I've heard that for every alcoholic there are 10 family members and friends affected by alcoholism. I don't know if this is a true statistic or not, but it has made me wonder why aren't there more of "us" in the rooms of Al-Anon.
Here are some other statistics that I find interesting:
- Of the two thousand male patients at nine outpatient alcoholic clinics, four times as many marriages had been dissolved among them as normally would be expected.
- According to U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, seventy six million American adults have been exposed to alcoholism in the family.
- Alcoholism is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause. One of every four families has problems with alcohol.
So when I look at the list of meetings, I see that there are many fewer Al-Anon meetings than AA meetings. I see that our rooms are seldom filled up. I wonder where are all those who are out there and what are they doing. Are they doing what I did--trying to go it alone, toughing it out, putting on a false face for the world, and then struggling to get through the night?
I've worked the phone lines for our Al-Anon district and talked to those who call in. They are desperate for help for the alcoholic. When I would suggest that they go to a meeting, some didn't think that they needed help. They wanted a solution to stop the alcoholic from drinking.
I also know that some families allow heavy drinking to continue in exchange for keeping the family together. Denial is something that alcoholics and family members have in common. But denial comes with a cost. It can trigger emotional problems in all concerned.
One of these problems is co-dependency. That is what I learned from growing up in an alcoholic home. My mother denied that there was a problem, and I did everything possible to pretend that things were normal too. I wanted to preserve my family’s prestige and project the image of a “perfect family”. I didn't want my friends to come visit. I began to live with anxiety and developed a negative self image. I continued that behavior into my marriage, always feeling that there was something to hide, no where to run, confined in my own personal prison of unhappiness.
So I'm hoping that those of you who read this will make a decision to get to a meeting. There won't be strangers there but people just like you who have felt the same despair that you feel. And eventually, you'll come to realize that there is a better way to live.