Al-Anon Survey Shows Effects of Alcoholism on Friends and Family

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Friends and families of alcoholics have an average of three problem drinkers in their lives, according to Al-Anon’s 2012 Membership Survey.

Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers

Al-Anon Family Groups

Alcoholism is more than just the drinker’s addiction to alcohol. It has complex emotional and social effects on family members and anyone else who has a close relationship with an alcoholic.

If you’ve had an alcoholic in your life, it’s likely that you’ll have additional relationships with other alcoholics.

Only 20 percent of those who said they have had a problem drinker in their lives reported just a single relationship with an alcoholic, according to the Al-Anon Family Groups Membership Survey.

Sixty percent reported two-to-four alcoholics in their lives, including one or both parents, a spouse or romantic partner, children, grandparents, siblings, or friends. Twenty percent have had five-to-11 alcoholic relationships, according to the Al-Anon survey.

Al-Anon members raised by an alcoholic mother had the largest number of alcoholics in their lives: on average, 4.5—one-and-a-half times as many as the average Al-Anon member, who had three. Al-Anon members with an alcoholic father had an average of 4 other alcoholics in their lives. Those with one or both parents with a drinking problem had an average of 4.2 relationships with alcoholics.

“These numbers validate that alcoholism is a family illness, as many Al-Anon members have come to understand. Alcoholism is more than just the drinker’s addiction to alcohol. It has complex emotional and social effects on family members and anyone else who has a close relationship with an alcoholic,” said Pamela Walters, Al-Anon Family Groups Information Analyst.

"In Al-Anon, the friends and families of alcoholics find their way to recovery from the effects of alcoholism as a family illness, just as alcoholics work toward their own recovery from the addictive effects of alcohol, in Alcoholics Anonymous,” Ms. Walters said. “Even people who do not think their lives have been affected by a problem drinker are surprised at what they learn in Al-Anon meetings.”

From September to October of 2012, the Al-Anon Family Groups World Service Office (WSO) conducted the Membership Survey of its members located in the U.S., Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Canada. More than 3,200 Al-Anon members participated.

The survey has been conducted every three years since 1984. It provides data on the demographic characteristics of Al-Anon’s membership, and the health benefits members may come to realize in learning to cope with the negative effects of someone else’s problem drinking.

Al-Anon Family Groups are for families and friends who have been affected by a loved one’s drinking. Nearly 16,000 local groups meet throughout the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico every week. Al-Anon Family Groups meet in more than 130 countries, and Al-Anon literature is available in more than 40 languages. Al-Anon Family Groups have been offering strength and support to families and friends of problem drinkers since 1951. Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. acts as the clearinghouse worldwide for inquiries from those who need help or want information about Al-Anon Family Groups and Alateen, its program for teenage members.

For more information about Al-Anon Family Groups, or to read a copy of "Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2013," go to Find a local meeting by calling toll-free: 1-888-4AL-ANON, Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

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Pamela Walters
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