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The Importance of Al-Anon for Family Members

The Importance of Al-Anon for Family Members

By Vicki Nash

I am a grateful recovering alcoholic, as well as a grateful recovering survivor of a couple of dysfunctional family systems. I have been on every side of this disease, beginning as the daughter of an alcoholic, the wife of an alcoholic (big surprise), my own alcoholism, and the mother of an alcoholic. Yes, this is indeed a disastrous family disease that destroys wonderful, loving people in the process.

I understand, well, the pain ALL feel as they stumble through the abyss otherwise known as addiction. I also know, first hand, the pain of the family member is always equal to the pain of the addicted loved one, and, in some cases, maybe even greater.

We, as family members, are sometimes unaware of the harmful consequences we have also experienced in our major life areas, just as the alcoholic has. When we begin to focus on ourselves, making lists of the examples in each of our life areas, we are on our way to a new freedom with accepting Al-Anon, and our journey towards taking back our lives.

I began attending Al-Anon when my son had his 22nd birthday as a drug rehab patient. That was 16 years ago, and thank God I humbled myself and went. I was already working as a drug and rehab center counselor and working my own AA program, as well, and had absolutely no idea how much the Al-Anon program would mean to me and my recovery! I found out Al-Anon is NOT a "side-car" to AA, rather as critical to those who love alcoholics as is AA to the addicted one. At once, I realized that working with families and helping them understand the help available was a major part of my life's work!

As a family therapist, I have found exactly how difficult it is for family members to begin to focus on themselves, rather than their alcoholic, and also to accept that recovery takes a while sometimes feeling worse.

It is exactly the same courage that family members must muster up, that our rehab center patients display by coming to treatment-- no difference at all. In some cases, maybe even a little bit more denial! We begin to share with our families how important they are, and valuable and capable, and it astounds them that someone recognizes those assets in them. They begin to let down those walls, and slowly begin the search for self by taking their own personal inventory, then sharing it with a chaplain, if possible. They are on their way! How gratifying it is to see families begin to heal, both individually and together, and then look forward to living the best lives they possibly can, because they understand how much they deserve that. I am so grateful to be part of these families' process, and share what I have learned..I thank God for the gifts I receive every single day!

Vicki Nash
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