I myself have issues around intimacy, largely due to the home I was raised in and the way I was treated growing up. I have had serious trust issues with friends, associates and close relationships. I have even had trust issues with my Higher Power. I have often substituted sex for intimacy and love because of fear and shame. I did not know how to have a healthy, intimate relationship.
When I first met my partner, he was wonderful. He was gentle and kind. He loved and accepted me just the way I was. And for the first time in my life I found an intimacy that I had never experienced before. It was emotional, it was spiritual and it was physical. It was everything that I had never had before. I had never known such joy and freedom. For the first time in my life I revelled in being a woman. That was the gift that my alcoholic gave me and that was the gift that alcohol took from me.
When Richard was fully into drinking, things were said and done that destroyed the trust that is so necessary for intimacy. When I came into this program I was completely bereft and felt I was completely alone. And it is only because of this program that I do not feel that way today.
I would like to share an Al-Anon reading from a gentleman in Canada:
“By the time I walked into my first Al-Anon meeting two years ago, I was lonely and frustrated. My loving companion of ten years had drifted into a pattern of memory lapses and slurred speech every evening. Our once intimate dinners digressed into rambling, dull conversations.
My work as a consulting psychologist in an addictive disease program compounded my frustrations. Having worked with hundreds of recovering alcoholics in treatment, I found myself helpless to stop the downward spiral of the person I loved most. I was unable to prevent my own marriage from turning into a lonely nightmare. My worst realisation was that alcohol had taken away the person who was the emotional foundation of my life.
When I came into the Al-Anon program, I had already taken part of the First Step. I admitted I was powerless and that my life had become unmanageable. Since I had already stopped drinking myself in an effort to bring abstinence into our home, I didn’t feel powerless over alcohol but I was surely powerless over the alcoholic. In stumbling through the Second Step, I came to believe that a power greater than myself could get my wife to stop drinking. I secretly hoped I could learn some advanced techniques that might bring sobriety to my home. Instead, my first lesson included the three “C’s” of alcoholism: I did not cause it; I could not cure it, and I could not control it. I am still learning that lesson today.
When I looked at the Second Step, I didn’t think I needed to be restored to sanity because I wasn’t insane in the first place. It was only later, when I went on one of my “search and destroy” missions, that I realised how truly paranoid I had become: I found myself searching through the rubbish for empty bottles of vodka. Even one of my colleagues, who was a recovering alcoholic, thought that was crazy. I recall another day when I picked up a glass of vodka and took it to a laboratory to be tested. I wanted to be convinced that my wife had told the truth when she said it was just water. I didn’t even trust my own senses to know the difference.
Having worked with recovering alcoholics in treatment, I felt initially inspired to renew my commitment to my marriage. I thought my own commitment to a Twelve Step program would support my wife’s recovery efforts. However, nothing in my life prepared me to cope with the daily fears and nightly loneliness of living with active alcoholism. My nightly loneliness is acutely worse today because she moved out of our home last month.
Often I relapse into thinking that I must have done something wrong or she would have gotten sober. Again and again, I am reminded that I did not cause it, cannot cure it and cannot even control it. It is in Al-Anon meetings each week that I find a loving presence and a power greater than myself that restores me. Though I lost my once intimate companion who became a stranger to me, I have found companionship among a group of intimate strangers. I am learning to live each day, One Day at a Time, as we share our experience, strength, and hope.
Initially, I maintained my professional anonymity in Al-Anon because I was too ashamed to admit my dilemma. Although by day I was respected for my work with recovering alcoholics, by night I watched helplessly as the person I loved most was taken away from me. In keeping with the spirit of our Traditions, I continue to maintain my anonymity today because it is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions.”
I don’t know if you know anything about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But he ascertains that once we have food, shelter, warmth and the basics needed to live, we then move to the next level where we have a need for friendship, companionship, relationships & sexual intimacy. As a human being we have a built in need for intimacy. I am no different than anyone else, I have this need to. So, when I lost this wonderful intimacy, I was like a soul adrift in a sea of despair. But like the man in the reading, I have found some of the intimacy that I need in my life within the Al-anon groups, with my wonderful kick ass sponsor and with my higher power and as I and my partner Richard continue to rebuild our relationship, maybe one day the intimacy in our relationship will be restored. So, for today, I will continue to work the 12 steps, work on developing new & existing relationships and friendships and I know that one day I will be able to let go of the hurts caused by alcoholism and perhaps the trust that was so damaged will once again be restored, but even if it isn’t, my own need for intimacy within my life will be met through my friends, through my sponsor’s and through my higher power.
Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking. We believe alcoholism affects the whole family, not just the drinker. We are an international organisation with over 800 support groups in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Al-Anon is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience in order to solve their common problems.
Al-Anon meets in Halifax every Wednesday 18:30 – 19:30 at Basement House, 10 Carlton Street, Halifax, HX1 2AL.
Many more meetings are held nationwide. Contact them for more details: www.al-anonuk.org.uk – 020 7403 0888
Article featured in RecoveryTimes issue 4