As a family recovery advocate, I’ve written in the past about the severe lack of options we have when it comes to our recovery. While people who have addiction issues have many different recovery options to choose from (and rightly so), family members only have Al-Anon or Nar-Anon and if that doesn’t work for you then you’re on your own.

That was the situation I found myself in recently when Al-Anon was no longer working for me. As I’ve written about previously, I went back to Al-Anon last year after 14 years and for a while it was working out quite well. I connected with a wonderful group, I was getting what I needed from the program in terms of taking what I needed and leaving the rest, but the last few meetings I went to something was definitely lacking…

When I would go to the meetings, sometimes we would sit for long stretches without anyone saying anything, and when someone would finally say something I couldn’t respond to it because you can’t cross talk in Al-Anon. I have to say that’s what bothers me the most about Al-Anon; the inability to respond to what someone has shared, to offer a different perspective or support…it’s always annoyed me and I really don’t understand the reason behind it.

So we would be sitting there in silence, and just speaking for myself, this is very uncomfortable. I feel like I need to say something but even if I do no one can respond so what’s the point? Anyway, I started to dread going to the meetings and eventually stopped so once again my recovery was on hold.


Is There Something Else?


Fortunately for me, I still have my online support in the form of addiction and recovery Twitter chats and they have truly been my lifeline in terms of being able to stay on track. However nothing beats real human interaction and I knew that I needed to find something offline, so I started to do some research. I struck gold when I found SMART Recovery, and looked for a local chapter here in my city.

I couldn’t find a family and friends meeting, so I attended my first regular meeting on April 30th and it was excellent! I was the only family member there but felt very welcome and was told that my perspective was very much appreciated. What I loved the most though was the ability to cross talk; people could respond to each other, ask questions, and we even did an interactive exercise on the pros and cons of drug use. There was a nice cross section of young and old, male and female, and time in recovery.

What I also liked was that the energy in the room felt different; because we could talk to each other there were no awkward silences and it just felt good to be there. I think it also helped that we were in a bright sunny room, and not in a dark dreary basement or a formal room in a church.

I invited a dear friend of mine who is also a family member of a person in recovery, and she attended her first meeting Saturday and really enjoyed it as well. She also really appreciated the ability to cross talk and we plan to attend the next meeting together.

For those family members and friends who are looking for an alternative to Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, there is another option. I highly suggest they look into SMART Recovery; it will not disappoint.

 Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).

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