How did I feel at my first Al-Anon meeting?

Published by at 9:58 am under Introduction to meetings

Welcome to First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery from Al-Anon Family Groups.  This is a series of podcasts to discuss some common concerns for people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

Al-Anon’s primary purpose is to help families and friends of people who have a drinking problem.  Today we’re going to ask Al-Anon members how they felt when they attended their very first Al-Anon meeting.

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27 comments

27 comments on “How did I feel at my first Al-Anon meeting?”

  1. Diann says:

    My husband is a functioning alcoholic. Our kids are grown and have moved out. He always said that when they were grown, it would be “me and thee.” I didn’t expect it to be “me, thee and alcohol.”

    I quit drinking about three years ago. We would drink with friends. We were both functioning alcoholics. Since I quit drinking, I have no friends and he continues to drink with our old friends. I don’t want to be in that situation anymore.

    I need a friend to help me. The only place I’m happy is at work. We’ve been married for 24 years and neither of us want to give that up, but he’s told me he is not going to stop. I’m lonely and lost.

  2. Pedro F. says:

    I’ve been reading a ton online, and know that this is a step I must take. I tried to go to one earlier today, but never could find the place! I know where the one is tonight, though, so that won’t be a problem. I’m not sure why I’ve resisted it for this long; suddenly, I’m excited to be going.

    RAH just finished his second detox round and is in intensive outpatient therapy. He seems so very committed this time, but I have come to realize that I have to put myself in the position to be able to be on my own should this not work out (we’ve been married 36 years and only the last 3 have been such horror – I want my old husband back, but not the drinking part of him).

    I’m trying to re-establish some faith and hope within myself so that I can move forward whatever the outcome is, and am happy to have found this site where you all have come through so much. Anyway, wish me luck – I’m off to my meeting here!

  3. Deborah says:

    I purposely went to my first meeting while out of town on a business trip, which made it low-stakes because I knew these were not folks I would form relationships with. I didn’t share. A woman, another newcomer, had brought her teenage daughter for Alateen, which was supposed to be happening at the same time, but which was no longer going on. The teenage girl sat with a carefully practiced look of boredom the whole time, and her mother cried about her boyfriend’s treatment of both of them.

    The members were super supportive of her and of me, giving me a list of phone numbers, which I knew I would not call. That was about two months ago. I just made it to my second meeting this weekend, this time in my own town, and I am going to try a different one tonight. My husband says that my going will help him in his sobriety (he has 8 months), so I am going to keep coming back even though I am scared.

  4. Kathy says:

    My feelings are complicated. My husband has caused so much pain for me and my son. He put us thru so much that my son and I are suicidal. I have asked his boss for help and to make sure he gets help. He uses a company car and works for the state. He never called me back. He is now driving under a suspended license and his boss knows this. I talked about some of the things he has done to me and got the feeling that they don’t want to hear about these things and to keep it squeaky clean, like the books.

    My husband put me through this back in 1977. He wasn’t as bad as he is now. In ’77 we weren’t fighting, everything was running smoothly. Now, 2013, he has a girlfriend, he moved out, he continues to lie, took away the money, and told me I don’t deserve a new car. I drive a 23-yr-old van. He got money from his father, which he was supposed to share with me, instead he took off with it all.

    I am tired of dealing with a lunatic and a narcissistic person that has gone looney. I am important. My son is important, but it has to end at some point. I deserve to be loved by a normal person, a Christian who values life, looks forward to each day and wants the best for his family. That is not what I have now.

    All I want is a nice life for me and my son. I am just not prepared to go through the candy-coated, pollyanna-type meetings. When your world is falling apart and you have tried to reach this person, bent over backwards for him and he runs you down, doesn’t want you to laugh, yells at you if the waitress puts you at the wrong table, talks to you like you are stupid, it is enough and I am fed up. I need strength at this point, not more weakness.

