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Friends and family members affected by alcoholics don't have to wait to get help

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For anyone who is living with the effects of a loved one's drinking, the strain on mental and emotional well-being can be significant. "There is nothing worse than the pain and the loneliness of living with an alcoholic," said Suzanne, an anonymous commenter on a "First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery" podcast.

In Al-Anon's 2015 Membership Survey, 84 percent of respondents assessed the condition of their mental health to be below average before attending Al-Anon meetings. However, after attending Al-Anon meetings, the percentage of respondents assessing the condition of their mental health to be below average fell to 6 percent.

Danielle Fritze, Mental Health America director of public education, said in an interview with Al-Anon, "Al-Anon's biggest benefit to friends and family members of problem drinkers, as I see it, is being a forum for people to 'talk about it.'"

"Stigma and the isolation and shame that go along with it can really take a toll on a person, and having a safe and supportive place to talk about the issues that you are facing can provide a great sense of relief and opportunity to learn from others," she said.

"The sooner people can get to an Al-Anon meeting, the sooner they may begin seeing increased happiness in their lives, whether or not their loved one continues to drink," said Pamela Walters, marketing information analyst at Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

"When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don't wait years to treat them," said Fritze. "We start 'before Stage 4,' and we need to treat mental health issues with the same sense of urgency. When you compare the stages of mental illness to the stages of other chronic health conditions, that really seems to resonate with people. That is why Mental Health America has chosen B4Stage4 as the framework for its outreach efforts in 2015."

"It is important for people to seek help for mental health issues because there is no health without mental health," said Fritze. "Everyone has something to offer to their family, friends, and community and we want people to be their best, most productive, healthiest selves, from head to toe," she said.

"I attended my first Al-Anon meeting last week," said Suzanne. "I wish I had not waited so long. I felt a sense of peace. Finally, I did not feel so all alone. I was surrounded by compassionate people who understood my pain."

Al-Anon Family Groups are for families and friends who have been affected by a loved one's drinking. Nearly 16,000 local groups meet throughout the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico every week. Al-Anon Family Groups have been offering strength and support to families and friends of problem drinkers since 1951.

For more information about Al-Anon Family Groups, go to al-anon.org and read a copy of Al-Anon's annual public outreach magazine "Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2015." Find a local meeting by calling Elizabeth W. at 874-9832 or toll-free 1-888-4AL-ANON.

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