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Alcoholism and the First Step in Alanon - the Courage to Change

Updated on February 11, 2019
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah has several alcoholic relatives. She became active in Al-anon, for families of alcoholics, over 37 years ago, often helping others.

Alcoholics Can Make Our Lives Feel Unmanageable

Alcoholics may think they are just having fun and they aren't hurting anyone.  However, most of us see that they create chaos for everyone who loves them.
Alcoholics may think they are just having fun and they aren't hurting anyone. However, most of us see that they create chaos for everyone who loves them. | Source

What is Alanon?

You may have heard of Alanon in relationship to someone you know who has a drinking problem, but did not understand what type of organization it is. Alanon is not for people who drink. Alanon is an organization for the friends and families of alcoholics. Its official name is Al-Anon Family Groups. It uses a 12 Step program which is almost identical to the steps that are followed by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, but everything is viewed from the unique perspective of people who have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

The First Al-Anon Step is: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

I have been a member of Al-Anon for over 35 years and have learned that this first step is very confusing to many new members of Alanon. In particular, they are often confused about the statement that we are “powerless over alcohol.” After all, if you are a friend or relative of an alcoholic, you are not the ones with a drinking problem. You may not feel as if you are powerless over alcohol. You do not have a drinking problem, you have an alcoholic problem!

One way to look at this part of the step is to change the word alcohol to alcoholic. Then, it may be easier to understand. You already know that you have been powerless over the alcoholic. Now, when you recite the First Step, you have a deeper understanding of what it means to be powerless over alcohol. We Alanon members are unable to control the amount of alcohol the alcoholic consumes. We are unable to control when they drink, what they drink, or the effect that alcohol has on them. We truly are powerless over alcohol.

Once we realize what it means to be powerless over alcohol, and alcoholics, it is easy for us to admit our powerlessness. In fact, it is important to accept that we are powerless over other people, places and things. Once we realize and accept that, it brings us an incredible sense of relief. This is because many of us have spent our lives believing that we could solve this problem, if only we had tried harder. Once we accept that we are powerless, we realize we have let go of our guilt.

Learn More About How Alanon Can Help the Families of Alcoholics

How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics by Al-Anon Family Groups (2008) Paperback
How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics by Al-Anon Family Groups (2008) Paperback

It may seem as if there is nothing that Al-Anon can do for you. However, this book will help you understand the program and what it can do for you and the other members of your family. I have been a member of Al-Anon for over 35 years and this book is the backbone of everything I have learned in the program.

 

Living an Unmanageable Life

The other part of the First Step that confuses us is the statement that our lives have become unmanageable. Many Alanon members feel that they are the only members of the family who have been exhibiting some control. They may feel that they have been the ones taking care of the family, paying the bills and acting responsibly. So, how can they be leading unmanageable lives?

Once again, Alanon members need to look at how alcohol has affected their lives. We have, indeed, been leading unmanageable lives. As hard as we have tried to keep everything organized and under control, the alcoholic has repeatedly created chaos. The truth is that, although we would like to have a well-managed, organized life, it has been difficult, if not impossible to maintain for any length of time. The alcoholic keeps turning everything upside down for us!

Once we consider all the implications of the First Step, it is possible for us to honestly say: We admitted we were powerless of alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

In fact, for most people, it is only when they finally accept that their life has been spiraling out of control, that they become willing to attend a meeting of Al-anon. Just by attending a meeting, most people will see that they have taken that important First Step towards improving their life and restoring their peace-of-mind, once again.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Deborah-Diane

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    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      4 years ago from Orange County, California

      We often have trouble admitting that we are powerless over other people; however, it is the first step to bringing serenity into our own lives.

