Anger, frustration, and pain often surround the struggle with alcohol addiction. Perhaps more challenging is the first time you realize that you struggle with alcohol, and the various relapse prevention techniques and coping mechanisms feel abrasive and annoying. Or maybe you have a relative or a friend struggling with alcohol addiction, and you would like to help. Whatever your case is, recovering from alcohol addiction can feel like a complicated process, and each person’s journey is unique and depends on many factors.
Maintaining your motivation through the lifelong process is key to recovery. It is crucial to incorporate practical steps into your recovery and find other outlets to deal with your negative thoughts rather than drinking.
AL-Anon and Alateen programs
Al-anon and Alateen meetings are programs designed to offer support to family members and friends of alcoholics. An Al-Anon group is formed to help parents, siblings, spouses, other family members, as well as friends, to help with their loved ones’ drinking problems. Alateen meetings are for teens struggling with someone else’s addiction. Alateen is similar to al-anon, but for a younger group of people (generally 13 – 19 years old).
While many people struggling with alcohol addiction turn to Al-Anon and Alateen for help with their loved ones’ drinking problems, these are not intervention programs but rather recognize that the disease of alcoholism is traumatizing for those who love alcoholics.
Alateen and Al-anon meetings are based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Al-Anon members are worried about someone else’s drinking problem. An Al-Anon family group is a fellowship of family members and friends of individuals with alcohol addiction, and who share similar experiences to solve their common problems.
By sharing their personal stories, Al-Anon members have the opportunity to learn from members who have faced similar situations. Al-Anon gives a unique perspective for those who love an alcoholic, and usually, attending Al-anon will give you insight into your own role in the family illness and gain helpful information on how to respond to your problem more healthily. We believe alcohol addiction is a family disease that we can overcome through changed attitudes.
Alateen is a recovery program for teens with other alateen members usually between the ages of 13 – 19 years old. These young people, along with a trusted advisor, meet together to talk through their common issues with living with someone with alcoholism. Alateen follows the twelve steps, and also has literature available specific for young people in recovery.
Al-anon Group Topics for Beginners
Al-anon family group meetings mainly involve topic discussions based on the personal experiences of a person living with a family member or friend with the problem of alcoholism. The person in charge of the group meeting will sometimes ask for suggestions on meeting topics from the al-anon members in the beginner’s meetings.
Once the group members have agreed upon a topic, those in the meeting share their personal experience, strength, and hope.
Below are some of the Al-Anon topics that for an al-anon meeting.
This is the first step towards recovery: accepting that alcohol controls your life and that you are powerless over your problem of alcoholism. After many years of denial, this is a crucial part of recovery for family members to admit that their loved one has a drug addiction problem.
If your friend or family member is struggling with substance abuse, you are probably searching for all ways to understand your loved one’s behavior. Its challenging not internalizing their hurtful actions, while in reality, people with an alcohol problem might not be aware of the impact their actions have on their family and friends.
It would be best for family members to learn more about substance abuse and explore ways to improve their reactions when interacting with individuals with a drinking problem. A good starting point would be visiting the Al-anon family group headquarters and identifying Al-Anon support groups that you can join.
Alcoholism is a disease.
One of the challenges of recognizing alcohol as a disease is that it doesn’t seem like one. Nothing about alcoholism reflects a disease, and it generally denies it exists or even resists treatment, but it is a disease.
Individuals with an alcohol problem have a mental obsession with alcohol and may not know it even exists. The urge to drink becomes a physical compulsion that is almost impossible to control. Alcohol abuse results in changes in the brain circuit involved in learning, stress, decision-making, pleasure, and self-control. This makes it difficult for individuals with an alcoholism problem to lead an everyday life.
One of the effects of alcoholism is that it trains the brain to associate pleasure derived from drinking with other outside issues of the drinker’s life. Since most problems in their lives act as reminders of their drinking, it becomes inherently challenging for them to lead a normal life.
