Alcohol is a drug. Alcoholism is a disease that affects roughly 140 million people worldwide. The alcoholic believes he or she cannot survive daily life without having a drink. The primary focus in life is alcohol, and because of it, family members and loved ones suffer greatly. Let us focus on the ways that family and friends can get help when dealing with a loved one who suffers from alcoholism.
Al-Anon is an organization that began in 1951. Two women, Anne B and Lois W, envisioned helping families and friends of alcoholics. These women recognized that alcoholism affected the people who loved alcoholics, just as strongly as it affected the alcoholic himself. As a result, Al-Anon began. This organization holds meetings worldwide for people who have alcoholics in their lives. The meetings are free and everyone is welcome regardless of age, color or religious affiliations. Members gather to talk about their experiences and the ways alcoholism has affected their lives. Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, members follow a 12 step program acknowledging the profound effect alcoholism has on people whether they are suffering from the disease or watching someone who suffers from it. Many members of Al-Anon find hope and strength in these meetings, knowing there are others who share experiences similar to theirs.
Like Al-Anon, Alateen helps the family members of alcoholics. It started in California in 1957 by a teenager named Bob and five of his friends. As with Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous, Alateen focuses on 12 steps to help teenagers deal with traumas that occur from being in a household with an alcoholic.
In addition to joining the organizations listed above, the family member or friend of an alcoholic must develop coping techniques. The first technique would involve finding ways to end the stress that comes along with dealing with an alcoholic. Meditation, exercise and acceptance are healthy ways to relieve stress. Meditation allows you to calm the mind and gain a positive focus. It also allows you to release the pain of the past and future. Meditation makes you focus on the present where there is usually no pain, fear or sorrow. Exercise is a great stress reliever for the body. In some ways, it is like meditation in that it allows you to focus on the present, but has an added benefit of strengthening the body and cardiovascular system. Cycling, running, weight lifting, swimming and speed walking are all great ways to strengthen the body while giving you a more positive outlook on life. Acceptance, which is also part of the 12 step programs, helps you realize that things are out of your control and they are also not your fault. In life, there are things we can and cannot change. The behavior of an alcoholic is not your responsibility and while you can try to lend support and give advice, you can’t make the person do what he doesn’t want to do. By accepting the situation for what is, you get a release and discover a greater sense of peace within yourself.
Living with an alcoholic is challenging for all parties involved, but there is help. You can find support by joining organizations and speaking with people who understand your situation and will listen to your fears, frustrations and doubts. If you don’t feel that option is best for you, you can develop some coping techniques. The path you choose to follow is unimportant. The important thing is to recognize the problems an alcoholic faces are not your problems and you can live a healthy and happy life.