Understanding Al Anon Family Groups
When it comes to substance abuse in any form, this disease affects far more than just the afflicted individual. In the case of alcohol addiction, this proves just as true. For individuals who abuse alcohol, their loved ones are too often severely impacted by their drinking habits.
Unfortunately, these families affected by alcoholism are often left to deal with the negative repercussions of someone else’s drinking on their own. It is for this reason that support groups such as Al Anon Family Groups exist.
Is Al Anon Based in Religion?
Al-Anon was originally established in alignment with the Twelve Steps approach commonly used by organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which often emphasize surrendering control to a Higher Power in order to achieve sobriety.
Despite this, Al-Anon is a self-defined spiritual fellowship, rather than a religious one. In fact, this organization avoids adhering to any specific religious doctrines and is open to those of all (or no) faiths.
All that is required is for participants to adhere to “a Power greater than [themselves],” on their recovery journey; however, this may be defined by the individual.
What is an Al Anon Family Group?
For the family members of individuals who are struggling with addiction issues, this can be an incredibly difficult and emotionally exhausting experience. In fact, there are few people who are more familiar with the exact nature of alcoholism than those closest to an alcoholic.
Thus, Al-Anon Family Groups act as a way for these individuals to meet and connect with others struggling with similar experiences. After all, addiction is a very personal disease, often impacting those exposed to it in very different ways.
What is Alcoholism?
As defined by Al-Anon on the organization’s official website, alcoholism is “a disease of compulsive and uncontrolled drinking.” While the organization states that this progressive illness can not be cured, it maintains that it can be controlled through practicing complete abstinence.
A Brief History of Al-Anon
Dating back to 1939, the families of Alcoholics Anonymous members began attending meetings with them. This often served as a way in which these individuals could stand in solidarity with their loved ones, while also receiving a level of support for themselves. Of course, these AA meetings were not designed for these family members but primarily focused on those actively struggling with alcohol problems.
Thus, in 1951, a woman named Lois Wilson, along with the help of her friend, Anne B. began discussing ways in which they could solve this problem. Soon after, these women began sending out letters to nonalcoholic groups and individuals who, like them, had loved ones who were struggling with alcohol abuse.
These letters were sent with the intention of uniting these individuals and establishing a support group designed specifically for helping those in situations like theirs. As a result, with the permission of Alcoholics Anonymous, they adopted the Twelve Traditions of recovery and formed their own organization under the name of Al-Anon Family Groups in 1954.
Who is Part of an Al Anon Family Group?
An Al-Anon Family Group, quite simply, refers to a collective of individuals who choose to form a support group through this organization. Whether it be within their communities or through an online platform, these are established with the hopes of bringing together individuals who have been impacted by another person’s addiction.
Who Attends Al Anon Meetings?
Al-Anon members consist of anyone who has been affected by a loved one’s drinking habits. In fact, Al-Anon support groups are open to anyone who has in any way been impacted by someone else’s alcoholism, whether this includes such people as direct family and close friends, or an employee, employer, or co-worker.
This also extends to individuals who may not be currently dealing with an alcoholic but may have done so in the past. For example, individuals who were raised by a parent with substance abuse issues, or were otherwise exposed to this behavior previously in life.
How Can Joining an Al Anon Family Group Help You?
If you are feeling lost and helpless because of a loved one’s drinking, seeking out emotional support is strongly recommended. While it can be difficult to admit the extent to which someone else’s decisions have caused you harm, doing so will finally allow you to begin to understand and find closure for this.
Making conscious contact with other individuals who have struggled with another person’s drinking behavior can provide support for both you and them. At these support groups, all our affairs can officially be laid out on the table and analyzed for what they are.
Once a level of peace has been achieved with all these defects, your Al-Anon Family Group can help you begin to rebuild your life and possibly see the individual who caused you pain in a new light.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an Al Anon Member?
Al-Anon participation does not require any dues or fees to be paid by members. However, as a non-profit organization, donations (typically collected during Al-Anon group sessions) are accepted and encouraged.
Of course, this is not required, and members are only asked to donate what they can afford at the moment. These donations typically serve to help fund a meeting center’s rent, as well as the acquisition and allocation of educational resources and materials.
How do Al-Anon Meetings Work?
Al-Anon meetings are typically held at varying times throughout the week. The will either be conducted in person at a building that serves as an Anon Family Group headquarters or through an online format. To find out more about specific meeting times, dates, and locations, click here.
Upon attending an Al-Anon group meeting, members can choose to share their own experiences of being affected by someone else’s substance abuse, or simply listen to the stories of other members. Regardless of how individuals choose to participate, Al-Anon groups are meant to serve as a unifying and inspiring space.
These meetings welcome walk-ins (although newcomers may want to attend a meeting specifically for beginners) and do not require any paperwork or pre-registration tasks to attend.
How Does Alcoholism Affect Others?
When it comes to alcoholism, individuals who struggle with this disease may suffer in a number of different ways. These may present themselves physically and mentally; and, of course, they may present themselves in the way these individuals treat the people around them.
This poor behavior towards their loved ones or other people can result from a series of factors, including:
- Neglection of Duties and Responsibilities. As a person becomes progressively more consumed by their alcohol addiction, important tasks and responsibilities may be pushed to the side. These can then become the responsibility of other members of their household, or potentially cause disruption and tension within the individual’s home, work, or social environments.
- Intense Mood Swings. Because so many alcoholics resort to drinking as a means of handling their emotions, after some time, this behavior can actually intensify these feelings. This may cause these individuals to become more aggressive or cold towards the people around them, often causing great emotional distress for those who take the brunt of these mood swings.
