For addicts, 12-step programs can be the solution to all of their problems today, as they offer methods of recovery that they can’t find anywhere else – and they work. Although these programs are extremely successful for addicts seeking recovery, they are not intended for the family members or loved one of those active in addiction. Fortunately, because the 12-step method has worked so well for individuals suffering from addiction, the same format is used for family members and loved ones of addicts.
Addiction is a family disease, meaning even though family members and loved ones are not the ones using drugs, compulsively drinking or engaging in other harmful addictions, every individual is affected by addiction or alcoholism. When an addict is actively using or drinking, family members are negatively impacted by everything that he or she does – which can lead to feelings of abandonment, betrayal, isolation and depression.
Dealing with all of these feelings, behaviors and emotions is crucial for family members of addicts. Because groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are intended only for those who have an addiction problem, loved ones of addicts decided to create organizations for themselves to recover as well. Many of these groups are for friends, family members and loved ones of addicts, and anyone can attend, whether the addict is in recovery or not. Each organization focuses on finding new and healthy ways to cope, more solutions to their problems, and understanding that they are not responsible for their loved one’s addiction.
Here are 12 step programs for friends & family members of addicts:
- Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA): For adult children of alcoholics who still struggle with the effects of growing up around an alcoholic.
- Al-Anon & Alateen: Friends and family members of alcoholics.
- Co-Anon: Friends and family members of cocaine addicts.
- Gam-Anon & Gam-A-Teen: Friends & family members of gambling addicts.
- Families Anonymous: Friends and family members of those struggling with drugs, alcohol, or related behavioral problems.
- Nar-Anon & Narateen: Friends and family members of those struggling with drug addiction.
Read more about each of the programs below.
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA)
Founded in 1973, Adult Children of Alcoholics is for individuals who have lived in dysfunctional homes as they were growing up. Many of the members have experienced issues such as trauma, neglect and abuse when they were children. Because these painful experiences occurred for many members as children, it has affected the way they deal with certain aspects of their lives today.
In Adult Children of Alcoholics, members are able to grieve their childhood traumas and heal from it, let go of feelings of shame and abandonment, and eventually, become their own loving parents. The only requirement for membership to Adult Children of Alcoholics is the desire to recover from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family.
Al-Anon / Alateen
While Alcoholics Anonymous began in the 1930s, Al-Anon was formed in the 1950s for family members of alcoholics to discuss their experiences with alcoholism. Though these individuals were not alcoholics themselves, they shared many stories and problems resulting from a loved one’s drinking, causing them their own emotional and physical distress. Shortly after, Alateen was formed as well, which is a group for teens who have an alcoholic in their life, allowing them to share their stories and struggles with other individuals their age.
Alcoholism is considered a family disease, so the organization focuses on the idea that changed behaviors and ideas can help aid recovery. Family members and loved ones of alcoholics are reminded that it is not their job to stop an alcoholic from drinking, but it is possible for them to find happiness and new methods of coping so that they can improve their own wellbeing and find serenity, whether an alcoholic chooses to seek recovery or not.
Co-Anon is a 12-step program for family members, friends or any loved one of an individual who is addicted to cocaine and other mind-altering substances. Like any other disease, cocaine addiction negatively affects everyone surrounding the addict. Because many friends and loved ones get caught up in the addict’s behavior, they experience feelings of anger, resentment, guilt and isolation. Addressing these issues is important for family members, whether or not the cocaine addict chooses to seek recovery or not.
In the program of Co-Anon, members are able to find tools for recovery, share experiences and solutions with others affected by cocaine addiction, and make room for their own personal and spiritual growth. Individuals are able to see the role they have played in the addict’s life and how they can apply the steps and traditions to improve their behavior and thinking patterns.
Gam-Anon / Gam-A-Teen
Gam-Anon/Gam-A-Teen was created for individuals who have been affected by a loved one or family member’s compulsive gambling addiction. Individuals are able to meet and share their experiences and tools of recovery with others who are struggling with a friend or family members’ compulsive gambling problem. Gam-A-Teen, like Alateen, is for teens who are affected by a parent or family member’s compulsive gambling problem.
In the program, members are able to build a support system and form trusting relationships with other members, as well as find out how they play a role in a gambler’s life, how they can help the gambler, new methods of coping and dealing with their own fear, anger and resentment. Members are also able to receive financial suggestions, experience positive changes, and find ways to take control of their own lives, despite whether or not the gambler is still active in their addiction.
Families Anonymous was formed in 1971, specifically for family members dealing with children suffering from addiction. Members of the group can be anybody, including grandparents, siblings, parents, or spouses. The only requirement for membership to Families Anonymous is the concern about the use of mind-altering substances or related behavioral problems of a friend or relative.
Many members struggle with feelings of desperation and loneliness, caused by a loved one’s use of mind-altering substances. In the program of Families Anonymous, individuals are able to find solutions from existing members, receive peer support in addressing their own character defects, and provide tools of recovery so that they know that they are not alone.
Nar-Anon / Narateen
As Narcotics Anonymous became more successful in helping individuals recover from drug addiction, Nar-Anon was formed in the 1970s to help the family members and loved ones affected by drug addiction. In Nar-Anon, individuals can begin to see themselves as they are and their role in one’s addiction, as well as change their own attitudes and behaviors, even if the addict in their life is still actively using.
In the program, members are able to discuss their problems with others who deal with the same issues. They are able to understand that addiction is a disease that they cannot control nor can they control anyone else’s life or decisions. Instead, they are able to focus on doing something constructive with their own lives and finding ways to help others without trying to control one’s addiction.