Thank you for the excellent article “A Protocol to Empower Family Members” in the September/October 2007 issue. However, I was disappointed that the article did not also recommend or at least mention that family members can attend Al-Anon, where the behaviors discussed would be reinforced outside of the therapeutic setting.
The protocol described in the article is classic Al-Anon. Therapists and 12-Step programs can work in combination more effectively than alone. I too have seen many alcoholics get sober after the family starts going to Al-Anon, because the family changes its behavior just as the article describes.
When I was in private practice as a general practitioner, I sent patients to Al-Anon and watched it change their lives. I got into Al-Anon when I had an alcoholic secretary after moving to work for the county. Civil service rules and a personnel technician were protecting her. I went to Al-Anon for support, because I was frustrated and enraged and the experience was taking a toll on me.
Because of Al-Anon I could set boundaries without having to be enraged. My blood pressure came down, my heart no longer pounded when I met with my secretary, and my muscle spasms and migraines went away. I realized I spent more awake time with my secretary than I did with my husband. She was finally terminated. She came back 10 years later to apologize for the problems she caused and told me she was 10 years sober. She had gone into rehab when she got the termination notice.