December 11, 2000
Alcoholism, families and holidays
Holidays can bring out the best and the worst in people. The holiday season means family gatherings, special dinners, gifts, and lots of celebrating. Along with the fun and festivities, many family members and friends of alcoholics experience drunken scenes, unhappy memories, hopelessness, despair, and loneliness.
When we arrive in our first Al-Anon meeting, the words of the Al-Anon Suggested Welcome tell us that we are not alone: "We who live, or have lived, with the problem of alcoholism understand as perhaps few others can. We, too, were lonely and frustrated . . ."
In a perfect world, holidays are idyllic, full of love, laughter, peace, visitors, family and friends gathering together. In a perfect world, we celebrate, laugh and share with each other, worship together, and have no worries. Anyone out there ever have a "perfect" holiday?
In the real world, few holidays are "perfect." In an alcoholic family, most likely none are. Often there will be too much celebrating, including drinking. There may be fights and drunken scenes. There can be unhappy memories.
I remember a holiday dinner followed by a game of charades, highlighted by my drunken mother staggering through her turn to play, and everyone pretending that this is normal. Shame, embarrassment, futility, and powerlessnenss were familiar feelings.
Those of us who have found the Al-Anon program have learned a different way to live. Our problems will not disappear, but we are prepared with a wealth of tools to help us cope.
As one member told me, "Thankfully someone directed me to Al-Anon. I've had a whole new set of holiday experiences since the program came into my life. The disease of alcoholism is still around me, but I am getting better. Troubles continue, but I am learning to meet them one at a time . . . Things are not perfect today, but there is a sense of perspective and serenity."
Al-Anon gives the family members and friends of alcoholics the gift of hope. There are Al-Anon and Alateen meetings in our communities, with wonderful members there to reach out to those suffering during these holiday times.
"I know if the bad times come again, I have the tools and support to survive," says another Al-Anon member. "It it amazing how life can change because of meetings, books, slogans, sponsors, and friends who share their experience, strength, and hope with me. They put the joy back into my holidays."
In 2001, Al-Anon celebrates 50 years of helping families and friends of alcoholics recover from the effects of living with the problem drinking of a relative or friend. Similarly, Alateen is the recover program for young people affected by an alcoholic.
There are nearly 30,000 Al-Anon and Alateen groups in 112 countries. To find a meeting in your area, simply visit www.seattle-al-anon.org or call (206) 625-0000.