Practical suggestions for facing addictions and finding serenity

Photo by Luke Stackpole from


The last few weeks I have been marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Al-Anon by exploring the broad tentacles of the family disease of alcoholism. As I mentioned in my May 4 post, there are many other addictions besides alcohol that negatively impact individuals and families.

Today I turn to a cousin, Mary Raphel, Ph.D. and LCSW, who grew up in the same family tree I did and understands addictions and families well. She is a leading addiction and family therapist in Maryland and has studied addiction and recovery extensively in addition to her personal experience and application.

From her experience working with hundreds of individuals and groups about the tentacles of the family disease, Mary is a strong advocate for the benefits of Al-Anon. Through her experience, she offers some gentle and persuasive counsel on “dos and don’ts” for practicing the Al-Anon way of life.

Whether you are or might consider being an Al-Anon member, or not, I think you will find these practical suggestions helpful.

Proven suggestions for reducing the pain and stress of living with or loving an alcoholic

  • Do love the person but know that love and pity are two different things. Pity is not love.
  • Don’t enable by being over-responsible.
  • Do remember you are powerless over people.
  • Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to change or control someone.
  • Do allow yourself to get angry at the disease.
  • Don’t personalize the alcoholic/addict’s behavior.
  • Do remember it’s not your fault, you’re not crazy, and you didn’t imagine it.
  • Don’t forget that it is a disease, a way to medicate feelings that the addicted person doesn’t know how else to handle.
  • Do care for yourself as much as you care for others. A car can’t run on empty and neither can you.
  • Don’t lose your identity and sense of self. You are loveable. You don’t need to try harder, be better or do more. You are already good enough!
  • Do know that it’s no accident that you picked who you’ve picked.
  • Don’t ignore the impact of your childhood and relationship patterns on your present-day life.
  • Do know that you have choices and in knowing that, you have power.
  • Don’t opt to be a victim. As they say in A.A., “misery is optional.”

Mary sums up her suggestions with attention to one of Al-Anon’s most important and perhaps difficult-to-learn ideas.


And the reminder and encouragement that peace and serenity can be yours regardless of how much someone else drinks and how that impacts your life.

This post was published on Recovery Speakers on May 20.


  • Tom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.


  1. Pam

    Tom, you are remarkable. We are lucky to have you on our side. You make the world a better place.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Pam, great to be part of communities working to face some hard truths about addictions and their impact on families.