over me and his presence was undeniable. The miracle had finally happened.

The twelve steps have taken me on a journey to spiritual awakening. That day in the church was so powerful and I felt the pull from heaven to receive communion. This was the day my relationship with God the Father began.

Since then I have joined my local church where I play the guitar and sing in the worship band. I’ve been on a pilgrimage and spent time with Christian monks. I also joined a church mission to Romania which was absolutely life-changing. I attend church with my aunt during Easter and Christmas.

My relationship with Jesus is undeniable and I often feel the Holy Spirit and meet people along the way. The Al-Anon fellowship and my relationship with God have given me the ability to help discern God’s will for me and to have faith in my decision making. My situation is beyond complicated but I feel I am now able to manage and to cope with it daily.

(Names have been changed to protect anonymity.)

There are Al-Anon meetings throughout Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.  For further information call the national helpline on 020 7403 0888 from 10am – 10pm daily, or visit al-anonuk.org.uk