  5. Venus says:

    I just went to my first Al-Anon meeting last week and I don’t know what came over me. I have had to deal with some recent difficult and terrifying things regarding my alcoholic father in these past few months. Although I was not looking forward to it, I knew I should attend a meeting as I had all the classic symptoms: anger, resentment, feeling “crazy” and hopeless. My best friend picked me up and we went to the meeting together.

    I am normally a leader and have no problem in groups or public speaking, so when I started to feel downright ill, I didn’t understand what was happening. I started feeling weak, faint, nauseous, and lightheaded on the way to the meeting. It was a large meeting and people seemed very nice. They encouraged the group to mention if it was your first time, so I did.

    There were 4 new people including me. Major sweats, nausea. They did some reading and then the main speaker began to talk. You could tell she was a nice lady and was an old soul. But I knew I couldn’t hear anymore. The longer I was there, the more sick I felt. I was panting and knew that if I stayed a minute longer that I would truly projectile vomit. As in, my body felt like I was about to explode.

    I am mortified to write and admit this, but that is truly how I felt. I know if I stayed it would have happened. I had no desire to speak either. In fact, as I write this, I feel the feeling already building up in my throat. I raced out of there, leaving my friend. I drove home and sat in my car and cried. I knew at that moment how “sick” I had become. My emotions were so strong and so deep that they were causing me to become physically sick.

    I know I need to return to a meeting, but I am terrified of feeling that feeling again. I am not used to feeling out of control. I am usually a very controlled person. In fact, just thinking of going back makes me start to feel ill right now. It is so frustrating, since I know I “need” help, but I don’t want to talk about my problems, I don’t want to hear people’s coping methods, and I don’t want to feel so sick and uncomfortable again.

    I already have so many people dependent on me and spilling their problems that I don’t feel like signing up to hear more. I am already so empty. I have tried googling this subject and I can’t find any info on people feeling this way at a meeting. I feel bad posting this on a forum where everyone seemed to pretty much enjoy their first meeting and I don’t want to be Debbie-downer, but I am thinking that maybe Al Anon is not for me.

    I am already in counseling and it doesn’t seem to be helping much. My counselor stares at me in awe over how much I have been through and says that I may be going through a post-traumatic period. I just don’t know anymore and feel so alone, but yet want to feel left alone in a way.

  6. Annie says:

    I went to my first Al-Anon meeting after hearing a speaker at an AA conference tell her story. Even though there was no alcohol in my home growing up (my father was a minister), we still had the “isms.” Being the oldest of three children, I had been required to grow up too soon and take care of my younger siblings, so I learned to take control and had an over-developed sense of responsibility. What a freedom it was to hear that I was responsible only for myself and that what I had was only an “illusion of control” anyway, that I really had no control over anyone else.

    I met and married an alcoholic who had been sober for over three years. He had a wonderful program to live by called Alcoholics Anonymous and had suggested that I might want to try Al-Anon. It was after hearing that speaker that I decided to check it out for myself. It was such a relief to know that there were some people who truly understood what I was saying, they understood why I thought I needed to be in control, and they told me I was not a failure because the people in my life were not living the way I thought they should. They encouraged me to keep coming back and to go to other meetings as well.

    What a difference Al-Anon made in my life–and therefore in the lives of the people I love–when I learned not to try to control them. I found promise in the experience, strength and hope that the members shared with me that first night, the promise that my life could be better with this simple program based on the Twelve Steps.

  7. Bridget says:

    Last night, I attended my first Al-Anon meeting. I was scared, sad, and yet felt empowered to take control of my life, finally. I grew up with alcoholism in my family, my father. I am not married to an alcoholic. I called my mother for help, feeling desperate and needing control of my life. She suggested I go to Al-Anon. I did the next day.

    I am still somewhat fearful of my husband and his reaction to this step I have taken in my life. This is for me, though, not him. He is his own person and can make his own life decisions, and now it is time for me to live and breathe for myself.

    I know I have so much to learn yet, but in just one meeting, I now feel hope. I don’t want to always worry about what the future may bring. I am going to try to live one day at a time. I suspect I may have a long road of recovery before me, but now I feel happy for it.

