Geoff describes how he struggled for a long time with his daughter's alcoholism, and describes finding Al-Anon as a true "lifeline".
“Learning that my daughter is an alcoholic was one of the biggest shocks of my life. I had not previously had any experience of alcoholism, and I had no idea what it really meant.
I had been aware for some years that she had been drinking heavily at times. But it was only after a particularly heavy bout, when she told us that she thought that she was an alcoholic, that the truth finally sunk in.
During the first six months after this discovery I was lost and went through a time of feeling miserable and I was desperate to help her. We went through a lot as a family, including helping to clean up the mess several times, dealing with the disappointment of ‘no shows’ at family get-togethers. Hours sitting in A&E (where we had to take her for emergency detoxification) and visiting her in a rehab facility. Worst of all, thinking things were ok and she was getting better before realising that she wasn’t.
To tell the truth, I was ashamed of having an alcoholic in the family. I tried to hide it from everyone else, and told lies to cover it up. This increased the strain on me, and I began to fear that I would never be happy again.
I tried for a number of months to help my child in the ways that had worked for me with other problems in the past. Examples included discussing with her practical ways to reduce her drinking and urging her to ‘pull herself together;’ to ensuring that alcohol was no longer part of our family’s social life. I also tried to find out in what I thought were subtle ways (text messages, ‘innocent’ questions, asking other people what they knew) what was going on. I always had the hope that somehow, I could help fix this problem, as I had done with so many other ones in my life, but none of it worked. Eventually I had to admit to myself that I was out of my depth and needed help from others who understood this better.
As a husband and a father, I had always seen myself (and so had others) as someone who could fix things. It took me a long time to accept that this was something I could not fix.
Someone then told me about Al-Anon, and at about the same time it was recommended by members at an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) open meeting which I attended in desperation to seek help. I went to my first Al Anon meeting and have never looked back. The support of my group, the literature, and the Al Anon programme gave me a better understanding of my situation with my daughter’s drinking.
I realised that I am not alone, and I now know that I can get some calm and balance in my own life, no matter what else is happening around me. I know that alcoholism is an illness which I can’t cure, no matter how hard I try. I feel that I have now regained control of my life, and I put this down to the help of the Al-Anon programme. One of the things I most like about it is that I can choose the aspects and activities which work for me, and let the rest be.
I am asked sometimes by others who know of our situation, how our daughter is (the implied question being ‘Is she still drinking?’). One of the ‘don’ts’ I have learned in Al-Anon is not to check up on my alcoholic. This was hard for me to accept as a parent, but eventually I got there.
I don’t ask her that question any more, I don’t try to play detective, and most importantly I have stopped wondering about it in my own head. So, my answer to the ‘is she still drinking?’ question is ‘I don’t know’, and I am fine with that. It is enough for me to know that she is a member of AA and is working her programme, while her mother and I are members of Al-Anon and are working our programme. That gives our family the best shot at coming through this together.
Al-Anon has been a life line for me, and I am profoundly grateful to it.”