Part 1: After 30 days (Addict’s name changed for anonymity)
We first encountered Betty at the treatment center, the first time Steve was there in January. On Saturdays, it is Family Day and the first session was an intro to Al-Anon that Betty led. We attended two of these sessions the first time Steve was in rehab.
The second time Steve was in the treatment center (Sept.), we re-encountered Betty at the intro to Al-Anon meeting. One thing Betty told everyone at the meetings, and since then we have found it to be true, is that Al-Anon does not dispense advice to you or make recommendations at their meetings. You are expected to listen to the experiences of the members and find your way.
We had spoken with Betty after the meetings at the treatment center and she mentioned she was putting together a program to supplement Al-Anon which would answer questions for beginners. At that time, we sent an email to Betty and she emailed us the information on the new program, Alcoholic Whisperer. It sounded good but at the time we were still hanging our hopes that rehab and sober houses would do the trick for Steve.
So, now it was December and Cathy and I were entering a critical phase with Steve due to his eviction from the sober house. We wanted advice and we knew we needed it right away. I sent an email to Betty with the following content:
Hi Betty, My wife and I would like to see if you offer a one-meeting conference. We are somewhat at a critical point and we wanted your opinion on what we are going to do – we think we are right but would very much value your views on it.
Betty responded immediately and we arranged a conference call to discuss what was happening. During the call, Betty explained many things to us. We were, in fact, doing what we should be doing, but our words and language were not right. Betty coached us on specifically how to respond to Steve.
After the first conference call and the results it brought for us with Steve, Cathy and I realized we needed much more assistance so we had one more call with Betty to discuss Steve issues. After the second conference call, we decided we needed ongoing assistance from Betty and we committed to 12 sessions.
We have had several “emergency” calls with Betty when things with Steve were escalating. Betty has always been able to calm us down and she recommends the content of text messages to Steve – we would have done it all wrong ourselves, and she helped us plan for a meeting with Steve at Christmas time. We have called Betty at all hours of the day and on weekends and she is always there for us. She is our lifeline.
Betty told us that her coaching would jumpstart us well into the Al-Anon program and that is exactly what we have found. Cathy and I have shared with the group members at the Al-Anon meetings where we are with Steve and ourselves and we were told by several longtime Al-Anon members that we are far ahead of where normal 30 day members are. It is like we have jumped to an area in the program that allowed us to avoid most of the missteps along the way (although we did plenty of missteps prior to working with Betty and going to Al-Anon).
Although we are still very early in this process, both Cathy and I are seeing great improvement in how we feel. I am actually having periods of calm in between the periods of anxiety. As we continue to work with Betty I am finding the short periods of calm are elongating and the long periods of anxiety are shortening.
From Cathy’s perspective, she has been told by doctors to focus on taking care of herself and both Betty and Al-Anon have confirmed this is what we need to do. It really helps to have a “teammate” on this and Betty works extremely well with us, helping us push forward utilizing the strengths we each have and making sure the weaknesses don’t harm our progress with Steve.
Sincerely, Gary and Cathy
Part 2: After 45 days
I would like to describe my experiences with Al-Anon and Cut-to-the-Chase Life Coaching. I have only been going to Al-Anon now for about 45 days.
When I went to my first meeting, I really did not understand why I was there. After all, I wasn’t the sick one, it was my son who needed help. It was suggested by our Life Coach, Betty Pennington, that I just try to get one or two things out of every meeting so that is what I tried to do. However, all along I kept asking myself, why was I here? I am definitely not the Kumbaya type of guy so the hand holding and other things were very foreign to me.
I think it was at my 6th or 7th meeting that I had an “aha” moment. It dawned on me that I really did need to be there, that I was, in fact sick – the sickness of being a master “enabler”. I had always been the “fixer” and “enabler” for my son and I needed to stop!
Now, these tools are not what you would expect. In fact, logically, they seemed to be almost directly opposite of the way I was doing things. It occurred to me the other day that the tools are as such because the alcoholic mind seems very illogical also so a tool for dealing with the craziness has to be somewhat crazy also.
One of my most favorite topics that was discussed in several meetings is “detachment”. We are currently “detaching” from our son and it has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It occurred to me that in order to really do “detachment”, you have to be ready for it. Being ready for it is hitting your bottom, just like the alcoholic has to hit bottom. By hitting bottom I mean we were at the end of our rope. We had tried just about everything and nothing worked. We were finally ready for “detachment”. And, it has been very enlightening.
I had no serenity, just huge amounts of anxiety. However, as our “detachment” continued I found myself having periods of calm. Not serenity but getting there. And, between Al-Anon and our Life Coach, the periods of calm are elongating and the periods of anxiety are shortening. I now believe that once the periods of anxiety are gone, the calm will turn into serenity for me (at least that is my hope).
As illogical as it seems (one of those crazy tool things), our son seems to be improving with our “detachment”. Our Life Coach teaches us to always be positive and rewarding with compliments when we interact with our son and low and behold he is demonstrating the initial steps towards becoming self sufficient. He has shown much greater responsibility towards what he needs to do.
We, in “detachment” are focusing on ourselves for the first time. We are getting out and doing things outside our comfort zone. As our Life Coach says, we are creating a wonderful, happy life for ourselves, and it is working!!
What I find really crazy is the fact that these Al-Anon tools seem to work in our everyday life outside of the alcoholic. This past weekend, with our Life Coach’s guidance, we applied the tools and were able to work out a long standing, really messy situation we were having with our next door neighbor. In doing so, we have now relieved ourselves of that stress and anxiety.
Gary and Cathy