Let go and let God
Letting go and letting God means submitting your concerns and issues with your loved ones to a higher authority. Letting God means giving away our need to control the outcome or expecting people to behave in a specific way.
As a family member to an alcoholic, you will do everything you can to get them to stop drinking. The end result is you will feel frustrated and lonely. You could try and convince yourself that you can do something, but even your loved one can’t control it.
The most sensible thing to do is to release that burden to God and your involvement and let him handle it. While this will make you feel like you are shirking your part in the process, you are instead courageously facing your challenges with a new awareness of your partnership with God. This can be a spiritual experience in and of itself.
Do you feel frustrated by your loved one’s denial of alcohol addiction and damaging behavior which is causing problems in your life? It’s time to let go! Convincing your loved ones that they are in denial of their drinking problem is not your responsibility, and you need to turn over that issue to your own higher power greater than yourself.
The concept of powerlessness in alcohol addiction is often hard to grasp. A lot of people mistake powerlessness with weakness while it’s actually a step of strength. Most family members of alcoholics walk in the first time into the al-anon program of recovery believing they can control and manage the lives of their loved ones.
Accepting that we are powerless towards alcohol addiction involves leaning on others, seeking help from the community, and surrendering to a higher power.
Powerless is the proclamation of progress from lack of awareness to awareness of the reality of the effects of alcoholism and the possible measures towards change. The idea of powerlessness is a journey in itself and one which we must wrestle with throughout the recovery journey.
If a family member is dealing with substance addiction or alcoholism, detaching from the issues that affect them is a difficult concept to grasp. In the context of al-anon family groups, family members need to detach with love and let go of their loved ones’ problems. Detaching from their drinking problem permits you to let them experience the consequences resulting from their substance addiction, and you can focus on your mental health and wellbeing.
Caring for individuals with substance addictions can be overwhelming and lead to depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. Living with a person with the disease of alcoholism will make you feel like you constantly need to be in rescue mode as you have to deal with one crisis after another. Being able to detach relieves you of the responsibility to protect them.
In their efforts to assist, family members and friends of an individual with a problem of alcoholism often become enablers to the progression of the disease. The enabling phenomenon allows individuals with the condition of alcoholism to avoid the consequences of their actions.
Protecting your loved ones from the consequences of their destructive behavior only enables their drinking problem, since they feel secure knowing no matter how many mistakes they make, you will be there to rescue them.
It is essential for family members and friends of alcoholics to identify the signs of enabling that actually hurt their loved one, rather than help them.
Anger is an intense emotion arising from being wronged, unmet expectations, and our inability to control the outcome. Dealing with a person with the disease of alcoholism can trigger your emotional responses. Individuals with drug addiction have low regard for consequences, negatively impacting family relations.
If you are battling anger, you must identify your source of anger and seek a solution. In some cases, simply letting go of the need to control an individual with an alcohol problem may solve the anger management issue.
Minding your own business
In Al-Anon support groups, somebody else’s substance addiction is not your burden to carry. You are not responsible for their choices, nor does their shame and embarrassment belong to you. Their choices are not a reflection of who you are as a parent, spouse, or friend.
It is their right to make their own mistakes, and you can only hope they learn from their experiences. Your responsibility is only to share your expertise, offer comfort and hope only when it’s appropriate to do so.
One common spiritual truth is you must forgive to receive forgiveness. It almost seems like God is putting the ball in your court and waits for you to make the first move. By doing this, He puts the responsibility of your own need for forgiveness on your shoulders in his way. Do you want to be forgiven? Then you need to forgive. God does not need you to feel like forgiving; he requires that you must forgive.
By taking this first step, or even just faking it until you truly learn, God can grant you a forgiving heart.
Dealing with change
Some of the principles you learn in al-anon meetings will assist you in dealing with the changes in your own life. Changes in your own life will be inevitable. Significant changes such as divorce, the death of a loved one, moving to a new place can take a toll on your wellbeing as you find new ways to navigate through uncharted territories. Having a smooth transition can be challenging, especially if you are not ready for it.
