I came to Al‑Anon as a young adult seeking the magic answer to prevent my husband from ever taking another drink now that he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous. I dutifully attended the meetings with him and I loved A.A.—the people, the meetings, the fellowship! I identified with their stories, except that I didn’t have the compulsion to drink. I heard my alcoholic father’s story and my alcoholic mother’s story and wished there was a place where I, too, could share my experiences—my feelings and hurts. Thankfully, a very kind and wise woman from A.A. suggested I find Al‑Anon and leave my husband’s sobriety to them.
In the late 1970s, most Al‑Anon meetings consisted of spouses of alcoholics. By listening and learning, I gradually moved from under that dark cloud of despair into the light of recovery. However, Al‑Anon seemed to discourage talking about growing up in an alcoholic home. A well-meaning member once said to me, “Dear, we don’t talk about that here.” I felt stifled and wore only my “wife of” hat at meetings. Although my spousal relationship improved, my recovery was stunted.
Many of us during that time who grew up in alcoholic homes became Alateen Group Sponsors. Alateen was where we could identify those aspects of the family disease that affected us as youngsters. Through Alateen, that impenetrable wall I had built to protect myself from the ravages of alcoholism began to crack. And I found that in participating in service, I received so much more than I gave.
Al‑Anon has always been a fellowship for anyone affected by someone else’s drinking, but it took time for the children of alcoholics to realize that they needed help. By 1957, Al‑Anon began registering Alateen groups for teenagers. By 1974, Al‑Anon started registering Al‑Anon adult children groups. As more adult children attended Al‑Anon, they began sharing their stories, which Al‑Anon began to include in The Forum and other program publications.
But some members had a difficult time accepting these newer members, and some adult children had a difficult time accepting the Al‑Anon program, its Traditions and policies. Conflict and confusion arose, and although the 1980s were years of growth for Al‑Anon, the fellowship also experienced a period of unrest.
Eventually, more and more Al‑Anon members who grew up in alcoholic homes became involved in Al‑Anon service—myself included. World Service Conference Delegates started identifying themselves as adult children of alcoholics when they shared their stories at the Conference. For several years, the Conference discussed the topic of adult children, and in 1984, the Conference approved a statement recognizing the need for Al‑Anon adult children groups and how they fit into the fellowship.* It cited Tradition Three—that Al‑Anon groups have no other affiliation and are not registered with any other organization. These groups, like all Al‑Anon groups, welcome anyone affected by alcoholism and use only Al‑Anon Conference Approved Literature (CAL) in meetings.
While Al‑Anon members have their differences, we have all suffered from the same illness. Through the spiritual direction found in Al‑Anon’s Twelve Steps, Traditions and Concepts of Service, Al‑Anon remains a viable resource of help and hope for all families of alcoholics.
*The entire statement is published in the 1986 World Service Conference Summary, page 45, archived under the Members menu at al‑anon.org.
By Sharon B., Group Services Assistant II
The Forum, February 2018