How Alanon Will Change You If You Love an Alcoholic
Alanon Will Help You Learn to Take Care of Yourself and Become Physically and Mentally Healthy
Changing Your Attitude
Do you love an alcoholic or drug abuser? If so, you are almost certainly going through one of the most difficult experiences anyone will ever have to deal with in life. It doesn't matter if the person is a child, a parent, a spouse or someone unrelated who you care about. It can be so frustrating to watch someone do harm to themselves over and over again ... and nothing you say or do can get them to stop.
If you are in this this situation, you may find a great deal of mental and emotional relief by going to an organization called Al-Anon Family Groups, sometimes simply referred to as Alanon. It is for people who care about alcoholics and drug addicts. I have been a member of this organization for over 35 years and it has changed my life. It might change yours, too.
Be prepared to see your situation from an entirely different perspective. You are going to learn how you can let go of the other person and allow them to deal with the insanity they are creating for themselves.
Instead of focusing on the alcoholics and addicts you love, you will learn to focus on yourself. This is not selfish. If you want to regain peace and happiness, you will be able to commit yourself to making yourself a better, happier person.
If you are a new member to Alanon, the last thing you want to hear is that you may be causing your own unhappiness. We have spent years feeling like a victim. We are convinced the people who are drinking or using drugs are the problem, not us! We tell ourselves that, if only the other person would change, then our life would become perfect.
However, the alcoholics, drug addicts and other toxic people in your life may completely disagree with you. They may be perfectly content with their lives, and they don’t understand why it is causing you so much stress.
We have to accept, eventually, that even if our loved ones do get sober, we are still not guaranteed a happy and problem-free life. There will be other issues that come up. Other people will continue to create chaos for us. Since we cannot prevent the problems that others cause, our best defense is to change the way we look at the situation; in other words, it is our attitudes which have to change, not their behavior.
The Serenity Prayer
Most 12-Step organizations, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon, use the Serenity Prayer as one of the foundations of their program. It is regularly recited at meetings around the world. If you are not familiar with this prayer, it consists of three simple lines. In it we appeal to the God of our understanding to grant us “the power to accept the things I cannot change,” “the courage to change the things I can,” and the “wisdom to know the difference.”
Change is the predominant theme of this prayer. When we ask for the power to know the difference between what we can and cannot change, one thing rapidly becomes evident. We cannot change others. We cannot change their attitudes or their behavior.
The only person whose attitude and behavior you can change is yourself! This prayer is a constant reminder of that fact.
Learn More about Alanon and the 12 Steps
Accepting What You Cannot Change
In the first part of the Serenity Prayer, we ask God to grant us the power to accept the things we cannot change. Once you have been in Alanon for a while, you will begin to realize you cannot change other people. If you try, it will only end up making you feel angry, unhappy and resentful. Once you accept you are powerless over other people, you will begin to feel a new freedom. If you are powerless to change them, you also begin to realize that you also have no more responsibility to keep trying. In fact, they may become more responsible once you stop trying to control them.
Create a New Life for Yourself
Once you have reached the point where you realize that you cannot change others, and you don’t have to approve or feel responsible for their actions, you are free to find ways to enjoy your own life. Learn to have fun. Pursue a hobby which has always interested you. Build new friendships. Get exercise. There is a slogan in Alanon which says, “once we got busy, we got healthy.” Now that all your energy is no longer being directed at saving someone else, you can direct it at saving yourself! It truly is life changing!
For me, it has been wonderful to realize that I could not spend my life trying to control other people in our family. As a result, I was able to focus on building my own career, taking yoga classes, and volunteering for various charities. Of course, I still enjoyed spending time with my family. I just didn't obsess over them and try to control their lives. We were all happier because of it.
Acceptance is Not Approval
One problem many people have over the issue of acceptance is that they confuse it with approval. They fear that if they accept the misbehavior of another individual, they are indicating that they approve of their misbehavior. However, acceptance and approval are not the same thing. You may accept that your home has been destroyed in a flood. That does not mean you approve of it! The same is true for the behavior of other members of your family. You can accept that they are alcoholics or drug abusers, without approving of the choices they make. You can also decide to keep peace by keeping your opinions to yourself.
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