A Story for my Daughter
I had been in Al-Anon and the man I was married to was a recovering alcoholic. I came from a family of alcoholism and at this time my daughter was 19 and she had been drinking for some time. I had divorced her dad and she had been living with him. The last time I had seen her was a visit from her and her brother a year earlier. I knew she was drinking even though she was a minor and the last time I talked to her on the phone, I told her of my concerns. I was afraid that she would become an alcoholic. A lot of good that did, she went on drinking and I went to my Al-Anon meetings.
The day that she called from San Francisco, her livelihood was one that was demeaning her and her nightlife was destroying her with alcohol and drugs. She called me and asked me if she could come home. She said she couldn’t go on and she needed help. I thought “Oh my God, does she really mean it?” I wanted so bad to believe her. I wanted so much to help her. She is my one and only little girl and I wanted her to get help and stop this crazy way of life she had been living. But they tell me in Al-Anon that I can’t help her. I really didn’t know what to do but I couldn’t say ‘no’ to her. Her voice just pulled at my heart. I told my daughter, I would talk to her step-dad (he adored her) and asked her to call us back in thirty minutes, as she was using a calling card from a pay phone. We decided we would help her, under certain conditions that she would need to adhere to, if she was going to come and stay with us.
She called me back and I told her she could come to stay with us while she was getting help with her drinking problem. I also explained to her that her step-dad and I had conditions she needed to agree to. I explained she would need to go to AA Meetings and get a job immediately. Under no circumstances was there to be any drugs or alcohol in our home nor was she allowed to come home drunk or loaded on drugs. She was reminded that her little brother admired her and we didn’t want him to see her in that state. We also thought it would be difficult to stop drinking so we gave her three chances with the understanding that the third time, she would need to go into a rehabilitation facility or find somewhere else to live. She agreed and three days later we picked her up at a bus station.
The ‘honeymoon phase.’ Everything is fabulous. We’re making meals together and baking; we love to bake together and we both like to cook. She’s going to AA meetings and getting to know people and doing so well. She gets a job at a popular coffee shop. She loves it. We go to the beach and shop together. She has a cheerful personality. And right now, her attitude is great. Her little brother is enjoying having his big sister there with us. We all are. It’s neat, she’s doing her thing with the friends she has met in AA and I’m not even worried that she may get drunk if she is not home.
Weeks later, out of nowhere, she comes in the house, drunk. Probably high too. I look at her. She says “What?” I reply, “Your drunk! What happened?” She looks at me and tells me to leave her alone as she goes to her room and shuts her door. Famous last words. I was speechless and thinking, ‘what happened, she was doing so well?’ I ‘m in shock! I’m upset, I don’t even want her in my home now because I don’t know what to do. My husband is not home and so I wait for him to get home from work. I’m angry because this is not what I wanted! This is not what I had hoped for. My plan was for her to stay sober. Not this. My emotions have set my head racing. Do I knock on her door and address this or leave her alone? How dare she go to her room and ignore me! Next, I have one sane thought, ‘Ok, I am too upset, so leave her alone until I can calm down and he gets home.’ Now that had to have been a direct order from my Higher Power.
Later, that evening we have dinner. My daughter doesn’t wake up for dinner. The next morning we all go to work and day care. I’m not too happy about our situation. We’ve decided there’s not much we can do as we expected this would happen. Remember, we are so understanding and we have given her three chances. That evening, we talk with my daughter and she tells us she is sorry. We encourage her to get back to meetings as she was doing so well; we’re thinking that’s still what she wants to do and she says to us that she will.
But it isn’t long before she comes home drunk again. She starts to get mouthy and disrespectful with both of us, my spouse and myself. I’m yelling, he’s yelling and it’s getting nowhere. It’s unbelievable after all that we have been doing for her. Our home has become filled with tension. She’s got an awful attitude. I go to work stressed and I come home stressed. I feel as though this is all my fault. And I don’t know what to do. It finally comes to end when she leaves the house. Now I feel even worse because this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t want us yelling and arguing and her walking out!
