Fellowship of six people grows gradually as the people share an hour together every week. We get a new member in almost every session filling in the familiar faces that did not show up that day. Even with a new member, the balance in this room is remarkable. There are always rules, order, and predictability. Things I lacked when I was growing up with an alcoholic parent. Compassion and openness of heart keep everyone connected. In this room, I feel supported, nurtured, listened, and cared. Even though there is no psychologist present, healing is. The day’s suggested readings are our guidance, behavior-changing inspiration, and hope-filled prescriptions. As we share our personal stories in each session, we are building invisible bridges to connect us to our destinations. This is a good addition to my new life. This is a quiet force that is remarkably therapeutic. This is like a good trusted friend who always listens, and never condemns. I am a member of Al-Anon.
Attending an Al-Anon meeting was not my own idea. To be honest, I was reluctant to it. It was merely a requirement of my graduate course in Counseling. I dreaded the idea of going to a support group meeting full of new people so much that I postponed this course until the very last of my graduate program. When it became inevitable to avoid, I finally had to look for a meeting and found one just right across from my sister’s house. Perfect location because I can easily drop my daughter off for an hour with my sister. My decision-making process is simplified by practicality and proximity. Without any second thought, I knew that I had found the right group.
What drives and shapes your life? It was never practicality or proximity for the old-me. I lived my life governed by the desire to run away. Away from my dysfunctional home of daily anxieties tainted with alcoholism. I married the first man I fell in love with, moved as far as I could across the Pacific Ocean, running from everything I ever knew. I would cross that very ocean again, not quite as far as to Asia, but to Hawaii, when I divorced that man I married so young. Proximity was never a guiding light for me. My job pattern was practicality at its worst. I jumped from barista to business owner, preschool teacher, yoga instructor, never staying in one position, always seeking to change, to run, to start anew. These were the ways I grew up in. These were the only ways I knew.
In his book Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren reminds us all that we have an invitation from God to live for His glory by fulfilling the purposes he made for us. “It’s the only way to live”, Warren says. The moment I started getting busy with discovering and living the purpose God has set for me, the remaining feelings of what my dad’s alcoholic addiction left me with stopped having influence on me. Ironically, my dad’s heavy reliance on alcohol started to wind down as well. Although it was a great struggle for him, my dad did eventually quit drinking. He has been sober for 3 years. So it was a surprise for me when I started tearing up as I was sharing my brief story during my meeting at Al-Anon.
I teared up because I once again encountered that clueless child fighting to overcome the turbulent sea of overwhelming emotions. Instead of focusing on study and my future goals, I was battling trying to figure out how to manage my uncontrollable emotions of fear, sadness, and confusion. I was always so lost at sea. I cried, because I discovered that I still felt strongly connected to that confused little girl I once was.
“Now that I have a child of my own, I want to make sure she does not experience what I had experienced when I was growing up. I don’t want to give her the kind of childhood that I had”.
Was I betraying myself by denying a part of me-a BIG part of me- by saying that I want something better for my daughter? Am I so hopeless, then, because of the not-so-perfect childhood that was touched by alcoholism?
Can anything good come out of Alcoholism?
One immediate answer that I know for that question is found in Al-Anon. I seriously feel privileged to belong in that group. As I look around the room, I see five very different people connected with one single cause: to overcome and heal from the hurts of alcoholism. Without this connection, I would never have encountered these people. We would not have crossed our paths. Even with just one session with them, I feel a strong sense of purpose for my being there in that room. I could sense that God had a purpose in my attending in that meeting. Perhaps, He plans to clarify the purpose that I missed out because I was too busy dealing with my father’s alcohol addiction. With only five weeks to go before my graduation from graduate school, I am starting to feel rushed.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Nazareth was a small, insignificant, agricultural town. Upon hearing that the messiah was found and that He is Jesus of Nazareth, Nathaniel quickly answers “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But Nathaniel would soon find that he was wrong. Jesus came out of Nazareth. Defying the human logic and common expectations, Jesus came to give life to the fallen humanity. This is something significant. And it came from Nazareth.
So I ask again: Can anything good come out of Alcoholism?
The answer is yes. Maybe not all the time, but under certain circumstances. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). As long as I love God, I know that God can use alcoholism or worse for His good purpose. Something very good came out of Nazareth. So can out of alcoholism, abuse, mental illness, or any kinds of ills that are plaguing this world.