“My daughter is a junkie. I know it now and I don’t know what to do,” or “He’s a drunk just like his father. It’s gonna kill him or he’s gonna kill somebody ‘cause he drives crazy when he’s drunk.”
Let’s start with an answer that seems cold, uncaring: You are powerless to change these life-threatening behaviors of your daughter, of your husband.
But you want to do something, right? Why not consider Al-Anon? You have a look on your face that says, “But I’m not the one with the problem.” If you plan to continue being a mother – and you really have no choice here- or you plan to stay married – you do have a choice – your next question to answer is What am I going to do about me?
I have information to share provided by an intelligent person in Harlan County who has been standing where you’re standing, loving an addict but powerless to change him. Sleepless nights, jumping when the phone rings, feeling guilty, looking for answers where none seem to exist.
She turned to Al-Anon.
What is Al-Anon?
A group of friends and family members of alcoholics/drug addicts who meet together and share their experience, strength and hope to help each other solve their common problems and cope with the difficulties of loving an alcoholic/addict. An international organization with groups meeting in cities and towns throughout the world, group members practice the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Anonymity is crucial if participants are to feel free to share. Most come when they have exhausted every means, unsuccessfully, they know to help the addict/alcoholic and have come to “the end of their rope.”
Aren’t the 12 steps what the alcoholics and addicts use, and I’m not one of them?
Yes, and the 12 steps are appropriate for both groups.
If it’s anonymous, how do I get involved?
And why would I want to be a part of a group I know nothing about? With the Internet, persons interested can learn a great deal about the program and can locate meetings close to home. If they travel with their work, they can locate meetings virtually anywhere and are always welcome to attend. Public libraries, health departments, rehabilitation centers- there is a host of available information if you don’t have computer access.
How does the program work?
It’s a process, and change does not occur quickly. Participants learn to turn their focus from the alcoholic/addict to themselves. They learn what they can and cannot control; they learn it’s a family disease that impacts all family members; they learn about their enabling behaviors; they turn their lives over to their higher power as they see him/her; they work at changing their own character flaws; they learn to stop nagging and criticizing the alcoholic/addict; they learn to help others.
And all of this does not happen quickly.
Program participants learn that they are entitled to some peace in their own lives. They learn slogans and recovery information that can help in specific situations. They begin to believe that their changed attitudes can aid family recovery.
How long do I need to go to Al-Anon meetings before I’m better?
At first you may feel uncomfortable, baffled by the meetings, so go for 5 or 6 times even if you can’t feel a big difference. You will hear some success stories; you will share your fears; you will be with people with whom you can identify. By continuing in your recovery, you will be less likely to slip back into old patterns.
Will I learn strategies to keep those I love from using drugs/alcohol?
No. You can’t change another, only yourself.
Will people in the meetings tell me what I need to do?
We do not dispense advice. We share what has worked for us.
Will those in the meetings gossip about me, reveal what I’ve said?
No, we protect your identification and information from outsiders as part of our anonymity. Additionally, we are cautioned not to criticize each other, member to member.
Does a doctor or therapist run the meetings?
No. Meetings are run by members using materials supplied by the international organization.
So what does a typical meeting include?
Opening with the serenity prayer, welcome, opening remarks, reading of the 12 steps and at times the 12 traditions, lesson from Al-Anon literature, discussion of the lesson, closing prayer. The meeting lasts not longer than one hour. Members have an opportunity to share concerns but only if they wish and only as much or as little as they wish.
What if the addict or alcoholic objects to my attending these meetings?
Never jeopardize your safety. Read literature. Attend on line meetings.
Is this connected to a particular religion?
No. It is a spiritual program, and members are invited to rely on their personal understanding of their higher power.
Is there a fee for attending meetings?
All Al-Anon groups are self-supporting through voluntary donations from members. You can donate a dollar if you have it and want to.
I really don’t want to go in the first time by myself. Will someone go with me?
Call 888-425-2266 and you will be assisted in finding a meeting and someone to go with you.
Where is the meeting in Harlan?
Every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the AA Building on Cumberland Avenue, across from the BP gas station.
Send comments or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.