When someone you know struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, your first instinct may be to focus all of your attention on them. But keep in mind that you will also need guidance – or sometimes, simply a listening ear – as you cope with a loved one’s substance misuse. If your own mental, emotional, and physical health has declined as a result of another person’s addiction – whether they are your child, parent, partner, or friend – it is time to seek help.
Nar-Anon and Al-Anon encourage healing among those who have been affected by someone else’s addiction using the principles of the 12 Steps. While Nar-Anon focuses on families affected by their loved one’s drug misuse, Al-Anon is geared toward families affected by their loved ones’ alcohol misuse. Found all over the country, these meetings help you gain the strength and support you need to be there for your loved one and yourself.
Like any new experience, attending a support meeting may feel intimidating in the beginning, but once you know what to expect and break out of your comfort zone, you can begin your own parallel process of recovery. Here are five benefits of participating in a Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meeting:
1. You gain greater insight into your loved one’s addiction
It can be easy to internalize societal prejudices against people suffering from addiction, making it even more difficult to accept when someone close to you develops a substance use disorder. You may worry that your loved one will encounter stigma. If you have never experienced addiction first-hand, it is especially likely that you will also feel confused, disappointed, or agitated by your loved one’s destructive habits. By attending a Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meeting, you can express all these difficult feelings in a safe space without fear of judgment. Listening to the stories of other attendees who have been affected by another’s drug use will enhance your understanding of addiction, allowing you to empathize more deeply with your loved one.
2. You develop a stronger support system
Nar-Anon and Al-Anon unite people of different backgrounds with a common goal: recovery from another person’s addiction. Members are encouraged – but never required – to share their experiences during meetings and ask questions afterward. These group meetings provide an outlet for bonding with others who are going through similar challenges, fostering a sense of community, and belonging for those who may feel that they have nowhere else to turn.
3. You learn how to use positive coping mechanisms
Over time, the stress and anxiety of having a loved one struggle with substance use disorder can overwhelm you. Simple things like brushing your teeth or cleaning the dishes might become nearly impossible as you spend all your energy worrying about your loved one. You also might develop unhealthy habits like negative self-talk, emotional eating, or drinking alcohol more than usual. During Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meetings, you can hear how other members cope with difficult times, whether it’s by practicing self-care or setting boundaries. You never know, someone’s solution might inspire you to try it out in your own life!
4. You remind yourself you are not responsible for their addiction
When a loved one struggles with addiction, family members and friends sometimes feel that they should have or could have done more to help them, resulting in feelings of incompetence, frustration, and despair. Nar-Anon and Al-Anon remind members that they are not at fault for the actions of others. If you attend a meeting, you may be asked to repeat the three C’s of addiction: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I can’t control it.” By adopting this mantra, along with the tenets of the 12 Steps, you can shape a more positive outlook during this difficult time. Once you can accept that you are not responsible for your loved one’s addiction, you can invest more energy into your own recovery.
5. You rediscover yourself and make your voice heard
If you feel lost after discovering that your loved one has been misusing drugs, you are not alone. Nar-Anon and Al-Anon give you the space to reflect on your likes, dislikes, strengths, and areas for improvement. One of the 12 Step principles discussed in the meetings will ask you to take a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of yourself, motivating growth and positive change. It similarly empowers you by giving you a platform to share your story and have your voice be heard. Your perspective may even point others in the right direction as they process the changes taking place in their own lives.
If you are feeling stuck after finding out about a loved one’s addiction, attending a family support group can be a powerful way to start moving forward. Nar-Anon puts you in contact with others who have walked in your shoes and want to see you achieve happiness. The group offers consolation while prompting you to recognize the role you play in your own recovery. Most importantly, it pushes you to leave guilt in the past and embrace a more hopeful future.