I have received many questions regarding your loved ones' substance abuse issues. Though they are not long enough for me to write an entire blog, they merit comment and are poignant and thoughtful. The "Counselor's Corner: Your Questions about Addiction and Recovery" may address some of your concerns.
Should the alcoholic/addict attend Al-Anon 12-step recovery meetings?
I believe if one is going to partake in a full and healthy recovery program, then the more information the alcoholic/addict can put into his/her bag of tools, the better. Often times, the alcoholic/addict does not want to hear about the pain, frustration and disappointment they have inflicted on their family member or friend, so it's easier to stay away.
Conversely, I strongly encourage the family members to attend open AA meetings, as they usually are speaker meetings and they can gather some very helpful and useful information about their loved ones' addiction.
Attending either group is safe. No one will call upon you to comment or share. You can sit there and, as both programs say, "take what you like and leave the rest."
Is the concept of a higher power or spirituality important in recovery?
Whether you are a participant in organized religion or not, connecting to a higher power is vital. Working to become clean and sober and ridding one of the power of addiction is a herculean task at best. Living and loving an alcoholic/addict (either in recovery or not) can be painful, draining and exhausting. The belief and ability to literally and figuratively throw your arms up in the air and ask your higher power to help rein in your life to a more controllable level can be comforting.
I have always felt that God is my silent partner, my wing man, and when I can't drive down this bumpy, formidable road of life any longer, I ask him to take over and let me be a passenger.
Both 12-step recovery programs align themselves with a higher power of your choice. If I may be so bold as to interpret that one's higher power can be anything from the ocean to a religious symbol, so long as it's a strong, enveloping force greater than mere mortal.
Is being an alcoholic better than being an addict?
Because alcohol is legal, it seems that people are more accepting of the alcoholic than the addict. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times: "Thank goodness he/she is an alcoholic and not a drug addict." There is no question that the addict sprouts horrific images of needles and track marks to hearing about theft for drug money. Bottom line: same soup, different bowls -- addiction is addiction, and it doesn't matter which addiction it is. If the results are destructive, out of control, irresponsible behavior then both are dangerous liaisons with less than favorable outcomes.
How does one tell a friend or loved one that they think they have a drinking problem?
We all want to be a good friend to someone in need, especially if we see them traveling 90 miles an hour toward a brick wall. Chances are they already know they are in trouble but for whatever reason have opted not to do anything about it, or at least not at this moment. So, what can a caring and loving friend say to another without pissing them off?
Simply put: "Hey Joe, I'm concerned about what I'm seeing, and I care for my friend very much. I think you may be struggling with some issues (don't say addiction -- it's a sure turn-off to them) and I want you to know that I'm here to listen or help in any way that I can."
End of speech! Don't go on and cite incidents or ask them if they agree. Say what you have to say, a squeeze on the shoulder and walk away. Allow the alcoholic/addict (or prospective one) to process what you have said and let them come to you if they want. You have left an honest and caring door open for them to walk through, to feel safe and not judged.
If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com, and I invite you to explore my new book "Reclaim Your Life - You and the Alcoholic/Addict" at www.reclaimyourlifebook.com.
I am pleased to announce that I will soon be launching webinar sessions discussing topics from boundaries, communication, baiting and punishing, recovery contracts, the dry drunk and more. If you are interested in being notified when these will occur, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.