    I intend to try out several different meetings and find the best one for me.

    If you are here reading these, know you are not alone.

  8. David says:

    I for one was scared and felt bad inside. I was very quiet, uncomfortable and nervous as well. I guess it’s because I felt like I had to say bad things, horrible things, about my girlfriend. I just sat there and heard what everyone had to say about how things were going for them, but I didn’t say anything at all.

    The girl that chaired the meeting asked me if I had anything I’d like to share, but I didn’t. I think I made everyone there feel bad. A few people offered to stay after the meeting if anyone wanted to talk one-on-one. That was so nice of them to offer, but I just let it go because everyone had to get back to work. It was an afternoon meeting.

    Anyway, thanks anyway to all who were there.

  9. David says:

    Well, I only went to one meeting on Kent street in Ottawa this past January. I was scared and I didn’t say anything. I felt like just letting it all out, but I couldn’t. The girl that was chair just said that if anyone would like to talk one on one to just ask. It felt weird because I was raised to suck it up, so to speak, and I also felt that everyone there had so much to deal with all the time with their own family, so why should I tell my troubles, ask for help from someone who has their own things to deal with every day.

    Don’t get me wrong. Everyone in the room gave me this feeling of being there, wanting to share, hear what I had to say and want to help, hear me out and so on, but it was just me. The chair was this very nice girl, good speaker and made me feel welcome. This one man sitting next to me just made a comment that this is not a quick fix place, it takes time.

    I wasn’t looking for any type of quick fix. I just wanted so bad to let it all out, but I couldn’t do it. To be honest, I just think I’m not all that much for the group thing, for many reasons.

    Now we are November 2010 and I’m still lost as to what to do, how to deal with how my life is. I feel like I’m at the end of my so-called rope.

    I have to find the courage to go back to a meeting.

  10. Louise G says:

    My first meeting. Well, I remember hearing them before I found the room–so much laughter, and I was sure that wasn’t the room I was looking for. I reluctantly went into the room, sat down in the back row and bent over, hands on my knees. I didn’t look up. They laughed a lot and I thought, how could these people understand how I was feeling? It had been a long time since anyone in my home laughed.

    They told me I was not the reason he drank–I didn’t believe them. They also told me that I was the one with the problem–that until he said what he was doing was causing him a problem, IT WASN’T. It was causing me a problem.

    They told me if I was going to stay in this relationship I was going to have to learn how to detach, and that this was a selfish program–I had to come first for a change. In my arrogance, I left that meeting knowing I was way ahead of those women. If I had been any more detached from my husband, I could have been living with anyone in that room–and selfish, I was ready for.

    Some members say that they felt at home in their first meeting. I, on the other hand, did not. I found comfort in hearing that I was not crazy–that others felt the way I did, but that also scared me. For a long time I hadn’t let anyone get close to me, and hearing people talk about how I had felt for so long was scary.

    I didn’t want anyone to know me. I had no room in my life for other people. It took a day or two to realize that I wasn’t feeling anxious, that I wasn’t so angry, and I decided to go back to another meeting. I stayed long enough to learn that a lot of those people were living my worst nightmare, but still managed to laugh and smile (Keep comin’ back, they said). Learning to laugh at myself is one of the biggest gifts I have found here. It was the laughter that kept me coming back.

  11. Marcy says:

    When my sister died of another “ism,” I resolved to get to Al-Anon that year, my qualifiers being most of my remaining siblings. I was proud of myself for getting there. Higher Power got me to the right meeting. The reading was from the book, “From Survival to Recovery,” which SO described my childhood. I knew I was in the right place.

    The group was small & struggling with few members willing/able to do service, so I took on the literature pretty quickly–all as it was meant to be. It was the TONE of long-time members that was soothing, I wasn’t able to really HEAR things for quite a while, but my inner nudge that got me there, also helped me to keep coming back.

  12. Ricardo A says:

    Attending a complete Al-Anon meeting came very gradually for me, because since the first meeting I attended I couldn’t just stay in the meeting room until the end of the meeting. I felt scared, uncomfortable, and I was very uneasy. Nowadays I still don’t remember what the topic was in my first meeting, what the members said or shared. I was, I think, kind of overwhelmed.

