Note: This post was submitted to Student Caffé by Paige Taylor. We would like to thank her for her submission and credit her as the author of this blog post.
When you're a teenager struggling with the fact that a family member, friend, or someone close to you has an alcohol addiction, it can feel like you're isolated and that no one understands the trials you're facing. Alateen is a 12-step support group for teenagers who need a listening ear and guidance to navigate living or co-existing with a person who is has an alcohol problem. There are many benefits to joining an Alateen group in your area.
1. Support: As a teenager, sometimes it's hard to find support among your peers when you're dealing with such a heavy issue. Although it's nothing to be ashamed of, you may feel embarrassed by your loved one's alcoholism. Or, you may feel like you need the support of people who are dealing with a situation similar to yours. At Alateen, you'll be connected with other teenagers who are going through similar struggles, and since everyone is there for the same reason, you'll be able to speak openly without feeling judged or embarrassed.
2. Help with Relationships: When you're faced with a loved one who abuses alcohol, more often than not, that person has neglected or hurt their family members, including you—whether or not it was intentional. At Alateen, you're given the tools needed to cope with your feelings of resentment and hurt. These feelings are normal and completely justified, and even though you may not be able to forget the damage that has been done, you may see some positive changes to your relationships as a result of the program.
3. Hope: Connecting with other teens who have lived through their loved one's addiction and come out on the other side may give you hope for the future. Every alcoholic's story and struggle are different, but hearing stories of encouragement from other teens may brighten your outlook.
4. Anonymity: At Alateen, one of the core principles is anonymity, meaning all participants’ identities will be protected. This is one of the key components of 12-step programs: members are given a safe place where they can share and open up anonymously. Group meetings are held at secure, private locations, and last names need not be disclosed unless you want to share your information with any friends that you make within the group.
5. Helping Others: Alateen isn't just about what others can do for you, it's about being there to support other teenagers who are also struggling. Helping others may seem counterproductive when you are struggling yourself, but the act of supporting other people will not only boost your confidence, it will also aide in the healing process. You'll be surprised at how being a support person for someone who is struggling will teach you to put yourself in other people's shoes; this can be beneficial in your quest to cope with your own problems. You may even find yourself taking your own advice.
6. Releasing Fault: At Alateen, you'll learn that regardless of the circumstances, you are not at fault for your loved one's addiction. If you've ever felt responsibility for an addict’s behaviors, it will take time to realize that you are never to blame for another person's substance abuse problems or the behaviors they exhibit as a result of their intoxication. Releasing fault is essential to your healing process and an important value to internalize.
7. Control: Although it may feel like you are not in control, especially if you live with someone who abuses alcohol, Alateen encourages you to take control of your situation and your life (attending a meeting is a great first step). They'll give you the resources necessary to cope with your home life and to take advantage of all that you have at your fingertips, despite your loved one having an alcohol problem. Someone else’s problem doesn’t have to hold you back.
If you are a teenager struggling to cope with a parent or loved one who is an alcoholic, consider joining an Alateen support group in your area. (You can search for one here.) If it feels intimidating, keep in mind that some teens just go to listen and only choose to open up when, or if, they're comfortable. Simply having a place to go to hear other's stories and feel surrounded by people who are like you may help you cope with your daily struggles with an alcoholic.