< Al-Anon: Hope and Healing for Families of Recovering Alcoholics
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family members at a AA meetingFamily members play a significant role in the long-term recovery of their loved ones and family involvement often spans the entirety of the treatment process and beyond. Al-Anon is a great way for family members of addicted loved ones to get involved in the recovery process while their loved one is enrolled in sober living.

Like many people who have been affected by a loved one’s addiction, you may not know where to start or how to find the support you need. This article may answer some of your questions about Al-Anon and give you the resources you need to start receiving outside support.

Addiction Recovery and Family Involvement

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve been negatively affected by a loved one’s addiction. The truth of the matter is addiction is harmful to both the addict and their loved ones and can cause just as much damage to those who are on the sidelines.

Often, family members blame themselves for their loved one’s substance abuse or they feel guilty because they can’t seem to help. They may also suffer from feelings of intense anger and frustration because they just don’t understand why their loved one can’t put down the bottle and walk away from it forever.

Addiction treatment is very much a family process and the involvement of parents, siblings, spouses, and other close loved ones can greatly increase a person’s likelihood of sustained sobriety. When it’s all said and done, family support is completely essential to the recovery process.

Family therapy is a common treatment method used in addiction treatment and aftercare. It is designed to help family members understand how addiction affects them and give them the tools they need to move forward and repair the damage.

Sober living clients at Eudaimonia Recovery Homes have access to therapeutic services to provide individual and family clinical care throughout their experience in early sobriety. In many cases, families also may also seek outside help from community support groups like Al-Anon.

What is Al-Anon?

Al-Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s alcohol abuse.1 Newcomers are welcome to attend whether or not their loved one recognizes their alcoholism or is currently receiving treatment for it. Anyone can attend and membership is free.

Al-Anon was founded 16 years after the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1951. The group adopted AA’s 12 Steps for their own use, as the founders recognized the need for loved ones of recovering alcoholics to also prioritize their own spiritual health.

The focus of Al-Anon is on the member, not the alcoholic, and members are taught that although they can improve their attitude regarding recovery, they did not cause the addiction, they cannot cure it, and they cannot control the behaviors of their addicted loved one.

Benefits of Al-Anon

There are many benefits of participating in Al-Anon, such as:

  • Sharing common experiences with individuals in similar situations
  • Studying the 12 Steps of Al-Anon to encourage positive life changes
  • Sharing experience, strength, and hope with others
  • Combatting feelings of loneliness and isolation

Al-Anon also helps members deal with common problems like overly excessive and harmful caretaking, dealing with guilt and blame, and differentiating between love, pity, and loyalty to the alcoholic.

People in recovery can also benefit from their loved one’s involvement in Al-Anon. Studies show that when a recovered alcoholic is actively involved in AA and their spouse is involved in Al-Anon, the person in recovery is more likely to remain sober, the marriage is more likely to be happy, and the parenting among both is likely to improve.2,3

The 12 Steps of Al-Anon

The 12 Steps of Al-Anon were taken from AA and slightly adapted to be applicable to loved ones of addicted individuals. The steps are universally applicable to every member, regardless of their background, gender, age or life experiences. Here are the 12 Steps of Al-Anon:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.4

What to Expect at an Al-Anon Meeting

If you feel a little nervous or are unsure about going to your first Al-Anon meeting, you can find comfort in knowing that many newcomers have felt the same way at one point or another. However, knowing what to expect can help ease any feelings of anxiety.

Al-Anon meetings are usually held in community centers or churches and anyone is welcome to attend without registering or paying a fee. Most Al-Anon meetings are discussion-based and center around a particular topic. Examples of topics that may be discussed during an Al-Anon meeting include:

  • Accepting alcoholism as a disease
  • Accepting powerlessness over alcohol
  • Dealing with anger
  • Changing attitudes
  • Dealing with change
  • Understanding your choices
  • Addressing your need for control
  • Dealing with crises
  • Coping with the denial of an alcoholic
  • Learning how to detach
  • Preventing enabling
  • Addressing unreasonable expectations
  • Feeling empty and lonely
  • Fearing abandonment
  • Learning how to forgive
  • Focusing on your own spiritual journey
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Taking recovery one day at a time
  • Dealing with different types of abuse5

Usually, the chairman or person leading the meeting will open each meeting with the following statement:

“We who live, or have lived, with the problem of alcoholism understand as perhaps few others can. We, too, were lonely and frustrated but in Al-Anon, we discover that no situation is really hopeless and that it is possible for us to find contentment and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.”

This opening statement is a way to welcome newcomers and remind current members of the primary purpose of Al-Anon.

The person leading the meeting will then choose a topic or ask the group if anyone would like to discuss a particular topic. Once a topic is chosen, attending members are invited to openly discuss and contribute to the group discussion by sharing their personal experiences regarding that particular topic.

Is Al-Anon a Religious Group?

Al-Anon is not a religious group, rather, it is a spiritual group. Members of all religions (or none) are welcome and groups avoid discussion of specific religious doctrine. All Al-Anon members are encouraged to choose their own Higher Power, whether it is God, nature, family, or something else.6

Is Al-Anon Right for Me?

Sometimes it may be difficult to admit that you need help dealing with some of the aspects of your loved one’s addiction. However, if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, Al-Anon may be a great fit for you!

  • Do you have a loved one who is actively abusing alcohol or drugs or is in treatment?
  • Do you struggle to say “no” to your addicted loved one’ requests for money, etc.?
  • Do you frequently lie to cover for your addicted loved one?
  • Do you feel isolated and alone in your situation?
  • Are your personal activities and plans significantly interrupted by your loved one’s substance abuse?
  • Do you worry that you will upset your addicted loved one and set off a drinking episode?

Generally speaking, if you are struggling to cope with your loved one’s addiction and/or progress in recovery, Al-Anon may be beneficial for your spiritual health and well-being.

How to Find Al-Anon Meetings Near You

Finding an Al-Anon meeting near you is as easy as completing a simple online search. The website al-anon.org offers a free meeting finder tool that allows you to search for Al-Anon meetings near your location. Simply enter your location and filter by days of the week to find meetings that are convenient for you.

Al-Anon is just one resource for family members of sober living clients who are recovering from addiction or struggling to overcome chronic relapses. If your loved one is currently in rehab and you’re searching for a sober living program that will support them as they continue their recovery journey, call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today. We operate several sober living homes in Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs and we can also help you find the support you need. Call to get started today.

References:

  1. https://al-anon.org/newcomers/what-is-al-anon-and-alateen/
  2. https://www.jsad.com/doi/10.15288/jsa.1978.39.1577
  3. https://www.jsad.com/doi/10.15288/jsa.1975.36.675
  4. https://www.ocalanon.org/12-steps-traditions/
  5. https://www.verywellmind.com/al-anon-topics-for-beginners-63304
  6. https://al-anon.org/blog/faq-items/is-this-a-religious-fellowship/
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