Al Anon offers help for families during the holidays

Hopes for a joyful holiday season can put families of problem drinkers on high alert—because they are afraid they won’t get the kind of holiday that they deserve.

  • Dec. 13, 2010 12:00 p.m.

Hopes for a joyful holiday season can put families of problem drinkers on high alert—because they are afraid they won’t get the kind of holiday that they deserve.

“Families have a false sense of being in command of their lives because they are cleaning up the messes, taking over responsibilities, and pointing out the alcoholic’s sources of trouble,” said Debra Jay, writer, lecturer, and addictions therapist.

Jay related one client’s story: “Every holiday of our childhood was a nightmare because of alcohol. Once our mother had the first drink, her personality changed. Deep cutting sarcasm, arguments, slamming doors, and yelling followed—and always more alcohol. Everyone scrambled to protect themselves. To this day, even now that we have our own families and we’re not exposed to alcoholism anymore, holidays cause us depression and anxiety.”

Jay offered insights for families in the Al-Anon Family Groups’ annual magazine, Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2011, available free at local Al-Anon Family Groups or on the internet at Al-Anon.Alateen.or or bcykon-al-anon.org.. Over 14,000 Al-Anon Family Groups meet every week throughout the U.S. and Canada. For meeting schedules in Barriere, call 250-672-9643 or 250-374-2456, or 1-888-4AL-ANON.

Jay said, “Over time, family members focus so intently on the alcoholic’s problems that they no longer see themselves and their own needs clearly. They can’t see how alcoholism is changing them. For the family, the notion that someone else is at fault—the alcoholic—leads them to erroneously believe they need only wait for him or her to stop drinking, and then everything will return to normal. However, this belief does not spare families from encountering reality sooner or later. This is where Al-Anon Family Groups can help.”

Al-Anon is based on the Twelve Steps, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. Debra Jay works as a family program facilitator and interventionist in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

Jay said, “When families understand that Al-Anon helps them develop interpersonal skills that promote loving, healthy relationships, they more often find working the Twelve Steps relevant.”