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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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