Al-Anon was created to support family members of alcoholics. One of the tragedies of alcoholism is that it is not only the alcoholic’s life that becomes unmanageable but the lives of the families of alcoholics as well. It was seen that a solution existed for the family members as well in following the same 12-step program as the members of Alcoholics Anonymous. This post takes a brief look at that.
What Are the Twelve Steps?
The 12 steps of Al-Anon are identical to these steps of A.A. Let’s look at the steps briefly.
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
These steps are often introduced at Al-Anon meetings with this as part of the preamble:
Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic. (Al-Anon 12 Steps & Preamble, n.d.)
These steps serve to help bring sanity and direction to those affected by those in the throes of alcohol abuse.
Why the Same Steps
At first blush, this may seem paradoxical. After all, Al-Anon members are not alcoholics, so why should the same 12 steps of AA be appropriate for them. The answer to why the same steps is in the first step.
Our lives had become unmanageable.
Relatives of alcoholics can have their lives rendered chaotic by the alcoholic in their lives. This can apply no less to friends of alcoholics. It is because the cause of unmanageability is the shared issue of alcohol that the Al-Anon groups can make use of these steps.
Drinking can affect partners and children severely and this can be seen when taking stock in step 4. Conditions such as resentment, anger, and bitterness can flood the life of many who are in or need to be in one of the Al-Anon family groups.
Turning to a Higher Power and joining a support group makes it possible to deal with the problem of alcoholism as it affects the non-alcoholic. There is a paradox that may not be recognizable at first and that if an action is done because of an effect created by the active drinker it means that control has been conferred to the drinker. Any time someone says, “I was so angry at … that I took it out on the doctor,” is letting the person with a drinking problem control their emotions.
This is something that the Al-Anon aims to stop and to teach that ultimate responsibility for someone’s actions is that person’s and not someone else. Someone, perhaps, Elie Wiesel said that the one thing that can never be taken away is the choice on how to react. He was wrong, people can unconsciously impose those choices on themselves as a consequence of co-dependence.
This is what the steps of Al-Anon aim to do. They are intended to bring about a personal recovery from the way that the drinking of another affects people. The steps promote spiritual growth and a recognition that only the Higher Power who is God as we understand God to be is capable of clearing up the mess that is the life people live before being driven to Al-Anon or Alateen members.
The Consequences of The Steps
Working through these steps leads to a renewal of the self and a recognition that the person with a drinking problem is a separate entity from the person who does not drink excessively. The major consequence is that Al-Anon members are able to “Let go and Let God.” This applies to the Al-Anon members in two ways.
· Letting go and letting God take over the Al-Anon member’s life.
The steps create a pathway to peace for their own life rooted in a strong spiritual foundation. The study of these steps ensures that in all walks of life the individual members as they go about their own walks of life.
· Letting go of responsibility for the alcoholic and letting God deal with it.
People come to realize that cannot force alcoholic relatives away from the bottle and that they need to remove that intention from their hopes. They come to realize that a loving God is the solution for this family illness.
Alcoholism is a shared problem. It seems poetic that the steps are a shared solution.
Al-Anon 12 Steps & Preamble. (n.d.). Al-Anon Family Groups of Ulster & Sullivan County NY. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.al-anon-ulster-sullivan-ny.org/al-anon-12-steps--preamble.html