The Process of Change --
Moving from denial to Deep Feelings to Dependence, Independence and Interdependence.
Taking a look at the behaviors that are current and seeing if there are patterns that predict problems.
Forming a support team
Finding people who will act for and with you, help you establish boundaries and give you honest feedback.
Taking a stand
Setting a long-range goal for yourself.
Making a bottom Line -- what does it all total up to?
Selecting an action-plan for yourself, that is for one week and has active support from your Team.
Building a Plan
Writing down the Who, What, When and Where of your Bottom Line for the week; checking out obstacles to success with your group.
Getting Support -- an Al-Anon group can help.
Working as a team to commit to hands-on support for your Bottom Line; building support within the community for yourself, your team and for the kids. (There may even be an Al-Ateen group in your town.)
SO YOU LOVE AN ALCOHOLIC
Take courage; there is hope.
Don't wait for the alcoholic to seek help before you take action on your own behalf. Anyone who is close to an alcoholic is under constant emotional strains and pressures, and needs help in relieving these. Nothing will give you greater relief than the understanding and warm- hearted help you find in an Al-Anon Family Group. There you will, as one member put it, "learn to live again."
Look up Al-Anon in the telephone book. If not listed, consult AA or the alcoholism services.
Conversations with people who share your problems will convince you emotionally--as your other investigations may have convinced you intellectually--that the alcoholic is sick and not sinful. Sharing this knowledge can help you begin your own recovery.
SOME IMPORTANT "DON'TS"
Learning what NOT to do is an important part of the program.
* Don't treat the alcoholic like a child; you wouldn't if s/he were suffering from some other disease.
* Don't check up to see how much the alcoholic is drinking.
* Don't pour liquor away; the alcoholic always finds ways to get more.
* Don't nag the alcoholic about the drinking. And never argue while he or she is under the influence.
* Don't preach, reproach, scold, or enter into quarrels.
All these DON'TS have good sound reasons. Alcoholics suffer from feelings of guilt beyond anything the non-alcoholic can imagine. Reminding them of failures, neglect of family and friends and social errors is all wasted effort. It only makes the situation worse.
The "if you loved me" approach is likewise futile. Remember that alcoholism is compulsive in nature and cannot be controlled by will power alone.
Equally useless are promises, coaxing, arguments and threats. A word about the latter: Don't threaten unless you are prepared to carry out your threat. When it gets old, it is disbelieved and not taken seriously.
Guard against a "holier than thou" attitude. Hostility and contempt cannot cure an illness and are unbecoming attitudes. They are likely to worsen the situation.
Sometimes a crisis can convince the alcoholic of the need for help-- the loss of a job, an accident or an arrest. Steel yourself against coddling and over-protectiveness at such a time. The crisis may be necessary to recovery.
Do nothing to prevent such a crisis from happening. Don't cover bad checks, pay overdue bills or go to the boss with excuses for his absences. The suffering you are trying to ease by such actions may be the very thing needed to bring the alcoholic to a realization of the seriousness of the situation--literally a blessing in disguise.
WHEN THE ALCOHOLIC ASKS FOR HELP
To the desperate question, "What shall I do?" simply say you know things that can be done. If asked for the suggestions, you can then be specific, mentioning AA or whatever other source of help you may have found that is available to the alcoholic. The yellow pages have hospitals for alcoholics and other programs.
Remember though, that this outcome can not be forced. The alcoholic must be ready for help before he can be helped. Don't even insist the drinker use the word "alcoholic." Even such a phrase as "I might have a drinking problem." may mean acknowledgement of the need for help.
When it is clear that the alcoholic wants help, the nature of that help must be decided upon. A talk with an AA member may be the next step--not requested by you, however, but by the alcoholic.
Whatever course of action is decided upon, the decision must be the alcoholic's--it should be plainly understood that he or she is taking the step freely.
At this time, you can help yourself by staying in close contact with your Al-Anon group.
THE ROAD BACK
During the recuperation time, remind yourself constantly that Easy Does It. Don't expect immediate, complete recovery for the drinker or the family. Alcoholism took a long time to develop. Convalescence is a slow process, too.
There may be what are known as "dry drunks," emotional tensions in the alcoholic which have nothing to do with actual drinking. Even months after drinking is ceased, the alcoholic may go through periods of irritability, though nothing (important) in the environment appears to be provoking him / her.
Try to be patient. At such times you may think things are worse than they were in the drinking days, but they're not. Patience and tolerance on your part will help these trying times to pass.
Extreme fatigue for a year or more after drinking stops may be one of the symptoms of the drinker's withdrawal from alcohol. Don't try to force things. You can plan your own activities and continue to go to Al-Anon meetings.
Don't be overprotective. Recovering alcoholics have to learn to live in a world where alcohol is served and answer for themselves.
Guard against feelings of jealousy or resentment about the method of recovery chosen. Many alcoholics need daily AA meetings; just remember it is treatment for an illness. Try to be grateful that the alcoholic accepts treatment, even if it means his or her being away from home to be with those who can help.
Once sober, the alcoholic will have time for other activities, including AA. Try to be encouraging. As s/he gets rid of old drinking friends, habits and haunts, there will be time for other enthusiasms.
Allow yourself, too, to be caught up in this wave of change by finding interesting activities for yourself in Al-Anon, and by helping others. You both will be on your way to a new life, each in your own way, together.
Both of you may have slips and setbacks. Don't take them seriously. Believe that a firm foundation for recovery has been laid. If you feel that either of you has made mistakes, learn from them and forget them. Let go of the disappointments and setbacks and push forward.
Send for a complete catalog and literature price list from:
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. P.O. Box 862, Midtown Station New York, NY 10018-0862 Pamphlets available in Finnish, Spanish, French, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese, Swedish, Chinese.
Many Al-Anon groups meet at AA locations, and have pamphlets there.