Sometimes Al-Anon Members Choose Divorce

Al-Anon Has Saved Many Alcoholic Marriages, But Not All

Detached Woman
Sometimes Wives of Alcoholics Choose Divorce. © Getty Images

Participation in Al-Anon Family Group meetings has saved many alcoholic marriages. Often, when spouses of alcoholics join Al-Anon and begin working the program, they're able to develop coping skills that allow them to find contentment and even happiness whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.

However, it doesn't always work that way, because sometimes they find the courage to change and leave. The following story was submitted by Donna.

I divorced two alcoholics.

Not until after I was married to the second alcoholic, became active in Al-Anon and also benefitted from private family treatment programs, did I learn the symptoms of alcoholism and realize that the previous husband had also been alcoholic.

During the years of my intense involvement in Al-Anon, the message I heard - accurately or inaccurately - and what I read in the original ODAT (One Day At A Time) suggested that there was a strong possibility the breaking down of my marriage could be reversed if I would change.

Making Sense of Conflicting Messages

Specifically, the December 30th page cited in the contents under "Divorce" stated: "If I want to make a major change which affects other lives as well, let me first consider the possible outcome. Have I really tried to examine and correct my own faults? Is there a way for me to improve my attitude? I will let the great decision wait until I have tried that!" That was followed by this quote: "The truly wise solution may lie in improving myself."

Because I had already accepted Al-Anon's first step, "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable," I found myself trying to make sense out of what seemed to be conflicting messages.

Coming to Terms With Reality

I worked hard on my own recovery from having become co-dependent. I kept my sponsor, talking with her almost daily, but I switched to a different Al-Anon group. My reading of Al-Anon conference approved literature as well as articles and books about alcoholism continued.

Eventually, I came to terms with these beliefs:

  1. I was powerless over alcohol.
  2. I had stopped enabling.
  3. I could stand on my head and spit nickels and have no effect on the alcoholic's behavior.
  4. The alcoholic demonstrated no desire to change.
  5. The alcoholic appeared to be someone incapable of being honest, least of all with himself.
  6. I had stopped feeling and behaving as if I were a victim.
  7. I had the emotional strength to leave what had become a travesty of a marriage.

I Walked Away From the Marriage

I also recognized the profound meaning behind this statement: "Whatever I do that is correct for me is automatically correct for those around me." This belief is bogus if there is any selfishness lurking within a motive.

I filed for divorce and walked away from an alcoholic who volunteered he was not good marriage material. I also walked away from years of emotional and psychological abuse. I walked away from something that could have been a success.

The marriage itself was powerless over alcohol; its many positive ingredients could not withstand persistent doses of alcohol poisoning.

-- Donna

Note: Donna Thompson is the publisher of Challenges, in which she writes her featured column, Get A Life, a publication for people in recovery and their families.

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