Al-Anon understands the unique challenges of living with, or loving, someone who is addicted
We’ve all heard about 12-step programs and how they have turned lives around for the better. For alcoholics, there is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and for those addicted to drugs there are Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Pills Anonymous (PA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA). Each group follows certain steps that have helped millions of people obtain and maintain sobriety. Attendees find fellowship and support, and the only requirement is a desire to stop using the substance.
For people who have an person who is an addict or alcoholic in their lives, there is Al-Anon, which follow a similar pattern of adhering to 12 steps. Living with or loving an addicted or alcoholic person presents a unique set of challenges, and these meetings are geared to help. The only requirement for attendance is to have a qualifier (a person who is an addict or alcoholic) in your life.
It took me a very long time to attend my first Al-Anon meeting, and when I did I had a response that was life changing, but in a way that I never would have expected.
I was sitting in a room filled with wonderful people at an Al-Anon meeting in a beachy part of southern New Jersey. The room was filled with light. I remember thinking how it reminded me of church, how I was sitting there in this wonderful light thinking about behaviors and consequences and how I fit into the whole picture. As I sat there listening, something happened. A voice whispered: What if you don’t have to learn how to live with the addicts in your life? What if you can leave? I stilled the voice at that time, but the seed was planted at that meeting, and eventually I did leave.
I am not saying that attending a 12-step meeting will grant you a life-changing epiphany. I am certainly not saying that 12-step meetings are for everyone, or that they are essential to learning how to deal with the addictions and addicts in your life. I am saying that they work for a lot of people and that they have a golden reputation.
Here are seven reasons they may be worth an hour or so of your time:
- The meetings provide support for you. Solo Moms are great at giving support to their kids. By contrast, 12-step meetings focus on you. I was surprised at how little I thought about how I was feeling until it was pointed out to me at my first meeting.
- It’s anonymous. Truly. Living with your qualifier can create some strange events in your life. You can talk about them here without giving your last name or your occupation.
- They get it. They nod. They aren’t surprised. Eyebrows aren’t raised.
- You can shop. If you don’t care for the folks at one Al-Anon meeting, you can try another one, then another, until you find one that feels like the right fit. You are never obligated to return.
- You can learn by listening. It really is that easy.
- You will find out about resources you may not have known about in your community.
- Solo Moms aren’t known for their active social lives. But 12-step meetings are uniting and offer events that you can attend with people you trust. You can extend your circle of friends easily through your common bond.
The bottom line? Many of these meetings offer free child care while you attend and tons of support. You can take what you need and leave the rest. If nothing else, a 12-step meeting will remind you that the focus sometimes has to be on you.
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Anne Spollen lives happily as a Solo Mom to three kids and works as an author, a writer, and a college teacher.
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