Al-Anon and Red Ribbon Week
Red Ribbon week is more than a “Just say no!” campaign. The health book presents factual information about the effect of nicotine and inebriation on the body. Drug and alcohol abuse are complicated by the emotional pain from becoming an addict or having a loved one who does.
A friend once told me, “I never met an addict I didn’t like. They’re typically sensitive people who feel life’s pain so acutely that they drink to numb it.”
Al-Anon can help those who are affected by a destructive addictive lifestyle. One tenet of the program is to be vigilant about not suffering because of the actions of others. This kind of detachment isn’t unkind, but allows separation from the adverse effects that their alcoholism can have on your life.
Overcoming the pain of knowing someone with an addiction problem often involves moving past isolation and sharing with others. Emotions can get messy especially when confronted rather than denied.
Some avoid attending Al-Anon meetings, because they’re worried that everybody else’s sad stories will depress them, but they’re often inspired by the resilience that’s demonstrated.
The Hope for Today book is used in these meetings and includes daily thoughts such as,
“Denial can be broken when we quit hoping for a better past, accept its reality and start creating a different present.”
Each meeting begins by reading the Twelve Steps which include admitting to being powerless over alcohol as well as listing wrong doings and making amends to those who were harmed by them.
These steps transform peoples’ lives because they’re designed to confront destructive behaviors. Most of us resist having to change and thus have to work on our willingness.
Admitting we don’t have authority over another human being and the choices they make can be hard. Inviting a Higher Power to run your life makes more sense than letting somebody else’s illness run it.
Participants are asked about their loved ones who drink too much and are informed that the group isn’t intended to help the addict, but those who love them. Feeling compelled to help becomes its own addiction and this is the illness that Al-Anon addresses.
Alcoholics are not responsible for the disease, but they are responsible for their own recovery.
A frequent question that’s asked is since alcoholism is a disease, alcoholics should be helped because they’re sick, but how do you do that without becoming codependent? The job is to be present for them in the moment and acknowledge your ability to respond to them in many different ways without getting negatively triggered.
Sometimes it means detaching and taking care of yourself by going to the meeting. Other times it means being happy with what appear to be baby steps because recovery is a process.
Let them know that hope is possible, but their choices are their responsibility. Doing for others what they should be doing for themselves is a disservice that teaches them to be irresponsible.
In the back of “Hope for Today” words like responsibility can be looked up. It advises not fixing other’s problems, but allowing them to face the consequences of actions, and learn from their choices.
Not wanting to be codependent, yet still help alcoholics requires walking a fine line. The answers aren’t obvious, but people figure it out one day at a time.
The meetings end with the serenity pray:
God grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Alcoholics have a disease. They are ill, not bad. The truth of this statement can bring great serenity. Recovering addicts demonstrate the capacity of the human spirit to survive and triumph.
It takes courage to attend a meeting, for both alcoholics and co-dependents, but this simple act can offer a measure of peace and comfort as strategies are explored to detach and assist in this recovery process.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.