Tuesday, February 9, 2010

AA vs. Al-Anon

I had a good question on a previous post that I wanted to address for the benefit of anyone who might have the same question. The question is this:

What is the difference between AA and Al-Anon?

AA is a program of recovery for alcoholics. Al-Anon is a program of recovery for people who are affected by another person's drinking, whether that be a friend or family.

Alcoholism is a "family disease." What that means is that those of us who have loved ones who struggle with the disease of alcoholism become "sick" ourselves. Often we behave in ways that don't serve us well, and we need recovery, too. These often start out as defense mechanisms that overshoot the mark and ultimately get in the way of our happiness.

In my case, that meant trying to control everything, because so often the things in my life were out of control. I became a fixer. I thought I knew what was best for everyone. I obsessed about my alcoholic loved ones, to my own detriment.

To try to keep people around me from becoming upset, I learned many coping strategies. I tried to be perfect. I tried to become invisible. I tried to adjust myself to the needs of those around me. I tried geographic cures, leaving behind relationships, jobs and places thinking that happiness was just around the bend.

Since I have been in the program, I have heard countless others say much the same thing. This helped me to see that these traits were not inherent in my personality, but a result of this disease. The good news is that there was a solution. I could never cure myself of this disease, but there was a treatment. I could experience a daily reprieve, dependent on my spiritual condition.

While alcoholism is a disease of "drinking," I have learned to think of my disease as a disease of "thinking." I can read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and replace "drinking" with "sick thinking" and recognize myself. They are two sides of the same disease.

The treatment is the same, but with a different focus. Al-Anon was founded by Lois W., the wife of Bill W., who founded AA. She discovered that when Bill stopped drinking, her problems didn't go away as she imagined they would. She needed recovery, too.

In Al-Anon, we work the same steps as those in AA. Only our emphasis is not on quitting drinking, but on changing our thinking. We find a loving fellowship and learn to tools to deal with this disease. We learn to "mind our own business" by getting busy with our own lives. We take our own inventory, make peace with our own past, develop a relationship with our higher power, as we understand Him or Her.

Most importantly, we learn that it is possible to be happy, whether our alcoholic loved ones are drinking or not.

7 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing more about your coping mechanisms. i get confused by the word "control" and how it applies to me. but i could really relate when you said this:

    "To try to keep people around me from becoming upset, I learned many coping strategies. I tried to be perfect. I tried to become invisible. I tried to adjust myself to the needs of those around me."

    i had never thought of trying to "keep the peace" as a form of control.

    thank you.

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  2. What an exceptional summary. I feel blessed to have discovered your blog, and so many others. This is a neat community.

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  3. The last sentence is what everyone in recovery learns, no matter the drug of choice of our loved ones. This is a clearly written and warm hearted post. Hugs!

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  4. Excellent description of these two programs! I hope lots of people find it, you explained it so well.

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  5. Wonderfully clear and concise. Thank you.

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  6. Thank you for explaining this!!

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  7. I never realised that I was/am "sick" too ... What an eye opener. Thank you so much. This was very helpful.

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