What Should You Know About Al-Anon?
Have you ever heard addiction referred to as a family disease? If so and you have a loved one struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you probably have a good idea of why. Addiction is a devastating disease that wreaks havoc not only on the life of the person who is the addict but their family and loved ones. Here is what you should know about Al-Anon.
Whether it’s your parent, your sibling, your spouse, or your child, addiction can affect you in so many ways. Your loved one may or may not recognize a problem exists, but regardless, you probably feel the impact of addiction every day.
While you can’t control another person or force them to receive help, you can take steps to help yourself. One way many people do that is by participating in an Al-Anon 12-step family group. Al-Anon is a group for families of alcoholics, and there’s also Nar-Anon, which is a group for families of people who struggle with drug addiction.
If you haven’t participated in Al-Anon before, what should you know?
What Is Al-Anon
Al-Anon is much like Alcoholics Anonymous in terms of the structure, because it’s a program based on the 12-step principles. However, it’s geared not toward alcoholics as AA is, but instead toward family members and loved ones of alcoholics.
Al-Anon is described as a support group for people affected by another person’s drinking. The goal of participating in Al-Anon is to help families of alcoholics share common experiences and cultivate positive change.
The alcoholic in your life doesn’t have to recognize they have a problem for you to attend Al-Anon.
There’s also a similar group for teens called Alateen. It’s part of Al-Anon Family Groups and it’s for teens affected by someone else’s’ drinking.
When people participate in Al-Anon, the objective is improving their own happiness, regardless of whether the alcoholic in their life is still drinking or not.
Finding a Meeting
There are Al-Anon and also Nar-Anon meetings held throughout the country. They are in cities and towns and are usually held at facilities like community centers and churches. You can visit the AL-Anon website and use the meeting finder, which will show you were the closest meeting is to you,and the times of the week it’s held. These meetings are often held several times a week at different times of the day.
There are no dues or fees associated with participation in Al-Anon, although you can make a voluntary donation if you choose.
You don’t need an appointment, to sign up or get a referral to participate in your first Al-Anon meeting. You can usually just show up to open meetings, but if you want more information, there is usually contact information listed on the meeting location directory you find online.
What Topics Are Covered?
The structure of most Al-Anon family groups is discussion-based. There is a person who will lead the meeting,and they will usually introduce a topic for discussion. Sometimes the group might be asked about what they’d like to discuss. Then, once a topic is introduced, meeting participants can share their stories including struggles, and hope related to it.
Some of the many topics you might expect to talk about at an Al-Anon meeting include:
- Acceptance, which includes accepting there are some things you can’t change when you love an alcoholic.
- The concept of alcoholism as a disease.
- How to deal with anger about the situations that are occurring.
- Learning how to make the right choices when it comes to dealing with an alcoholic, such as knowing when to walk away from certain situations.
Dealing with Self-Blame
Social support is one of the big elements of AL-Anon that people find helpful, but there’s also something else, which is learning how to deal with self-blame. When you love someone who is an addict, you may blame yourself. This can then turn into a destructive cycle of trying too hard to overcompensate when you deal with your loved one, struggling with yourself internally about what you see as your role in the alcoholism, and feeling depressed at what you see as your shortcomings.
These are actually fairly common issues people face when they love an addict, and a big part of Al-Anon is working through these and understanding that no one’s alcoholism is your fault. Once you learn what you can and can’t control, it can help you shift your thinking and attitude in a more positive direction.
Al-Anon is a good way to work through things that lead to seemingly endless cycles and ultimately break those cycles.