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
So alcoholism has been in my life for sometime now. My boyfriend’s mom is an alcoholic and now my own mother who has always been the Strongest person I know, has turned to whiskey as a coping mechanism. She is always sneaking around buying alcohol and hiding it in the house. She has been drinking more and more lately and is very selfish. We as a family have tried to help her, but it appears she doesn’t have a valid reason for doing it as it just comes across as an addiction. I know that she gets stressed, but she… Read more »
I’ve been in Al-Anon for 5 months now and I learn something new about myself all the time. Like yesterday I just learned about the ACA Laundry List and Jesus I can’t stop crying. If you ever questioned whether to go to a meeting, DO IT. I’m telling you, do it! It’s going to hurt like hell I won’t lie to you but it’s okay. I have to recognize that I’m healing and that it’s going to hurt but I rather it hurt now than for it to be something I carry with me forever.
I’m 29. Both my parents were alcoholics as a child. My father died in a bar when I was 13 and my mother is still an alcoholic. I went through a period after college where I was a raging alcoholic as well. I almost died of liver failure while in Uganda. It still took me another 6 months after that experience, and losing my job, to finally go to the right treatment and get sober. It was not easy and I have never expected it to be easy for my mother. I do, however, expect her to try. She’s not… Read more »
I’m new here, I just turned 30 & grew up with an abusive alcoholic father. After all of these years, I’m still struggling to cope while my siblings seem to be completely fine. I’m just looking for support & healthy advice.
My son is becoming aware of his dad’s drinking problem. He is 13. We are divorced in a huge part because of his drinking. How do you begin a conversation with a 13 year old about his father’s drinking problem?
I feel like my wife and I both are codependent, and I’m trying to figure it out…I tried to share the book I’m reading with her. I recognized so many things not just in myself but in her. And I started reading this book because of me…I’m a people pleaser, always have been but most of the things that are in books [about codependency] are so relatable to me. So my wife and I both know that she drinks all my drink when she has it, I’ve gotten to the point where I just laugh about it [and joke about… Read more »
My dad has been an alcoholic for as long as I can remember. I’m 47. I’ve asked him to quit for 30 years. He’s had many hospital/rehab stays because of it. He was sober for several years, then started drinking again. I told him I couldn’t stick around to watch it anymore. He said many mean things to me and has alienated most of his friends and family. He moved away and isolated himself. I haven’t spoken to him for 2 years. He has been blacking out and broke his ankle. He’s scheduled to have surgery but it’s not known… Read more »
I recognized myself as an adult child of an alcoholic parent in the 1980s, and tried Al-Anon at that time, It seemed mostly to be people who had alcoholic spouses or partners, and I didn’t fit in (even though my first husband, also an ACOA, had a problem with binge drinking.) I decided to give it a try 30 years later, when I recognized that age had not resolved the issues I had after growing up in such a home. I went to a group with “Adult Children” in the name, and found that even though some people were married… Read more »
My father was an alcoholic. Now, he is on hospice. We made amends 30 years ago. My sister now has the “disease”. Things became so incredibly toxic, I had to sever the ties with her and other associated family members. It’s become a lonesome existence. I’m rebuilding at age 50. I look forward to trying meetings.
My son is struggling with the effects of growing up with an alcoholic stepfather. I attended Al-Anon for over 25 years and I have stayed close to the fellowship. The program and fellowship restored my sanity and laughter in my life. I Thank you Al-Anon for listening to these adult children and making a place for them at the table. I pray that my son will take advantage of this wonderful, healing program.
Thank you for sharing on this development. Alateens aren’t teens forever.
This program is here for all of us affected by alcohol no matter what stage of the game.