In September, the US and Canada celebrate recovery at the national level by highlighting the benefits of prevention and treatment for alcohol use disorders (AUD). Consequently, the most recognizable and celebrated aspect of recovery is often that of the individual with an AUD. Little or no mention is made of how their families and friends are affected; yet according to addiction professionals that participated in a panel of professional speakers sponsored by Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, those closest to the drinker can benefit from their own recovery, but they must first recognize that they have been adversely affected.
When alcohol addiction or an alcohol use disorder are present in families, everyone is affected, including the children. Non‑drinkers often suffer with issues such as depression, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse, etc. Children and adolescents may not verbalize what is happening going in their home, but there are clues that teachers, school psychologists and others can see, such as signs of neglect, dressing inappropriately, poor hygiene, or they may be withdrawn.
Although professionals in fields such as psychiatry, psychology, and education may be able to see the signs of a family dealing with an alcohol or substance use disorder, those affected may not. They may readily talk about by what is wrong in their lives and what they are trying to correct but are often not ready to broach the subject of addiction within the family. If asked directly about this issue, they may become defensive and uncommunicative. In order to help them see the impact of a loved one’s addiction to alcohol upon the family, professionals listen for their clients’ emotions, ask questions, and move with the patient until they are ready to move into the topic of addiction.
The goal is to help the patient realize that although they are not the one with the alcohol use disorder, they have been adversely affected and they can experience recovery even if their loved one continues to misuse alcohol and/or drugs.
Al-Anon Family Groups, which includes Alateen for teenagers, provide support to anyone affected by someone else’s problem drinking. *Ninety-three percent of members report that their lives have been very positively affected by Al‑Anon Family Groups and forty‑two percent that receive professional services and attend Al‑Anon meetings feel that since coming to Al‑Anon, they have seen an improvement in their treatment, counseling, or therapy.
*2018 Al‑Anon Family Group Membership Survey.
This professional panel interview was recorded at the Al‑Anon International Convention 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. The professionals interviewed were:
Nancy Duff‑Boehm, PH.D., Clinical Psychologist, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Mintie Grienke, M.ED., Counselor/Psychotherapist, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Ann McGreevy, MA, Supervisor of Psychological Studies at FCPS, Frederick, Maryland, USA
Hugh A. King Jr., MD, Psychiatrist, Mandeville, Louisiana, USA