When an individual struggles with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, it can wreak havoc on his or her loved ones. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, 26.8 million children in the United States are exposed to some level of alcoholism within their families. The trauma that children experience as a result of parental alcohol addiction, including instability, neglect and abuse, typically leads to anxiety, depression, feelings of abandonment, antisocial behavior and other developmental problems. Alateen is an organization that aims to reduce these risks for adolescent children and other teenage relatives of alcoholics.
Alateen is associated with Al-Anon Family Groups, which typically includes support groups for adult family members and friends of alcoholics. However, Alateen meetings provide a safe space for teens to share what is happening in their lives and how they are affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. Groups are closed to adults, with the exception of Alateen Group Sponsors, who moderate each session. The support group atmosphere encourages teens to share their stories and support others who are going through similar experiences, aiming to empower members to lead full and rewarding lives despite having been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. In addition to being taught coping skills, teens are encouraged to love their alcoholic family members while emotionally detaching from their drinking problems. This can be very difficult for teens who feel emotional conflict over loving their parents or other family members while hating their alcohol addictions.
There are 12 traditions of Alateen outlining the purposes of the organization. For instance, these tenets state that Alateen members follow Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step model to help cope and better understand their loved ones struggling with alcoholism. These groups aim to educate teens on alcoholism so they realize they did not cause the problem and that they cannot control the actions of their loved ones. This is why the Serenity Prayer, which has long been implemented by AA to aid recovering addicts, is used in Alateen groups, reading, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” The belief in a higher power of some sort, which is an integral part of the AA program and the 12 steps, is also found in Al-Anon and Alateen. Due to the strong emotions that support groups evoke and the commitment required by the 12-step program, teens are encouraged to attend at least six Alateen sessions before deciding whether they are ready to fully commit to the program.
For those who are hesitant to attend meetings or are otherwise unable to do so, Alateen has developed online chat meetings. These are available to anyone ages 13 to 18 who registers on the website, enabling teens from across the country going through similar situations to provide support for each other. Each session is moderated by at least one adult Alateen Group Sponsor. In addition to Alateen, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) is a helpful resource for children affected by alcoholism. NACoA reports that approximately one in four children under the age of 18 are affected by parental alcohol and/or drug abuse in some way. The nonprofit organization’s mission is “to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families” and to raise awareness on the struggles facing teens exposed to alcohol addiction.
The genetic component of alcohol addiction makes children of alcoholics at higher risk than the general population for developing the addiction. If you or your teenager is struggling with alcohol abuse and/or addiction, help is available. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a facility that specializes in treating adolescents and teenagers struggling with substance abuse, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. Call 866-615-7266 to speak with a professional today.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer