The Hilltoppers Al-Anon Family Group

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So You Love an Alcoholic

The first thing to acknowledge, believe, and accept is that alcoholics suffer from a real sickness - a sickness which affects all those close to them.
The American Medical Association and many other authorities the world over declare that alcoholics suffer from an illness over which they have no control. Alcoholism is not caused by weakness of will, immorality, or a desire to hurt others.
Scientific advances in the understanding of this disease have redefined old ideas based on superstition, ignorance, and prejudice. Ths success of this approach is proven by the powerful evidence of many thousands of recoveries in Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Alateen.
By accepting the idea that alcoholism is an illness from which problem drinkers and those who care about them can find release, you will have no reason to be ashamed of alcoholism - no reason to fear it.
LEARN THE FACTS     Top of Page
Wipe your mental slate clean of everything you think you know about alcoholism. Then apply yourself to learning about the disease.
Read everything available about the disease of alcoholism. A vast amount of information is accessible through public libraries and the Internet.
Attending open meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous can provide valuable first-hand knowledge about alcoholism from recovering alcoholics themselves. Open meetings can be attended by anyone interested in the problem of alcoholism. AA is usually listed in the telephone directory.
Don't wait to seek help. Anyone who has suffered from the effects of someone else's drinking faces constant emotional strains and pressures, and needs help in relieving these. You will find relief, understanding, support, and warmhearted help in an Al-Anon Family Group. There you will, as one member put it, "learn to live again."
The Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon and Alateen, are wives, husbands, parents, partners, children, and other relatives and frineds of alcoholics. With nearly 28,000 groups worldwide, there may be one close by. The members are compassionate, well-informed, and have first-hand knowledge of problems just like yours, because they have had them, too!
Al-Anon may be listed in the telephone directory. If not, call AA, the local alcoholism information services, or our toll-free number.
Don't hesitate to attend because you feel you're a stranger; anyone who feels his or her life may nave been affected by someone else's drinking is welcome.
Talk to members before and after the meeting; discuss your difficulties with the members there. Conversations with Al-Anon members who share similar problems will help you accept that alcoholism is a disease, not a sin. Sharing this knowledge can help you begin your own recovery.
If the alcoholic in your life is still actively drinking, learning what not to do is an important part of the Al-Anon program. Replacing these behaviors with more positive ones is equally important.
  • DON'T treat the alcoholic like a child; consider this person as if he or she were suffering from any other disease.
  • DO attend All-Anon meetings regularly and find a group where you feel comfortable.
  • DON'T check up to see how much the alcholic is drinking, search for hidden liquor, or pour the liquor out.
  • DO reach out for help in-between meetings by calling members and reading Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature (CAL) daily.
  • DON'T nag the alcoholic about the drinking. Never argue while he or she is under the influence of alcohol.
  • DO remember that we can't cause, control, or cure alcoholism.
  • DON'T preach, scold, or enter into quarrels with the alcoholic.
  • DO attend at least six meetings before deciding if Al-Anon is right for you.
Following these suggestions can bring about a more comfortable frame of mind. All these DO's and DON'Ts have good sound reasons that grew out of many members' experiences.
Alcoholics suffer from feelings of guilt beyond anything the non-alcoholic can imagine. Reminding them of failures, neglect of family and friends, and social errors is all wasted effort. It only makes the situation worse.
The "if you loved me" approach is likewise futile. Remember that alcoholism is compulsive in nature, and cannot be controlled by willpower.
Equally useless are promises, coaxing, arguments, and threats. Don't threaten unless you are prepared to carry out your threat.
Guard against a "holier than thou" attitude. Hostility and contempt cannot cure an illness and are unbecoming attitudes.
Sometimes a crisis - the loss of a job, an accident, or an arrest - can convince the alcoholic of the need for help. Coddling and overprotection at such time will not be helpful. The crisis may be necessary to recovery.
Do nothing to prevent such a crisis from happening - don't cover bad checks, pay overdue bills, or go to the boss with excuses. Thes suffering you are trying to ease by such actions may be the very thing needed to bring the alcoholic to a realization of the seriousness of the situations.
Often the first sign of an alcoholic's desire to stop drinking comes at the end of a desperate and hopeless period. It may come during the remorse of a hangover, or it may be precipitated by a crisis.
Then your knowledge of alcoholism and your wiser attitudes toward the alchholic developed in Al-Anon will be of great help. To the desperate question, "What shall I do?" simply say ample help is available. If asked for suggestions, you can be specific, mentioning AA and other sources you may have found.
Remember, though, that this outcome cannot be forced and might never occur. The alcoholic must be ready for help before he or she can be helped. Don't even insist that the drinker use the word "alcoholic." Even such a phrase as "I might have a drinking problem" may mean acknowledgment of the need for help.
When it is clear the alcoholic wants help, a talk with an AA member may ne the next step - not requested by you, however, but by the alcoholic.
Whatever course of action is decided upon, the decision must be the alcoholic's - it should be plainly understood that he is taking the step freely.
At this time, you can help yourself by staying in close contact with Al-Anon members and your group. Al-Anon can continue to help, whether the alcoholic stops drinking or not.
THE ROAD BACK     Top of Page
For those alcoholics who do embrace the AA program, the recuperation time may be difficult. Constantly keep in mind that "Easy Does It." Don't expect immediate, complete recovery for the drinker or the family. Alcoholism, the illness, took a long time to develop; convalescence is a slow process, too. There may be what are known as "dry drunks," emotional tensions in the alcoholic that have nothing to do with the actual drinking. Be patient. At such times you may think things are worse than they were in the drinking days, but they are not. Patience and tolerance will help these trying times pass.
Extreme fatigue for a year or more after drinking stops may be one of the symptoms of the drinker's withdrawal from alchol. Don't try to force things. Plan your own activities and continue to go to Al-Anon meetings.
Don't be overprotective. Recovering alcohlolic need to learn tolive in a world where alcohol is served, and to answer for themselves.
Guard against feelings of jealousy or resentment about the method of recovery chosen. Many alcoholics need daily AA meetings; just remember it is treatment for an illness. Be grateful if the alcoholic seeks recovery, even when it means he or she is away from home to receive help.
As the alcoholic gets rid of old drinking friends, habits, and haunts, there will be time for other enthusiasms, including AA. Be encouraging of change. When you begin finding interesting activities for yourself in Al-Anon, it takes the focus off the alcoholic and you become responsible for your own happiness. Botyh of your will be on your way to a new life together, each in your own way.
Everyone may have slips and setbacks; don't take these seriously. Believe that a firm foundation for recovery has been laid. If you feel that either of you has made mistakes, learn form them and forget them. Let go of the disapporintments and setbacks and push forward!
The way ahead is not always easy, but it can be full of rich rewards. Recovery from the effects of alcoholism is possible. Al-Anon can help.
Alcoholism is a family disease. Those of us who live with, or have have lived with, this disease as children or adults sometimes have problems which the Al-Anon program can help us to resolve. If you have answered yes to some of all of the above questions, Al-Anon may be of help to you. You can contact Al-Anon by checking your local telephone directory, or from the Resources page. Phone numbers and Contact Information for the Austin Area are listed on the Contact Page of this website.