  13. tina says:

    I felt hope as I do today some 20+ years later when I located this site. My life has been affected by alcohol and drugs without using them. It is work one day at a time to take care of me. Some days are easier than others. Today I was especially tired and lonely and I just was looking for that serenity I would feel at a meeting. Thanks, I needed it.

  14. Donna says:

    I decided to go to my first Al-Anon meeting because I had hit bottom. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know who I could talk to anymore.

    At my first meeting everyone introduced themselves and told a part of their story. Then a voice that at first I didn’t recognize told my story. I sat there thinking how does this person know about my life. Then I realized that my Higher Power was speaking through me. He knew that I had to get my story out. That I needed the help from the tables of Al-Anon.

  15. Danny G. says:

    At my first Al-Anon meeting I was very nervous. I trusted no one. I kept my eyes peeled on all. I tried to listen. I was not much of a talker. I had no self-esteem. No pride in myself or my opinions enough to share. After all was told, I would never qualify in the hearing world.

    Oh, yeah, I was darn scared. I had no communication skills with other humans. I received so many mixed messages. Parents say I love you then yell at you for causing parents to argue over what I knew not.

    Folks at the meeting seemed nice, I guess. I mean, I didn’t have to duck from flying things. They were very quiet, these Al-Anon members. They all sat and listened to the speaker without a word , until asked to share. Wow, these folks are organized. They had respect for others. Now that’s something I never received in my alcoholic home. I was told not to speak, period. Seen and not heard was the rule for children in my home. If they say jump, I jumped. Did not ask how high. Prayed to God it was high enough. I did not want to get swatted by a belt or a paddle with holes.

    Yes, I was very scared, not knowing what to expect from people outside my home. Oh, no, I had no friends. Never knew when dad might be at home sprawled on the floor or stairs. Oh, God, it was frightening.

    Those folks at my first meeting were so kind and gentle–not bossy. This was so different for me. Thank you, Al-Anon, for what you have given me. Through your slogans and tools, I am where I am today.

  16. Candace says:

    The podcast was very knowledgable and I enjoyed it so much I will attend a meeting in person. My husband is an alcoholic, and I need the help.

    Thank you–Candace J.

  17. annekm says:

    My first meeting was a Step meeting and it was the the 3rd Step they were on–not a great first meeting because it’s all about your higher power. To that I have resentments because I wonder where he was when I was growing up. But in the same breath, I was thinking I pray to him every night. So don’t be put off if you don’t enjoy your first meeting. There are many more you will enjoy.

  18. Cat says:

    I was excited about the meeting at first because I knew that I was finally not alone! There are others out there like me. At my first meeting, listening to everyone, I knew this was for me. This was going to help. I was able to tell my story and even though I didn’t know anyone there, they did not judge me and made me feel everything will be ok. It opened up my eyes and my mind. THANK YOU AL-ANON

  19. Roxanne says:

    My first meeting was a speaker meeting. There was a woman standing by the podium and as she was sharing her story, she was telling mine almost word for word. I was very angry but at the same time I felt relief because it was the first time in my life where I felt like I was finally home. I was at a place where people spoke my language. The uniqueness and isolation would begin to lift slowly and with time. Thank you Al-Anon!

  20. winterswans says:

    I went to my first meeting last week. I was thrown and confused by it yet my week was an entirely different week than ever before because of that first miracle, in other words, I don’t understand but I feel positive changes happening in a directional way although many things are crumbling down around me. I am committed to going to another meeting tonight and will read and keep going. I am inspired by all that people share. I am learning that humility and self esteem are one and the same. I am learning that listening and reading brings truth and thereby strength to every present moment. I am learning that resting in HP’s care is the way to go. I am very panicky and sad but there is finally space around those feelings and in that space is hope. I was very moved reading above “But I felt like maybe that meant that if I kept coming to Al-Anon, I would live a long time.” Thank you!

