By Jacob King
Alcohol has the strength to drown everyone in its reach.
Anyone who has dealt with or is dealing with addiction knows that addiction hurts more than just the addicts. Loved ones of addicts and recovering addicts suffer and need support, too.
Alcoholism, as defined by Mayo Clinic, is a “pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking” and that eventually preoccupies significant aspects of one’s life.
Many programs exist nationwide that have the shared goal of combatting alcohol addiction.
Programs, like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and SMART Recovery, are directed toward those who have the issue of drinking, but, what about support for the friends and family?
Students, faculty, and staff at UF who find themselves on the outside of addiction looking in can seek comfort in Al-Anon, a program of recovery for loved ones of alcoholics.
The founder of UF’s Al-Anon support group, who wishes not to be attributed for reasons of confidentiality for Al-Anon, said how the program has offered her solace in a dark time in her life.
“I grew up with an alcoholic parent, very chaotic, it was a very dysfunctional family life,” said the source.
College can be a time of partying, freedom, and stress. But for her, it was a time of escape from her home life.
She shared her story about how the stresses of college began to tower over her. She sought guidance in counseling services but the issue was much deeper than college stress. The counselor asked her about her plans for the upcoming break and returning home- her response wasn’t expected.
“Oh [returning home] that’s more stress and pressure than being in school because I have to go home and deal with my crazy family,” said the source.
She said how her time with the counselor started to address these family issues and eventually led her to Al-Anon.
At first, comfort wasn’t found right away. In fact, she felt “out of place.”
“There wasn’t an Al-Anon group on campus… they [counseling services] sent me to a group [off campus],” said the source. “Well, it was all older adults, most of them were the spouse of an alcoholic or the parent of an alcoholic, and I could not relate to them at all.”
Eventually, she had a found a group she could relate to and in finding that group, she gained the strength to not only help herself, but others.
“I thought ‘alright, that’s in my past,’” said the source. “’It’s over, I’ve dealt with this.’”
The effects of alcoholism’s reach are still apart of her life but she has learned not to be consumed by them. She explained that the struggle of watching loved ones deal with addiction is an experience that is never forgotten.
The source, by request of counseling services at UF, started Al-Anon on campus. She explained how her past can be used to help students now, and even better- relate to them.
“Thinking back to how it was for me as a student, I thought, ‘yeah, there’s a need for this,’” she said. “There are students who have these issues at home and then they come away to college and they’re dealing with the stress of school, but they don’t have that strong, healthy family life to fall back on.”
The group started in August but has faced an issue of poor attendance. Although lack of involvement is a problem, the source holds out hope that this program will reach out to someone in need. She emphasized that all our welcome to meetings and for reasons of comfort and support, friends are welcome to attend.
Since she is not a professional counselor, she believes that provides comfort for those seeking it.
“It’s not about getting advice,” said the source. “We’re not professional counselors.”
Al-Anon is not a place to come and seek the advice of a higher-up but rather where someone can come to be heard and listen to others. The program follows the same 12-step procedure that AA does.
At the end of every meeting, The Serenity Prayer is said.
Al-Anon’s slogan is, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it.”
UF’s Al-Anon group meets at 9 p.m. on Monday nights in the AMU Slough conference room.