Monday, December 31, 2007

What Is Al-Anon? And How Has It Helped You?

Earlier - I mentioned several people asking me about Al-Anon. I have requested several people to post comments here.

The question(s) that may stimulate your comments are:

  • What is Al-Anon? How does it function? Has it helped you?

Many people are asking. Many people have misconceptions. They may be able to use your advice.

Please comment. You can sign in or if you prefer to, remain anonymous.


Al said...

Al-Anon is a group of men and women (or women's group or men's group) that meets regularly. There is a discussion leader. He or she volunteers to be the leader. What members talk about is what they are doing to help themselves. These men and women have a alcoholic (or addict) spouse, or child or friend or parent.

What is said here stays here. No one criticizes or is allowed to judge. There is no crosstalk

People are warm and friendly.

Whatever some one is going through, some one else has experienced in their life.

The discussion leader typically reads a passage from Al-Anon literature, and something that is occuring in their situation. And then group members say something about about the reading, or discuss what is going on in their situation.

There is no membership of dues to join.

Is is all based on anonymity. The meeting lasts for an hour and sometimes some one will ask for help, and more experienced members will stay behind to talk to the individual.

Anonymous said...

Has It helped me?
Sure has. I grew a backbone...I learned what was good for me. I learned to say "no" and not have to explain it or apologize for my feelings. I learned how to detach. I learned how to let him have his problems and I could be on the sidelines and not get involved in it. I learned how to look at him the same way I would see a neighbor with a problem and not get all worried about it. I learned it was okay to protect myself from the fallout and drama of his problems...and I learned what to do to protect myself. I learned new mental attitudes toward my own self-esteem and how I need to be able to protect it. I have been going to AlAnon for a few years and have met a lot of good friends...I don't know their last names, but that is okay. We know eachother in a way that others don't.

nanceelee said...

A lttle about me, and why I probably ended up working a 12 step program.

I am the middle child, only daughter with two older and two younger brothers. My dad was an alcoholic, fine and nice when not drinking, although distant…but mean and abusive when drinking. Really mean. He committed suicide 24 years ago, when I was 26. Although his death was a tragedy, none of us were too surprised. My mom was, and still is in many ways…the victim and the martyr. I have found that being kind to her is the best thing to do, in her older age, as whenever I try to talk about anything with her, she very skillfully turns the conversation to how ungrateful I am, and how many problems I have. She has told me that SHE was not the alcoholic, and takes no ownership of what we went through growing up. She doesn’t understand why we aren’t “perfect”, like she is. She doesn’t understand that her dad was loving, committed and strong for her, and that we never knew that. She thinks that she is the only victim of my dad’s disease. I suppose she doesn’t need any of us bringing the past up in her life at this time. I am the only one that can bring peace to my life. My three surviving brothers are “functioning” alcoholics, my fourth, and oldest probably would have been also.

I started my 12 step program 4 or so years ago and became a member of Overeaters Anonymous. My youngest brother has been sober for over 20 years, a member of AA. When I was younger and he suggested that Al-Anon might help me, I was like my mom is to this day, defensive, unreceptive, offended. It was an affront to my “perfectness”, the perfect life I was living as a wife, mother, creative director, business woman. I didn’t have a problem. I am not an alcoholic. I tried to be perfect for so many years in my parents eyes, that I could never admit weakness and go to a meeting like that.

I lived my life, pretty well for the most part, a few bumps and bruises along the way. I found, as I got older, that I felt I was living a half-life, kind of a shell of myself. Although I didn’t have a real weight problem, I did tend to binge in the evenings, cushioning my thoughts and emotions from everyday life? I felt more and more out of control, and ashamed of my binging. I’m not sure why or how, but I found myself at an OA meeting four years ago, and from the first meeting I was astounded at the acceptance of who I was, no shame, no blame…someone, or a whole group of people, understood me and were willing to be there for me, to help me. I have had my binging under control for a long time.

