Reprinted with permission from the pamphlet, "Understanding Ourselves and Alcoholism" by Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
“Alcoholism is a ‘family’ disease. Compulsive drinking affects the drinker and it affects the drinker's relationships; friendships, employment, childhood, parenthood, love affairs, marriages, all suffer from the effects of alcoholism. Those special relationships in which a person is really close to an alcoholic are affected most, and we who care are the most caught up in the behavior of another person. We react to an alcoholic’s behavior. We see that the drinking is out of hand and try to control it. We are ashamed of the public scenes but in private we try to handle it. It isn’t long before we feel we are to blame and take on the hurts, the fears, the guilt of an alcoholic.”
“Even the most well-meaning people begin to count the number of drinks another person is having. We pour expensive liquor down drains, search the house for hidden bottles, listen for the sound of opening cans. All our thinking is directed at what the alcoholic is doing or not doing and how to get him or her to stop drinking. This is our obsession.”
“Watching other human beings slowly kill themselves with alcohol is painful. While the alcoholic doesn’t seem to be worrying about the bills, the job, the children, the condition of his or her health, people around them begin to worry. We make the mistake of covering up. We fix everything, make excuses, tell little lies to mend damaged relationships, and we worry some more. This is our anxiety.”
“Sooner or later the alcoholic's behavior makes those around him or her angry. We realize that the alcoholic is not taking care of responsibilities, is telling lies, using us. We have begun to feel that the alcoholic doesn’t love us and we want to strike back, punish, make the alcoholic pay for the hurt and frustration caused by uncontrolled drinking. This is our anger.”
“Those who are close to the alcoholic begin to pretend. We accept promises, we believe. We want to believe the problem has gone away each time there is a sober period. When every good sense tells us there is something wrong with the alcoholic’s drinking or thinking, we still hide how we feel and what we know. This is our denial.”
“Perhaps the most severe damage to those who have shared some part of life with an alcoholic comes in the form of the nagging belief that we are somehow at fault; we were not up to it all, not attractive enough, not clever enough to have solved this problem for the one we love. We think is was something we did or did not do. These are our feelings of guilt.”
Alcoholism is a three-fold disease, physical, mental, and spiritual. What we fail to realize or accept is that alcoholism is a disease. An uncontrollable desire to drink is only one symptom of that disease. Taking care of one symptom, even a major symptom, does not cure the whole disease. Although it can be arrested, alcoholism has no known cure. (Excerpted from How Al‑Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics.)
Al‑Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.
Help is here for the asking. Find out if Al‑Anon or Alateen is right for you. Take a moment to ask yourself some questions: “Are You Troubled By Someone’s Drinking?” (20 questions for Al‑Anon) or “Did You Grow Up With A Problem Drinker?” (20 questions for Al‑Anon Adult Children) or “ Is Someone’s Drinking Getting To You?” (20 questions for Alateen). If you identify with some of these questions, it is important to know that help and hope for friends and families of alcoholics is just a phone call away.
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. Virginia Beach, VA.Updated 28 February 2023
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