- Legal Issues. Problematic drinking habits are referred to as such because they can easily cause problems for the drinker. These may manifest as legal repercussions for drunk driving incidents or unruly public behavior, or as consequences for theft or other illegal means used as a desperate attempt to acquire alcohol. In these cases, this can cause emotional, financial, and physical damage to the people around these individuals.
- Lack of Self-Control. Because alcohol can be severely impairing, individuals who regularly drink excessively may often have a hard time controlling their actions and behaviors. This may lead to them doing or saying hurtful things to those around them or engaging in activities that indirectly harm others.
Alcoholism as a Family Illness
Al-Alon as an organization recognizes alcoholism as a family illness, as it truly does impact an individual’s whole family (whether biological or chosen). This damage is not just limited to the physical and emotional harm an individual’s alcohol abuse can have on a family member.
In fact, an individual’s substance abuse can have repercussions that last throughout generations. When it comes to genetics, a family history of addiction can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing their own substance use disorder.
For many people, having family members and/or ancestors with long histories of substance abuse may be enough of a reason to never pick up a drink. Furthermore, when regularly exposed to or raised by an alcoholic adult, children may be more prone to developing an addiction in the future.
What is Alateen?
Alateen, which is an extension of Al-Anon Family Groups, is a fellowship geared towards supporting young people who have been affected by another person or loved one’s drinking. Predominantly utilized by individuals aged 13-18, Alateen serves to support these young adults in several ways.
For teenagers who choose to participate, Alateen support groups may serve as a way for them to not only cope with the addictive behaviors of another, but to prevent themselves from following a similar path.
For more information on the dates, times, and locations of Alateen meetings, click here.
How Can You Support Someone Struggling with Addiction?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to addiction of any form, let alone alcoholism. Even if humbly asked by their loved ones to overcome this disease for their benefit, addiction is often quite powerful and can establish a hold that feels inescapable. Ultimately, the only person who is responsible for convincing an addict to get help is the individual, themselves.
However, there are ways that those with loved ones who are struggling with substance abuse can help them find the strength to make this decision. Of course, the most important thing is that they themselves are first cared for.
When it comes to supporting addicted individuals, Al-Anon’s simple solution to a complicated issue is to follow a “One Day at a Time” approach. After all, the circumstances of an individual’s addiction can change at any given time. Each day on this path may present new challenges or achievements, which will require a different response from both the addict and those supporting them.
While this might seem bleak, the simple fact of having people who care enough about them to want to help maybe just the push addicted individuals need to better themselves. Addiction recovery is often a long and difficult road for both the addict and their loved ones. However, with the right support from both parties, it is achievable.
Supporting Those Affected by Drug Abuse
According to a membership conducted by Al-Anon in 2018, almost 35% of its members joined the organization due to a loved one’s substance abuse and experienced improvements in their lives because of this.
However, Al-Anon was designed particularly for individuals who are affected by someone’s abuse of alcohol. Thus, individuals who have suffered due to another person’s drug abuse probably will not find an Al-Anon Family Group to be particularly helpful.
Fortunately, there is an organization like Al-Anon that is dedicated to helping these individuals. This fellowship is called Nar-Anon Family Groups, and essentially follows the same principles and foundations of Al-Anon, but is adjusted to fit the circumstances of individuals specifically coping with a loved one’s abuse of drugs.
To find out more about Nar-Anon, simply visit their website here.
Proven Treatment Methods for Alcohol Abuse
Today, there are several levels of substance abuse treatment methods and options available to those struggling with this disease. Whether these be more holistic, spiritually / religiously based methods, or those that are based on clinical research, individuals of all backgrounds can find a way to overcome their addiction.
It is crucial, however, to acknowledge that alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, fatal. Thus, it is always recommended that those recovering from alcohol abuse first do so with medical supervision and guidance.
This will typically involve a medically supervised detox process at a treatment facility, followed by spending time at an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Talking with a medical provider or certified addiction professional can help individuals choose a specific treatment provider or program.
Once these initial recovery stages have been completed, can individuals then begin to seek out organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Twelve Step alternatives as a means of helping them to maintain their sobriety?
Does My Insurance Cover Rehab?
Whether seeking out information on a specific treatment center for yourself or a loved one, financial concerns are quite common. The best way to find out if your insurance and coverage plan will fund your rehab process is by calling your provider directly. Or you can use our free insurance verification tool on the Find Addiction Rehabs website, here.
Find the Right Treatment Options, Right Here!
As discussed, addiction is a powerful and devastating disease, not just for the addicted individual, but for their family members and loved ones as well. Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, we understand that, at times, it can feel impossible to overcome substance abuse. However, that is why we are here.
Whether you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone, and help is available. Our team is dedicated to connecting you with addiction treatment centers and substance abuse resources, as well as supporting you in any way we can. Just calling our 24/7 hotline, we can connect you with a treatment provider today that will prioritize your personal care needs.
While it can be difficult to seek out professional treatment advice and assistance, your family member or loved one will greatly benefit from your taking the initiative. Make the right choice for you and them, and call today to begin this journey to healthier, happier, and addiction-free relationships!
Edward lives and works in South Florida and has been a part of its recovery community for many years. With a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts, he works to help Find Addiction Rehabs as both a writer and marketer. Edward loves to share his passion for the field through writing about addiction topics, effective treatment for addiction, and behavioral health as a whole. Alongside personal experience, Edward has deep connections to the mental health treatment industry, having worked as a medical office manager for a psychiatric consortium for many years.