Sunday, November 14, 2010

The First Time

**** Here's your fair warning: this space might get a little sketchy for awhile. I think better with my fingers on a keyboard, and am sorting through much muck and mush right now. If watching me slowing treading my way through some twelve-step stuff isn't your thing, this might be a good time to take a break from the blog-reading. On the other hand, if you are up to it, feel free to jump in with support and positive comments whenever you can. Thanks! ****

"Hello. My name is Jen."

In unison, "Hi, Jen."

(They actually do that; it takes a little getting used to... I almost laughed out loud the first time, except that I was too nervous to do little more than cling to my kleenex and pull my coat tighter around my shoulders).

I was 26 years old the first time I admitted to myself that my mother had a problem with alcohol.

It was another ten years before I could say that aloud to someone other than my husband, and even then, only among my closest of inner circles.

It is only in the past eighteen months that I've been able to use the word "alcoholic" to describe the behaviors, and to ascribe to myself the title, "adult child of an alcoholic."

For the past year or so, I've done everything I can to avoid going to a meeting, sitting on a hard chair in a circle, hands stuffed full of kleenex. I've read books. I've tried stepping on my own. I've prayed. I've cried. I've screamed... a lot. I've shut down, particularly when challenged by my Spiritual Director to go deeper. I've spoken with other people about their twelve step experiences, and every time walked away more certain than ever that I would never go there, never sit in a circle in some nondescript meeting room, look into the faces of strangers and see myself. Never.

I convinced myself that I didn't need the meetings and the steps. I had read the books... several times. I understood the concepts. I was fine. I would just avoid her when she was drinking and everything else would be just fine.

And then my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

I found myself filled with a rage that I could not explain. No one was safe: friend, foe, stranger, and most especially, my family. DH and the kids bore the brunt of this uncontrolled rage. I spent most of the month of October in a barely-concealed eggshell, about to crack open at any moment. And crack open I did, over and over and over again.

In the beginning of November, I sat in my Spiritual Director's office, burdened by guilt and shame, bent-over by the weight of the rage, the hurt, the fear of the previous month. I couldn't name the source of all my sin. I just knew that it had started about the time of Dad's diagnosis, and I was completely powerless over it.

I opened my mouth and let the torrents flow. All of the pain and sin and worry and anger of the previous month spilled out of me, mixing and mingling with tears. Finally, I whispered, "I don't know what to do. I am so angry. Help me?"

Praise God for the compassion and truth I heard that night.

For the first time, I allowed myself to consider going to a meeting, though I wasn't yet ready to say it to anyone. Later that night, I did a little internet search for meetings in our area. At bedtime, I snuggled close to DH and asked if he would be ok with me making time in our schedule for some adult children of alcoholics meetings. Friday night came and I waffled. I didn't have to go to the meeting. I could just sleep in. I sat in the library at Vision of Peace, warmed by the heat of the fire in the fireplace, crocheting and listening to music.

And I knew. I knew that I needed to go, and that if I didn't go in the morning, I would continue to make excuses. I had hit rock bottom. It might not have looked like it from the outside. In fact, I'm sure had you watched me in the library that night, I would have appeared calm, relaxed, in control. Only I knew how many times I had to set aside the yarn to wipe my eyes and blow my nose. Only I knew the anguish in my prayers before bed. Only I knew that I could not hold together this shell any longer. The cracks were too big and too broad.

I set the alarm to ring early on Saturday morning. When it went off, I opened the blinds and climbed back under the covers. I watched the sun rising over the Mississippi through the leafless trees and prayed. Then, I got up, showered, and drove to my first meeting.


  1. I have been to some 12 step meetings, I found the people there to be a great help to me emotionally and spiritually. I felt the presence of God there in a way I have never felt before it was so strong. Love was there.

  2. You go girl! Getting help, acknowledging that you need help is the first step. Those things that throw you off the tightrope you are walking are grace, even if they don't feel that way.

    My hubby is an adult child of an acoholic who had problems with alcohol himself. Recently diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder which was discovered mainly because we moved to a new house this summer, he is having panic attacks and depression. He rages and he wants to cry. His dad, the alcoholic, died when he was 15 and he never resolved anything with his dad. And I guess I tell you this because you aren't the only one. Children of alcoholics have scars. Healing the scars is the challenge.

    I continue to pray for your dad and for you and for your family. Our good God wants to heal us all.

  3. Belle,

    Thanks for your support!


  4. Mary,

    Thank you for sharing your husband's story, and for your continued prayers. We do need to find a way to meet up in real life sometime. Until then, I am very happy to have you as my bloggy friend.