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Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Friday, March 31, 2017

Twelve Steps to a Happier Life

Al-Anon family support groups provide a way to overcome anxiety. Could they help you?

Among the many issues families face, addiction is one of the most difficult. An estimated 47% of the adult U.S. population suffers from at least one addiction, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Evaluations & the Health Professions.[1] The effects of addictive behavior have rippling consequences across families, communities and societies.

Frustration, anger and resentment are some of the most common responses when a loved one cannot stop his/her destructive behavior. In the name of “helping” the loved one, the well-meaning family member may try to control the addict’s behavior (hiding alcohol or drugs, or establishing unrealistic rules), which often leads to a bitter cycle of recrimination and resentment that further erodes the relationship. Without help, this cycle can be difficult to break. For some, Al-Anon Family Groups provide relief.

What is Al-Anon?

In 1935, a recovering alcoholic named Bill Wilson began Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and developed the 12 Steps as a method to help himself and others stop drinking. It worked. Realizing that the person drinking was not the only one with a problem, Wilson’s wife, Lois, started a support group for families of alcoholics called Al-Anon Family Groups (Al-Anon).

Decades later, there are thousands of these self-help groups around the world using the same 12 Steps to help end compulsive behavior and live a healthy, happier lives. According to the 2015 Al-Anon Membership Survey, 92 percent of Al‑Anon members reported that their lives have been very positively affected by their membership in Al‑Anon.

Although Al-Anon has been around for decades, many people are not aware of its existence, or who is eligible to join. Membership is free; although a contribution (usually $1 per meeting) is requested to cover basic costs. And anyone who has a problem with a family member or friend’s addiction can become a member.

Although some groups meet at local churches, Al-Anon 12-Step groups have no political, religious or social affiliation. The groups provide a safe place for participants to examine their own shortcomings and let go of fears and motivations that lead to unhealthy habits. The 12-Step practice addresses feelings of powerlessness and provides options for gaining new perspectives on just about anything — even the end of a marriage.

Attending a Meeting

Twelve Step meetings are often inaccurately depicted in movies and TV sitcoms where members sit in a circle and share their deepest, darkest secrets. Most meetings are not like this. Each meeting adheres to a format that includes reading the program’s mission and purpose as well as reading the 12-Steps and 12-Traditions of AA. Meetings are chaired by a volunteer who prepares a topic or simply leads the discussion. Not all groups are the same. There are co-ed groups and others exclusively for men, for women, and for teens, as well as groups specifically for adult children of alcoholics. Meetings may focus on the Steps or on weekly topic, such as forgiveness or detachment. Although meetings may vary in format, the common goal is to help each other let go of negative reactions and lead healthier, happier lives.

In general, Al-Anon meetings adhere to a set of best practices, which include prohibiting cross talk, dominance, lengthy sharing, and the discussion of treatment centers, religion, politics or literature other than that published specifically for Al-Anon. These rule keeps meetings safe, uniform and undistracted by personal prejudices.

Most important, anonymity is honored. Whatever is shared is not to be discussed outside the meeting. Likewise, 12-Step members often introduce themselves by their first name only to protect their anonymity and the identities of their family members and friends.

Could you benefit from joining an Al-Anon Family Group? Take this quiz. To find a meeting in the Birmingham area, go to http://bham-al-anon.com/


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