#1stresponders, Their Families & Al-Anon

By Safe Call Now Admin

Alcoholism is a family disease. Compulsive drinking affects the drinker and it affects the drinker’s relationships. Friendships, employment, childhood, parenthood, love affairs, and marriages all suffer from the effects of alcoholism.  Those special relationships in which a person is really close to an alcoholic are affected most, and we who care are the most caught up in the behavior of another person.  We react to an alcoholic’s behavior. Seeing that the drinking is out of hand, we try to control it.  We are ashamed of the public scenes but try to handle it in private. It isn’t long before we feel we are to blame and take on the hurts, the fears, and the guilt of an alcoholic.  We, too, can become ill.

Even well-meaning people often begin to count the number of drinks another person is having.  We may pour expensive liquor down drains, search the house for hidden bottles, or listen for the sound of opening cans.  All our thinking becomes directed at what the alcoholic is doing or not doing and how to get the drinker to stop drinking.  This is our obsession.

Watching fellow human beings slowly kill themselves with alcohol is painful.  While alcoholics don’t seem to worry about the bills, the job, the children, or the condition of their health, the people around them usually begin to worry.  We often make the mistake of covering up.  We try to fix everything, make excuses, tell little lies to mend damaged relationships, and worry some more. This is our anxiety.

Sooner or later the alcoholic’s behavior makes other people angry.  As we realize that the alcoholic is telling lies, using us, and not taking care of responsibilities, we may begin to feel that the alcoholic doesn’t love us.  We often want to strike back, punish, and make the alcoholic pay for the hurt and frustration caused by uncontrolled drinking.  This is our anger.

Sometimes those who are close to the alcoholic begin to pretend.  We accept promises and trust the alcoholic.  Each time there is a sober period, however brief, we want to believe the problem has gone away forever.  When good sense tells us there is something wrong with the alcoholic’s drinking and thinking, we still hide how we feel and what we know.  This is our denial.

Perhaps the most severe damage to those of us who have shared some part of life with an alcoholic comes in the form of the nagging belief that we are somehow at fault.  We may feel it was something we did or did not do—that we were not good enough, not attractive enough, or not clever enough to have solved this problem for the one we love. These are our feelings of guilt.

Help and Hope

We who have turned to Al-Anon have often done so in despair, unable to believe in the possibility of change and unable to go on as we have before.  We feel cheated out of a loving companion, over- burdened with responsibilities, unwanted, unloved, and alone. There are even those of us who are arrogant, smug, self-righteous, and dominating.  We come to Al-Anon, however, because we want and need help.

While we may have been driven to Al-Anon by the effects of some- one else’s drinking, we soon come to know that our own thinking has to change before we can make a new and successful approach to living.  It is in Al-Anon that we learn to deal with our obsession, our anxieties, our anger, our denial, and our feelings of guilt. It is through the fellowship that we ease our emotional burdens by sharing our experience, strength, and hope with others.  Little by little, we come to realize at our meetings that much of our discomfort comes from our attitudes.  We begin to change these attitudes and learn about our responsibilities to ourselves.  We discover feelings of self-worth and love, and we grow spiritually.  The emphasis begins to be lifted from the alcoholic and placed where we do have some power—over our own lives.

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