Help and Hope for Families and Friends of Alcoholics
by an anonymous member of Al-Anon in long term recovery
Who are Al-Anon members?
Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a drinking problem.
Al-Anon is a mutual support group of peers who share their experience in applying the Al-Anon principles to issues related to the effects of a problem drinker in their lives.
In Al-Anon, we have come to know that alcoholism is a family disease. We call it a family disease because the alcoholic’s drinking and behavior impacts those in their proximity. The alcoholic’s loved ones may change their own attitudes and outlooks in response to the alcoholic’s drinking. They could even experience anxiety, depression, or shame at their inability to “rescue, fix, and save” the alcoholic.
Under such conditions, the family members need help to recover from the effects of alcoholism. That’s where Al-Anon comes in. The Al-Anon Preamble describes the fellowship and its purpose:
The Al-Anon Family Groups are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. We believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery. Al-Anon is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity, organization, or institution; does not engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any cause. There are no dues for membership. Al-Anon is self-supporting through its own voluntary contributions. Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.
There are several tools and resources available through Al-Anon. Here are some that we have found essential to aiding our recovery.
What is an “Al-Anon Meeting”?
An Al-Anon meeting is a gathering of people who meet at an identified location each week for about an hour to share their experience, strength and hope around issues related to their recovery process from this family disease.
We focus on ourselves and not on the person/s with alcohol issues. I have found in Al-Anon, also known as Al-Anon Family Groups (AFG), an amazing new family that helps me fill in the gaps that my birth family was not able to due to their being affected by this family disease.
What is a “beginners” meeting?
There are specific meetings for those new in Al-Anon. They are a great place to start to learn about ourselves and how we have been affected by the family disease of alcohol use disorder (AUD,previously referred to as alcoholism). Mutual support is provided and every member is on an equal level no matter how long, or how short their time in Al-Anon.
Where do I find a meeting in my area?
We are fortunate to have a good array of meetings in Maine and locations can be easily accessed at afgmaine.org. Some meet in person, some are held virtually by zoom and some are a hybrid of both in-person and virtual.
The 12 Steps
What are the steps?
Al-Anon uses the 12 steps that they adapted with permission from Alcoholics Anonymous [AA] in 1951. These steps have been shown as successful as a means of living that has helped thousands of members over the years. The 12 steps are focused on several ideas:
- we are powerless over another’s alcohol use;
- we need something greater than ourselves (this could be the meeting/ group) to provide a “higher power” to us;
- we need to change both our own attitude and our own actions; and
- as we recover from this family disease we need to carry the message of help and hope to others who still may be suffering. This is the give and take of the “mutual support” found in AFG.
The Steps provide an orderly direction to follow in learning to love myself.
What is a sponsor?
A sponsor is a member of Al-Anon who is committed to our 12-step program, and as a result of working these steps, can provide their experience, strength and hope to a newer member.
What is sponsorship?
It is a mutual and confidential sharing between two Al-Anon members. Experience shows that having a sponsor is a valuable aid to personal understanding and use of the Al-Anon program of recovery. The sponsor is a person with whom you can have close, personal support between meetings. We talk about general issues in the meetings and you can share more intimate details with your sponsor.
Al-Anon has an incredible number of books, guidelines and pamphlets that were written over the years to help family and friends recover from the effects of someone else’s drinking. This literature can be found at most meetings and some of it is free. You can also find a vast array of literature, guidelines and a member blog at al-anon.org.
An example is the daily reader called “Courage to Change” that provides us with a daily story of a member’s experience in their recovery process. I read this when I have my morning coffee and it starts my day on a positive note.
My favorite book is “Lois Remembers” which is a memoir of the co-founder of Al-Anon and the wife of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. She talks about the long and painful road of her husband’s AUD and its effects on her, as well as the powerful and motivating story of her co-founding Al-Anon.
What are Slogans?
Slogans are short phrases that members use in times of feeling overwhelmed or in crisis. They act like a mantra, to provide me with a focus that can provide me some relief from my challenging situation. A few examples are Easy Does It, How Important Is It?, and Keep it Simple. I use the last one almost every day because my mind gets clogged up with so many racing thoughts. It is useful in bringing me back to the present and allows me to figure out what is the most Important at that moment.
Unlike some of Al-Anon’s practices and principles that take a while to learn and apply, the Al-Anon slogans are easy to learn and remember. You may have heard some of these slogans hundreds of times before without ever taking them seriously or trying to put them to work. After all, they are clichés, and easy to disregard. But it is their very simplicity that makes them so powerful.”
To contact Al-Anon, call 1-888-4252666 or visit alanon.org. If you are affected by someone else’s drinking, Al-Anon can help.