Dr. Aaron's Blog

Addiction Services: Al-Anon / Alateen

August 15, 2016 Addiction, Mental Health, Naturopathic Medicine, Recovery coaching by Aaron Van Gaver

Al-Anon is an independent fellowship, and its purpose is helping friends and relatives of “alcoholics”. The organization believes that alcoholism is a family disease.

The Family Groups consist of a fellowship of friends and relatives of “alcoholics” who relate their experiences, strength, and hopes in order to resolve their common difficulties. They believe that changed attitudes may aid recovery.  The group isn’t allied with any denomination, sect, political entity, institution or organization; it does not become involved in any controversy. It also doesn’t endorse nor oppose any cause. Members do not pay dues for membership as Al-Anon is self-supporting using voluntary contributions.

Purpose of Al-Anon

Al-Anon’s single purpose is to help the families of “alcoholics”. They do this by performing the Twelve Steps, and by welcoming and offering comfort to families of “alcoholics”, as well as giving encouragement to the “alcoholic”.

It is not an intervention program and does not intend to arrest the family member’s compulsive drinking. All the members meet in groups, and the meetings are usually in small groups. In larger meetings, the members split into much smaller groups, so everyone has an opportunity to express themselves.

Although individuals commonly come to Al-Anon for help in bringing an end to another’s drinking, Al-Anon recognizes that the families and friends of “alcoholics” are traumatized themselves and also in need of some emotional support and sympathy.

Al-Anon’s focus

–    Problems

Al-Anon focuses on the problems common to the friends and family members of “alcoholics” like excessive care-taking, the inability to distinguish between pity and love and loyalty to abusers, instead of the problems of an “alcoholic”. The organization recognizes that the members may come with low self-esteem, majorly a side-effect of overestimating their control and trying to control another person’s over drinking behaviour. When they fail, they blame themselves for that person’s behaviour.

–    Improvement

Participation in the group has been linked to less personal blame by the females who engage in more personal blame at the first instance than males. The family members of many “alcoholics” start to improve when they learn to identify family pathology, allot responsibility for this pathology to a disease, and forgive themselves. They also accept that they had been adversely affected by this pathology and learn to live their family members’ inadequacies.

Al-Anon members are urged to place the focus on themselves, instead of on the “alcoholic”. Even if members believe that different attitudes will aid recovery, they understand that one individual didn’t cause, can’t cure and can’t control another individual’s alcohol-related behaviours and choices.

–    Treatment of alcoholism    

The organization focuses on helping friends and families of “alcoholics”, instead of stopping alcoholism in people or providing interventions. If an “alcoholic’s” spouse is a member of Al-Anon and the spouse is active in AA, such an “alcoholic” is likely to be sober, and marital happiness is likely to be improved, and parenting is likely to improve.

The structure of the family groups is depicted in an inverted pyramid with the groups at the top and the headquarters of the organization at the bottom.

To find out more about Al-Anon, check out http://al-anon.org/