My first marriage at 19 was to a guy who was abusive and a porn, drug and alcohol addict. I knew this going into the marriage but I was young, idealistic and knew “I would be the one to change him.” I would spend 1-2 hours each night finding his hiding places and destroying his treasures. The most creative spot was inside the wheel well of the car! But he always had more by the next day. Finding out he had a 14 year old girlfriend was finally when I had enough of that relationship. My way of dealing with this was to try to be perfect at everything for the next era of my life---even though I failed miserably.
My youngest brother, numerous relatives, my current husband’s extended family and friends have many addictions. After too many crazy years of trying to stop the addicts in my life from using, a very close WELS friend introduced me to Al-Anon 13 years ago. My friend and I took our two oldest daughters on a 3-day backpacking trip. On the trip, she brought 3 heavy hardcover daily readers. (I would have made copies!) She read them aloud each night along with devotions. God worked in me during that trip as I found a group the very next week. Although I didn’t say a word at the meetings for the first six months, I was slowly learning the 12 steps of recovery and how sick I, myself, actually was. I was continuously trying to control everyone’s life but my own. At one point, my daughters who were in high school commented that they had no idea what I did at those Tuesday night meetings, but they did not like being around me when I would miss a few. Al-Anon has truly changed my life.
My friend’s husband suffered much with the disease of alcoholism. He lost his beloved job, his family for a time, and eventually his life. Sadly, there wasn’t much available through the church for him and his family. Also, there were many people from my church that would come to Al-Anon meetings but stopped going, as they didn’t feel comfortable with the group prayers.
My personal mission since my friend’s death has been to try to get Recovery groups into WELS churches. Although I planned to start a WELS version of Al-Anon at my church, God had a different idea as people with various addictions were attending. Now the group is open to anyone with any addiction, depression, anxiety, and/or has a friend or relative with an addiction. Then, I started connecting with others in the WELS that have or want to create groups in their churches. Some of us meet monthly in a virtual meeting to support each other. I pray that in the future each WELS church can offer a recovery group to support those that are working through the pain and suffering caused by diseases of addiction and mental illness.