Addiction is a family disease, affecting all family members in some way. No one escapes unscathed. We often have no idea that we’re being affected – after all, our family experience is the only one we know and to us it is “normal,” but affected we most certainly are.
Families are where we first learn to relate to other people. If addiction is an underlying part of our family landscape, it affects not only how we relate to our family members but how we relate to others throughout the rest of our lives. The lessons that we learn in our family become part of our emotional DNA.
Recovering alcoholics/addicts aren’t immune to the effects of growing up in a family system ravaged by addiction. And many of us have alcoholics/addicts in our lives right now – whether our partners, children, friends or other family members – and we can find these relationships highly problematic, even if we’ve spent years working the 12 steps of recovery to the best of our abilities. We may feel it’s our responsibility to help our loved ones find their way to recovery, and become increasingly frustrated when they don’t. We may repeatedly find ourselves in unsatisfying, maddening relationships and don’t know why.
Maybe our sponsor sees that we’re struggling in relationships or with self-care. Maybe in learning to be less self-centered we’ve somehow lost our sense of self. Maybe some old behaviours are seemingly intransigent, despite our very best efforts in working the steps. Maybe, just maybe, we need to enlarge the scope of our recovery.
And so we may find ourselves gravitating to that “other fellowship” – Al-Anon.
Al-Anon welcomes anyone whose life has been affected by the drinking of someone else – whether in the present or the past. For alcoholics/addicts, a couple of common-sense guidelines apply:
- At Al-Anon, we’re not there as alcoholics/addicts, we’re there as someone who’s been affected by someone else’s drinking, and we identify ourselves as such. Leave your AA membership at the door.
- As always, our sobriety comes first: Al-Anon meetings can’t and don’t replace our AA meetings. We still need to work our own personal program of ongoing recovery.
If you think Al-Anon might be useful to you, do what you did when you first came to AA. Check out some meetings – try at least six, and shop around for meetings that feel like a good fit. Let them know you’re new. Listen to those with some experience. Try not to compare – look for the commonalities. Read the literature. See how it feels and if it resonates for you. You may just find that your recovery deepens and grows in ways you can’t imagine.
Wondering if Al-Anon might be worth trying? Check out Is Al-Anon For You?