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.

Elizabeth Corsale, Marriage and Family Therapist
San Francisco, California

The partners and/or family members of alcoholics often ask, “Why should I have to go to a meeting? This isn’t my problem!” Yet they quickly begin to realize how much, in fact, the problem of alcoholism is their problem too, and how much it has impacted their lives.

I have found that Al-Anon can be an excellent supplement to psychotherapy. In Al-Anon, my patients can find support and insight from people who have also been affected by addiction.

Al-Anon is a program that is enormously helpful in reminding family members that they cannot control everything, in spite of how hard they try. Al-Anon Family Groups support the process of helping individuals to focus on themselves and their own lives.
 

Ed Hughes, MPS, LICDC
Portsmouth, Ohio

In working with the families of alcoholics, I provide education about alcoholism as a disease, how the disease progresses, the process of hitting bottom, the impact of the disease upon the family, and how someone can recover.

There eventually comes that moment when a family member tries to change the way they respond to the alcoholic’s behavior, only to find that this change is much more difficult than anticipated.

A mother of an alcoholic said that she had decided to say “no” to her son’s next request for money. When the request came, she was surprised that she said “yes.” She said she was aware that her “help” was really hurting him; that the money was going to alcohol; that the promise she extracted from him, “that this would never happen again,” was not going to be kept; and that she was going to feel awful afterwards. Knowing all this, however, she still gave him the money.

This was my opportunity to introduce her to a word she thought only applied to the alcoholic, powerlessness. I told her that she was powerless to say “no.” She responded by asking, “If I am powerless, then how am I ever going to say ‘no’ and stop enabling?” I said, “That is what Al-Anon is for, to help you do the right thing for yourself and your son.”

In my 32 years of providing counseling services, I have seen family members go to Al-Anon to find help for their addicted family members, but instead find help for themselves.

Alcoholism thrives in an environment of secrecy and shame. Al-Anon is a powerful influence for families to break the silence that surrounds their family, while breaking the cycle of shame that fosters misunderstanding and a reluctance to seek help.

For some family members, being in recovery has initiated changes that dramatically changed the role they were playing in perpetuating the disease of alcoholism for their loved one, thus creating motivation for the alcoholic to recover. Other family members found a path to happiness, peace, and serenity, despite the continued drinking of their loved one.

As a treatment professional, I realize that each person in recovery carries the hope and potential to help many others. The power of recovering
Al-Anon members who share their stories with a newcomer far exceeds any power that I have ever witnessed in a professional treatment setting.

In Al-Anon, I know they will receive acceptance, love, and guidance.

 

Joe Herzanek, Addiction Counselor and author
Boulder, Colorado

Alcoholism is devastating to all members of the family. Family members may have watched someone they love turn into a stranger. They ask, “How did this happen? Why didn’t we see it sooner? Are we somehow to blame? How do we make it stop? What if we can’t make it stop? Why won’t this person listen to us? Can’t they see what’s happening to them?” The list is long.

From the shared experiences of Al-Anon members at meetings and in Al-Anon literature, the family learns that alcoholism is not their fault. With that understanding, some of the pressure is lifted. By attending Al-Anon meetings, my clients gain clarity and peace of mind, so that they can take positive action.

Al-Anon supplements and reinforces the information I give my clients about alcoholism as a disease. My clients gain encouragement from attending Al-Anon meetings. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Doing what’s best (which sometimes means doing nothing—but allowing consequences to happen) is often extremely challenging. Al-Anon members help and play a special role because they are like-minded and share common experiences as a result of living with an alcoholic.

My clients who attend Al-Anon meetings come to understand that they can have peace, regardless of their loved one’s poor choices. Family members learn that recovery is a process that takes time. But they learn that they are not alone, and that help is available from the Al-Anon program.

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.

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.