Why don’t more people attend Al-Anon or other family support meetings?

There are many reasons why people don’t feel comfortable at group meetings. Many of us wait for a long time in that purgatory of either denying there is a problem or not accepting how bad it really is. We hope that will be able to get our loved one “under control” or that they will somehow turn things around before we allow anyone to know what is going on. We fear that someone will see us at the meeting, not realizing that if they are there, they have the same problems we do.

Only negativity and bad things breed in the dark of isolation. When we shine the light on even the darkest corners of our lives, connect with others, and become informed, we are one step further toward finding a small bit of peace in a seemingly impossible situation.

Like anything, though, you may need to look at a few meetings before you find the one for you. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, which are based on the Twelve Steps and are probably the meetings most people are familiar with, have started online meetings for those who are either unable to or not ready to go to an in-person meeting. Fortunately, there are many types of groups and meetings.

Al-Anon
Nar-Anon
SMART Recovery
Parents of Addicted Loved Ones
Learn to Cope

If someone can’t get to an in-person meeting and won’t try an online meeting, there are still options. Support groups online, such as Magnolia New Beginning’s group on Facebook, Magnolia Addiction Support, and many others can help a person connect with families who are going through a similar experience.

I told myself I wasn’t a “meeting person.” I told everyone who encouraged me to just try one that I probably wouldn’t talk anyhow. I explained that I could learn everything I needed to know from books and that my situation probably wasn’t the same and certainly not as bad. It would all be better soon. I didn’t need a meeting.

I waited until things were so bad and I felt there wasn’t anyone who could possibly understand me before, finally, I went to my first meeting. Walking into that meeting was admitting how bad things were and that I couldn’t handle it by myself. It felt like defeat. I left that meeting having connected to some of the kindest, most understanding people I’ve ever known, and for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t alone.

For anyone who is thinking of a meeting, I’d encourage you to try a few. My only regret was not doing it sooner. Reach out. You are not alone.

Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.

Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan. You can learn more about her at www.maureencavanagh.net

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