Are you living with people who have alcohol addiction? It’s really hard and can be the cause of a lot of problems and stress at home. You may want to help them, but they don’t want to seek help themselves. Even if you try to convince them, they would deny having a problem with alcohol. Most of the time, they would lash out at you or become physically violent.
At some point, you might be wondering if there are people like you going through the same thing. If you want to find a support group, you can join Al-Anon, which is designed for the families and relatives of people suffering from alcohol use disorder.
But what if you have no idea what Al-Anon is yet? At first, joining a meeting may be intimidating. You may not even be sure if it’s right for you.
If you’d like to know more about Al-Anon first, here is what happens in a typical meeting.
What is Al-Anon for?
You may have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which caters to people suffering from alcohol addiction. Al-Anon, on the other hand, is for the families and loved ones of people with alcohol problems. Both are 12-step support groups.
The addicted individuals may be part of an AA group while their families are also in an Al-Anon group. But if the person doesn’t want to seek help, family members are still free to join Al-Anon. The group is designed to help them cope and recover from the consequences of their loved ones’ drinking problems.
The group has been around since 1951. Al-Anon’s mission statement reads: Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.
What are the “12 steps”?
Similar to AA, Al-Anon uses 12 principles to help family members recover from their loved ones’ alcoholism. These are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore our sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
What happens in an Al-Anon meeting?
Al-Anon is a mutual support group. In other words, each member gives and receives help from each other.
Typically, in every meeting, attendees share their experiences living with loved ones struggling with alcoholism. They may also ask questions.
You would do the same. Sharing your situation is voluntary, though. You may tell the group that you prefer to listen first but not share, especially if it’s your first meeting.
Are all Al-Anon meetings conducted in the same way?
All Al-Anon groups follow the 12 steps, but each group has unique features. Usually, the members decide how the meetings would run.
This means you can “shop around” for the Al-Anon group that works best for you. If you go to one meeting and you don’t like how it goes, don’t give up. Find another group and see how they do. When you find a group you’re comfortable with, that’s where you can attend meetings regularly.
How much does Al-Anon cost?
Joining Al-Anon is free of charge. The only cost is your time, and perhaps transportation to and from the meeting place.
In every meeting, though, expect donations to be collected. Donations allow Al-Anon groups to exist and meetings to run. But if you can’t give any money, it’s okay. Donating is not required.
Will I be compelled to do things in a certain way?
No. Al-Anon is a mutual support group, not a military boot camp. No one would boss you around or tell you to do things one way or another. The facilitators may give you advice, but ultimately, it will be your choice to follow it.
Can I join Al-Anon if I don’t consider myself religious?
Al-Anon is not affiliated with any religious group, even if the 12 steps look faith-based. So, if you’re not a religious person, it’s fine. You can still attend Al-Anon meetings.
Will Al-Anon help me push my loved ones to stop drinking?
Al-Anon focuses on you, not your loved ones with alcohol problems. Thus, meetings are not a place to brainstorm ideas on how to get their loved ones to stop drinking.
Instead, meetings focus on helping you navigate the difficult relationship you have with your loved ones. Also, Al-Anon aims to help you cope with the ill effects of living with an alcoholic.
You may not be the one who’s addicted, but you’re still severely affected. That’s why you need support, which is what Al-Anon wants to help you with.
Also, compelling loved ones to either seek help or stop drinking is really stressful. You don’t want that additional stress.
How do I find a good Al-Anon group?
Al-Anon groups are spread across the country. There may be one right in your neighborhood. If not, there could be one a few minutes away from your home.
In any case, you may check local listings to find one near you. You can also find a group on the Al-Anon website. Or, you could call 1-888-4AL-ANON to inquire about groups that meet in your area.