Al-Anon: Support for The Family of a Drinker
Al-Anon is strength, hope, and support for family and friends of a problem drinker. Whether you're growing up (Alateen) in a family with a problem drinker, have a spouse, friend or loved one who is a problem drinker, or you grew up with a problem drinker, Al-Anon meetings may help. The focus of Al-Anon meetings is not on the alcoholic in your life. The focus is on you.
Brief History of Al-Anon
As Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), traveled the country, he found there were groups of family and friends (Family Groups") of alcoholics meeting for support. He suggested to his wife, Lois B. that she create a similar 12-step program for the friends and family of alcoholics.
In 1951, Lois and Anne contacted 87 of the family groups who had previously written to AA. Forty-eight of the groups replied, forming Al-Anon. Alateen--support groups for teenagers of alcoholics--was formed in 1962. Today there are over 29,000 Ala-Anon/Alateen groups with 387,000 members in 115 countries.
Is Al-Anon for me?
On their website, Al-Anon asks you to answer these questions if you're considering attending a meeting.
- Do you worry about how much someone else's drinking?
- Do you have money problems because of someone else's drinking?
- Do you tell lies to cover up for someone else's drinking?
- Do you feel if the drinker loved you, he or she would stop drinking to please you?
- Do you blame the drinker's behavior on his or her companions?
- Are plans frequently upset or canceled or meals delayed because of the drinker?
- Do you make threats, such as, If you don't stop drinking, I'll leave you?
- Do you secretly try to smell the drinker's breath?
- Are you afraid to upset someone for fear it will set off a drinking bout?
- Have you been hurt or embarrassed by a drinker's behavior?
- Are holidays and gatherings spoiled because of drinking?
- Have you considered calling the police for help in fear of abuse?
- Do you search for hidden alcohol?
- Do you often ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking?
- Have you refused social invitations out of fear or anxiety?
- Do you sometimes feel like a failure when you think of the lengths you have gone to in order to control the drinker?
- Do you think that if the drinker stopped drinking, your other problems would be solved?
- Do you ever threaten to hurt yourself to scare the drinker?
- Do you feel angry, confused or depressed most of the time?
- Do you feel there is no one who understands your problems?
What are Al-Anon Meetings Like?
Al-Anon groups are composed of all volunteers. Al-Anon is designed to be a mutual support group where everyone is equal. You can ask questions, but you also don't have to say a word. You don't have to give your name. The group will understand. Everything you say is confidential. Each meeting is different as each group runs their meetings as they see fit--within the guidelines of Al-Anon.
Meetings typically begin with the reading of the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference, …" As the Al-Anon website states: Your religious beliefs--or lack of them--are not a subject for discussion at Al-Anon meetings, which focus solely on coping with the effects of someone's drinking."
Then the group reads the Twelve Steps. Lastly, someone in the meeting will suggest a topic of conversation. And the discussion will begin.
Al-Anon Members Speak
Here are some comments--pulled from the web--from people who have been in Al-Anon.
"Going through this process to the fullest, really working the program, gets you there so please don't be deterred out of frustration. It will happen and you will move forward. I didn't think I would, and yet here I am. I choose when to think about X, talk about X, and intend to never deal with X again." Alice
"Al-Anon keeps me sane. I continue to attend so I can learn, grow, recover, serve, listen and share my experience, strength and hope. I even continue to make mistakes. After all, my goal is progress, not perfection." Diane B. Michigan
"Al-Anon was not a program for the alcoholic. It was a program for me. During the drinking years, I became ill--full of anger, resentment, and self-pity. I became controlling and unreasonable. Al-Anon helped me change by taking the focus off the alcoholic and putting it on myself." Anonymous from Florida
"I am grateful to Al-Anon for everything it has given me. Some of the oars I have today are certain realizations that I have about me and my own disease. For example, my obsession is really just a mask for my impatience and ego. It comes from my mistaken belief that if I don't fix it, no one will. Al-Anon teaches me I have to ask if what I've been doing really works." Nancy B. Colorado
The purpose of Al-Anon is to provide support for the family of a drinker. Similar in methods to other 12-step groups, Al-Anon members share their stories, support one another, and learn to break free of their pasts.