When Should You Go to Al-Anon?
If you believe that a family member needs to go to an alcohol treatment program, you might benefit from attending Al-Anon group meetings. Al-Anon meetings are a place where spouses, friends, and relatives of problem drinkers go to share their feelings and experiences. You can attend a meeting, introduce yourself, and say nothing else, or you can participate in the group’s discussion if you like.
The website for Al-Anon offers a couple tests to help you determine if one of their meetings would benefit you. The questions ask you if you worry about someone’s drinking or if your household suffers financially from it. If you lie to cover up this person’s drinking, give him one ultimatum after another, or constantly make excuses for his behavior, you should think about attending a meeting. If you blame yourself for not stopping the drinking or even live in fear of it, then you should run, not walk, to the next closest meeting.
Many people worry about what the meeting will be like. Nobody wants to step into a door, plaster a fake smile on his or her face, and stand in front of a crowd of people to introduce himself. You can rest assured that Al-Anon meetings just aren’t like that.
If you envision a large room with metal chairs set up, you might be surprised to find that many Al-Anon meetings take place around a large table. You just pull up a chair and sit down. Even if you don’t want to share any of your experiences or feelings, you may find that your emotions open up a little bit just because you can identify with what other people are saying. You can attend a meeting even if your loved one has not yet agreed to participate in alcohol treatment.
There is no sign-in sheet at an Al-Anon meeting, and there are no dues. After you’ve attended for a while, you may want to donate to the group’s kitty, because that’s how it maintains the supply of literature that it offers to newcomers. You’ll find that one person is in charge of running the meeting, and people take turns reading from something called the Big Book. This is actually a little book, but it’s an official book of the Alcoholics Anonymous organization, full of stories about how other people managed to kick their addictions. If you want to buy a copy of your own, it costs less than ten bucks. If you read one story every day, it will surprise you that other people have experienced the worries and fears that you are struggling with.
If your family member has already begun his recovery at an alcohol treatment program, you can still benefit from Al-Anon meetings. It exasperates people when their loved ones begin treatment but the counselor does not return their phone calls. The counselor is bound by confidentiality agreements with each client and cannot share any information with you unless the client approves it. Attending Al-Anon groups can help you get through this frustrating time.
Even when the counselor integrates you into family group participation, you will benefit from continued involvement in Al-Anon. If you don’t know how to find an Al-Anon meeting, ask the staff at the local rehab center for help; even the receptionist should be able to provide you with a meeting list for your area.