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Atwater:

“Sandy” was a fixer and had been most of her life.

Her mom passed away when she was 11 of a prescription drug overdose, and her dad had little idea how to raise four kids – three girls and a little brother. Little brother is now in his 30s and has been in and out of jails and institutions with alcohol and other drug problems.

“Sandy” was the second oldest child, and for some reason the one who took on the family responsibilities. She made her siblings school lunches, helped with homework at night and usually cooked dinner. Her dad was a good man who had to work two jobs to make ends meet and was seldom home.

Later, he found the first in a long line of alcohol-soaked girlfriends, which started a slow slide for him. Although never a big drinker before, he spent the majority of his spare time at the tavern with his latest “wife of the night,” and the kids, more often than not, had a “stepmother of the day” waiting for them when they got up. “Sandy” usually conducted the morning interview of the newest temporary family addition and often disapproved. In fact, she often disapproved to her dad, who, now alcohol-soaked himself, would hear none of it.

“Sandy” realized at age 15 she was on her own. Her thinking was if it was going to get done right, she had to do it, and her anger, loneliness and unhappiness got rolled into her now chronic over-helping.

To no one’s surprise but “Sandy’s,” she married her first alcoholic at age 18 and managed to have two children and get a degree in social work by 24. After the divorce and single parenting for a year, she found her second husband, who didn’t drink. However, he was a guy who used to drink way too much, went to AA, “graduated” and was now a certified dry drunk with a pornography problem.

After that divorce, “Sandy”, who had heard about Al Anon from husband No. 2, who had insisted she attend, decided she would look into some Al Anon classes. Having a social work degree, she felt she could teach them, but she would give it a try.

Shortly after her first couple of meetings and an “ego right-sizing experience,” “Sandy” realized these Al Anons had something she couldn’t find on her own. They knew about how addiction worked in themselves and others; they knew about inner peace in the midst of chaos; they knew about accepting; and they knew how to let go of what they couldn’t control.

“Sandy” had finally found a group she could trust and where she could let go of her long-held grief. “Sandy” could finally start to heal.

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