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Support Groups


Teenagers who know someone struggling with alcohol addiction may benefit from attending Alateen peer support groups.

What Is Alateen?

Over 60 years old, Alateen is a support group meant for teenagers who know someone, usually but not always a family member, that is afflicted by alcohol addiction. Alateen is a part of the larger Al-Anon Family Group organization; there are over 1,500 Alateen groups worldwide (with the majority of groups based in the US).

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What Is Alateen’s Philosophy?

Alateen uses the 12 Steps, a doctrine of recovery philosophy that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps involve admitting one is powerless over their addiction, appealing to a higher power in order to self-actualize and recover from addiction, and making amends with all the people who were negatively impacted as a result of one’s addiction.

The disease model of alcoholism is used in Alateen groups. This model stresses the fact that addicts or problem drinkers cannot control their drinking once they begin and emphasizes the idea that alcoholism is a family disease. Additionally, the disease model of alcoholism stipulates that, once quit, an individual in recovery should never return to drinking, even moderately. Such behavior, the thinking goes, will inevitably lead back to problematic drinking that escalates over time.

What Are The Risks To Children Of Alcoholics?

Children of alcoholics (COA) are at an increased risk of a variety of negative health outcomes as a result of their family dynamics. For example, children of alcoholics:

  • May suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome
  • May be diagnosed with depression and anxiety
  • May have low self-esteem
  • May be afflicted with personality disorders
  • May develop emotional dysfunction in childhood or adolescence
  • May themselves develop alcoholism (and are at an increased risk of doing so, due to both the heritability of alcoholism and the influence of the family system)
  • May become codependent or exhibit enabling behavior

What Is Enabling Behavior?

One way that teenage family members of alcoholics could benefit from Alateen is by gaining knowledge of the kinds of enabling behaviors that relatives of substance abusers often exhibit. Enabling can sometimes seem helpful or harmless, but in reality, it can often damage both the enabler and the substance abuser alike. Often, the family member becomes addicted to the behaviors of the loved one with the Alcohol Use Disorder and tries several ways to modify and control their drinking behavior (e.g., hiding alcohol, handling the finances, trying to keep the peace in the home, etc.). Below is a list of some of the ways that enabling behavior can manifest in the loved one of an alcoholic:

  • Avoiding. Family members of alcoholics may steer clear of the “elephant in the room,” resulting in a harmful pattern of problem or conflict avoidance that may begin to spill over into other aspects of their lives.
  • Blaming. An alcoholic’s loved ones may heap blame upon the user for their addiction, even though this behavior doesn’t help anyone. Often, both the user and the enabler will only feel worse and be more apt to use or to further enable after playing a round of the blame game.
  • Covering. An enabler may “cover” for an addict by providing, for example, an (often untrue) excuse for why they did not appear at an important social gathering or professional obligation. Enablers may also cover for the addict in other ways, such as doing chores the addict is responsible for doing or paying bills the addict is responsible for paying.
  • Denying. To mask the pain that addiction can wreak on the family system, or as a way to avoid embarrassment in front of peers or neighbors, a well-meaning enabler might deny that their loved one has an issue with alcoholism. This can lead the addict to deny their addiction as well, reducing the likelihood that treatment will be sought.
  • Drinking. Enablers may drink to self-medicate the negative emotions they feel as a result of their loved one’s addiction. Family members may also use alcohol as the only way they know of bonding with the individual who is struggling with alcoholism. This can lead to the enabler transitioning into an addict themselves, and also results in the original addict having another person to help them justify their use habits.
  • Supplying. Enablers may provide the alcoholics they love with alcohol, often as a way of sedating their relative or staving off the unpleasant symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Alcoholics may also explicitly ask for help procuring alcohol, especially if the alcoholic is too drunk to drive, too impaired to be served, or unable to afford the alcohol.

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What Are Some Alateen Testimonials?

Many teenage relatives of alcoholics have benefitted from Alateen. None other than actor Casey Affleck has crowed about the program, attributing the success of his acting career to his attendance. Below are just a few quotes from Alateen members that could provide an idea of what to expect from the support group.

Alateen has helped me by giving me the family that I was lacking. The Alateen program gives me meaning in my life. The members understand, have fun, and want to be around me. I couldn’t find a better group of people because if I cry, they understand. They have unconditional love.

Alateen group member

I’m still in the process of improving my self-esteem but now I know that if I am feeling down, I can always call someone from my Alateen group and talk about it. If I make a mistake … it’s not a big deal. I usually don’t even think about it. I laugh it off and try to fix it.

Alateen group member

Since coming to Alateen my love for myself has grown immensely. I have taken more pride in my appearance and I’m happier. Now I know that I’m worth loving and that my love means something to others. Thanks to Alateen I can treat people with unconditional love and have tools on how to go about doing that.

Alateen group member

Getting Help And Support

Alcoholics and family members of alcoholics can benefit from the treatment and therapy offered in rehab. If you’re struggling with drinking issues, or if someone in your family is, don’t wait to get help. Contact a treatment provider today who can answer your questions and point you toward a treatment center near you.

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