The Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism magazine is designed to introduce relatives and friends concerned about someone’s drinking to Al-Anon Family Groups and to the concept of alcoholism or problem drinking as an illness affecting everyone in the family.

Dealing with the elephant in the room—alcoholism

Al-Anon Alcoholism 2013 interviewed Alexa Smith, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Serenity Renewal for Families, Ottawa, ON Canada.

Barbara Leach, Director of Human Resources
Virginia Beach, VA

As a Human Resources professional, dealing with questions about benefits, payroll deductions, or time off is the easy part. The more difficult situations arise when an employee’s attendance or job performance is at issue. In most cases, personal concerns have spilled into the workplace, affecting the employee’s focus and productivity.

If the problem at home is alcohol-related, I pull from my file of resources information about Al‑Anon. I explain that Al‑Anon provides help and hope to the friends and family members who are affected by someone else’s drinking. I keep Al‑Anon literature handy along with the toll-free meeting information number. I encourage the employee to go to a least one meeting.

I had the pleasant experience of one employee who followed my recommendation to attend just one Al‑Anon meeting. She came to me several months later and thanked me for encouraging her to attend that one meeting. One meeting became many meetings, and many meetings led to the beginning of calmness in her life. In addition, her supervisor has also been pleased that his employee is now back on track.

 

Valerie Montgomery, BSW, MA, NCC, LPC
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Sometimes in my work, I suggest Al‑Anon as a potential resource for a client or for a family member. I do this because I cannot be a peer with either my client or their family. With the support Al‑Anon offers, my client can have daily encouragement on a peer level.

The tools and resources Al‑Anon offers can expand my clients’ awareness of themselves and their needs on a different level than I can. It’s really a win-win situation when a client goes to Al‑Anon. Expanding support systems is important to most of my clients, and Al‑Anon works very well with professional counseling.

Assessing who might benefit from Al‑Anon is a fairly easy process. When I find issues surrounding a friend or family member’s alcohol use, I look for an opportunity to communicate with my client about resources that are available. Resource expansion is part of my treatment plan for clients. Talking about self-care is also a part of my work. Al‑Anon blends easily into this discussion and plan.

I also recommend Al‑Anon to colleagues who have consulted with me about a client. I think every professional working in the field of substance abuse, mental health, or behavioral health could benefit from having Al‑Anon in their referral network. 

Al‑Anon is a solid, dynamic, and enlightening program. The slogans are catchy and easy to remember. Part of the language I use with clients comes from Al‑Anon literature. “First Things First” works to ground clients in the moment and easily prioritizes their swirling thoughts. “Easy Does It” implies the grace that is necessary to learn and grow in emotional wellness. “One Day at a Time” slows down the compulsivity and catastrophizing that some clients need to eliminate in their thinking patterns. These sayings are powerful tools.

Most of all, the concept of non-judgment that Al‑Anon espouses, as well as letting each member be responsible for their journey, smoothes the way for the deep work of psychotherapy. Support through the Al‑Anon program helps my clients take the time they need for working on changes. Al‑Anon can boost and nurture the individual to maximize their experience in counseling.

 

by Beverly A. Buncher, MA, CEC, LTPC
Family Recovery Coach
Pompano Beach, Florida

As a family recovery coach, my radar goes up when I hear clients talking about how much someone else’s drinking is bothering them.

Dr. David C. McMillian, LPC, LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapy, Counseling
Shreveport, Louisiana

People who attend Al‑Anon have reported significant improvement in their well-being, daily functioning, and overall health. They can find a degree of understanding and acceptance that they will likely find nowhere else.

Emily Leadholm, LSW
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Allyson came to see me for treatment of anxiety and depression. She was a recent college graduate, had a good job as an office manager, and was active in a citizens group that worked for social justice. She was single, had close ties to her family, and had many friends and associates who adored and respected her.

Despite her many successes, she often felt like a failure. She spoke of a sense of emptiness. In asking about her family, I found that her father was an alcoholic in recovery. He drank until she was eight years old. She had memories of holding her breath upon his return home from work, bracing herself for his rage and criticism. Perhaps most painful, were her memories of being in her room at night, alone with her fear and sadness.

Allyson’s interaction with her father brought about a sense of shame and not being good enough. That was the first injury. The second was that in an alcoholic family, she had nowhere to go with those feelings, no source of comfort or soothing, and no person with whom to process her sadness and confusion. She was left alone with intolerable feelings.

I recommended Al‑Anon to Allyson, knowing that she would hear people talk about a journey that involved awareness of feelings, acceptance, and compassion for the hurt and shame one feels, and new ways to manage those feelings.

Allyson continues to attend weekly Al‑Anon meetings, which have helped her understand the myriad ways her father’s drinking affected her and the entire family. It helped her to develop and maintain a better relationship with her father in the present.

When she remembers the bad times from her father’s drinking, she still talks about it with sadness, often tears, but less shame. She sees the incredible hope and brilliance in the lives of Al‑Anon members. And, increasingly, she sees hope and brilliance in her own life.