About a year ago, I thought that maybe I could address my past even further and started thinking about attending an Al-Anon meeting. It took me 6 months, but I did go. The same friendship, support and acceptance was freely given to me at this meeting. Many of the stories shared could be my own. We read the 12 steps, 12 traditions and a few other passages together. We share. Some meetings work directly out of the “Big Book”, some have speakers telling their story. We all share our particular story that evening, if we like, without interruption, without reprimand, with respect. We know our stories are different, and yet so the same. These friends know me as my mom, dad and brothers never will. They encourage me to heal, and be much stronger. I do my best to do the same for them.

Do you hear something of yourself in my story? There are many of us. You can change the names, change the characters, but we are here. We will accept you and meet you where you are. We will support you in the direction you would like to go. If you fall, we will understand and watch you get back up, with all our respect. I was that “I don’t have a problem” girl. I’m so glad I got over it, and became a part of 12 step.

Hi, my name is Nancy. I am a grateful recovering compulsive overeater. I am a new, and happy member of Al-Anon. Wishing all of us the best in the new year. Blessings and Peace.

Anonymous said...

What it did for me was it gave me peace of mind that I was not going crazy and that the problems I confronted were not abnormal. While we each have our own story and how things affected us, it was very similar to what other people were facing.

It also taught me about the disease and how the disease affected me. And how it was affecting the family - AND how I was contributing by trying to talk the alcoholic out of drinking and "getting right."

It taught me how to set boundaries, being able to explain things more clearly as to what I expect and need and areas and things I will not tolerate.

It helped me understand that if I walk away from a fight, that I am not losing nor winning and that I do not need to "Win".

Overall it showed and still shows me how to be more effective.

It also, and this is strange, made my spouse want to get help. Now, I had several people tell me that this probably would happen. It is a little weird, because I did not "sell" the concept on my spouse.

I am not perfect. I have learned to accept some things and not tolerate other things.

The first and second meetings allowed me to grieve. It also gave me a voice. The meeting and the people there showed me through courage and strength, we could become better and make better decisions.

No one judged me. There was a huge amount of compassion and a feeling of understanding. I went from getting things off my chest to how can I learn to become better in dealing with this. I also learned some effective tools - as I pointed out earlier - one was boundaries, another was detachment and another disengaging.

I am still in recovery and I still working out my problems and issue. I am learning to be a more fulfilled person.

I can tell you I had to go to several meetings to find the group that I felt comfortable with. And I had to attend several times. I will also tell you that I don't always agree with what everyone says or said. But I take from the meetings the things that I can use to help me - I am very thankful that these meetings are around.

A few other points;
- There are no dues
- There is no church affiliation
- There is no "drink the coolaid"
- The meeting is run and attended by people who are like me and you
- You can cry in the meeting (men and women)
- You will find yourself laughing with the group - soon (believe it or not!!)
- No one is selling a therapist, a book, a seminar, a religion, a point of view, a single way of living
- There is suggested literature which some of is very good, some may not make sense to your situation at that moment. Some costs money (the books) but the pamphlets are free (and these are excellent)
- It will give you dignity and grace like you had before or you never experienced.

God Bless and Good Luck in 2008

Ashley said...

I first walked through the doors to an al-anon meeting when my husband started an in-patient 30 day treatment program. Unlike most people who go to al-anon, I was pretty happy when I walked in. My husband was seeking help, everything was going to be great.

I realized very quickly that there were a lot of coping strategies I had learned over the course of the drinking years. Strategies that kept me somewhat sane, but nowhere near healthy. I wasn't happy or content, I spent a lot of time angry, or trying to control everything around me since I couldn't control him.

Al-anon provided a time, one hour a week, for me to focus on myself and not him. I could think about how twisted my thinking had become over 10 years, and how to get out of it. It helped me remember that alcoholism is really a disease, and I was able to respect my husband again.

Al-anon made it possible for me to handle relapse 2 months ago and not go insane. I've found people that know exactly what I'm going through which is so nice to know.

Everything the other comments say is true - no dues, no religious affiliation, no attendance requirements - it's all for you - what you need, when you need it.

Joe said...

Great comments everyone. Thank you. Please, if you have other thoughts, don't hesitate to jump in again and offer up other points!

Thanks! Joe