    • vandynegl profile image

      vandynegl 

      5 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Well written! It is interesting to admit that alcohol controls the other person.....as I often try to be the one controlling them.....it is very difficult when you don't have control over a situation. Admitting powerlessness would take some time for someone like me. I appreciate the information you share here!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      It does take courage to make changes in one's life and learning to function sober instead of with the use of alcohol or drugs can indeed take courage. Often the reason some people use these substances is because they do not have the courage to face life or in some cases, the people in their lives. Other people tolerate an unhappy life with someone who is abusing substances because they imagine they can't handle life by themselves even if that other person really is more of a hindrance than a help. Alanon can help people find the courage and strength to live their lives.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      You are right ... this is a good time for people to take the first step to solve their drinking problems ... and AA does offer a solution for alcoholics and Alanon can provide real help to their families.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Sharing this again because this is a good time, being the beginning of a new year, to make necessary changes for the better in one's life.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you for getting the word out about this worthwhile organization. It has made life easier for millions of people.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Coming back to share this important article again in case someone out there hasn't heard of this program and the big difference it can make in their lives if they are trying to deal with an alcoholic or junkie. Learning a new way of thinking and dealing with one's situation can require the courage to hope things will get better even as they are hard changes to make in the beginning.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      You are so right that living with an alcoholic is very difficult. It is also wonderful that there are programs like Alanon available to help people survive! Thank you for sharing this information.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Living with an alcoholic can be extremely difficult. Something people who have never done it can't even imagine. Life is rarely predictable. Alonon has been helpful to many people who must deal with an alcoholic everyday, most especially children of alcoholics. Good information. Will share again with my followers.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      I'm so glad that you told me that you didn't know that Alanon existed! One of my goals in writing these articles about the Alanon 12 steps is to let people know about this wonderful organization and to inform them about what to expect if they decide to go. My hope is that no one has to suffer alone with the chaos caused by an alcoholic relative.

    • vandynegl profile image

      vandynegl 

      5 years ago from Ohio Valley

      Very interesting! I did not know this was out there! I have seen firsthand the damages that alcoholism causes. Even after a person passes away, the resentments still linger. It is good to have support groups for those who have had to deal. Thanks for writing!

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      I agree that this is the most important step. Until we admit that we have a problem that we have not been able to solve ... mainly dealing with an unpredictable alcoholic ... then we cannot make progress in our own lives.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      I think this is the most important step because it is the first step and without it, the others would never follow. Sharing again.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      6 years ago from Orange County, California

      I always had a problem with the first step of Alanon until someone pointed out how powerless I was over the alcoholic. That gave me an ah-ha moment, too! Much as I tried to control the alcoholic, I was totally helpless.

    • profile image

      Jess Fi 

      6 years ago

      Thank your for explaining this important first step. I have long been struggling with "powerless over alcohol" substituting the word "alcoholic" allowed me to have an "ah-ha!" moment. Thank you!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      6 years ago from America

      Powerless over the alcoholic is a very true statement. Interesting hub.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you! I hope that the problem drinkers that you have known were able to seek and find help at some time in their lives. Meanwhile, I am glad to hear that you have gotten through those times without feeling overwhelmed.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      I have lived with problem drinkers and alcoholics, and some of them can be pretty difficult while others probably couldn't function without their drug of choice.

      I grew up in a home where alcohol wasn't permitted, yet my father managed to find places to stash it.

      I know Alanon members, but I've never been one myself. I think Alanon is great for people who need support. It can be just what they need to turn their lives around when it seems like everything is against them and there's no way out. Thankfully, I've never felt that way, but I know people who have and Alanon seems to be a great help to them.

      Excellent hub!

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah-Diane 

      7 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you for your comments. I hope that other men and women who are struggling to live with an alcoholic will learn about this wonderful organization, and learn how to break the cycle.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      7 years ago from India

      I was not aware of Alanon. Though I don’t have an alcoholic at home, I have seen many people (women especially) being exploited and ill-treated by alcoholic husbands. These women work very hard taking care not to disturb children’s studies and also to give them a joyful life. But as you said this harmony will be repeatedly broken by alcoholic husbands. Still they struggle hoping that things may become alright one day.

      Thanks for educating me on Alanon

      Thanks for SHARING:)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Deborah-Diane! GREAT hub. WONDERFULLY-written and presented so well. This sounds so familiar to me. From 1979 through 1990, I willfully-abused alcohol to such a degree that the alcohol was not giving me that needed fix for the day. I was on bottom. But with really-caring people, and Our Heavenly Father's unmerited favor, I survived and my life is really a life WITHOUT THE ALCOHOL. I do not even use tobacco now in any form. I am NOT boasting of myself, just giving thanks to God. And the people who cared about me. I voted up, useful, awesome and interesting. NOTHING Funny or beautiful about alcoholism. I am so glad to have met you. And now, may I, with your permission, be both, a fan and a follower? I would love that. With highest regards, KENNETH AVERY, clean and sober, from a really-rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama, that reminds you of Mayberry, the little town on The Andy Griffith Show. KEEP UP the wonderful work! Okay?

    • profile image

      SusieQ42 

      7 years ago

      I had no idea that Alanon existed. That is wonderful because, of course, the family needs help too. It can be a terrible life living with an alcoholic. Thanks for the info.

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