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Are Support Groups for Alcoholism Open to Family Members of People in Treatment?

The road of recovery for people with addictions is always bumpy. Even under the best of circumstances, the recovering drug addict or alcoholic has to be diligent every minute of every day. The moment they relax thinking their addiction is under control, boom, something gets triggered and the addict is back abusing their substance of choice.

The goal of any reputable treatment program is to prepare patients for a life of sobriety. The process starts with a detox program to get all residual drugs or alcohol out of the patient’s systems. With any luck, the patient will get through the detox process with a minimum of pain and discomfort. Considering the dangers involved with potential withdrawal symptoms, that’s a difficult task. Here’s a partial list of the withdrawal symptoms an alcoholic might face when they stop drinking:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Racing heart and high blood pressure
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Heebie Jeebies

Once the patient clears their residual cravings and withdrawal symptoms, they should be good to go for therapy and counseling. In therapy and counseling, patients go to school. The counselors will usually task a patient to learn as much about their addiction as possible. That includes peeling back a few layers and looking into the causes of the patient’s addiction. That’s really the target of therapy. Through the journey of self-discovery, the patient gets an opportunity to learn the truth about who they are and their triggers. With everything out in the open, it then becomes possible for the patient to develop the coping skills they will need to avoid relapses in the future.

At the conclusion of therapy, it’s time for the recovering addict to test what they have learned. It’s during this time that support resources become vital for survival. The truth is very few recovering addicts will stay sober if they don’t have people standing in their corner.

The best place to find support from other recovering alcohols is in a 12 Step meeting. For alcoholics, the preferred 12 Step program is called Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. AA is a fellowship of men and women who work together towards the goal of staying sober. Should one member fall, there’s usually many fellow AA members there to catch them before they hit bottom.

Of course, recovering alcoholics also need support from family and friends. While most family members know very little about being an alcoholic, they can lend support by offering acceptance and understanding. They can also be there to offer encouragement as their loved one continues to successfully negotiate a life in recovery.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if somehow both 12 Step members and family could be fused into one support group?

Support Groups For Alcoholics That Include Family Members

Ultimately, friends and family have the best view of a loved one’s progress in recovery. It makes sense that the recovering alcoholic would want them involved in the support groups that help the recovering alcoholic stay sober. In fact, there are three different ways family members can get involved in their loved one’s recovery through support groups:

  • Family therapy sessions with a professional counselor
  • Guest visits to 12 Step meetings
  • Through a family dedicated recovery program called Al-Anon

For sure, the more family members are willing to get involved with these resources, the more likely the recovering addict is going to stay sober. Knowing that going in, you would think family members would be eager to participate. Unfortunately, far too many family members know little about these programs. By way of education, we would like to offer a bit of information about each option.

Family Therapy Sessions

Keeping in mind we all tend to have family difficulties, it’s not surprising that many addictions are driven, at least in part, by family matters. Under those circumstances, family therapy becomes and essential part of treatment. There’s plenty of reputable addiction treatment centers that offer family counseling as part of a patient’s predetermined treatment program.

Family counseling brings family members together to have a meaningful discussion about the burrs under the family’s saddle. The goal of family therapy is to get family members communicating in a constructive manner. It also give the counselor an opportunity to teach family members about their loved one’s alcohol problem. Hopefully, a better understanding will lead to more support and compassion.

Guest Visits to 12 Step Meetings

For the most part, AA meetings are closed to recovering alcoholics. With anonymity as the cornerstone of the AA charter, a lot of recovering alcoholics prefer to avoid sharing in front of people who may judge them. With that said, AA also understands the importance of family support. That is why some AA groups offer guest night options or dedicated AA meetings where guests are always welcome. By setting it up this way, the AA members who don’t feel comfortable in such an environment can simply schedule themselves to attend other meetings.


After struggling through watching a loved one battle alcoholism, a lot of family members are left with issues of their own. They need a place away from their recovering family member to discuss the resentments and anger that came from the turmoil. They also need a platform to learn more about alcoholism and how to avoid becoming enablers. Al-Anon was introduced as a resource for family members in need. By working on their own issues, family members get a chance to put everything in perspective, which usually translates to them being more accepting and compassionate about what there loved ones are going through in the AA rooms.

As a loving family member, it’s wonderful you want to participate in your loved one’s recovery. For more information about how you can get involved in support groups, we encourage you to pick up the phone and call one of our counselors at 866-754-9113.