Connections between families and the Association for Addiction Professionals

Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, Executive Director of The Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). Cynthia discusses a professional’s concern for families whose loved ones have a drinking problem, and for the professionals who treat them.

Locate an Al-Anon meeting

2017-07-28T09:21:03+00:00June 13, 2014|Categories: Professionals|


  1. Jill C September 2015 at 6:31 am

    Loving a person with alcohol addiction can be life-shattering. I could see that the drinking he was doing was affecting me and our family, but I could not see that I needed support and help.

    Eventually I was blessed to meet a woman who was a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous and she suggested I go to an Al-Anon meeting. Of course I said, “He has the problem, he needs Alcoholics Anonymous, I’m fine.” But I was fearful, angry, even full of rage and terrified of what alcohol was doing to someone I loved.

    I drove 40km to my first Al-Anon meeting. It was in a small hall, and I was greeted by warm, understanding people. I heard a member share that alcoholism is a disease, the compulsion to drink, and one problem drinker affects the people around him.

    I listened to people share honestly about the experiences they had had with alcoholism. Then I heard them talk about the strength and hope they found in Al-Anon. I felt for the first time in my life I was with people who understood my pain and suffering.

    At the end of the meeting, they suggested I keep coming back. For the first time in years, I felt my spinning mind had some peace, some answers. The person I loved was not bad, he was sick. He suffered from a disease called alcoholism and I had suffered too. Like one person who has a bad cold and spreads the cold to others around — that is how I see alcoholism.

    I kept going to meetings and I kept feeling stronger emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I learnt about me, and my family situation improved as I applied the 12-Step program tools to my life.

    Al-Anon has given me peace of mind, it has given me an undersstanding of myself and others, it has given me tools that bring peace to my family. I have found my authentic self. I attend one or two meetings a week and I have many friends in Al-Anon.

    Al-Anon gave me a second chance to live happily, joyous and free. Al-Anon has been my medicine for a family disease and all I do is get my bottom on a seat in a meeting. I listen and learn about alcoholism and I get well. Not all the people in my family stopped drinking, but I have the courage and strength and understanding that I can love them and detach from the disease when it raises its ugly head.

    If you read this and have a friend or relative whose drinking upsets you or causes you problems, find an Al-Anon meeting and attend a few meetings to find out if Al-Anon helps you and your family. If it does, like it did for many of us, keep coming back to learn how to find peace in your life. It works when we work it.

    Al-Anon runs by donation and I know when I first was coming to a meeting I had little money. I was afraid how much this would cost. So I am grateful I was able to pop a few coins in to pay towards the hire of the hall. I give now what I can at meetings to give back to this wonderful worldwide fellowship that healed my life.

  2. Bea September 2015 at 10:14 am

    I can relate to the term feeling selfish. I used to help and try and fix everyone’s problems and came to the doors of Al-Anon very frightened and angry. Feeling unmanageable, like Step One mentions.

    I kept attending meetings and realized when I was feeling this way it was because I was expecting others’ behavior to change, which I could not control with the principles, Steps, and slogans. Serenity came one day at a time.

    I learnt that I wasn’t being selfish when I came to meetings and did daily improvements to change myself emotionally and physically. I am the only person l can change and the rest I leave in the Higher Power’s hands. If I don’t do this, I realize I need to read Step One readings or more info on detachment to gain my serenity back.

  3. adam l. October 2014 at 3:50 pm

    My health care plan covered 20 sessions with a therapist each year. It seemed like it was over just when I was starting to benefit from it. My therapist did the right thing. He referred me to Al-Anon.

    I went to a couple of meetings. I never heard so much honesty in my life. People were talking about things I would have never discussed in public or with strangers. It was a relief to see that I wasn’t the only person with an alcoholic father and wife, and yet I was frightened and suspicious. I thought there was some kind of catch to Al-Anon that the group wasn’t telling me about.

    I kept hearing “focus on yourself and not the alcoholic.” I wanted to know why I should do that, and I wasn’t listening to what the members were saying. All I wanted was to stop my wife’s drinking. My father and even my brother were sober and went to A.A.; so, they weren’t a problem anymore. But my wife wasn’t sober. She barely left the house and most of the time was passed out by the time the kids got home from school. My son was getting into fights and his grades were terrible. My daughter was arrested for shoplifting.

    But I left Al-Anon. I had too much to do. I was trying to be a dad and a mom, I worked, and on the weekends I mowed the lawn, etc. I had no time to go to meetings. I read articles about alcoholism and women on-line. TMI. Certainly wasn’t encouraging. Sometimes, I bought self-help books. All that happened after I stopped going to Al-Anon was that my kids’ behavior became terrible at home and at school. My son was kicked out of the Y for fighting. My daughter was arrested for shoplifting and she discovered boys. I was all alone in my own home and isolated from my family, even though we all lived in the same house.

