Living with loved ones suffering from alcohol addiction is hard. The relationship is often rocky, and many times turns sour because of frequent fights.
Thankfully, your loved ones were convinced to join a support group called Alcoholics Anonymous (or AA). Now that they’re on the journey to recovery, you want to support them but don’t know how. Also, what if you want to learn the best practices in dealing with them?
Actually, you’re not alone. Many families of people suffering from substance abuse also need help in dealing with their loved ones. For that reason, there is also a support group designed just for you. It’s called Al-Anon.
Take note that if you have relatives attending AA meetings, you are not required to be a member of Al-Anon. Joining is completely voluntary, just like in AA. But if you need the help of people facing the same challenges as you, it’s a good idea to join an Al-Anon group.
Just like AA, Al-Anon is a 12-step group. It follows a set of 12 principles that help you manage your relationship with your loved ones.
Before going to your first Al-Anon meeting, keep these tips in mind.
Strive to be yourself
It’s normal to feel a bit uncomfortable at first, especially if it’s your first time to join a 12-step support group. Everyone started out just like you.
As soon as you arrive at the meeting place, ease yourself in and feel at home. Trust that other members are there to help you and make you feel welcome in the group.
When you talk to people in the group, be your true self. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Otherwise, you won’t be able to share your experiences well or learn from others effectively.
Connect with the facilitators
If it’s your first time, try having a conversation with the facilitators. This is a great way to ease the awkwardness that you may feel in your first meeting. Also, you’ll have an idea what happens in each meeting and what the group is all about.
They may also let you talk to long-time members. That way, you can be comfortable with the group easily.
It’s okay if you’re not religious
It’s a fact that Al-Anon and its 12 steps have lots of spiritual components. But you do not have to be religious to attend the meetings. There are even non-believers who join Al-Anon and other similar 12-step groups.
The only requirement to join Al-Anon is that you have loved ones who are suffering from alcohol addiction. The desire to help them recover is a big plus.
Find things that you and your fellow members have in common
Each family has a different experience with their loved ones. That’s pretty normal, but you may feel out of place because of these differences.
Remember, though, that the point of joining Al-Anon meetings is to learn from your fellow members. For that to happen, you have to find common ground with them.
Instead of focusing too much on the differences of your experiences, look for things that you can relate with. The more you focus on common ground, the more you feel that you’re not alone in your journey.
Over time, finding common ground would be easier. With that, you would bond better with your fellow members.
Don’t feel pressured to share everything about you right away
You can share only a few things in your first meeting. No one would compel you to share all the fine details of your experience living with a loved one suffering from substance abuse.
Instead, listen more to the stories of your fellow members. Certainly, you can learn a thing or two from what they have to say.
Listen well to whomever is talking
Learning from others involves active listening. Hearing what a person shares is not enough; pay full attention to what he says. Avoid talking to your seatmates when someone is speaking to the group.
By listening intently, you can build better relationships with your fellow members. Also, you will make them feel that you value their stories.
Do not interrupt the person speaking
Some people have this tendency to comment on everything they hear from others. Don’t be like that, especially when a person is sharing with everyone in the group. Just listen to them. You will have your turn soon enough.
Also, after the person is done talking, avoid the urge to offer unsolicited advice. The goal of each person sharing is to let everyone in the group know where they’re coming from. If someone would ask for advice, it’s usually the facilitators who would intervene.
Avoid intentionally missing parts of the meeting
Some people have a bad habit of coming late and leaving early. Al-Anon values punctuality, too, so it’s wise to respect each other’s time. Make it a habit to come in a little early, and finish the meeting before you leave. That way, you won’t miss anything important.
Also, if you’re punctual, it means that you take the meetings seriously. If anything is important to you, you’ll make time for it.
Don’t get turned off when they mention God or a higher power
More often than not, the spiritual side of Al-Anon would show up. In fact, it is part and parcel of the 12 steps. But that doesn’t mean you cannot participate if you don’t believe in God.
Instead, you can consider your Al-Anon group itself to be the “higher power.” The important thing is recognizing something greater than yourself that will help you live peacefully with your loved ones.
Go for a snack or coffee with others after the meeting
Some members may invite you for a cup of coffee or to grab a bite after the meeting. It’s a great idea to go with them, as you can build your support network much more easily through socializing. You could also make great friends with some members just through conversations over coffee.