That evening I go to an Al-Anon meeting. I share with the group where I have been and what has been going on in my life. Al-Anon is terrific with sharing their experience, strength and hope. Oh, thank God. Now I’m breathing again as I have my sanity back and I have been so stressed I have forgotten to breathe. I’m reminded that my daughter may not be ready to receive help and that I am not the one who can help her. She needs to seek help when she wants it and it would help from somebody else. That just possibly she is taking advantage of us because we have given her a temporary place to stay, all she has to do is not drink and the third time she does, she will be out, if we mean it. This is so true about the disease of alcoholism. She is hoping that we don’t mean it and we will let her stay, regardless of the fact that she may disregard the conditions we all agreed to. And because I am so emotionally involved it’s difficult for me to say ’no’ to my daughter when I want to help my daughter. Without Al-Anon, I would at one time, let her stay.
I had learned about “enabling” in Al-Anon but for whatever reason I couldn’t see that I was doing it until now.
So I see what I am doing is in fact, enabling her. I’m not allowing her to be responsible for her life and her consequences by giving her a place to live when at 19, she needs to be out on her own. We were giving her three chances to go and drink under our roof before she would need to leave, when really we needed to set the boundary at absolutely no drinking or drugs as our home is an alcohol and drug free environment. Who knows, she may have not come if we would have set it up under the latter conditions. There was nothing more I could do. I couldn’t change the fact that she chose to drink. I couldn’t control the alcoholism or drug use nor could I cure alcoholism. Now I was at a place of ‘letting go.’ Where I had to let go of my daughter and give her to my Higher Power. It’s also known as ‘detaching with love.’ I cried because I was afraid I was going to lose her to this disease; she might die. That has always been my worst fear. I was angry. I was angry at the disease of alcoholism and the effects it has on the people I love. The process of letting go is the answer if I want to love my daughter with her disease, accept her just as she is and give myself freedom to live my own fulfilling life while trusting a Power Greater than myself. She didn’t choose the disease.
I needed to stop enabling her. It was no longer my business to see to it that she got sober and clean. We had an agreement. I needed to go through with our agreement with her. I had gained so much strength, knowledge, and love from others at the meeting.
In time, my daughter lost her job and she did get drunk again as she did not go back to AA. The people she was hanging out with, I really didn’t like around our home. They came to pick her up and drop her off. That was too much for me. I was uncomfortable with them and scared for her. This was my one and only girl.
After the third time out drinking, we needed to tell her she had a choice to find a rehabilitation facility or find another place to live. It wasn’t something I wanted to tell my daughter to do. I didn’t want to tell her she needed to leave as something told me she wasn’t going to look for a place to get help. I so wished she wanted help.
The next day, we came home from work and she was gone without even a note. I was devastated. My heart felt stomped on. We had no idea where she went. We asked our neighbors as they had befriended her. One of them had taken her to the bus stop and told us she was headed to her dad’s. We did not hear from her for a long time after that. She continued to drink for several years and I continued to go to Al-Anon.
That wasn’t the last incident. The next time she called for help, was 3 years later. She was in New York City, working on Long Island. She called at 1:00 a.m., drunk. She had lost her purse, she had no money and the guy she had gone to work for had dumped her and she had broken her arm that night. She wanted me to fly her back home. I said, “No, I can‘t and I love you, honey” and I hung up the phone and started crying. Again, I was afraid. I couldn’t believe my daughter’s situation and how it continued to get worse. I was afraid all over again. I was afraid I would never see or hear from her and I had just said ’no’ to helping her.
Today, 11 years later, my daughter has 21 months clean and sober and has a heck of a story to tell. We have been through so much with the disease of alcoholism and we are not alone. It’s in finding Truth and it’s in finding True Love in recovering from the disease of alcoholism with others, that we have been given the gift of a second chance in a life that includes a Power Greater than ourselves living one day at a time. And for that, I am a grateful mother and member of Al-Anon.
For more information you may go to Al-Anon’s website. http://www.al-anon.alateen.org