    So, I thought about giving Al-Anon another chance, and maybe I needed to rearrange my priorities. This interview wasn’t available when I went back to Al-Anon. But I listened to it with 20/20 hindsight and heard loud and clear that everyone in the family needs help, no matter what my wife was doing or not doing with her drinking. The yelling, the episodes of violence, the disrespect, and the lying all took a toll on each one of us. By the time I went back to Al-Anon, I would have done anything they told me to do, except they didn’t tell me what to do. Each member shared on the meeting topic and told how they were using the Al-Anon program.

    I was able to tell my kids that we needed help and it was nothing to be ashamed of. Al-Anon helped me to tell them their mother has a disease and that they are not the cause of her drinking. I got honest with them and they got honest with me for the first time in years. The reality was that they were scared she was going to die.

    As their father, I had to take the initiative by going back to Al-Anon and making a commitment to let it help me. I also went to a community mental health agency for help with parenting. My children saw some changes in me and they, too, slowly began to do things differently. For example, we started eating dinner together and talking about our days. Sometimes their mother ate with us and sometimes she just took her plate into her bedroom. Sometimes she didn’t eat at all. But we ate. I gave up a few football games to help my kids with homework. I taught them how to do their laundry and asked them to help with some chores around the house. Slowly but surely, changes started to happen within me and Al-Anon started rubbing off on them.

    It really, really is true that the entire family system has to change and recover from the disease of alcoholism, which is exactly what this interview is saying.

  4. Carol October 2014 at 11:42 am

    Many thanks for posting this interview.

    I have been able to pass on the experience, strength, and hope of Al-Anon to family members, friends, and in my employment, where I have come across distorted advice from medics and other health professionals who try to get the problem drinker to cut down rather than abstain. I find this incredible, but do follow Al-Anon teaching in keeping our meetings non professional.

    My family of origin is badly affected by alcoholism and sadly only a couple are in recovery. I continue to hope that one day they will seek out to change what they can.

  5. dave b October 2014 at 10:07 am

    My father has dementia induced from his alcoholism. I am angry because his doctor never asked him about his drinking and my father never offered the information. He just kept on drinking and became more senile.

    Would a doctor’s probing question about my father’s drinking have made a difference? I’ll never know. Alcoholics do what alcoholics do. What I do know is that the bottle took my father as a hostage medically and mentally. Physically, he fell apart and mentally, he became a child. Now, it is too late. My father is in a nursing home because he needs constant supervision and care.

    I know it is water over the dam. But it seems like such a simple question that my father’s doctor could ask: “How much and how often do you drink?” But that is my father’s story.

    My story is that I went to therapy and my therapist referred me to Al-Anon. What a difference. It saved my life. It is information like this interview that help more professionals and adult children like me learn about Al-Anon and how it helps. The effects of my father’s drinking on me and my family won’t go away even though he no longer lives with my mother or even when he dies. I can’t change that for my mother or my brothers. But I can change my life script for me.

    I found myself being my father’s caretaker. So, I went to therapy.

  6. georgia s. September 2014 at 2:46 pm

    As I listened to this interview, I thought about how great it would have been if the professionals I sought help from had told/ referred me to Al-Anon. The doctor could only recommend antidepressants. A marriage counselor told me the term “alcoholic” had bad connotations and that I needed to accept my husband’s decision to continue drinking. A psychiatrist told me that my husband had deviant behavior. And my father referred to my husband as a “sociopath.”

    I am glad I trusted my instincts to go to Al-Anon. True, I went to save my marriage. But I knew I needed to get control of my temper and I thought everything would be better if my husband stopped drinking. I could really relate to the feeling of loneliness described in this interview. I thought it would never pass.

    This interview explains very clearly how important it is for the family members to recover and for the family dynamics and system to change–not just to help the alcoholic stay sober but for the family members’ well-being. It is very hard to learn to put my health and well-being first. It took a lot of Al-Anon meetings for me to redefine the word, selfish, as “taking care of myself.”

    I liked hearing how family members are empowered by Al-Anon and could “pass it (recovery) forward” to other family members still struggling with a loved one’s drinking or even when the alcoholic attains sobriety.

    I felt encouraged by this interview that more therapists and counselors in the field of addiction are aware of the importance of family recovery and Al-Anon. And I felt hope for the future generations.

    Thanks for posting the interview.

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