I Quit Going To Al-anon. Again.

The title of this group is "I Went to Al-Anon" not "I currently go to Al-Anon." Which is important because I used to go to Al-Anon meetings regularly 4 years ago, then I quit. Recently, my alcoholic spouse got busted for drunk driving (again), and decided to start going to AA meetings (again). And so I was driving her to meetings and sitting in the car waiting for her to come out, and I decided well, since I'm here anyway, I might as well go in there and see what the Al-anon people have to say (they hold Al-Anon and AA meetings at the same place at the same time). Sure beats sittin' in the car. Maybe I'll give Al-Anon a second chance.

Which I did. And then I quit. Again.

Why?

1. First of all, despite claims to the contrary, Al-Anon is NOT what it claims so fervently to be, ANONYMOUS.  As they go around the table reading from the book and "sharing," each person is starts by giving his or her first name.  When it came to me, I said, "My name's not important."  The woman chairing the meeting asked me, "How come you don't want to share your name?"  I said, "Because it's an anonymous meeting."  Then I was asked, "So, what are we supposed to call you?" to which I replied, "You can call me whatever you want."  Needless to say, that one went over like a lead zeppelin.  I went to a different meeting, and at this supposedly anonymous meeting, they have people write up little placards with their names and set them on the table in front of them.  I wrote "Anonymous" on mine.  Won real pointes with that one, too.  

2. I'm not a Christian.  Despite all the rhetoric about connecting with a Higher Power "as we understood" him/her/it/whatever, the "Higher Power" is constantly referred to as God (meaning the Judeo-Christian God), and the meetings are closed and opened with Christian prayer.  Fact of the matter is that Al-Anon is derived from AA, and AA is derived from the teachings of a fundamentalist Christian bunch called the Oxford Group, and pretty much adheres to its fundie origins in spirit, while claiming to be non-denominational.  I never came out and SAID I was a pagan at any of these meetings (although it might be fun to do so just to see what reaction I'd get).

3. Yacht Club.  Most of the people involved in the meetings have some social connections outside of Al-Anon, and if you're not part of the "yacht club" they really don't want you there.  Case in point:  recently, I decided to start attending Al-Anon again.  I got to the meeting early, before anybody else was in the room, and sat quietly at one table.  As the others came in, they all sat at the other table (some even grabbed chairs from my table and dragged them over to the other table).  Ok, I thought, they all like to sit over there.  The next week, I again arrived early, and deliberately sat at the table where everyone else had sat the previous week.  One by one, as the others came in, they all sat at the opposite table (the one I had occupied by myself before).  Some even grabbed chairs and dragged them over to the other table.  What is this, high school?  You have to belong to the "clique" to be accepted here?

4. Divorce Court.  For a period of several months, the Tuesday night Alanon meeting I attended degenerated into a cheering squad for one or two members who were seeking divorce from their alcoholic husbands.  As the husband of an alcoholic spouse who was attending meetings and staying sober through AA, I found little in the way of experience, strength, and hope in these discussions.  I was attending Alanon with the intent of SUPPORTING my wife in recovery, not ditching her!

5. Inappropriate Behavior.  Alanon sets rules (called "traditions") governing the conduct of its meetings, but these are often flagrantly disregarded in actual practice.  For instance, despite Alanon's claim to not endorse any cause, political entity, etc., one meeting I attended recently concluded with a "longtime" member telling political jokes.  As offensive as I found this behavior, I was absolutely appalled when an Alanon member named "James" (name changed to preserve so-called anonymity) contacted me at home attempting to recruit support for his political agenda, which, incidentally, involved forcing renters out of their homes.  I calmly informed "James" that I, myself, was a renter, and that I found his agenda despicable.  I then proceeded to inform "James" that he was misusing an Alanon phone list, which was specifically assembled for program-related calls ONLY.  He started stammering, said "um" and "uh" a number of times, and then tried to claim he didn't get my number from the Alanon list.  I knew he was lying, since my number was unlisted, and I knew I hadn't given it to him directly.  

6. (and most importantly) I felt worse after attending the meeting than before I came!  Seriously, I could be having a great week, feeling happy, confident, full of life and energy.  Walked out of the meeting feeling confused, insecure, depressed.  And I'm VOLUNTARILY attending this emotional brow-beating?  Not anymore.

7. Am I really the one with the problem?  

David Icke said that "What Life tends to Do is hide Its greatest Gifts and present them as Your worst Nightmare."  I heard sentiments like this echoed at many of these meetings, and I kept hoping, again and again for years, that I would come to such an epiphany regarding my own situation.  Didn't happen.  The more meetings I went to, the more alienated I became.  People talked about finding "understanding, strength, and hope" at these meetings, but I wasn't feeling it.                                        .                                                                                                                                                                                                                             In the beginning, there was valuable knowledge, insight, ways of looking at my situation that I hadn't previously considered.  The "how to to deal with the alcoholic" phase, separating what was mine from what was hers.  Some smartass posted a reply to this story a year or more ago that went something like "With a husband like you, no wonder she drinks."  I deleted this comment, but my answer would be "You might be right."  This is a program response.  Even though you know that the other person is dead wrong, (or, in the case of smartasses, just saying something to goad a response, which is something alcoholics frequently do) this response avoids conflict and allows you to move on.  This is an example of what one learns in Alanon as "how to deal with the alcoholic."  For these techniques and points of view, the Alanon meetings and literature are an invaluable source.                                                                                                                                                                                   
UPDATE: Looking back on this experience years later, hard to believe I wasted my time with those folks to begin with! I still believe that the "beginner learning" phase of Alanon is valuable, and I continue (for the most part, anyway) to apply what I learned in those first weeks to my dealings with my wife (who hasn't sobered up yet), but everything after that was . . . well, let's just say I disagree with almost all of it. But I won't waste my time debating it here, considering that it is, after all, a religious program, and any understanding that is based on faith is, in the end, unarguable. Those who accept it will continue to accept it no matter what I say, and those who don't, well, they won't. I'm in the second group.                                                                                                                                                                                           
UFOsR4real UFOsR4real
41-45, M
4 Responses May 7, 2012

Awesome way to share,"your experience, strength and hope."

We keep keeping on in our personal recovery journey despite the spoiler's.

Anonymity and the Legacies are flagrantly disregarded by a few very sick people who seek to control and govern and not working their Al-Anon recovery program.

I am sorry to say that your personal experience in Al-Anon is more common practice and I too enjoy the wisdom in the approved literature, which reveals the heart of the founders. Peaceful serenity.

Nice job. I too, struggle with those AlAnon meetings. I guess I haven't found the "right" one yet.

I've found that alaon meetings can very greatly by region in the U.S. To listen to various members testimonies on free audio files, visit the website xa-speakers.org

They say Marriage with an Alcoholic is a dilemma. Not quite true. The true dillemma is marriage per se whoever with.