Support for families of alcoholics is crucial because alcohol abuse in family settings affects all members of the family, not just the alcoholic. Most treatment programs for alcoholism and other addictions include family components, such as family counseling sessions, family education sessions, and support groups for family members. Support is available even if the alcoholic member of the family is not in treatment, though. That’s good, because if you’re dealing with an alcoholic family member that’s not in treatment, you’ll definitely need some support.
Al-Anon is a self-help group modeled on the 12 steps used in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). The purpose of Al-Anon groups is to provide support for families of alcoholics and other addicts. The focus is on the family members, the members of the Al-Anon group; the group doesn’t try to provide treatment for the alcoholic or talk about how to change the alcoholic’s behavior. Instead, they focus on how family members can cope with an alcoholic and how they can take control of their own behavior.
In Al-Anon groups, you can talk about the difficulties you face and you can learn from others that have lived through similar situations. If you feel unsure about talking in a group setting, try attending a meeting anyway; you can just listen until you feel comfortable talking.
To find an Al-Anon group near you, visit Al-Anon or call 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666). Groups meet all over the U.S, in big cities and in small towns, and in Canada and other countries, as well. In a mid-sized town, you can probably find a meeting every day of the week. Sometimes Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held at the same time as Al-Anon meetings, though in another room, but that’s not always the case, and you can attend Al-Anon whether or not your alcoholic family member attends AA.
Ala-Teen is a self-help group like Al-Anon, but it is specifically for teenagers that have an alcoholic family member. It’s important that support for families of alcoholics includes support for teenagers and younger children, as well as for adult family members. If children are too young to attend Ala-Teen, there may be some other support groups for younger children in your area.
To find an Ala-Teen group near you, visit the Al-Anon website at or call 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666). To find support groups for younger children, ask an addictions counselor or contact a nearby substance abuse treatment center.
Professional counselors address issues related to alcohol abuse in family counseling sessions. All members of the family, including the alcoholic, often attend counseling sessions together so a counselor can help them communicate and resolve conflicts in the family. Alcoholism often leads to a great deal of stress and conflict in families, so this is important. Even if an alcoholic family member is unwilling to attend family counseling, though, other family members can benefit from the opportunity to talk about the issues they’re dealing with and from having professional support and guidance.
To find a counselor with experience addressing issues related to alcohol abuse in family counseling sessions, you can contact the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy online at www.aamft.org. You can also contact nearby substance abuse treatment centers. If the alcoholic in your family is in treatment, family counseling may be offered at that treatment center, but you don’t have to see a counselor there if you’d prefer to see someone else. Not all counselors have experience working with families, so make sure you find one that does. Working with a whole family is different than working with just one individual.
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