Whether the new changes in your life are positive changes, they can still induce anxiety and feelings of unfamiliarity, increasing your stress levels.
We have a right to make individual choices and accept the things we cannot change. You are not obligated to accept unacceptable behavior, and you are entitled to make decisions that are in your best interest.
When it is in your best interest, and for your wellbeing, you can choose not to be around alcoholic behavior and walk away from arguments and fights that affect your mental and emotional sobriety. Have you found the courage yet to make this decision for your own good? It’s OK to walk away.
One of the challenges of dealing with an alcoholic is setting unrealistic expectations. Individuals with alcohol addiction will, on many occasions, swear to you that they will not consume alcohol going forward. While this may be comforting, it is unrealistic, and this expectation turns unrealistic for the alcoholic. It is unreasonable to expect honesty from individuals who cannot be honest with themselves.
When a loved one suffers from alcohol addiction, our lives are filled with emptiness and the constant need to seek approval outside of ourselves. Emptiness can feel like low-grade depression and lead to destructive behavior to fill the void.
People struggling with alcohol addiction may not be in a position to provide you with the kind of love you want all the time. It is even more challenging to be present when the person we depend on is unpredictable, and we harbor resentment against them.
Overcoming emptiness takes a conscious effort. Sometimes you will get through it, and other times you will not control it, and that’s OK. Find ways to overcome the emptiness a day at a time and be grateful for the present moment. If you are struggling to get up and clean the dirty dishes or your dirty house, remember you are still in control of your own body and where you are at and find a reason to be present and grateful. You can decide to dictate how your life moves forward regardless of your loved ones’ addiction problem.
When dealing with a loved one, it is a common experience to try and control them and solve their problems. Yet by doing this, we rob them of the dignity of being able to make their own mistakes and learn from their experiences. One of the best ways of handling issues with a problem drinker is letting go and letting God deal with the matter.
Are you struggling with finding something to be grateful for and feeling sorry for yourself? Trying to maintain a loving home while dealing with a loved one struggling with alcohol abuse can be overwhelming. The good news is there is always something to be grateful for, and you can start by writing down a gratitude list and chasing away the gloom.
Being honest about your challenges with alcohol addiction is not just about telling the truth. It’s being genuine and authentic with yourself. Being dishonest about your recovery journey will trap you in active addiction.
If your loved one or friend is experiencing challenges with alcohol addiction, coming to terms with their addiction helps you to rebuild your own life and find effective ways to help your loved ones, such as family therapy.
If you live with someone with an addiction problem, you constantly experience anxiety. You are always dealing with abuse, chaos, grief, crises, and even boredom.
The serenity prayer is often recited at the beginning of the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous programs. With so many people in desperate situations seeking strength and wisdom, believing in the qualities expressed in the serenity prayer grants them courage, serenity, and knowledge to face their challenges. The simplicity in this prayer is a critical spiritual tool used in the 12 steps program.
The Serenity Prayer
God, Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
Practicing self-love means being intentional about looking after yourself and addressing your challenges so that you are not contributing as much to the confusion and chaos in your own life. While this might not stop your loved one from drinking, your attitude towards the situation will be changed.
Live and let live
Learning how to live your life in a new territory without revolving around an alcoholic can be challenging, but living your life on your own terms is OK.
There is no magic formula that instantly resolves your loved one’s drinking problem. Alcohol addiction is a complex problem that comes with many challenges. The al-anon program of recovery plays a crucial role in helping family members cope with the challenges of a loved one’s drinking problem. There are no straight answers, but attending Al-anon meetings offers an opportunity to gain knowledge from the experiences of other members who have undergone similar challenges.
One of the tremendous benefits of attending Al-Anon meetings is finding hope, comfort, and compassion from people experiencing similar struggles. The meetings provide a safe place to vent your frustrations and pain and face the reality of the conflicts within your family while learning essential tips to support your loved ones. You deserve an opportunity to be happy and experience joy regardless of your loved ones’ choices in their struggle with alcohol addiction.