Support for families of alcoholics is crucial because watching a loved one, a family member, friend, or colleague with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be a challenge. Alcohol abuse in family settings affects all members of the family, not just the alcoholic.
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, the principles that are believed to expel one’s obsession to drink, 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.
While simple issues may need simple solutions, the solution to more complex problems is tougher to explain. Al‑Anon streamlines a complex problem by recommending a “One Day at a Time” method, which takes things one step at a time.
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.
At each Al‑Anon meeting, you could listen to people explain how Al‑Anon worked well for them. It could be the best place to begin to learn about Al‑Anon and its advantages—One Day at a Time. Al‑Anon members come to see problem drinking as a disease that affects everybody in the family.
By hearing Al‑Anon members share their experiences at Al‑Anon meetings, you could hear how they started to understand their role in this family disease. This concept puts them in a much better position to play a positive part in the family’s future.
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.
Alateen is a fellowship of young people whose lives were affected by someone else’s drinking, regardless of whether those people are in your life drinking or not. This fellowship is a part of the Al-Anon family groups. By attending Alateen, young adults meet other young adults with similar situations. Alateen isn’t a religious program and keep in mind that there are no dues or fees to belong to it.
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.