I read some good posts today (Thanks Mary Christine and Ed!) that mentioned among other things, the amount of misinformation and negativism that occurs about 12 step programs, especially AA, on the internet.
I think that the internet has a lot of resources about recovery. It is up to the discerning reader to "take what they like and leave the rest". Although much of the criticism about 12 step programs is leveled at AA and how cult-like it is, I even found quite a few sites claiming that Al-Anon was a cult.
Some of the points made are that:
1) Al-Anon is anti family--The "family disease" concept is described as blaming parents and other alcoholics in our lives for our problems. Those in Al-Anon are purported to seek perpetrators who "abused" and caused much suffering in our lives.
2) The entire family must become involved in Al-Anon--The alcoholic won't be understood unless the family attends enough meetings and submits to the program. Al-Anon uses the disease concept as a lever to keep you coming back to meetings, and to make loyal members of your family.
3) Al-Anon perpetuates that the alcoholic is sick--The family will not be able to understand the alcoholic unless they also accept the addictive disease concept and become involved in a 12-step program such as Al-Anon. After attending Al-Anon, a person will regard the alcoholic as sick which will create mistrust and emotional distance between you and the loved one.
4) Al-Anon replaces family bonds with cult ties, defining the relationships between family members in clinical and cult terms. Families often break apart on account of AA cult loyalties.
I seriously wondered after reading some of this "information" whether any of the people who wrote about the cult concept ever a) attended several Al-Anon meetings or b) listened to anything that was said. I did happen upon this interesting published Al-Anon article by an anthropologist that gave a different view point.
Because I do believe that people have a right to their own opinions (I don't have to agree with what they say), I won't attempt to dissuade anyone from their beliefs. In fact, I'm not interested in promoting Al-Anon to a person who doesn't want it. But I did want it.
When I went to my first meeting, I could tell that it was something that I desperately wanted. I got a sponsor, listened to the experiences of others, and gradually began to incorporate the Al-Anon principles as a way of life. I learned about courage, strength, validation, understanding, experience and calm serenity from Al-Anon. I stopped worrying about what the alcoholic did, got away from obsessing and nagging her, and started to focus on my own well being.
And yet, the behavioral patterns and emotional wounds still crop up which is why I continue to go to meetings and work with others. I think that this program teaches a life lesson. I have learned how alcoholism affected me, why I let it, how I can learn to not allow it to affect new relationships, and how to relearn healthy relationships with people already in my life.
Through Al-Anon, I have learned patience, kindness, support and validation for me and for my wife who is alcoholic. It has taken time for me to learn about myself and to work on my character defects. I think that open mindedness is such a great thing. Given time and willingness to be open, a new perspective on life can evolve.
My recovery includes what I glean from 12-Step recovery in Al-Anon, combined with other sources of experience, strength, and hope. What I do is for my benefit. Recovery isn't dictated to me by another. I am free to take what I can use and leave the rest. I can honor my individuality. Those who are uncomfortable with my chosen path can deal with their own discomfort, for the lesson of tolerance and judgment is one that they must discover for themselves.