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Loved ones of addicted need help, too

September 19, 2010
By CATHY BROWNFIELD, Family Recovery Center

Note: Anonymity is key to Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Ala-Teen so the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the persons who speak with us and their families.

"You take what you can use and leave the rest," said 14-year-old "Rachel." Last year she realized that alcoholism within her family had totally disrupted their lives. She was angry, hated her father and felt alone. She grew up knowing drinking alcohol wasn't good for you. But the reality of her father's problem drinking was the issue. And her step-father is a recovering alcoholic.

She broke down and told her mother she couldn't live that way any more. Secretly, she had packed all of her belongings and was prepared to move out within a day. Her mother had been so busy dealing with her husband's alcoholism there wasn't any communication between mother and daughter. But when 'Rachel' made her announcement, her mother talked to her. Mom had been going to Al-Anon meetings for several months.

"'Rachel', they have another group, Ala-Teen, that meets at the same time. Do you want to go?"

"Yes!" 'Rachel' grabbed onto opportunity, the opportunity to find a way to be happy again.

'Yvette' is 47, mother of two. She thought her life was normal with her husband who had an alcohol problem. She handled things the way her mother did. Dad had an alcohol problem, too. Like her mother, 'Yvette' was the nurturer, the one who was always trying to fix everything. She was miserable and unhappy.

Six years ago 'Yvette' began attending Al-Anon. She was looking for something, and she found it. When she listened to others talking about their situations she thought, "I am not alone! If they can handle what they are handling, I can, too."

The 12-Step program teaches you a lot, she says. "You learn to take care of yourself. Within three meetings you realize you aren't alone. And you learn it's not your job to deal with the alcoholic's problem. That just enables the alcoholic."

"Some people never get it," 'Yvette' said. You can't change anyone else, and change leads to recovery. Part of the philosophy of change is "let it begin with me." When you are happy and content with yourself, she said, you will be happy together. Her children aren't sure about the recovery thing, but they also aren't torn between their dad's behavior and their mom's reaction.

Last year when 'Yvette' was working with women at the EOCC (Eastern Ohio Correction facility) the women asked, "What about my kids? They need help, too." 'Yvette' and another woman started Columbiana County's first and only Ala-Teen group. There was a need.

'Rachel' said AlaTeen has helped her to gain an understanding of alcoholism, the disease. She was told, like cancer, it is an illness. But she struggled with that for a while. "Cancer isn't something someone does to themselves. It's not something they can control. Alcoholism is different. You do that to yourself." But she did come to terms with it. Alcoholism is a disease. And though she still is angry with her dad, she understands better and has a better attitude.

Ala-Teen has changed her attitude. She and her mother talk to each other, communicate with each other these days. "I told my mom she's my best friend. She told me I'm HER best friend." The teen smiles with her eyes so you know it's true, she's content with herself now and is happy again. Not without issues, but in a much better place than she was a year ago. She is friendlier than she used to be. "You don't know when you look at someone, what they've been through." You get a much better view of things during the group discussions at the meetings.

To other teens her message is if you are sad, depressed, angry, come to a meeting. You have to come to more than one to start to see a difference. Another component of the recovery philosophy is to "take what you can use and leave the rest."

'Rachel' said, "I listen to what others say and every time I take a part of it and think about it." Those parts that she takes speak to her because of her own similar experiences and help her to grow in her recovery. The group discussions are about alcoholism, but you can talk to your sponsor about anything, one on one.

Both the Al-Anon and Ala-Teen meetings are held at Fleming House in Lisbon. Both groups are independent of Family Recovery Center and self-sufficient. There are no dues or membership fees. Beginner meetings are held from 6:45-7:15 p.m. Mondays. Al-Anon and Ala-Teen meetings are at 7:30 p.m. Fleming House is handicap accessible. Al-Anon also meets at 8:30 p.m.Wednesdays at the Episcopal Church in Salem. Meetings are announced in the Salem News Calendar. For more information about AA, Al-Anon and Ala-Teen, contact YAIG (Youngstown Area Inter Group) at 330-270-3000.

September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Throughout the month watch for more stories about recovery in Columbiana County.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well-being of individuals, families and communities. We can be reached at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded in part by ODADAS (Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services), Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and United Way of Northern Columbiana County.



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