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Al-Anon helping families through alcoholism during holidays

Al-Anon provides resources for those affected by alcoholics

Published: Friday, Nov. 26 2010 10:41 p.m. MST

The arrival of the holiday season brings different types of anticipations and frustrations.

This holiday season, many Utah families will find themselves battling the chaos that comes with dealing with alcoholism.

For those who have lost their confidence, felt lonely or helpless because of someone's drinking, Al-Anon Family Groups offers services to bring hope, help and peace to many of its participants.

"My life was just in chaos all the time. It seemed to always ramp up around the holidays. It just seemed like I was in this situation that I could not get out of," said Holly, an eight-year member of Al-Anon. "I knew we were going to be with the family, I knew they were going to get drunk, I knew there was going to be a fight, I always knew what was going to happen. I didn't think there was any choice for me. I would be angry about it knowing it was going to happen. "

Al-Anon is a 60-year-old organization of people whose lives have been negatively affected by someone else's drinking. The purpose of the group is to help the family and friends of problem drinkers at no cost.

With the belief that alcoholism is a family illness, members of Al-Anon come together to learn how to change their own attitudes and choose recovery and a better life for themselves, while still helping their loved ones struggling with alcoholism.

"Al-Anon really helped me to know that I have choices. I can decide, 'Well, if this happens, I don't have to scream and yell or throw the mashed potatoes,' " said Holly.

"This is a program of progress, not perfection," said Maxine, a member for the past 20 years.

Maxine remembered a time when her family was almost addicted to chaos. "We didn't know what it was like to have peace, quiet and serenity."

Members learn that living each day is important. It is important to build good memories and not live in the future and lose the moments of today because of anger caused by an alcoholic in their lives.

"When my kids were young, I (focused on the future). I lost so many moments with them because I was so involved with the alcoholic. I let too many moments with my kids pass. I've learned to enjoy the moment," Maxine said.

For those dealing with alcoholism, Al-Anon shared a few tips for the holidays that are also used in everyday dealings:

Remember: You did not cause the alcoholism. You can't control it. You can't cure it.

Detach yourself from the situation. Do not let the alcoholic blame you. Alcoholics want to draw you in because it makes it easier for them to justify what they are doing.

If things get out of hand, walk out of the room and calm yourself down so you can go back and enjoy your family.

Do not be judgmental of alcoholics; just separate yourself from the situation.

Plan in advance for activities. Be aware and honest with what the circumstances may be. If you know it will end badly, stay away, leave or plan for different transportation.

Be careful. Keep safety in mind. Look out for yourself and seek out friends who are supportive.

"I learned I had a right to have a good life with joy, even if the alcoholic chooses to keep drinking or not, or if they aren't happy. I no longer have to feel guilty. I have people, friends and family that I enjoy being around," Maxine said.

For those families who love people who drink problematically, help and support are available to help find happiness.

Holly finished by saying: "I hadn't seen beauty in years. I'd only seen the bad. There is so much beauty in the world. There is more to the world than this disease. There is beauty in the world no matter what. There is something beautiful about life in general."

Families in need of help and support can visit www.utah-alanon.org/hope.html.

Alateen is a program specifically for teens to receive support and help. Its Web address is www.utah-alanon.org/alateen.html.

e-mail: hloftus@desnews.com

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