Addiction is a family disease. One person may use, but the whole family suffers.
Families are almost always deeply affected by the drug and alcohol addiction of one member, with the ripple effect of addiction felt by everyone in the family unit. It’s often difficult for families to understand why their loved can’t seem to make recovery a priority or why they won’t accept help. Family and friends may even be unknowingly enabling their loved one’s drinking or using behavior. Finding support for family and friends is just as essential to recovery as finding it for the person with the substance use disorder.
But I’m not the one with the drug or alcohol problem – so why do I need to attend a meeting?
Families and loved ones of those struggling with substance use disorders may experience low self-esteem, grief, shame, guilt, depression,anxiety, codependency, and a multitude of other emotions that are common in families coping with addiction. Support meetings are filled with people who have experienced some of the exact same things; there is great comfort to be found only through someone who has lived your own experience. These groups offer a place for judgment free support from others who can offer strength, hope, resources, and strategies based on their own experience.
Not only that, but some research shows that when people with substance use disorders enter treatment or take part in an abstinence-based program, their chances for success are improved when their family is involved in a recovery program, too.
So what can a family member, loved one, or friend do for themselves when someone they care about is grappling with drug or alcohol addiction?
Programs such as Al-Anon, Al-Ateen, and Families Anonymous create safe (anonymous) spaces where families and loved ones can learn how to cope with the challenges created by someone else’s drug and alcohol abuse. They also let people know that they are not alone, and that there is always hope.
Al-Anon and Al-Ateen
Al-Anon and Al-Ateen are 12-step programs that follow many of the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous – they rely on the recognition of a Higher Power (God of your understanding), but are not religiously affiliated in any way. These groups focus on problems that seem to be common to family and friends of alcoholics; while family and friends of those struggling with drug addiction are welcome to attend and may find much they can relate to what is being discussed, the focus of discussion will be on the issues related to alcoholism. Even if a loved one does not acknowledge their drinking problem or alcoholism, family and friends can still attend Al-Anon and Al-Ateen for support.
Al-Anon describes their program as “a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, families and friends of alcoholics can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic admits the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.” Al-Ateen is essentially the same, but limited to and geared towards teens and older adolescents.
While Families Anonymous (FA) is also a 12-step recovery program, it’s a little different from Al-Anon. FA is not affiliated with the AA organization, and members who are supporting loved ones with any kind of addiction or mental health issue are welcome. Sometimes, when a group welcomes all types of addiction or behavioral health issues, it’s said to have “no singleness of purpose,” and that is the way Families Anonymous meetings are structured. Whether your loved one is affected by depression, anxiety, process addiction, alcoholism, drug addiction, or anything in between – you are welcome at Families Anonymous.
The FA program is described on their website as being “fort hose relatives and friends of those who suffer from a current, suspected or former problem of substance abuse or related behavioral problem. Our meetings are open to all.”
Where else can I find family support?
Some people are more comfortable in a therapeutic setting, attending a group counseling session for loved ones and family members of someone struggling with a substance use disorder. Jewish Family & Career Services offers one here in our clinical department; reach out our Clinical Intake Line at 770-677-9477 to learn more. Of course, you can always reach out to 1-888-HAMSA-HELPS for help identifying resources for family support.
Learn More and Find Meetings
Meetings in Synagogues:
1906 GA Temple Beth Tikvah
9955 Coleman Rd Roswell
Park on the right side of the main building and go through the double glass doors. There is a FA sign outside the door to enter.
Congregation B’nai Torah
Wednesday 06:00 PM Congregation B'nai Torah
700 Mount Vernon Hwy NE
Sandy Springs GA 30328
Enter from parking lot - conference room A - left of entrance.
Learn more, or find a meeting near you: