Most of us know someone who suffers from alcoholism or addiction, either a person in your immediate family, or a co-worker or a friend. Such close proximity to the terrors of alcoholism is not without consequences. To love someone and see them seemingly willfully destroying their lives evokes fear, anger and distrust. Al-Anon is designed specifically for such situations. Al-Anon is a 12 step program that was created as a way for the families of alcoholics and addicted people to seek a solution to their problems created by alcoholism. Often this can look like controlling, rage, obsession or anxiety. The unmanageability of being so close to untreated alcoholism can ironically end up looking a lot like untreated alcoholism without the drink or drugs. Al-Anon has the 3 C’s: We didn’t cause it, we can’t control it and we can’t cure it.
Working in recovery, I am often in contact with the families of alcoholics who are at their wits end. They usually are one of a few types; the person who has so much guilt and remorse over their loved one’s alcoholism, the person who believes if only they do X, Y or Z that their loved one will stop using or the person who believes that a nice 90 separation from the drugs and drink will restore their loved one to the person they used to be. Unfortunately, while coming from a place of love, these are misguided ideas. Regardless of what you did or didn’t do for the alcoholic, you did not cause their alcoholism. Regardless of what you do or don’t do now, will not manifest sobriety in the alcoholics life. And regardless of how much we do to help, we cannot cure alcoholism. This is not to be all doom and gloom. There are actions we can do to positively support an alcoholic’s recovery and actions we can do to negatively enable their disease.
The first and best suggestion would be to attend an Al-Anon meeting. Learn about the disease of alcoholism and get a sponsor who can share their experience of loving someone with alcoholism. Working with a person who has shared your experience and gotten a change in perspective is probably the scariest and most beneficial thing you can do for your loved one. We tell alcoholics that they cannot go at it alone, or they will surely fail. The same principle applies to the loved ones of alcoholics, you do not have to and should not go at it alone. Alcoholism is a powerful and destructive foe but there is a solution to the unmanageability of it. There are usually 12 step counterparts for the families of any 12-step group. Do some research online to find a meeting close to your house and attend it. If you don’t like it, try another. Or come back the next week and see if your perspective hasn’t changed. Take what you can use and leave the rest. You are not alone.