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September 5, 1977


JAMA. 1977;238(10):1062-1063. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280110066030

AL-ANON is a self-help program for the spouse, family, and friends of the alcoholic. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are used as their guide for growth. "The sole qualification for membership is that their lives have been or are being deeply affected by close contact with an alcoholic."1

Ten million Americans are alcoholics. For every alcoholic, at least four others are intimately affected by this disease, primarily the spouse and family of the alcoholic. That means the lives of 40 million men, women, and children are scarred by alcoholism: 40 million reacting to the insane behavior of the alcoholic; 40 million angry, resentful, guilt-ridden, anxiety-ridden people, living from one crisis to another, 50 million sick people. Alcoholism is truly a family illness.

How Does the Family Become So Sick?  In my case, 11 years passed from our marriage (the beginning of our problems) until Helen's introduction into