Although suffering from substance use disorder is a lonely and isolating experience, it is a disease that infects nearly everyone that it touches: whether through emotional trauma, economic impact, legal problems, or any number of side effects. When a loved one is in active addiction, it’s easy to ignore your own pain and focus on trying to help your friend or family member get well. But once they’re safely in residential addiction treatment or in the early stages of recovery, the wounds you’ve suffered from years of bearing witness to addiction will become more apparent.
Those who love and support people suffering from substance use disorder deserve love, help, and support, too. Just as with addiction, there are a variety of options if you’re ready to seek help, even including residential treatment. One of the easiest ways to get support, however, is through Al-Anon.
Al-Anon Family Groups, founded in 1951, is a worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for families and friends of alcoholics, at no charge beyond minimal suggested donations.
As an organization, Al-Anon believes that addiction is a family illness, meaning it affects everyone in its path. A sister program to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon also has its own version of the 12 Steps, which it encourages members to follow.
Although it has a similar name and structure as other 12 Step programs, the focus in Al-Anon is not on your loved one suffering from addiction. Instead, in Al-Anon, members are encouraged to keep the focus on themselves and their own healing. At first, it may be hard to shift your focus towards yourself after so many years of worrying about your loved one. Over time, however, many Al-Anon members will come to realize that self-care is important on many levels. Indeed, that realization is a vital part of healing — for oneself and for the entire affected family.
What can you expect in an Al-Anon meeting? Generally, it’s an opportunity to listen to the stories of others who are in a similar position, and to share your story as well — but only if you want to. There also may be readings from approved literature.
The Al-Anon perspective is that you are not the cause of your loved one’s alcoholism. At the same time, you cannot cure or control another person. All you can change is your own thoughts and behavior.
With that said, Al-Anon does not try to teach its members how to stop their loved ones from drinking. You won’t learn tips on that from your fellow group members. However, you may hear helpful advice on how to cope and how to care for yourself in a situation that may seem impossible.
Still, that doesn’t mean that your participation in Al-Anon won’t help your loved one at all. Studies have shown that when an addict or alcoholic’s family members pursue recovery in Al-Anon while they pursue their own 12-Step recovery, the addict or alcoholic is more likely to stay sober. When multiple members of a family seek help, that family will have a greater chance of healing, coming back together, and staying together.
If you or someone you know has a loved one suffering from alcoholism, you do not have to go through this alone. Call us for more information regarding Al-Anon, or other options you might have for your own treatment or that of your loved one.