Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dispelling the myths

I've heard a lot of jokes and humor regarding the Al-Anon program. I don't take offense at them because there often is a misunderstanding of what the program is about. What it isn't is a program that bashes or promotes criticism of the alcoholic. In fact, Al-Anon encourages compassion towards the alcoholic. It is really about those who have been affected by the disease of alcoholism.

I've listened many times over the past year to a lot of pain coming from women and men who are living with active alcoholism. They cry in pain because someone they love is either dying from the disease or is killing the feelings that used to bind the family together. Sure, they want the person to stop but they have come to the realization that nothing that they say or do will cause the alcoholic to stop. They are powerless over people, places, things and alcoholism.

I suppose for some alcoholics, Al-Anon is viewed as a threat. I've heard that said but haven't witnessed it openly. Maybe in some cases, the non-alcoholic is viewed as an enemy or as critical. Maybe if the non-alcoholic is in recovery, it will be hard for the active alcoholic to deny what is happening. I'm not sure whether there is fear that if the "normal" person recovers, then the behavior of the alcoholic won't be tolerated. The Al-Anon members that I know are struggling themselves to just be able to laugh and maintain a sense of normalcy. They are struggling with their recovery and working their program to become happy, joyous and free.

Another misconception about Al-Anon is that the members have only active alcoholics in their lives. Al-Anon is for anyone affected by alcoholism whether the person is still drinking, is dead, or geographically removed from the home. In my case, there was emotional damage from years of living with a father who drank heavily and a spouse who was an active alcoholic. I felt lost and helpless and had built up a lot of defenses to deal with alcoholism. It was killing me and I didn't drink.

Another misconception is that people who go to Al-Anon go for the alcoholic. Everyone that I know in Al-Anon understands that by going to meetings, the loved one will not become or stay sober. Instead Al-Anon is to help me lead a better life.

With the alcoholics in my life, I well understand the desire to try and control the behavior of the drinker. I grew up learning to ignore my own feelings and to focus on the feelings/behavior of the alcoholics in my life. Al-Anon has helped me to put the focus back on myself and to take responsibility for my own life. My experience in Al-Anon is that working my own program and focusing on my own healing has created changes in those who are around me in a way that my earlier attempts never did.


  1. Thank you for that great post Syd!
    It was very insightful, and full of truth. Most of my (long time) al anon friends, work their al anon program ONLY for their own piece of mind...some of them have forgotten the names of the alcoholics that drove them into the program years earlier. I think our beautiful 12 step program has a life of its own that is larger than our 2 groups put together.

  2. I understand what you mean Syd. We have the same problem over here too which I think making a big problem with addict. I mean drug addicts!

    It is difficult to gain people's trust once you're labeled an addict.

    Once an addict will always be an addict seem to be their motto!

    Greetings and lotta loves from Malaysia.

  3. What a great post today Syd. And what a terrific service it is to the people that do not know what al-anon is all about!!

  4. What some people don't know is that, many alcoholics are also Alanon, or codependnet. Most of us were brought up in alcoholic homes, or have lived with a practicing (or still are living with) alcoholic. I have gone to Alanon when I was in a relationship, my codependency almost killed me. You can die from it, I hit a very painful, low bottom. I know alcoholics who go to Alanon, & they say it helped them more than AA. I mean, we're around alcoholics every day! Hello? We need Alanon just as much as AA, I believe. Thank you for your post, it's very insightful.

  5. Syd,
    I sure can identify. My brother is a full-blown alcoholic..he must drink every day after work till he falls in bed ranting and raving. He has 5 children who have all suffered because of it. His wife divorced him...and he just got sicker and sicker.
    All his children have suffered. Most of them drink heavily and use drugs. Now his youngest daughter is having sex, (no pill) smokes cigarettes and has smoked weed.
    I don't think my brother takes any responsiblity.
    Many people have tried to help him and failed.
    I once went with him to 3 months of meetings at AA to give him support. He wasn't trying to get help. he was trying to convince his wife to come back. When he saw she wasn't going to come back to the marriage, he continued his drinking.
    We have all suffered because of his broken promises,,drunken rages and obnoxious behaviors. I was I could encourage his kids (my nephews) to attend Al-Anon.
    Thanks for sharing Syd. and have a good week.

  6. I think this is my favorite post anyone ever wrote about Al-Anon.

    I am still reading your blog from back to front .. (another cold nyc day) ..

    Thanks for this great post.



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