  21. Bruce says:

    I am 57 years old.

    I had alcoholic parents.

    I have had emotional problems all my life.

    Thanks to a friend, and some thought on the matter I realize many of my difficulties in life may indeed stem from my parents alcoholism.

    I am glad Al-Anon is there. Perhaps one day I may come and see if there is any way to mprove things this late in the game.

  22. sandladyvb says:

    I came to my first Al-Anon meeting very suspicious. I felt disgraced plus no one in my family ever went to a therapist let alone a support group. So, now I was disgracing my family.

    All of my negative feelings and suspicians melted in an instant. There were five members in the group and they all welcomed me. No one in my entire life ever welcomed me the way the Al-Anon members did. I had done a lot of things that I was ashamed of in trying to get my husband to stop drinking. Even I didn’t want to sit next to me.

    I felt awkward. I was the youngest person in the room. But I felt like maybe that meant that if I kept coming to Al-Anon, I would live a long time. I didn’t trust adults and avoided speaking to people over 30 years old and now I was turning nearly 30 myself. So, I knew that something had to change in my thinking. My mind started to open up because I thought just maybe these Al-Anon people knew something about dealing with someone’s drinking that I didn’t.

    I intended to just listen and not say anything. But before I knew it, I had a “meltdown.” I was so relieved to finally be with people who understood what I was going through.

    I felt reassured by the group that no situation, even mine, was hopeless. I left knowing that I was in the right place and could hardly wait until the next meeting.
    I took phone numbers of the members and really believed that the members really meant it when they said “call me.” So, I left my first meeting feeling no longer alone and that Al-Anon could help me if I would give it a try.

  23. Renate says:

    When I went to my first meeting, I was angry and only went for my “children’s” sake and to look like the good parent. I only intended on going to one meeting to get someone off my back and never go back but when I walked into that room that night with 3 kids, no alateen mtg, and welcoming smiling faces I was shocked. I could not believe people who lived with or have lived with in the past alcoholism/addiction and could be happy much less smile. It kept me coming back to see if this recovery was real.
    I am so grateful for Al-Anon and the recovery tools it has to offer. I have learned so much from peoples experience, strength and hope through the several years that I have attended. I found a place of safety, a place where people truly knew what others were going through and could relate.
    Today I cannot imagine my life without Al-Anon. It is a part of my life and I am truly grateful that my higher power, God, led me to the rooms 11 years ago. The words Welcome and Keep Coming Back were important and encouraging to me. Everytime I see a newcomer to a meeting I am reminded of when I went to my first meeting and I make sure I welcome them to the meeting and encourage them to keep coming back…it is worth it!

  24. Gita says:

    I went to my first meeting feeling like I was at a bottom of a deep dark hole, out of which I would never come out. When I was asked to share I could only cry. Everyone hugged me. When I saw all the glowing & happy faces of the members, I knew that something works at these meetings, even though then I did not know what it was. I just knew that I was at the right place and that this was the place for me.

  25. Peter says:

    I cried in my first meeting because I felt like I came home. Around the table sat people talking about all the things that we did not at home when i grow up. I came back and Im happy I did!

  26. Annette says:

    At my first Al-Anon meeting I felt that I was alone until I heard the others at the meeting sharing their stories and I could not believe that I was not alone. As of today I have been going to a weekly meeting for seven weeks and I have started noticing some changes in myself. I am so grateful for Al-Anon.

  27. Judy says:

    At my first meeting I felt numb. I felt emotional. I felt fearful. I felt sad. Yet I felt amazed. Who would have known there was a place where people sat and talked about alcoholism as a family illness? Who would have thought so many people were experiencing what I was and that they weren’t as hopeless? I don’t remember any faces, but I do remember people were calm, sensible, and kind. Those traits were not demonstrated in my home. The meeting members welcomed me, gave me a One Day at a Time book, and encouraged me to return. The first meeting I attended seemed like a miracle that I simply didn’t understand. I knew I was in the right place, even if despair had led me there.

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