I can remember the anxiety I felt each time my loved one would come stumbling home from another night out of drinking. I would be filled with fear, wondering if he was going to be angry or weepy or giddy. Most evenings I would pretend to be asleep in order to avoid any confrontation. I hated living the way I was living, but I did not know what to do to change what was happening. I knew that if he would just stop drinking, everything would be okay.
I realized that I needed to get help for myself because the worry and anxiety I was feeling was getting worse on a daily basis. I knew that Al-Anon was a fellowship for the family and friends of alcoholics so I found out where the meetings were in my neighborhood. I decided to attend one of these meetings so I could find out how to fix my alcoholic. I had grown up in a drinking household and I was determined to get answers so that I would not have to continue to live in fear.
Al-Anon is a spiritual program and it is based on the twelve steps that were originally used in Alcoholics Anonymous by its members. Al-Anon, it turns out, is not a program to “fix” the alcoholic. Al-Anon is a program for the family and/or friends of the alcoholic. The steps in Al-Anon are designed to help those who are affected by the family disease of alcoholism. This surprised me – I thought I was going to get answers and solutions to help my loved one. I did get answers – they just weren’t the answers I thought they would be.
There is a tremendous amount of love and support in the rooms of Al-Anon. It is a fellowship of men and women who understand what it is like to try to control an alcoholic’s drinking. They understand what it is like to search for all of the bottles and dump out all of the liquor in one’s home. They understand what it is like to drive all around the neighborhood, searching every bar and hangout to see if their loved one is getting drunk somewhere. They understand the anger, rage, fear, and anxiety that can come along as we watch someone we love drink their lives away. Alcoholism is a fatal disease and it is very difficult to simply stand by and watch the deterioration happen right before our eyes.
In Al-Anon, members share their experience, strength, and hope in meetings all over the world. There are many tools that can be used to help detach with love. The program works similarly to Alcoholics Anonymous. It is suggested that members get a sponsor, work the steps, attend regular meetings, and do service work. Members of Al-Anon encourage each other when there doesn’t seem to be much hope. They praise each other when victories occur, big or small. They remind each other of the strength that can come from a relationship with a Higher Power. The list of beneficial help goes on and on. Keeping the focus on self and not on the “qualifier” or alcoholic is the shift that is needed to change lives.
Attending Al-Anon on a regular basis can change your life. Giving your loved one to God and keeping your side of the street clean is the main focus in this program. It’s okay to love all of the alcoholics in your life. It’s also a relief to not feel the overwhelming urge to try and fix all of them now! That’s significant progress for Al-Anon members and it is attainable. some people originally go to their first Al-Anon meeting to fix someone else but they stay because they realized they need to work on themselves instead. If you have a loved one, either a family member or a friend, who suffers from alcoholism, I would encourage you to attend six different Al-Anon meetings to see if it might help you on your life’s journey. Six meetings are suggested because each meeting has its own style. Some people like big meetings and others like smaller groups. There are many meetings throughout the world – give it a try! It may just change your life.