Elizabeth finds hope, strength, and compassion amid the family chaos
By Elizabeth WoodOctober 13, 2020
As I sat down to write my story of hope, I found myself sifting through the details of my past. A childhood lost, holidays ruined, a sister in and out of psychiatric treatment—all because of alcohol. My mom didn’t ruin my life—quite the opposite, actually. But if you asked the 11- to- 17-year-old versions of me, she would say otherwise.
My past was full of hurt, anger and utter loneliness. Wallowing in self-pity allowed me to reject serenity, hope and compassion. Hope as a concept is something I didn’t think I deserved. I assumed I thrived in chaos and confusion.
At 11 years old, I felt that I had lived an eternity. I believed hope was elusive and dangerous. Hope as a concept is something I didn’t think I deserved. …At 23, I know hope is not dangerous but beautiful.”
I vividly remember the first time I acknowledged that I deserved hope and even serenity. At 11 years old, I felt that I had lived an eternity. I believed hope was elusive and dangerous. It was not until I attended The Retreat—an offshoot of Hazelden where my mom went to rehab—that I realized I was not alone in feeling confused, angry, hurt and sad, and I had never been alone. It was the first time someone sat me down to tell me I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it—the “it” being alcoholism. I felt a physical burden lifted from my shoulders upon realizing none of it was my fault and I was deserving of the good things life had to offer. The lightness, the beauty, the serenity I felt at that moment was hope.
Twelve years later, sitting in my Al-Anon meetings, whenever people mention the three-Cs slogan, I feel the same lightness and exaltation I felt at 11. Hope to me is the recognition that I am a fighter, I am compassionate and I deserve serenity.
I felt a physical burden lifted from my shoulders upon realizing none of it was my fault and I was deserving of the good things life had to offer. The lightness, the beauty, the serenity I felt at that moment was hope.”
My advice to my 11-year-old self and all others who feel hopeless or lost is that there is a community behind you ready to envelop you with love, kindness, respect and compassion. We are only as sick as the secrets we keep. Don’t let shame and secrets keep you isolated. This community acknowledges and has been through the same struggles. Al-Anon is there for you. Don’t feel fearful in reaching out; it is the first step to recovery.
At 23, I know hope is not dangerous but beautiful. I embrace my complicated past and know that while it will always be with me, it does not define me. My mom is 12 years sober. Every day I see her helping other women navigate the difficulties of sobriety. I never considered that the woman I viewed as my qualifier, as the reason for my pain, would in the same lifetime be my courage, my strength and my hope.
Alcohol is a dangerous family disease, but there are steps and groups available that provide hope and healing.
Recovery is possible, and it is fantastic.
The TreatmentMagazine.com guide to alcoholism provides resources in conjunction with Elizabeth’s message.
Elizabeth’s go-to website Al-Anon Family Group.