Many people are familiar with support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous for support with addiction issues, but not so many people are familiar with Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a support group that is for the families of those who are struggling with alcohol addiction. It’s primary benefit is that it is free and groups are often made up of individuals who are experiencing the same home life struggles as everyone else.
There are some additional benefits to consider, but some disadvantages that must also be weighed, before exploring what supports a local Al-Anon group has to offer. Here are some of the key points to consider.
What Are the Pros of Al-Anon?
1. Anyone can attend an Al-Anon meeting.
Unlike other support groups that focus on the person who is suffering from an addiction, Al-Anon focuses on the entire family unit. The person who is struggling with an alcohol addiction doesn’t even need to attend with the family. The setting is very informal to provide the highest amount of help and comfort possible, which means some households can finally feel like they’re getting the help they need to overcome the issues they’re facing.
2. The focus remains on the individual.
Many families try to place the blame of addiction and problems within the household on the person suffering from the addiction. Although responsibility might lie with choices made, Al-Anon focuses on what choices can be made right now. The focus dynamic shifts from being concerned about how someone is being treated to how someone is treating themselves.
3. It can inspire higher levels of trust.
Most alcohol addiction issues are treated one day at a time. In Al-Anon, this attitude helps to rebuild the trust that someone may have lost within the household. Although alcohol addiction can be very irritating, the reasons behind the addiction can help people to a deeper understanding of themselves. That is ultimately what these supports are all about. In order to treat the addiction and find help, a person must be able to find themselves first.
4. There is a large group and support network that becomes instantly accessible.
In the modern church, there is something known as a “prayer chain.” In essence, if there is a prayer need in the church, one person emails or calls another, who calls another, and so forth until the entire network is providing prayer support. Al-Anon works in much the same way. You have access to an instant network of group supports that can help you out when you’ve got a difficult situation going on at home.
5. It puts life in perspective.
At the core of humanity is the desire to be competitive. In Al-Anon meetings, it isn’t uncommon to see families and individuals trying to one-up each other on how “bad” their family life situation happens to be. The stories can become more dramatic, the issues problematic, and the stories repeat themselves night after night. This can help people put their own problems into perspective, realize that they aren’t as bad off as they thought they were, and make it easier to seek out the help that is needed.
6. It provides the tools to stay sober.
Al-Anon might provide certain steps and resources to help achieve and maintain sobriety, but ultimately it is the person involved who must use those tools to stay sober. That’s what is encouraged from a family perspective.
What Are the Cons of Al-Anon?
1. It isn’t always anonymous.
Although attending meetings as a family is supposed to be anonymous, it isn’t always that way. Smaller communities tend to have neighbors who know everyone else in town, which means a family will be recognized when they come for support. Although most groups rally around each other, when people know that other families are going to an Al-Anon meeting, it becomes easier to spread gossip about them.
2. There are religious components to the group.
One of the biggest surprises that families face when attending an Al-Anon group meeting is the prayer portion of it. People who aren’t religiously affiliated or believe in a different form of spirituality may become uncomfortable during this portion of the meeting or pressured to believe something in which they don’t wish to believe. Add in the small town aspect of some groups and the pressure becomes even higher.
3. It can be difficult to attend meetings.
Al-Anon meetings are generally scheduled to be at a time that is convenient for most. Most does not equate to all, which means your family may not be able to make it to every meeting. Sometimes missing a meeting is viewed as “skipping a meeting” and that negative reflection can lead to a lack of supports that are required. Others may have difficulty attending meetings simply because they’re traveling outside of their small town for help.
4. It is easy to follow the group mindset instead of your own needs.
The world you find yourself in after a series of Al-Anon groups can become very insulated. It isn’t uncommon to discover after a few weeks that your only social interactions outside of the family tend to come from the group itself. People can easily fall into the trap that their friends and other family members just don’t understand what is happening to them and begin to pull away. Some people feel that they have to do what the group suggests so they can remain part of the group, which means it has become an addiction as well.
5. Help has to come from God.
This might be the biggest issue that people face. Although you can turn over your will to the god of your choosing, you must do so in order to remain in the program. A refusal to do so or the desire to help oneself is seen as a lack of faith. You must provide your god with the private details of your life and anyone in attendance at the Al-Anon meeting. If God is all-knowing, why does He require such a disclosure?
6. It may set people up for failure.
Many people feel like Al-Anon requires them to become powerless in order to become well. That system can set up vulnerable people for other problems that are far greater than alcohol consumption. Women dealing with addiction specifically can find themselves at a tremendous disadvantage should others be attending the meetings just to prey on them.
The pros and cons of Al-Anon prove one thing: seeking the right kind of help is a good thing. Not everyone will enjoy or benefit from the support network this group provides. The only way to determine that, however, is to attend a meeting or two personally to see what it is like.