My own experience with the Twelve Step programs started eleven years ago, when I was a newlywed and young mother. I had broken my ankle the week prior, and was wearing a borrowed walking cast in lieu of getting x-rays and bone setting. I also had a sickly two month old baby who was nearly always crying. My mom came with me to my first Al-Anon meeting, and helped me hobble up the stairs to the inaccessible meeting room, in a classroom at a nearby Christian church and school.
I remember thinking they were strange, these jovial women joking and laughing about their alcoholic husbands. I wasn’t ready to admit my husband was abusive, but I was absolutely ready for him to stop drinking. I had moved myself and my baby back into my mother’s home, and given my spouse an ultimatum: dry up or I’m leaving for good.
I thought, as I sat in my first Al-Anon meeting, that they sounded like a cult. Then I brushed that thought aside as silly. I hadn’t yet learned I was raised in a cult or started studying them. I didn’t know how right my first instincts were. Because those instincts felt rude, I didn’t listen. I become an Al-Anon true believer for eighteen months.
I went to meetings, at least one a week but often three. It was the only thing I did my mom would offer free babysitting during, so I would go early and leave late. I chaired meetings, recited the steps, and went to a sober party at an AA clubhouse. I had three sponsors over the time, not one of whom I could really relate to. My first choice for sponsor was an Al-Anon oldtimer with 23 years “in the rooms” but she turned me down, saying she already had too many sponsees.
I started each day with reading from my Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature and guidance. I began going through the steps, stepwork, but never made it past the third step. Step 4’s “searching and fearless moral inventory” sounded damaging to me, right then. I knew my shitty husband had punctured my self esteem and that I didn’t like myself very much right then, so I thought it would only make it harder to love or care for myself, if I focused only on my wrongs. I did pay heed to those instincts.