Why families of alcoholics need Al-Anon

C. Scott McMillin, B.A., CAC, and Clinical Trainer
Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Why should I go to meetings if I’m not the one with the problem?” is a big question for most family members. After all, if your spouse has a heart attack, you don’t attend cardiac rehab. Maybe you do some reading or take a class, but that’s it. You don’t want to commit to more than that, do you?

If you’re involved with an alcoholic, the reality is you do have the problem. You didn’t cause it, and you can’t control it, and you can’t change the alcoholic’s behavior—but you definitely feel the effects of drinking. And you’ll feel the effects of recovery, too.

You may think that everything will be resolved if the alcoholic goes to treatment and follows it up with Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It sounds like a simple process. But it is not an easy one, and there are plenty of bumps along the way. As family members, you are affected. Your choice is whether that effect will be positive or negative.

If your alcoholic comes home from treatment or an A.A. meeting to find you in the grip of anxiety over whether he’ll drink again, that’s a negative for both of you. If, on the other hand, you’ve learned to manage those feelings and get your support from others because you are attending Al‑Anon, you’re much better off. And so is the alcoholic in your life.

In Al‑Anon, you’ll make friends with people who share your experience and are willing to listen. You will be miles ahead of most family members, who still have no place where they can safely vent their problems and hear how others use the Al‑Anon program to find solutions.

In other words, when family members have established a program of recovery, it makes things easier not just on us and on the alcoholic but, frankly, on everybody else involved. This is why family members need to attend Al‑Anon.