If you have family members suffering from alcoholism, it’s really hard living with them. They tend to be aggressive, violent, and too dependent on others to take care of them. Drinking is what drives their lives.
You may have tried to convince them to stop drinking. The good news is they listened, and they decided to join a group called Alcoholics Anonymous.
As they went through the meetings, their behavior improved. They still drink, but not as much as before. You then figured that Alcoholics Anonymous is effective, and you want to keep helping them recover.
There’s actually a way to get more involved in your loved ones’ journey to a sober life. A group called Al-Anon is open to the families of Alcoholics Anonymous members. Al-Anon is also a 12-step program, but it’s specifically designed to help family members deal with their loved ones with substance abuse problems .
In Al-Anon, the 12 steps are similar:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore our sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
Al-Anon meetings are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. You, along with the relatives of other members will share stories about your experiences living with someone who has alcoholism. You would also share success stories and best practices that have helped you cope.
It’s important to know that you’re not required to attend Al-Anon if you have a relative who attends Alcoholics Anonymous. Al-Anon is purely voluntary.
So, before you decide to join, here are some pros and cons of Al-Anon.
Pros of Al-Anon
You don’t have to attend with your loved ones who have substance abuse problems
Often, the dynamics between people addicted to alcohol and their families are rough. They may not even want to talk to each other.
In Al-Anon, that’s okay. The family members can attend by themselves.
Also, Al-Anon does not just help you deal with the person suffering from substance abuse but with the entire family unit. That way, family members would know how to improve their relationship with their loved one.
You are free to share what you think and feel
Al-Anon also applies the “anonymous” principle. That means whatever you share within the group stays in the group. Also, you are not obliged to reveal your identity within it.
With that, you have more incentive to speak freely. The more you open up about your struggles, the more the group can help you out.
You learn from each other
Although families of people with alcohol use disorders share similar struggles, not everyone has exactly the same experiences. When you share your issues with others, and when you listen to others sharing, you can learn valuable lessons from each other.
With that, you can be equipped with new principles that you can apply to your own loved one with substance abuse problems .
It can build better trust in the home
Losing trust with your loved one with substance abuse problems is quite common. Although it’s normal, constant distrust does not help with recovery. If anything, it only drives them deeper into addiction.
Al-Anon also aims to help fix these family dynamics. They start by giving families a better understanding of what caused the addiction.
You gain access to a large support network
In Al-Anon, different families aim to help each other. So, if you have a huge problem with your loved one at home, your fellow Al-Anon members are just a call away. You can get help from them as needed.
Cons of Al-Anon
You may not be fully anonymous
In small communities, most people tend to know everyone else in town. If you live in such a place, and you attend Al-Anon, others may recognize you. This opens up the risks of gossip and ridicule.
Al-Anon relies on religious principles
Though Al-Anon claims it is not affiliated with any religion, the 12 steps are religious in nature. People who do not subscribe to religion may find this off-putting. They may even feel pressured to take on a belief they don’t have. Sometimes, other members may pressure them into believing too.
Meetings are not always easy to attend
Not all family members have the same schedules. With that, attending meetings consistently can be hard.
Also, some members may view missing a meeting as “skipping,” which is a negative behavior in the group. Even if there’s a legitimate reason, they still see it as a bad thing.
This isn’t good, as that family member will feel like an outcast in a group that’s supposed to provide support.
You could be locked into the group’s mindset
Al-Anon can sometimes be a group that feels too insulated from the outside world. In a few weeks, you may find that the only interactions you have are with fellow members. Also, you may feel pressured to conform to what the group says just to stay in.
This is not healthy. It could be a form of social isolation, which can unintentionally become an addiction itself.
Al-Anon does not employ mental health professionals
Al-Anon facilitators are often not professionally trained in giving mental health interventions. Thus, if you need these to properly deal with your loved one, you need to go elsewhere.
Also, the advice you get from Al-Anon may be based purely on the experiences of fellow members. No evidence-based treatments are offered.